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The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics: A Symposium

Author(s): Atul Kohli, Peter Evans, Peter J. Katzenstein, Adam Przeworski, Susanne Hoeber
Rudolph, James C. Scott, Theda Skocpol
Source: World Politics, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Oct., 1995), pp. 1-49
Published by: Cambridge University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25053951
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THE ROLE OF THEORY IN
COMPARATIVE POLITICS
A Symposium
ByATUL KOHLI, PETER EVANS, PETER J.KATZENSTEIN,
ADAM PRZEWORSKI, SUSANNE HOEBER RUDOLPH,
JAMESC. SCOTT, andTHEDA SKOCPOL*

Introduction: Atul Kohli

Center of International Studies at Princeton University orga


THE nized a symposium during 1993-94 on the topic of "The Role of
Theory in Comparative Politics." The symposium seminars generated
considerable interest among participants, to lead the editors of
enough
World Politics to publish this edited and condensed version of the pro
for a broader audience. A group of distinguished scholars?
ceedings
Peter Evans, Peter Katzenstein, Adam Przeworski, Susanne Hoeber

Rudolph, James Scott, and Theda Skocpol?responded to the main


themes of the symposium. These themes are itemized below followed
the responses of the individual scholars. Some of the main conclu
by
sions that emerge from these diverse responses are then summarized at
the end.
The field of comparative political analysis is again embroiled in the
oretical While theoretical debates are new to com
controversy. hardly
(for example, no has dominated the
parative politics single paradigm
field for too long, and both methodological and ideological differences
are common among scholars), current claims and
comparative politics
counterclaims to be divisive. At one end of the method
appear deeply
there are the new students of political culture, in
ological spectrum,
a of or relativistic claims, who
spired by variety postmodern culturally
doubt the value of causal explanations altogether and thus of conven
tional social science theorizing in The other
comparative politics.

*
The symposium was organized under the auspices of the Center of International Studies, Prince
ton University. Symposium seminars were all held at Princeton University during 1993-94. Thanks
are due to John Waterbury, the director of the Center of International Studies, for his encouragement
and support. This edited and condensed version of the proceedings was prepared for publication in
World Politics.

WorldPolitics 48 (October 1995), 1-49


2 WORLD POLITICS

extreme is defined
methodological by nomothetic claims: because all
social actors, including actors, are rational
political utility maximizers,
deductive logic and modeling, inspired by microeconomics and/or
game theory, can uncover the coherence that underlies the appar
help
ent chaos of life. In between these two extremes?that is, to
political
ward the "center"?remain the majority of comparative politics
scholars. Too "social sciency" for some and too much of "storytellers" for
others, are the ones who informed em
they mainly pursue theoretically
on one or more countries,
pirical analysis,
political focusing through di
verse a or
conceptual lenses and utilizing variety of data, contemporary
historical, or
qualitative quantitative.
The at Princeton the
elucidate these
symposium helped competing
oretical debates: should the "center" hold? If so, why? If not, why not?
The invited scholars were asked to address these broad issues. Instead
of giving formal papers, theywere additionally asked to (1) characterize
their own approach
to
comparative politics; (2) discuss why their ap

may be to other and (3) most


proach preferable approaches; impor
tantly, in light of the theoretical controversies outlined above, provide
their views on where as a subfield is headed and/or
comparative politics
to head. A summary of their responses follows.1
ought

Peter Evans
The central of this symposium, as I understand it, is whether
question
the eclectic messy center that has constituted the traditional core of the
is in danger of being overrun. My bottom
study of comparative politics
line response is
simple:
the study of comparative politics will neither
descend into a swamp of impenetrable jargon that purports to be about
discourse and symbols nor turn into a desert of ahistorical formal mod
els that purport to describe the microfoundations of behavior.
political
There are reasons
why the core of
comparative politics is as it
powerful
is and those reasons have not disappeared. Obviously the study of pol
itics must deal with values and symbols and how people understand
them. Likewise, it should make use of the tools
conceptual currently
theorists. Nonetheless, the eclectic messy cen
being generated by game
ter will not be overrun.
Since this conviction stems in part from my view of the generic

1
The talks were recorded and then transcribed. I took considerable license in condensing and adapt

ing the talks for publication. The published version has been approved for publication by each indi
vidual participant.
SYMPOSIUM 3
forces that shape the evolution of social science Iwill begin
paradigms,
my discussion there. Iwould then like to explain more clearly what I
mean center, using my own work as an
by the eclectic messy example.
This done, I will discuss why ahistoric, asocial versions of rational
choice or game-theoretic are to overrun the center.
analysis unlikely
Finally, Iwill talk about why I see the role of cultural theories as inher
ently partial.
In thinking about the evolution of social science it is use
paradigms,
ful to ask about microfoundations. What motivates us to undertake the
kind of research and writing that we do?Most scholars would agree
that part of the answer is that we care about cases. If Iwere to
particular
do a study of inflation, for example, it might be in part because I was
interested in its general parameters, but itwould also be because I hap
pen to have live in a country where
friends who inflation has run at 30
as we care about par
percent a month, tearing apart their lives. As long
ticular cases, we are compelled to do
history,
to try to understand spe
cific sequences of events and to acquire the ideographic knowledge that

understanding specific sequences of events entails.


There is another, even more primitive and pervasive set of incentives
involved in most social science investigations. We would all like to pre
dict when something bad or something good is likely to happen to us
or, better still, figure out how to increase the likelihood
of something
are therefore to a par
good happening. We always trying conceptualize
as one a set of similar sequences. The
ticular sequence example of larger
more we know about the set, the more we are to be able to antic
likely
outcome we can describe
ipate the of any given sequence. If key char
acteristics we can handle sets and talk about
parsimoniously, bigger
numbers of individual outcomes. The desire to is part of
larger predict
social science, not because we are positivists but because social scien
tists share with everyone else the desire to know what is to
likely hap
pen to them and how be able to
they might improve prospective
outcomes.

Our interest in particular cases thus keeps us in the direc


pushing
tion of doing history. Our interest in figuring out what is going to hap
pen to us makes even the crudest and most
limited theorizing
attractive. Neither is likely to disappear
motivation from
tremendously
the social science scene, regardless of changes in intellectual fashion.
The agenda, activity, and paradigms of the social science community
are not the motivations of individual scholars. Nor are
shaped only by
they shaped only by discourse within the community itself ? laThomas
4 WORLD POLITICS

are and constraints


Kuhn.2 Agendas powerfully shaped by the demands
of consumers and patrons. Everyone, from our students to the National
Science Foundation, is interested in having us elucidate particular his
torical sequences and wants to know more about the conse
likely
quences of social action. They provide persistent incentives, both for
the ideographic understanding of sequences and for predic
particular
tions. Their pressure fits nicely with the kind of work that is found in
the eclecticmessy center of
comparative politics.
I mean center" should be clearer.
By now, what by the "eclectic messy
It iswork that draws on general theories whenever it can but also cares
about historical outcomes. It sees particular cases as
deeply particular
the building blocks for general theories and theories as lenses to iden
is interesting cases. Neither
tify what and significant aboutparticular
theories nor cases are sacrosanct. Cases are too to
always complicated
vindicate a so scholars who work in this tradition are
single theory,
likely to draw on am?lange of theoretical traditions in hopes of gaining
greater
on the cases
they
care about. At the same time, a com
purchase
pelling interpretation of a particular case is only interesting if it points
to ways of understanding other cases as well, so scholars in this tradi
tion are often chastised for "trespassing" on the historical cases of other

specialists in their search for broader generalizations.


Since I consider my own work very much a
part of the eclectic messy
center, let me use it to illustrate the interplay of theory and cases. First
of all, theory has been very important to me because it helps define
what are worth at and, an ex
questions looking by extension, provides
ternal definition of what cases are most to examine. In
interesting
short, it defines ideas." work on Brazil was mo
"big My early originally
tivated by a desire to understand how the process of industrialization
was affected actors from other countries were
by the fact that economic
playing a central role in that process.3Why did I think this question
was
important? Heated
general debates
proponents of eco
between
nomic growth and dependency theorists made my particular investiga
tion seem relevant and worthwhile. Later in the 1980s I began to focus
more on the role of the state in industrial transformation.4
specifically
Once again, the topic seemed important in part because big theoretical
assertions were most
being made, prominently by neoliberal propo
2
In this sense my vision of the evolution of scientific paradigms is distinctly "un-Kuhnian." Cf.
Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).
3
See Peter Evans, Dependent Development: The Alliance ofMultinational, State and Local Capital in
Brazil (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979).
4
See, for example, Peter Evans, Embedded Autonomy: States, Firms, and Industrial Transformation
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
SYMPOSIUM 5

nents of modernized and aggressive versions of classic theories of the


minimalist state.
I should point out that in both cases, theory, in the sense of big
ideas, was defined more broadly than in the Kuhnian sense of a dis
course within a of investigators. These theoreti
particular community
cal debates me
because resonated outside my own
engaged they
community of scholars. The debates between transnationalism and de

pendency and around the modern resuscitations of the theory of the


minimalist state have been not but also by
driven, only by academics,
politicians, policymakers, and even "regular" people who see these is
sues as to their lives.
important
General theoretical have also been in my
perspectives important
work as a source of tools. I draw on theoretical frameworks to
general
me describe mechanisms that make the behavior of actors and in
help
stitutions For to
causally plausible. example, when trying distinguish
the behavior of multinational firms from that of local entrepreneurs, I
have drawn (parasitically) on a rudimentary set of propositions from
microeconomics.5 By taking the conventional theory of the firm,

adding a little bit of industrial organization, a little bit of Herbert


Simon, and some arguments about issues of nationalism and
political
legitimacy, I was able to
specify causally plausible mechanisms that

helped explain how these actors behaved. The result was eclectic
and

messy, but it illuminate the case.


