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Comparative methods – purpose The purpose of comparative research is, as in the case of all scientific research, to test hypotheses. Hypothesis is a statement, stipulated within a given theory, about the relationship between variables (constructs) defined on some objects (units of observation) within a causal framework (time and sequencing). In comparative sociology hypotheses deal with space and/or time.
Space and time Space: Cross-national studies involve, explicitly or implicitly, nations (states, countries, societies) as units of observation and at least one variable is defined on the national (country, society) level. Time: In historical studies the same units of observations are compared through time
Comparative methods Comparative methods refer specifically to the methodology of comparing “something” through space and/or time. Generally, comparative methods for cross-national research and historical research do not differ very much.
Comparative methods and comparative sociology Clarification: Most sociology is within-country, present-time sociology. Comparative methods are specific in that they address problems inherent in cross-national and/or historical studies. Cross-national and/or historical studies constitute comparative sociology. As it will be argued comparative sociology is a sub-discipline of sociology as such.
Traditions of comparative sociology Karl Marx (1818-1883) and his work (Capital, 1883) on evolutionary processes of economic systems (cross-national and historical). Max Weber (1864-1920) and his work on The Protestant Ethics and Spirit of Capitalism, 1905, (historical and cross-national). Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) and his Suicide, 1897, as an example of quantitative studies on nations' characteristics. In his Rules of Sociological Methods, 1885, Durkheim insists that comparative sociology is not a particular branch of sociology; it is sociology itself.
Does comparative sociology constitute a paradigm? “A paradigm is a fundamental image of the subject matter within a science. It serves to define what should be studied, what questions should be asked, how they should be asked, and what rules should be followed in interpreting the answers obtained.” (Ritzer, Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science, 1980: 7) Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution (1962)
Comparative sociology Questions: -- what should be studied? -- what questions should be asked? -- how they should be asked? -- what rules should be followed?
Understanding comparative sociology To understand comparative sociology, we start with cross-national research. In particular, we ask: What are the units of observation in this kind of research? Nations? States? Countries? Societies?
Nations Since the late 18th century, the idea of nation assumed a fundamental political significance, with the rise of the ideology of nationalism. From that time – nation as an entity – a collection of people – entitled to sovereignty because of: common ethnic origin common language common culture common religion common self-identification
Nation-states In practice all criteria of distinguishing nations are in dispute. However, in the 20th century an ideology of nation-states came into existence, with more and more emphasis on state. The word state has both an empirical (de facto) and a juridical (de jure) sense. De facto, an entity is a state if there is an organization on a specific territory that has a monopoly on legitimate violence over this territory, defending the social order externally and internally. De jure, an entity is a state, if it is recognized as such by other states through their representation. International law and international organization is involved. The role of the UN.
Examples Nation-states: correspondence between the nation and the state Two-nation states Nations without states, “stateless people” A tendency to equate nation with a cultural entity, and state with political entity.
State Characteristics: territory with internationally recognized boundaries; sovereignty: no other state has power over the country's territory; people who live there on ongoing basis; a government which (a) provides police and army power, (b) regulates foreign and domestic trade, and (c) issues money; a transportation system for moving goods and people; external recognition: a country has been "voted into the club” by other countries.
Country Commonly, the term is used casually in the sense of both nation (a cultural entity?) and state (a political entity?) In terms of political geography the world is divided into independent states and “other teritiories”: dependencies and areas of special sovereignty.
Independent states Presently, there are 192 countries as independent states, members of the UN, and 65 countries that are called dependencies and areas of special sovereignty. In practice, cross-national research means research restricted to subset of independent states.
Society Robert E. Marsh, Comparative Sociology, p. 12, defines society as a plurality of interacting individuals that has the following four characteristics: - definite territory - sexual reproduction - comprehensive culture - political independence
Counting societies Marsh asks the question: what is the universe of societies through space and time? The estimate is that the universe of societies consists of about 5,000 units. The sizes of these societies vary from ca. 100 people of primitive hunting bands to over 1 billion people of contemporary China. George Murdock in his World Ethnographic Sample (1957) made a first comprehensive attempt to map the universe by selecting 522 independent societies.
Approaches to cross-national research The proposed typology takes into account the nature of dependent variable (explanandum) and independent variable(s) (explanans). Macro-macro Micro-micro Macro-micro
Macro-macro, sub-type 1a Type of explanation: macro-macro. Both the dependent variable and independent variable(s) are defined for a country as a whole. This refers to the Country-Level Data, CLD. Sub-type 1a. Positional characteristics: Matrix A = aij where a is a value of variable j in country i. E.g., for or a set of counties, we have such variable as GNP per capita, presence of the multi-party system, activity of NGOs, etc. This type is called: Studies on Nations' Characteristics.
Macro-macro, sub-type 1b Sub-type 1b. Relational characteristics: Matrix B = bkl where b is a value of a variable showing the relationship between country k and country l. E.g, for a set of countries, we have variables reflecting the amount of export, number of common international organizations, flow of tourists – each time from country k to country l. This type of research originated with Studies of the World System and its Elements
Micro-micro Type of explanation: micro-micro. The dependent variable is micro (on individual level) and independent variable(s) is also micro (on individual level), but research is done in separate countries and the results are compared. This refers to the Individual-Level Data, ILD. Matrix A = aij where a is a value of variable j for individual i. We have another matrix of this type: Matrix C = cij where c is a value of variable j for individual i. Results from data for country A and country C are compared.
Macro-micro 3. Type of explanation: macro-micro. The dependent variable is micro (on individual level) and independent variable(s) is macro (on country-level). This combines ILD and CLD Matrix A = aijk where a is a value of variable j for individual i in country k.