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Meaning and use of the comparative method: research design

There has been continuing debate about what, if and when, why and how to compare (e.g. Lijphart, 1975; Roberts, 1978; Dogan and Pelassy, 1990; Rueschemeyer et al., 1992; Keman, 1993d). Before we go into the comparative method as such in more detail, we shall first focus on the extant methodological controversies provoked by this debate (see also Collier, 1993; Landman, 2003). What to compare? Rather than exclusively focusing on ‘macro-social’, ‘societal’ or ‘contextual’ entities, it should be clear from Chapter 2 that we propose to study the ‘political’ vis-à-vis the ‘societal’. This further implies that the conceptualization of ‘politics, polity and policy’ as a heuristic tool is our major methodological concern with respect to using the comparative approach. The social and economic configuration of a situation or society is not the primary goal or meaning of comparison, instead capturing the specifica differentia of the ‘political’ across situations and across Taking ...

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