helped
Likewise, in my more recent work on the state, several theories of
how organizations work?for example, simple economic models about
how bureaucrats and what kind of incentive
function systems bureau
cracies create?have been in to generate
again important trying causally
mechanisms. Some generic "cultural" ideas about when people
plausible
are
likely
to care about what other people think of them and feel ac

cordingly constrained have also been important. No single ready-made


theoretical model can all the tools necessary to the cases
provide explain
I am interested in, but an eclectic combination offers enough leverage
to make a start.
to or to work the im
My attempts investigate big questions through
plications of plausible causal mechanisms have always been tied to par
ticular cases. I end up presenting complicated pictures of institutional
that are very much rooted in particular historical set
configurations
I have always felt if were to be useful,
tings. Nevertheless, that, they

51 say "parasitically" because Imake no claim to be a contributor to the development of this body of

theory.
6 WORLD POLITICS

these configurations had to be


conceptualized
in ways that were poten
tially separable from the settings inwhich theywere originally derived.
In order for my at to
effortsdeciphering particular historical sequences
to to cases as
be worthwhile, they have speak other well. The general
ideas I derive from a particular case may or may not fit other cases, but
at least seem worth
they should applying.
The notion of "dependent development," which I found useful in
some
summarizing key features of Brazils post-World War II develop
ment
trajectory, is a good example. After working
on Brazil for a num
ber of years, I became interested inEast Asia. I began by examining the
applicability of dependent development and found that it did not apply.
out that was so not of
Figuring why only helped my understanding
East Asia but also led me to reformulate my earlier ideas of what was
distinctive about Brazil.61 would like to think that every time I gain a
better understanding of a particular historical sequence, the process will
also generate some ideas that will be useful in other cases, useful not
to me but to others as well.
only
Given my sense of the character of work in the eclectic messy center,
it should be clearwhy I feel it is unlikely that the center will be overrun.
The absence of well-defined on
consensus models or
methodological
theoretical may appear to be a source of vulnerability, but
propositions
it also makes it easier to absorb new ideas. The persistent movement
between cases and theories makes it hard for any particular to
theory
it easier for the tradition to to a broad
gain dominance and makes speak
audience.
In my own case, the absence of threat is probably most obvious in the
case of the recent offshoots of microeconomics. It is hard to see these
as my work. To the contrary, as a
approaches undercutting potential
I hope, for that people working on
parasite, example, principal-agent
theories can come up with simpler and
more
powerful ways of describ
I use better
ing how firms and bureaucracies behave. could certainly
tools.
Some might say that I am na?vely underestimating the natural impe
rialism of actor models, that formal models are en
strategic already
on an ever-wider range of political behavior, and will
croaching
to do so until an
continue they constitute all-encompassing paradigm
instead of simply a set of tools.
Frankly, I think there are several reasons

why this is not going to happen. First, it is very difficult to aggregate


6
See Evans, "Class, State, and Dependence in East Asia: Some Lessons for Latin Americanists," in
Frederic Deyo, ed., The Political Economy of theNew Asian Industrialism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univer
sity Press, 1987).
SYMPOSIUM 7

from microfoundations without changing your style of analysis and ex

position. Indeed, it is not just difficult, but inefficient. Trying to explain


institutions by aggregating individual rationalities is like trying to ex
plain chemical reactions by using propositions from subatomic physics.
It may be possible in principle, but it is neither efficient nor effective.
is the fact that rational choice theorists are not
Equally important
immune to the pressures of providing a
comprehensible understanding
of particular and patrons will to do
sequences. Consumers push them
more to involve an increas
history. Once they do, their work will begin
amount of detailed of institutions and look more
ing analysis particular
like work in the eclectic messy center. As
sophisticated understandings
of game-theoretic models become more widely diffused among new
generations of researchers, the novelty of asocial and ahistorical model
will for game-theoretic elements to become em
ing pale. The tendency
bedded in historically and institutionally complex arguments will
increase and the approach will become progressively less threatening to
the messy eclectic center.
There is one other reason why I am less worried about the expan
sion of rational choice theorizing than I might have been some years
back. Over the last ten years theoretical work at the core of economics,
in both trade and growth theory,7 has opened up space for multiple
and path dependence. These new theoretical are
equilibria approaches
that even in formal theoretical models cannot
saying principle, provide
determinative answers without about individual
knowing something
sequences of events. There has to be an element of path dependence,
which is to say history. So even as the economistic models are
making
their forays into other social science disciplines, the theoretical redoubts
from which they
came are
changing
in ways that are much more

friendly
to the kind of work which goes on in the messy eclectic center.
But what about new forms of cultural analysis? Like rational choice
and game-theoretic cultural approaches have certainly ex
approaches,
a boom in recent years. Might overrun the eclectic
perienced they
messy center? Anyone who doubted that culturally oriented approaches
be used to address core issues of comparative was cer
might politics
to reassess his or her views when confronted with a recent
tainly forced
article veteran of the field, Samuel in
by that hard-nosed Huntington,
which he argued that world politics was entering a new wherein
phase,

7
See, for example, Paul R. Krugman, Rethinking International Trade (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990);
Paul Romer, "The Origins of Endogenous Growth,"JournalofEconomic Perspectives 8 (Winter 1994);
in the Economy,"
and Brian W. Arthur, "Positive Feedbacks Scientific American (February 1990),
92-99.
8 WORLD POLITICS

the dominant sources of conflict would be culturally based, that is,


based on a of identity and culturally distinctive values rather
politics
than on the politics postulated by conventional theories of political
economy.8 Not only did Huntington make the argument, but his article
was touted in as the "X" article of the war era.
Foreign Affairs post-cold
The article, although fascinating, is also a good illustration of the
limits to the ascendance of culturally based arguments. In it, Hunting
ton
conjures up a world in which a "Confucian-Islamic connection"
confronts "theWest." Imagining such a world may be a nostalgic trip
for those who miss the old clarity of global communism versus the free

world, but as a plausible description of the contemporary world it sim

ply does not fly.


The extent to which the vision is misguided is most obvious when

you look at the Confucian end of this connection. In constructing his


connection, makes much of the fact that the Chinese were
Huntington
to make some money to some not very
willing by selling missiles price
sensitive customers in the Middle East. Iwould agree that the transac
tion is indicative of behavior at the "Confucian"
end, but it is not about
cultural affinity, it is about
sharp business practice.
The forces that are reshaping China are much more about sell
today
shoes to the U.S. than are about to the
ing Nike they selling missiles
Middle East. In East Asia it is the politics of growth and accumulation
that is delivering the goods. Interest-based political economy argu
ments are
becoming more, not less, relevant. If we are looking for plau
sible causal mechanisms in the world's most and rapidly
populous
to "round up the usual
it is time
growing region, suspects" of political
economy. Some of
combination
markets, bureaucracies, and informal
mechanisms in the
pursuit of power and conventional material gains
makes sense both to leaders and to in the street.
political people
As long as we live in a world where the normal, interest-based logic
of political economy remains plausible to and to the peo
policymakers
in the street, cultural analysis is not going to overrun the eclectic
ple
messy center. we should use the of discourse, values,
Obviously, analysis
and symbols to and contextualize conventional
modify, complement,
political economy arguments, but we are not likely to get very far by
an alternative worldview that completely old
constructing bypasses
fashioned power and interests.
Advocates of cultural analysis may protest my using the work of
as an since he is in the of post
Huntington example, hardly vanguard
8
The reference is to Samuel Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations," Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer
1993).
SYMPOSIUM 9
modern thinkers. Iwould
respond that more sophisticated ways of an
discourse and not escape that I have
alyzing symbols do the problems
raised in relation toHuntington, and they have additional problems of
their own. Insofar as are indeed must
they anticausal, they fly in the
face of one of the two generic social constraints that I outlined at the
The consumers and patrons of social science want help in
beginning.
figuring out what is likely to happen to them if they take one course of
action rather than another. Individual who refuse to de
practitioners
liver predictions and are only willing to discuss theways inwhich social
life is inherently inchoate and unpredictable are unlikely candidates for
establishing hegemony.
One caveat is in order. want because
important People prediction
are for better outcomes. Persistent bad times, whether ex
they looking
or not, to en
plicable bring disillusionment with theories that claim
hance predictability. The conventional logic of political economy has
failed to deliver for a large share of the world's population and has lit
tle prospect of delivering for them in the future. Those living on the
other end of Huntingtons Confucian-Islamic connection are a case in

