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Chapter Review

  • What Is Comparative Politics?
    • Comparative politics is the study and comparison of domestic politics across countries.
    • Politics is the struggle in any group for power that will give one or more persons the ability to make decisions for the larger group. Power is the ability to influence others or impose one’s will on them. 
    • The comparative method is a way to make comparisons and draw conclusions across case studies.  It may rely on inductive reasoning (using case studies to generate hypotheses) or deductive reasoning (research that works from a hypothesis and tests this with data) to establish a causal relationship and develop theory
    • Among other methodological issues, comparative political scientists are challenged by a limited number of cases available, by selection bias—focusing on an area because of the convenience of travel or knowledge of its language and not others’—and by endogeneity—the difficulty in separating causes and effects.
    • Comparative politics has a long intellectual pedigree, going back to Aristotle and continuing in thinkers such as Machiavelli, Locke, and Weber.
    • Though in the past it focused on description, comparative politics has emerged as a field that incorporates qualitative and quantitative methods, including game theory (or rational choice).
  • A Guiding Concept: Political Institutions
    • Political science examines institutions because they define what is possible in political life by laying out the rules and structures of how politics operates. Politics is full of institutions, and they embody the norms or values unique to a given country. Institutions are both a cause and an effect of political behavior.
    • Institutions vary from country to country and provide a powerful way to compare political systems and behavior. Some examples of institutions include the army, taxation, elections, and the state.
  • A Guiding Ideal: Reconciling Freedom and Equality
    • Freedom is the ability of an individual to act independently, free of retribution from the state or other individuals. Equality refers to a shared material standard of individuals within a community, society, or country.
    • Politics is driven by questions surrounding freedom and equality. Should government curtail individual freedom to advance collective equality? Can freedom and equality increase together, or must an increase in one always decrease the other? Who in a political system has the power to decide the ideal mix of freedom and equality?
  • In Sum: Looking Ahead and Thinking Carefully
    • The most fruitful approach to comparative politics is not simply to be skeptical of others but to question our own beliefs in the face of new evidence and arguments.