This course is part of the IPSAMOOC project, a joint venture Federica Weblearning - IPSA, the International Political Science Association
Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern empirical social science, once stated that the comparative method is the only one that suits the social sciences. But Descartes had posited that “comparaison n’est pas raison,” which means that comparison is not reason (or theory) by itself. So what's the right answer?
This course provides an introduction and overview of systematic comparative analysis in the social sciences, and shows you how to use this method for constructive explanation and theory building.
A major portion of the course is devoted to new approaches and software that have been developed in recent years to handle highly complex cases. Such cases include comparisons of EU member states, Latin American political systems, and particular policy areas. Procedures such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and related methods are able to reduce complexity and to arrive at “configurational” solutions based on set theory and Boolean algebra. These are more meaningful in this context than commonly used, broad-based statistical methods.
In the last section, these methods are contrasted with more common statistical comparative methods at the macro-level. We'll discuss various states or societies and their respective strengths and weaknesses.