point. On the Islamic end of the supposed connection, there is a region


and people that have long suffered political humiliation and, over the
last ten to fifteen years, have suffered from declining growth and trade
as well. It is hardly that under such circumstances move
surprising
ments based on identity and culturally distinctive values should gain
extent the causally plausible microfoun
strength. To the that they do,
dations of conventional political economy become increasingly less

compelling.
The global political economy includes regions inwhich states and
markets are and regions in which are not. To
delivering they analyze
such aworld, one must combine conventional political economy kinds
of analysis, which focus on how people get what they want, with cul
tural approaches, which us understand the nature of the prefer
help
ences themselves. And, of course, this of conventional
combining
that on the nature
political economy with approaches focus origin and
of preferences themselves is precisely the sort of eclectic work that the
center of has for a time.
comparative politics practiced long
Let me sum up. First, individual and societal incentives us to
push
ward the detailed examination of individual cases, toward history. At
the same time, they demand to future outcomes?that is,
guidelines
The character of work in the messy eclectic center is an ef
prediction.
fective response to these pressures. Second, rational choice and game
theoretic are less to the messy eclectic center
approaches threatening
10 WORLD POLITICS

than seem. can be a useful source of


they might They causally plausible
mechanisms for explaining institutional Their more
change. sophisti
cated practitioners will tend to get drawn into more institutional and
which lead them in turn in the
historically complex investigations,
direction of the messy eclectic center. This is reinforced
tendency by
the fact that recent innovations at the mathematical heart of economic

theory have opened theoretical space for historical and institutional


arguments.
The potential hegemony of cultural approaches is limited by the fact
that the incentives of conventional economy still make sense
political
to most "on the ground." As as cultural eschew
people long analysts
not most consumers
prediction, they will satisfy and patrons and will
therefore remain marginalized. When states, markets, and conventional

politics fail to deliver the conventional goods, the politics of identity


and culturally distinctive values become more
In a global polit
salient.
ical economy that consistently delivers for some but not for others, cul
tural analysis must be combined with conventional economy, a
political
combination most to be offered the messy eclectic center of
likely by
comparative politics.

Peter J. Katzenstein
Iwish to argue here that neither specific subfields of political science
nor deserve any intellectual
particular analytical perspectives special
standing. Instead Iwelcome the blurring of distinctions. This is true for
the distinction between comparative and international but it
politics,
holds, as well,
for different in these subfields, such as ra
approaches
tional choice, cultural studies, or institutionalism. None of these pro
fessional "flags" is in my view particularly useful. You will therefore not
hear from me about the color of the flag under which we must or
rally
the size of the we must I am interested in when
dragons slay. questions:
all is said and done, scholars do their best research because of the
polit
ical problems and the intellectual that engage them, not be
puzzles
cause of the In a similar vein,
sage advice of prophets of the
profession.
I also hold that professors do their best teaching not by initiating stu
dents to their sect but
favored the students' sense of
by honing prob
lem-focused research and by preaching the virtues of eclectic

theorizing. Hence I leave to others the giving of advice about what "the
field" should do.
at the of comparative and international has
Working margins politics
SYMPOSIUM 11
me with a distinctive research on
provided perspective. Contemporary
comparative and international issues increasingly calls for blurring the
distinctions between political economy, security, and culture. And there
is a growing need to erase the barriers between comparative politics?
of which American politics is a part?international relations, and polit
ical theory. My own research has taught me that the state is not a
actor and that of political
the origin hence
unitary preferences?and
history?matters. But most importantly, I have learned that you have
to ask and interesting That is the hardest to
important questions. thing
do and the hardest to teach. We can teach
thing paradigms, analytical
perspectives, and methods by taking them off the professional shelf and
them we cannot teach so
to the classroom. What
transporting readily is
how to ask important and interesting the hallmark of supe
questions,
rior research and great teaching.
What do we mean by comparative research? To this question I offer
the answer I learned in graduate school, for it is still useful and plausi
ble: comparative research is a focus on analytical relationships among
variables validated by social science, a focus that ismodified by differ
ences in the context in which we observe and measure those variables.

My church of scholarship is a cathedral not a chapel; hence I subscribe


to an notion of "social science." The church of scholarship ac
expansive
commodates many different sects often bent on wars: be
fighting holy
havioralists and nonbehavioralists then, rationalists and interpretivists
now. In my view international research should focus on international
and global the relations between states and
phenomena, including
transnational processes and structures that occur either outside or
across societal and state boundaries.
As I look at the intellectual of the comparative
vicissitudes and in
ternational fields, they appear in to moveIn the field of interna
cycles.
tional relations, for example, one cycle started in the 1960s, when much
work was done on strategic na
original and imaginative theory and
tional security. In the 1970s the innovative scholarship in international
relations moved toward the field of political economy and eventually
branched off in two directions. The first branch focused on qualitative
research, with the state and other institutions as its main
analytical
focus. The second branch developed along rationalist lines by focusing
on international and other international institutions. As com
regimes
parative and international political economy were becoming established
areas of studies in the and mid-1980s
scholarship, security early experi
enced an intellectual renaissance led by a new cohort of scholars. This
12 WORLD POLITICS

group, farther removed from active


policy engagement than its prede
cessors of the 1950s and 1960s, was
committed to standard
applying
structural or rationalist to contemporary and historical
explanations
cases of states. With the end of the cold war
security conflicts between
their concentrated focus on of military as well as
questions security,
their statecentric perspective, has provoked vigorous debate. It is gener
a new of that will the
ating corpus scholarship substantially expand
field of security studies not by replacing strategic studies but by com
plementing itwith a broader view of security and by going beyond the
state-centered perspectives of the mainstream.
These two are now to new intersections?
cycles moving productive
for even ifworld revolutions do not
change the habits of scholars, bore
dom does. First, scholars interested in security or political economy are
to the of one field to the other. Furthermore, as
seeking apply insights
cultural and rationalist direct our attention to new ques
perspectives
tions?and, one new the fields of security and politi
hopes, insights?in
cal economy, there is less interest in the predictable disagreements
between realist scholars of security who favor structural explanations and
liberal scholars of political economy who favor rationalist explanations.
work in recent decades has witnessed a move away
Comparative
from political culture and political sociology and from styles of analysis
that tended to institutions. Critics ofthat literature have
disregard
out that it treated culture as little more than a residual
pointed typically
variable. This focus was replaced by a renewed attention to the role of
institutions in politics. The new institutionalism took two forms,
"thick" and "thin." The "thin" version a rationalist
offers style of analy
sis. Derived from transaction-cost analysis and public choice theory, it
takes the role of institutions as solutions to coordi
seriously facilitating
nation states and so
problems. The "thick" form is concerned with both
cial structures, not with one of them, and it looks at social sectors,
just
political coalitions, political institutions, and ideological constraints.
These two movements in comparative studies were mutually rein

forcing and confronted somewhat related problems. For thick institu


tional analyses the problem was one of disaggregation. This research
tradition does a good job of illuminating a broad variety of political set
at it has to say about
tings, but it is less successful connecting what
states, social structures, political coalitions, and to individual
ideologies
decision makers. Conversely, thin institutionalism confronts the prob
lem of aggregation. Done carefully, thin institutionalism tells us much
about the microfoundations of individual policy choices and politics,
but it is much weaker in
generalizing from the specific to the general.
SYMPOSIUM 13

Because continue to bedevil both of in


corresponding problems types
stitutional analyses, scholarsworking in both traditions typically should
be cautious about touting the virtues of their favored
approaches.
The renaissance of sociological and cultural studies was a second de

velopment that came


later to the comparative field. With its focus on
the institutionalization of meaning, some of this research was
evidently
influenced the work of the decade. Here too there is a bi
by previous
furcation between what I would call, for lack of a better term, the ob
versus the subjective move. I will put aside the subjective move,
jective
by which I have in mind postmodernism in its various guises. It is
deeply influenced by intellectual currents inEurope as they apply in the
humanities studies, as well as in anthropology,
and in cultural to a vari
are often directed a no
ety of texts and to the
analysis of very expansive
tion of politics. Much postmodern rejects the social science
scholarship
as I understand it here, submitting truth claims
enterprise competing
to tests rather than
empirical simply offering playful illustrations.
The objective move is concerned with identities and norms. Norms
are understood in the sociological tradition as areas of
intersubjective
agreement, that is, as dealing with objective reality
not with
subjective
factors. This conception of culture differs from that of the 1960s, which
focused on individually held values. Obviously there is a relationship
between shared norms and deeply held subjective val
intersubjectively
ues. But scientists are less well
compared with psychologists, political
to understand these relationships. This version of
equipped sociological
cultural studies is important for comparative because norms
analysis
and identities often get institutionalized. The two research programs,
institutionalism and objective cultural studies, are thus as intimately re
lated to one another as are rationalism and culturalism, economics and

sociology.
The debates between realism and idealism in the 1940s and 1950s
and between quantitative-behavioral and qualitative-historical ap
proaches in the 1960s were followed in the 1980s and 1990s by the
"third debate" in international relations. It has raised ontological, epis
and methodological issues that make mainstream realist
temological,
and liberal scholars uncomfortable becauseare not
they particularly
well equipped to handle them. Typically, such discussions occur at
only
the margins of the field of comparative politics. Scholars of comparative
politics have by and large shied away from
extreme versions of a nomo
thetic and typically rational choice approach, as in some spe
practiced
cialized subfields of international studies. Similarly, comparative
has taken a centrist to cultural studies, ac
politics scholarship approach
14 WORLD POLITICS

cepting the insights of both cultural and rationalist styles of analysis.


There is a very good reason for this centrism. Many strands of inter
research on methods that tend toward historical recon
pretivist rely
structions or excavations rather than
genealogical hypothesis
formulation and testing. But interpretive social science is
particularly
helpful for making us think about issues of identity that evidently have
become more in the contemporary
important analysis of comparative
than they were two or three decades ago. Rationalist theories
politics
have to date been unable to shed on the processes
significant light by
which identities are built up or down. these approaches are
Conversely,
well tailored to the of choices of individual or actors
analysis corporate
whose is assumed. In brief, between the false extremes of both
identity
to ex
rational and cultural approaches, comparative analysis continues
a world of power and institutions in which cultural norms and
plore
identities interact with interests.
As is true of most other scholarship in
political science, international
and comparative research, too, is driven real-world events. This does
by
not mean that we as has re
study only the present, for Schopenhauer
minded us, newspapers are the second hands of
history?they always
tell the wrong time. But real-world events our send
spark imagination,
us back to the we can then see in very different terms.
ing past, which
Rethinking the past in light of the present and conversely rethinking
the present in light of the past are ways of searching for im
productive
portant and The momentous of
intriguing questions. political upheaval
the last decade has spurred renewed interest in history in both compar
ative and international studies, as scholars in both fields turn to the past
for insights and categories of analysis thatwill help us get our bearings
in a present that is in flux.
Furthermore, my intuition tells me that real-world events are
driving
in a second direction. With the of con
scholarship collapse bipolarity
events are us to aworld of and a new kind of
temporary moving regions
area studies that connect and international research. Since
comparative
the late 1960s traditional area studies has been criticized
relentlessly,
and often for its lack of attention to and
justifiably, explicit comparisons
testable propositions and for its for analysis that a
proclivity privileges
presumed and insufficiently analyzed cultural uniqueness of a particular
or The new kind of studies that I envision
country region. regional
would connect in and with culture and
expertise language familiarity
history with a cast of mind interested in either testing the plausibility
of different or a
propositions analytical perspectives against body of
or a
empirical evidence illuminating that evidence with variety of in
SYMPOSIUM 15

methods. It is worth out that since


terpretive pointing explicitly
the coding of cases and variables that precedes the testing of hypothe
ses is often itself an act of interpretation, the two activities are
closely
related.
With the collapse of the bipolar structure of power there are many
reasons we are toward aworld of regions. This is not
good why moving
aworld about in the of the 1930s and
sensibly thought only categories
1940s. For in this world of regions there exist two noteworthy global
of two hundred years of Anglo-Saxon
processes?the legacy imperial
ism?that are no to states. The
longer tied firmly territorially anchored
first diffuses hence, states no
technologies through markets; longer fully
control even contest that fact. The
global profits, though they may
second diffuses human rights and international law; also politically
conse
contested by states, this process, too, has had profound political
quences in recent years. Thus, states will
rarely give up their sovereign
rights, but their sovereignty is nevertheless affected by processes that
no control. In turn these processes will reknit the rela
they longer fully
between states in novel ways. This creates a new
tionships regions and
arena for one that did not exist
politics, fifty years ago. Although hege
mons to dominate their regions and international markets were
sought
on state the ratio
encroaching prerogatives, global processes touching
nalist realm of profit and the cultural realm of identity did not have the
then that now. sworld
political prominence they enjoy Today regions
and the states that inhabit them have to to these
respond global
processes.
To recognize and understand or these processes
interpret requires
the world of comparative and international studies. A sharp
bridging
distinction between a nomothetic and an social science,
idiographic
more between rationalism and culturalism, will do little to help
recently
us recognize and make intelligible this world of regions. For anybody
seeking
to answer an
important and interesting question would be a
fool to sacrifice the insights that can be gleaned from either perspec
tive.Although it is true that among the blind the one-eyed is king, it is
also true that good depth perception two eyes.
requires
The new regionalism creates local processes of political mobilization
and demobilization around internationally and regionally induced po
litical struggles over power, markets, and identities. The intersections of
and the connections between con
global and local processes regional
texts and national states may us a sense of some of the
give newly
emerging processes and structures as we witness the collapse of some of
the old.
16 WORLD POLITICS

Adam Przeworski

I was to about
approaches,
not about the world. I resisted
urged speak
this invitation I am a methodological
because opportunist who believes
in doing or If game I use
using whatever works. theory works, it. If
what is called for is a historical account, I do that. If deconstruction is
needed, Iwill even try deconstruction. So I have no
principles.
Nevertheless, I do have a message concerns
to share. This
message
the role of theory in comparative research; I spread it because I think
that it has consequences for comparative research that are not fully rec

ognized and sufficiently appreciated. The message is simple: compar


isons necessarily entail counterfactuals. Comparisons inevitably require
theories about what we do not observe, because they
cannot
rely exclu
sively
on observations. What I am about to argue, moreover, holds
whether we are research, up to all cases in the his
doing large-sample
tory of the world, or one case. What is involved here is
studying just
not whether we are statistical or case studies. Rather, the issue I
doing
am about to outline is inherent to all research.
comparative
Iwill proceed as follows: First, Iwill explain what Imean by "com
parison." Second, I will discuss why the issue of counterfactuals arises.
Third, Iwill focus on the between and coun
relationship comparisons
terfactuals. And finally, Iwill outline some ways of coping practically
with counterfactuals in statistical research and in case studies.
Let me introduce an that I will use
throughout this dis
example
It comes from my current on the
cussion. research project impact of
as democracies and dicta
political regimes?classified dichotomously
economic concerns of
torships?on growth.9 The question the impact
on
democracy development.
Say that we observe Chile in 1985.We see that its political regime
was authoritarian and that the per capita income of the country in that

year declined at an annual rate of 2.26 percent. Since we want to exam


ine whether affect we need to know what Chile's
regimes growth,
growth ratewould have been in 1985 had it been democratic: we need
to compare the growth of Chile in 1985 under dictatorship and democ
racy. Obviously, we cannot answer
this question with the available ob
servations, since Chile was in 1985 and we do not observe
authoritarian
Chile in 1985 as simultaneously being
not authoritarian. But as com
we know what to do: We are told to
parativists proceed quasi-experi

9
This project is conducted jointly with Mike Alvarez (DePaul University), Jos? Antonio Cheibub
(University of Pennsylvania), and Fernando Limongi (University of S?o Paulo).
SYMPOSIUM 17

mentally, to look for a case that is exactly like Chile in all aspects
other than its regime and, possibly, its rate of economic growth?a
"Chile 1985" that is democratic?and then to compare the authoritar
ianChile with the democratic "Chile." Ifwe then find that this demo
cratic "Chile1985" has a positive rate of
growth,
we conclude that
is for If is more we discover
democracy good growth. decay profound,
that democracy is bad for growth.
And this is indeed what we do.We try to emulate experiments by
cases
that are "comparable." same
finding "matches," The logic is the
whether we have one such or many. When
just pair doing comparative
research, we are told that one should find cases that are as similar as
in as many aspects
as and then find a crucial differ
possible, possible,
ence that can explain what one wants
to
explain. We have this notion of
as if were an intrinsic charac
things being "comparable" comparability
teristic of our objects of investigation rather than a result of our judg
ments. A of Sweden and Denmark is acceptable. However,
comparison
ifwe compare Sweden with Chile or Kenya with Argentina, we are told
that this is not a legitimate operation, that this is like comparing apples
and pears. Note that the entire organization of our discipline?the in
stitutional structureof political science departments, of professional as

sociations, and of the Social Science Research Council?is organized


along geographical lines. I think the underlying construction is pre
this on that is, having cases that
cisely emphasis quasi experimentation,
are so we can control that are common and then
comparable aspects
move variable variable.
step by step, by
Let me broaden
the range of examples. We ask questions about ef
fects of coups on about the impact of trade policies on eco
poverty,
nomic performance, of electoral on of
systems political participation,
revolutions on social or of class structure on the emergence of
change,
These research share the same and we ap
democracy. questions logic
them the same way, that is, we find cases. We take
proach matching
versus or versus China, and then we compare.
Germany England Japan
Now, to this to my that is, the of
apply procedure question, impact
regimes on economic growth, Iwill take 139 countries, between 1950
or the year of and 1990 or the last year for which data are
independence
available. I classify their regimes as democracies or If I
dictatorships.
then calculate means, Iwill find that democracies during this period
had an average annual rate of of 2.44 percent per year, whereas
growth
authoritarian at a rate of 1.82 percent per year. If I also
regimes grew
do regression it will reveal a effect of
analysis, significant, positive
One may then conclude that matter for
democracy. regimes growth:
18 WORLD POLITICS

democracy promotes Much of comparative analysis pro


development.
ceeds in the manner just delineated: what Imean by comparisons is this
of matching cases.
procedure
Suppose, however, that the fact that Chile was a dictatorship in 1985
is not of its economic are
independent growth. There several possible
reasons for this: first, affect the survival of
growth may regimes; second,
there may be other underlying factors, such as the level of development,
that affect both
regime selection and rates of growth; third, there may
be some unobservable factors errors in measurement) that
(including
are common to both
variables. Whatever the underlying mechanism,
and I will on the first, what
focus are the for comparative
implications
analysis? The main result will be that there will be cases in our sample
without a match and our inferences will be biased.
Let me explain. Suppose that democracies that experience an eco
nomic decline of 5 percent in a year die instantaneously,
particular
while survive or die of economic condi
dictatorships independently
tions. We will then observe over a full range of exogenous
dictatorships
conditions, but democracies over a part of that range. There will
only
be dictatorships facing adverse conditions, for which there will be no
match among democracies. The observable population of democracies
will be a biased sample of all the potential conditions.
Indeed, I think that we have to think about the world in this way, or
at least suspect the world of being endogenously produced. If we be
lieve that the conditions under which we live are somehow created by

people in pursuit of their ends, then the social world which we observe
around usis not given, that is, is not of our actions, and
independent
not
independent of various outcomes that we try to explain. We thus
must treat the observable world as
having been produced by "us," that
is, as having been generated endogenously. More specifically,
an addi
tional powerful intuition is that the world nurtures successes and elimi
nates If so, one suspects that there should be more
failures. successes to
be observed than failures. I want to that I am
emphasize immediately
not about here; this is not a of from
talking samples question sampling
available observations. Sampling by the dependent variable is elemen

tary textbook material and it is not what is at stake. The issue rather is
that the observable world is not a random un
sample of the possible
conditions. If we want to compare, we must process the im
derlying
pact of independent variables?in my case, democracy and dictatorship,
or in other cases, and presidential or
parliamentary systems, revolution
no revolution, landlord domination versus domination?
bourgeois
SYMPOSIUM 19

across some range of similar conditions. But we cannot to find


expect
observations across the same conditions.
Let me one
piece of evidence
to buttress the
point I
am mak
provide
ing. Dictatorships in which per capita income declines have an ex
life of that are
pected forty years. Dictatorships growing economically
can expect to live an
fifty-three years. Democracies, by contrast, have
expected life of eighteen years when the economy declines and an ex
life of sixty-eight years when the economy grows. Democracies
pected
are thus much more vulnerable to economic crises than dictatorships.
In order to assess the impact of regimes on therefore, you have
growth,
to take into account the fact that these observations are not exoge
Given you are poor to observe
nously produced. endogeneity, unlikely
economic in democracies,
particularly poor democracies.
performance
Now we are in a
position
to discuss
the relationship between compar
isons and counterfactuals. Let us put together two assumptions. Suppose
that on the average do not make a difference for economic
regimes
a rate is
growth: for any regime during particular year the growth equal
to 2.09, which is the world average during this whole period, plus or
minus a random error.We also already know that democracies are more

likely to die when they do badly. Pause to thinkwhat we are then going
to observe in the real world if these two hold: regimes have
assumptions
no effect on die when
but democracies
growth they perform poorly.
The answer is that ifwe take the observations as
they
are
given and
calculate the average rates of growth for democracies and dictatorships,
we will find that democracies do better in promoting economic growth.
face bad economic we do
When democracies conditions, they die, and
not observe them anymore: if a democracy does poorly, it becomes a
so that in the observed we are to observe
dictatorship, population going
that democracies do better. Yet this finding results not because democ

racy has any effect on economic but because democracies are


growth,
more sensitive to economic crises. The fact that the world is not exoge
nous leads to invalid?specifically, biased and inconsistent?inferences.
What we are here is what the statistical literature calls a
observing
"selection bias." Indeed, I am persuaded that all the comparative work
we have been suffer from selection bias. We can
doing may potentially
not do
good comparative research unless we worry about selection, that
is, until we ask each time how our observations are Is the
produced.
mechanism our observations are of
by which produced independent
what we want or not? Unless we we will
to
explain pass that test be

making biased inferences.


20 WORLD POLITICS

To the bias, we need to conjure counterfactuals


remove to fill in the

unobserved, truncated part of the distribution. We have to determine


somehow what economic growth in democracies would have been had
to the same as
they been exposed range of conditions dictatorships.
This is why
comparisons inevitably entail counterfactuals. Since we
cannot find amatch for the authoritarian Chile in 1985 in the entire
we observe, we must find other ways to determine what the
population
rate of growth of Chile would have been in 1985 had it been democratic.
As always, this is easier said than done. The basic idea is that we
must model the way in which observations are and
explicitly produced
then use this knowledge to fill in the missing parts of the observed dis
tribution to generate counterfactuals. South Korea an export
adopted
oriented development strategy that was very successful, but why did
South Korea adopt this strategy? And why did Brazil not adopt the
same once we answer these can we assess
strategy? Only questions
whether South Korea would have done worse and Brazil better had

they chosen the alternative strategies. Suppose that South Korea chose
the export-oriented strategy because it had access to the U.S. market:
let this be the selection mechanism. Had Brazil had equal access to the
U.S. market and had it chosen the same strategy, what would its per
formance have been?
Since this procedure entails filling tails of distributions, the methods
for correcting selection bias are not robust even when many observa
tions are available. But with many observations, there are standard sta
tistical techniques that we can use: we assume a distribution (and test if
it fits), model the selection mechanism, and use the predicted values to
fill in the parts of the distribution we do not observe. The counterfac
tuals we generate provide the "matches" we have been looking for: they
are freed from selection bias. We then compare the actual observations
with the counterfactual conjectures.
The problem we face is the same in small-sample research. Let me
one s observation that revolutions do
provide just example: Tocqueville
not result in social transformations. that revolutions
major Suppose
occur in which it is hard to
only under situations change things: this is
the selection mechanism. We can then guess that the
immediately
causes of revolution and its outcomes are not and we can
independent,
conclude that the conservative outcomes are due to selection,
intuitively
not to "treatment." Had revolutions occurred in situations where change
is easy, they would have generated revolutionary transformations.
When case studies, we cannot on the prop that is avail
doing rely
able when the number of observations is large: we cannot use a statisti
SYMPOSIUM 21
cal distribution to the counterfactuals. We must less
generate proceed
formally. But I offer a suggestion that I have found fruitful in playing
mental experiments: Write up your cases, say South Korea and Brazil,
and then use the "search and replace" function on your word processor to

transpose the names of countries. Does the story still make sense? Brazil
now has access to the U.S. markets. Does it adopt the export-oriented

strategy? And if it does, is it successful? The new story may read


smoothly, and you will be satisfied. But you may discover that?hold
it?the level of relative wages in Brazil may have been too high to ex

port even if the U.S. market were open, the protected sectors were too
to tolerate a neutral exchange so on.
entrenched politically regime, and
Clearly, this is nothing but amental experiment guided by intuition. But
I think this procedure should be a standard protocol for case studies: we
must worry about selection and this is at a
least way of coping with it.
To conclude, if the observed world is not a random sample of the pos
sible worlds, then inferences from the observable cases, one or all, will be
invalid. Comparisons must then entail counterfactuals. We must worry
about selection mechanisms, identify their effects, and correct for them.
These conclusions add up to an antiexperimental posture. Our effort
should not be to match, since we cannot match when the world does
not generate all the pairs we
need. Indeed, the observable
matching
cases may exacerbate the selection bias. Instead, we must theorize
just
about the mechanisms which the observations are and
by generated
then use this knowledge to compensate for the nonrandom nature of
the observable world.

Susanne Hoeber Rudolph


To pair Weber in an essay on the comparative
and Foucault method, as
I do here, may appear to some.
odd But the contrast (and overlap) pro
vides a vehicle for discussing what stance we shall take to the compar
ative enterprise?and to the social sciences more The
generally.
adduced below are offered as a scaffold for the report of my
quotations
travels from Weber toWeber via Foucault. The encounter with Fou
cault was more in the nature of a sideswipe than a full-scale encounter,
but it ledme to readWeber differently.Weber figures in the story be
cause he was a central
figure, albeit in mediated form, in defining the

comparative enterprise for persons studying the non-Western world in


the 1950s and 1960s. I use him and his American progeny as the main
whom and with whom to define a stance toward the
figures against
comparative enterprise.
22 WORLD POLITICS

An intellectual stance is the fruit of our historical life situation and o.


the way the knowledge worlds of our disciplines impinge
on us.When
in the course of the essay several Weber appear, these are
quotations
meant to convey not that there is an essential, definitive Weber but
rather that Weber is subject to different can understand
readings. We
him as one of the most of the modernists, but also as a post
important
modernist. That puts me in the camp with those who see a text, not as
a determinate but as a that emerges
having meaning, having meaning
as a collaboration between reader and author and that is in turn em
bedded in history. Such an approach to
meaning presumes that the
is constructed; not texts but also social
phenomenal only categories
within which we live are constructed. Yet even as we construct the
world, we cannot simply
construct any world we want to?to refashion
a useful Marxism for our times.
The are the quotes to be considered. First Weber:
following

A product of modern European civilization, studying any problem of universal


history, is bound to ask himself to what combination of circumstances the fact
should be attributed that inWestern civilization, and inWestern civilization
only, cultural phenomena have which (aswe like to think) lie in a line
appeared
of universal and value.10
development having significance

And Foucault:

The project of a total history is one that seeks to reconstitute the overall form of
a civilization, the material or of a society, the
principle, spiritual, significance
common to all the of a the law that accounts for their cohe
phenomena period,
sion ... [but] the of a total to In of
possibility history begins disappear.... place
the continuous of reason, which was traced back to some
chronology invariably
inaccessible origin, there have scales that are sometimes very brief, dis
appeared
tinct from one another, irreducible to a law.11
single

These are cited in tandem for an obvious reason. The in


quotations
troduction to the Protestant Ethic that harbors the Weber was
quote
an ambitious call a
part of architectural edifice, what Foucault would
total history, tracing the evolution ofWestern and world civilizations as
a continuous of the progress?or failure?of rationalization
chronology
in the world. The quote represents one side ofWeber, that part of him
that still thought it possible to carry on the kind of world-encompass

10
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York:
Charles Scribner's, 1958), 13.
11 on
Michel Foucault, The Archaeology and the Discourse (New York: Pan
ofKnowledge Language
theon Books, 1972), 8-9.
SYMPOSIUM 23
favored so much of nineteenth-century social science,
ing projects by
especially inGermany. Despite the deep differences between Weber,
Marx, Durkheim, and others, their projects were energized
a com
by
mon It was the world on an
enlightenment perspective. moving upward
toward its future, driven an inner reason that moved
trajectory by
straight or dialectically toward a climactic condition, with theWest in
the vanguard.12
The Foucault quote is the marker of a contrary tendency, to disman
tle wholes, to the consistency of
disrupt large schemes and powerful de
terminacies; to focus on anomalies; to cut up wholes into discontinuous
can be examined,
pieces whose opposing tendencies rather than sub
sumed as anomalies in holistic schemes; to that
prefer representatives
build in their own contestation rather than offering a smooth,
impene
trable face to the world.
The tendencies highlighted in theWeber quote were picked up, ra
tionalized, amplified, and systematized by the structural-functionalism
that animated the comparativists of the 1950s and 1960s. Moderniza
tion elaborated to deal with and economic
theory paradigms political
development that would allow the field to move from, as Gabriel Al
put it, "an 'area studies' approach to the
mond study of foreign political
to a and one."13
systems genuinely comparative analytical
It was Talcott Parsons who led the new analytic; he more any than
other occasioned the reception ofWeber in the United States. The so
cial world, he affirmed, could be understood through the pattern vari
ables, a series of oppositional diads: ascription/achievement; affectivity/
affective neutrality; collectivity orientation/self-orientation; particular
ism/universalism; diffuseness/specificity. As the usage of the pattern
variables evolved, the items on each side of this dichotomous construc
tion were seen to be
systemically related. Thus, affectivity, collectivity
orientation, were an inner and were mu
particularism joined by logic
to be oriented toward human was to be ori
tually constrained; beings
ented toward collective and to care about
obligations particular persons
or rather than general and so forth.14 And affective
objects principles
12 on the modern see
For an illuminating philosophical and historical perspective project, Stephen
Toulmin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda ofModernity (New York: Free Press, 1990).
13
Gabriel Almond and James Coleman, The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1960), vii. Parenthetically, this quotation was characteristic of most comparative stud
ies in the way it conceived the project as something carried on by a community ofWestern viewers

looking at the "foreign." The creation of multinational and transnational social science communities in
the 1990s, as "native" social scientists have broken theWestern monopoly, compromises the idea of the
"foreign" and has softened the imperialism of categories typical of the 1960s.
14
Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils, Toward a General Theory ofAction (Cambridge: Harvard Uni
in this essay, saw the
versity Press, 1951), 77. It is not self-evident that Parsons and Shils themselves,
24 WORLD POLITICS

self-orientation, universalism were to be


neutrality, similarly thought
joined.
The two of the pattern variables were
sides the framework within
which one could understand the march of history, a process in which

"growing" and "developing" meant moving from the left side of the di
to the cast of the framework man
chotomies right. The ideological
dated movement toward a necessary future. The march of history
offered only two possible routes: one the one a cul-de
high road and
sac. drove this agentless process. The clo
Nobody analytic promised
sure, confidence that all of the possible permutations of action had been
accounted for: "We maintain that there are only five basic pattern vari
ables, that, in the sense that they are all of the pattern variables
and
so derive, a
which they constitute system."15
Parsons (and Shils) set out to a more more
produce parsimonious,
consistent summary of the theoretical oppositions of tradition and ra

tionality embedded in the Weberian architecture. It was a


totalizing
in the Foucaultian sense. As Parsons told the Faculty Commit
project
tee on Behavioralism at Harvard in 1954: "A long-term program of
aims at no less than a unification of theory in
scholarly activity which
all the fields of the behavioral sciences is now envisaged."16 Because the
elements were related, the system could only be disrupted
systemically
as awhole, not in parts. It did not accommodate the possibility that so
cial actors could, as it were, mix and match, take elements from oppo
site sides of the variables to create new mixes. No If social
hybridities.
actors or institutions mixed features, were "transitional," on their
they
way to the
predetermined future or lamentably unable to make it.
Weber had laid the basis for the theoretical framework that surmised
a fatalistic and passive East behind Parsonian-based modern
lurking
ization on ei sorted civilizations
theory. Weber's
dichotomizing project
ther side of a great divide: those civilizations in which humans were the
instruments and tools of God and those inwhich humans were the ves
sels of God; on the one side the ethical which led to this
religions,

left and right side of pattern variables as displayed above systematically related. However, the examples
in the essays?which are
few?suggest such a grouping (p. 79). Francis Sutton and Fred W. Riggs de
veloped systematic models, complete with presumptions that history was moving from one set of char
acteristics to another. Sutton is so cited in Almond. For Riggs, see "Agraria and Industria: Toward a
Typology of Comparative Administration," inW. J. Siffin, ed., Toward a Comparative Study of Public
Administration 1957), 23-116. Almond, in his introduction to The Politics of theDevel
(Bloomington,
oping Areas (fn. 13), explicitly avoids such "unfortunate theoretical polarization" and stresses the em
beddedness of traditional in modern structures
(p. 23).
15
Parsons and Shils (fn. 14), 77.
16
Report by the Faculty Committee, The Behavioral Sciences atHarvard (Cambridge: Harvard Uni
versity, June 1954), 114.
SYMPOSIUM 25

asceticism and the accompanying urgency to remake the world;


worldly
on the other side exemplary asceticism that
religion, otherworldly
shunned activity and accepted the cosmos, that is, fatalism.
The first "field trip"on which Lloyd Rudolph and I embarked began
to unravel this inherited apparatus. The sheer noisy, nature of
shouting
the data encountered flew in the face of the dominant dispositions of
theWestern science we as observers were
social by which then consti
tuted. The not our first book
experience only created but also engen
dered an of a social science that could so mislead.
enduring suspicion
Looking for "voluntary associations," which we believed to be critical
to the civil for pluralist democracy, we stumbled over
society necessary
caste. That most based, hierarchical, diffuse, particularistic
ascriptively
institution of Indian society, said to be generative of the fatalism of the
East, had an social hybrid that sat
spawned/was spawning adaptive
on the divide between "modern" and "traditional."
comfortably
What and I encountered was a most inventive mix
Lloyd Rudolph
ture of pattern variables?ambitious persons who were
lower-caste re
their social fate an version of
making by working through adapted
traditional collectivities?in other words, grasping their fate in their
hands. In its democratic incarnation, caste itself was
deeply disruptive
of caste To account for the we were we
hierarchy. phenomena seeing,
had to break up the totalistic, systemic
nature ofWeberian and Parson
ian structures.17 We elaborated the idea that the world of social change
was it was confined within cate
badly imagined when oppositional
to
gories and systemic theories. Much change seemed proceed by adap
tations not the were created out
captured by oppositions. Adaptations
of mixes of features on one or the other side of the pattern vari
lying
ables or the activist and fatalist civilizational line. Dichotomies were
structures that suppressed the intervening on which
logical ground
most of the phenomenal world exists. The that constituted
categories
the "modern" were not systemically or
organically related, asWeber and
Parsons and Marx and were not and would not be uni
thought, they
versal. Theyhad become related in the specific history of theWest and
would as yet unknown
take in the future of the "East." Other
shape
modernizers would out different constellations of relationships.
figure
The Foucault cited here is a of total
quote critique history, exempli
fied in the hypersystemic side of theWeberian project and by its Par
sonian variant. Instead of total histories, singular and ideological,

17
We did so in Rudolph and Rudolph, The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967,1984,1996).
26 WORLD POLITICS

Foucault intimates multiple and open


histories, providing space for al
His a
is also
ternative social destinies. critique of the understanding,
embedded in modernization that or was
theory, change, "development,"
driven by a continuous chronology of reason. My interest in the Foucault
ian suggestion of discontinuities and disruptions is not about suspend

ing comparison, and explanation; it is about dismantling


generalization,
the all-encompassing formats that have imprisoned us and the non
societies we were to nonholis
European trying explain. Discontinuous,
tic projects make it more to represent the contested nature of
possible
to avoid contradictions to truths or sup
"reality," subsuming "larger"
them in the interest of means
pressing altogether "consistency." Disrupt
break and challenge: as we construct a story we do so not in the tones of
the omniscient observer, of objective truth, of absolute certainty, but in
a voice that recognizes we are both partial and partisan and that we ex

press half-truths?which indeed may be the only truths there are.18 It


means a less enthusiastic embrace of attributes as academic
regarded
virtues, such as consistency, objectivity, parsimony.
Weber, offers us considerable in developing a
surprisingly, support
different, more stance to The quotation featured
contingent knowledge.
at the of this essay embodies his attachment to a totalistic,
beginning
ideological, universalizing, dichotomizing project. But embedded in
that quote there is an anomaly: In the midst of a confident assertion of
the universal ofWestern culture, he emits a kind of episte
significance
mological hiccup: ". . . inWestern Civilization, and inWestern Civi
lization cultural have which {as we like to
only, phenomena appeared
think) He in a line of development having universal significance" (em
It is that self-doubt, that sudden pause in confidence,
phasis added).
that begins to suggest the "other Weber."
moves in a world not "there" in any trans
Weber in which reality is
is constructed out of the situation of the observer.
parent fashion but
"All knowledge reality," he writes,
of cultural "is always knowledge from
is so so that
particular points of view."19 Reality infinite, comprehensive,
the human mind must make severe to grasp it at all, and
compromises
these compromises arise out of the observers situation: "The way which
life confronts us in immediate concrete situations, it presents an infinite

multiplicity of successively and coexistently emerging and disappearing


events."20 And the "scientist" "selects from an absolute infinity
a
tiny
18
For a discussion of types of voice and their relationship to truth claims, see Donald N. McCloskey,
IfYoure So Smart (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).
19 "
Max Weber, 'Objectivity' in Social Science and Social Policy," inWeber, The Methodology of the
Social Sciences, trans, and ed. Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch (New York: Free Press, 1949), 71.
20
Ibid., 72.
SYMPOSIUM 27

portion with the study of which he concerns himself."21 "Accordingly,


cultural science in our sense involves 'subjective* presuppositions insofar
as it concerns itself only with those components of realitywhich have
some ... to events to which we attach cultural
relationship signifi
cance."22

not an unmediated, con


For Weber, reality is clearly unproblematic
never tells us there is no not refrain from
cept. He reality; he does using
the word; and he does not put it in quotation marks, the postmodern
convention to us
for signaling skepticism.23 Yet by representing reality
as infinite and ungraspable, he comes very close to a similar position:

"coexistently emerging and disappearing"; "infinite multiplicity." These


are not that certainties. He then that the
phrases signal suggests only
way to come to grips with "reality" is in fact through
acts of construc
tion.We cut out pieces of the infinite flow in light of our subjective in
terests. The ideal type allows an unnatural freezing of a moment of

"reality" and the possibility of extracting and addressing it.


Iwould interpret the "subjective"here to refer to the individual who
dwells within social and historical contexts on the one hand and para
communities on the other that the range of what is of
digm suggest
"cultural significance." (InWeber this "I"?the lonely individual who
must choose from among contending without the guidance
possibilities
of any absolute standard?is unconstructed.) And which of the pieces
extracted from the flow is "true"? Weber suggests that contradictory
cuts may have truth value. At the end of the Protestant Ethic, he offers
a denial: "But it is, of course, not my aim to substitute for
disingenuous
a one-sided materialistic an causal in
equally one-sided spiritualistic
terpretation of culture and history." And then he tells us, "Each is

equally possible."24 Indeed, Weber the culturalist constantly invokes


materialist interpretations. He refuses exclusive commitment.
This denial wouldclearly place Webers work in a more contingent
to truth than the discussed
relationship totalizing projects above?pro
jects that aspired
to encompass all truths in a single systematic formu
lation and that subsumed all anomalies as that prove the rule
exceptions
rather than as ruptures. It would on the other side not merely
place him
of his own more holistic, macrotheoretical self but also of, say, Parsons,
21
Ibid., 82.
22
Ibid.
23
The career of the inverted comma in academic disciplines isworth a biography. It is the caution
light
on the road to cognition, warning the unwary that aword may not be what it seems, telling the
reader that she should walk all around "sovereignty" or "growth" and have a conversation with it about
its provenance before incorporating it.Note thatWeber does put inverted commas around "Objectiv
ity" in the above-cited article (fn. 19).
24
Weber (fn. 10), 183.
28 WORLD POLITICS

Easton, andWaltz, whose theoretical formulations strive to en


Kaplan,
compass and subsume the relevant world within a
phenomenal single
system.
Let me sum up then we can read Weber, who is generally as
why
similated to the realm of the modernists, as a The case
postmodernist.
on emphasizing the multiplicities with which he continually
rests?rst
undermines the universal he puts forward, on his propen
propositions
sity continually to disrupt his own holistic architectonic; secondon his
profound ambivalence about the enlightenment project, about the
march of rationalization in human history, which he sees as a destruc
tion of all that is intentional and sensitive and varied and centrally
human, the world as iron cage; and third, his belief in the multiplicity
and simultaneity of "truth," his epistemological polytheism?combined
with an absolute conviction, that persons must choose.
ungrounded,
This last point deserves emphasis. In the face of the ambiguity and si

multaneity of truths that is a significant part of the postmodern project,


people tend to be overcome by a fear of falling.Where all is in flux,
what certainty is there? There is none, saysWeber, and adds, with ab
solute but convincing the person of integrity must
inconsistency,
choose, must act.
And why should we readWeber as a
postmodernist, and what has it
to do with method? story has me the opportu
comparative My given
to consider, as a who lived through the era of holis
nity comparativist
tic, macrohistorical social science and was seduced by it, where we are
now, and why I think "now" is better. I do not believe that macrosocial
or entailed a colonial of knowledge as
theory necessarily merely project
power, although that was an aspect of it. But because the macrosocial

projects of the 1960s were holistic, theywere under a logical and intel
lectual to suppress alternative truths, to thatWest
compulsion imagine
ern history was world history and suppress the possibility of multiple
Those a mirror
histories. projects prepared culturally narcissistic for the
West. such a for scholars to
Disrupting perspective prepares the ground
as agents in the field of an open
operate history.

James C. Scott
I am not very good at
capturing in the abstract how I practice theoret
icalwork in comparative politics. I am better at doing it than at dis
cussing how to do it.With a figurative pistol to my temple, I did
sit down and write an maxim of comparative work
actually important
that derives from the way I do comparative politics. Iwill be happy to
SYMPOSIUM 29

mention that toward the end. For


the body of my discussion, however,
Iwould like to share some of my current research, which, of course, em
bodies my for how comparative to be done.
preferences politics ought
I am interested in understanding development disasters. It would
seem to be matter to understand
relatively straightforward why people
of different nationalities, ethnic groups, religions, and so on decide that
want to murder one another. It is more difficult?but
they considerably
understand were meant
important?to why schemes that ostensibly for
the betterment of the human condition have in practice turned out to
be deadly.
Let me begin with
an argument about what I call state
simplifications,
that is, about why states need to understand societies in schematic
I to the readers of the
ways. hope persuade potential danger of these
schemes, even I would argue, they are also necessary. Certain
though,
forms of knowledge and control require a of vision; this tun
narrowing
nel vision offers the advantage of bringing into sharp focus limited as

pects of an otherwise very complex and unwieldy reality. This very


simplification makes the phenomenon at the center of vision far more

legible and hence far more susceptible


to careful measurement and cal
culation on the one hand and to control and manipulation on the other.
I will use the invention of scientific in
forestry eighteenth-century
Prussia and Saxony as amodel and a metaphor for state simplifications.
This somewhat obscure at the outset. It is used
example may appear
here as a for the forms of knowledge and manipulation char
metaphor
acteristic of large institutions with very sharply defined interests, of
which the state is perhaps the outstanding not the
example, although
one. To see how such and manipulation operates in
only simplification
forest allows us to see how a similar optic in
management operates
other fields of endeavor, including, Iwill suggest, in the process of
knowledge generation in the social sciences.
Prior to the invention of scientific the early modern Euro
forestry,
pean state tended to view its forests the lens of fiscal needs.
through
That is, aside from particular concerns like timber for masts and ship
some construction, sufficient fuel wood for the
building, population,
and of course hunting the crown viewed its interests in forests
rights,
and its fiscal lens, reducing them to a
by large through single number,
that number being the revenue yield of timber that might be extracted
To appreciate how heroic this constriction is, notice what is
annually.
left out of the states field of vision. Underlying this single numerical
indication of revenue are not so much trees as commercial wood
yield
so many thousands of feet of salable timber, so many cords
representing
30 WORLD POLITICS

of firewood a certain of course, is everything


fetching price. Missing,
else about the forest?all those
trees, bushes, and plants?that hold lit
tle or no potential for state revenue. Missing as well are all those
aspects
of trees, even of revenue-bearing trees, that might be useful to the pop
ulation but whose value is not convertible into fiscal
receipts. Here
I
have in mind the uses of foliage as fodder and thatched roofs, as food
for domestic animals and people, trees and branches as fenc
bedding,
ing, hop poles, kindling, bark, roots for medicine and tanning, sap for
resins, and so on. The actual tree with its vast number of possible uses
is an abstract tree a certain volume of fire
replaced by representing
wood. From the perspective of a naturalist, of course, most of the forest
is also missing. Gone are the vast of flora, the grasses, the
majority
flowers, the ferns, the mosses, the shrubs, the vine; gone also are the

reptiles, birds, amphibians, and insects. And from an anthropologist s


on human interaction with the
perspective, nearly everything touching
forest is also missing. to
Except for its attention poaching that impinges
on the states claim to revenue and wood or its claim to
royal game, the
state
typically ignores
the vast and complex negotiated social uses of the
forest for hunting and gathering, pasturage, digging minerals, fishing,
charcoal making, trapping, food collection, magic, worship, and refuge.
You could say that the utilitarian state cannot see the real
existing
forest for the commercial trees.Its partial and abstract view of forest is
is the discourse of natural resources; it is the same
hardly unique. This
discourse that makes the plants we are interested in into crops and the
insects that ingest the crops that we are interested in into pests. It is the
same turns we are in into game or live
logic that animals interested
stock and those that compete with or prey on them into predators and
varmints. However, it is not the abstract and utilitarian logic which the
state to the forest its officials that is distinctive; rather,
applies through
what is distinctive is that the state can make these categories stick and
can
impose them?at least to a certain extent?on the reality that it is

observing and manipulating.


The invention of scientific forestry in Germany at the end of the
eighteenth century was originally motivated by the need to rationalize
princely finances. The forests played a very important role in all of this.
The earlier system had been quite crude; it entailed simply dividing up
the domanial forests and either felling portions or letting the rights to
fell portions of it. Since the trees of great value were never randomly
zones of the forest, the actual
distributed, given the varying ecological
revenue tended to fluctuate enormously. There was thus an effort to

prevent that from happening. The inventors of scientific forestry spent


SYMPOSIUM 31

a deal of time was a


great selecting what they thought representative
a and then set about a in
plot, quite large plot, conducting complete
ventory of this plot. It involved getting some twenty people abreast in
one
sight of another
with great trays carried around their necks, each

tray with each of the bins carrying a known number of nails of


five bins,
a color, corresponding to a certain size class of trees that
designated
these surveyors had been trained to recognize. At each tree, they would
a tree. At the end of the ex
put in nail designating the size class ofthat
ercise, one counted the number of nails and arrived at a
remaining
trees of each size class were in the for
complete inventory of how many
est. On the basis of assumptions about rates of and growth,
maturity
one could then divide up the forest into a set of subterritories thatwere
exploitable year by year and, as much as
possible,
even out the amount
of wood that could be taken. There was no way of quite controlling the
market for wood, but at least the amount of wood, con
price assuming
stant
prices, would be roughly the same from year to year.
There were efforts to determine
also other com
exactly how much
mercial wood in a tree of a given
was size class. In a series of experi
ments, they would take one such tree, cut it up into tiny pieces, and

compress it into cubes so that it could be measured to get the exact vol
ume of wood. Or they would throw the wood into in large bins filled
with water; based on the amount of water that was displaced, they
could determine the exact volume of wood in one of these trees. The
achievements of German forestry science in standardizing techniques
to calculate sustainable yield of commercial timber were very impres
sive in this respect.
What is decisivefor our purposes is the next logical step in forest
to was and
management. That
create, through careful seeding, planting,
a forest that was easier for state foresters to count,
cutting, manipulate,
measure, and assess. The fact is that forest science and geometry,
backed by the state, had the capacity to transform the disorderly and
chaotic real forest into a forest more
closely resembling the administra
tive grid of its techniques. Thus the underbrush was cleared, a number
of plant species were reduced, often to monoculture, was done
planting
and in rows for tracts. went some
simultaneously straight large They
distance toward creating a "normal" forest and aNormalbaum in these
forests.
The creation of a simplified, legible forest was only the imminent
logic of its techniques. It was not and could not ever be realized in
because both nature and the human factor intervened. The ex
practice,
isting the vagaries of fire, storms, blights, climatic changes,
topography,
32 WORLD POLITICS
insect populations, and disease to thwart foresters
obviously conspired
in their efforts to
shape the actual forest. Also not insignificant were the
insurmountable difficulties of policing large forests; for 250 years the
most popular crime in England was poaching. And by popular, Imean
in both senses of the word: most common and most beloved. Given the
difficulties of policing
large forests, therefore, adjacent popula human
tions also continued to graze animals, firewood and
typically poach
use of the forest in ways
kindling, make charcoal, and generally make
that thwarted the realization of forest management plans.
The administrators forest cannot be the naturalist s forest. Even if all
the ecological interactions play
at in the forest were
known, they would
constitute a so and as to shorthand de
reality complex variegated defy
The intellectual filter necessary to reduce this to
scription. complexity
dimensions was in this case the state's interest
manageable provided by
in commercial timber and in revenue.
You could say that the natural
world?or as Iwill go on to argue, the social world?is too un
simply
and too in its raw form for direct administrative
wieldy complex
manipulation. That is, in its natural or social context
reality is bureau

cratically without this abstraction. I now propose to


apply
indigestible
the forestry metaphor to land tenure, by giving a hypothetical descrip
tion of customary forms of land tenure. Though hypothetical, however,
this description is realistic; that is, I have read about or actually seen all
of the practices I am about to describe.
Let us
imaginecommunity
a in which families have user rights to
main growing season. certain crops
parcels of cropland during the Only
may be and every seven years use are redistributed
planted, rights
among families to size and the number of able-bodied
according family
adults. In the closed
corporate communities of Russia, Java, portions of
Central America, and Vietnam, this was common. After the harvest of
the main season crop, all cropland reverts to commons, such that any
its fowl and livestock, and even
family may glean, graze plant quick
crops. Edible wild on the margins
maturing dry-season plants growing
of fields or water courses are available to be Trees
along gathered.
known to have been with their fruit, are the
planted, together property
of the family that planted them, not the property of the people on
whose land they happen now to be located. Fruit fallen from such trees,
a one of its
however, may be gathered by anyone. When family fells
trees or when it is felled by wind, the trunk belongs to the family, the
branches to the immediate and the tops, twigs, fronds, and
neighbors,
leaves to any poor villager who carries them off. Certain plots of land
are for use or lease by widows with children or
designated by depen
SYMPOSIUM 33
dents of males. Use to land can be let to anyone in
conscripted rights
the village, but only if no one in the village wants to take it can it be let
to anyone outside the village.
Let us also imagine that fishing rights
are distributed so that anyone

may fish by net or by hook and line from canals and streams. In flooded
fields, however, while anyone may fish with a hook and line for small
fish, the larger fish, taken usually when the field is drained (with wet
rice, for example), belong to the owner of the crop growing in the field.
I could on what to land to the dis
easily elaborate happens rights and
tribution of crops and their proceeds. That, however, is not necessary. I
could also make this description more elaborate because it is, in itself, a

simplification. I also distort by describing these practices as if theywere


laws, when in fact they are a living, negotiated tissue of practices that is
never static, and that is to new
constantly changing according ecologi
cal and social circumstances, I must add, power relations.
including,
awritten to represent
Imagine system of positive law that attempted
this complex skein of property relations and land tenure; that is, imag
ine a state that wanted to respect customary forms of tenure by codify

ing them and representing them in positive law. The mind fairly
at the number of clauses and subclauses and sub-subclauses
boggles
that would be required to represent these practices. In principle, if they
could be codified, the result would necessarily sacrifice much of the

plasticity and subtle adaptability of practice; itwould freeze a living


process. Moreover, in the positive code from time to time to
changes
at best, represent a very
reflect evolving practice would, jerky mechani
cal adaptation. And what of the next village? After this imaginary code
giver had finished representing customary land tenure in village A, he
or she would have to start from zero in village B because it
nearly
would have different ecological conditions, a different cropping history,
a different structure, and so on. No matter
social how devilishly clever,
meticulous, and of customary law such a state was, it simply
respectful
could not represent each village with its own particular ecology, his

tory, cropping patterns, kinship alignments, and economic activity. It


would a different set of a different code
require regulations, positive
for at least as many as there were
for each village, making legal codes
communities.

Administratively, of course, this is a nightmare. But notice whose


it is?certainly not that of the whose cus
nightmare people particular
toms are Local practice in land tenure is
being represented. completely
comprehensible to the inhabitants who livewith it day in, day out. Its
details may often be contested and far from to all of its local
satisfactory
34 WORLD POLITICS

practitioners, but there is no doubting its familiarity. They know its


subtleties and while they may dislike it, they know how to manipulate
it for their own purposes as well. The
nightmare in then, is
question,
that of the state officials who want a uniform administrative grid of land
tenure that will represent the situation a
in whole or for that mat
region
ter in a whole nation. The very concept of the modern state is
hardly
conceivable without a and uniform
vastly simplified property regime
that is
legible and hence manipulable from the center. And, of course, a

major driving force behind this legibility is the question of taxes.


The next
step for all modern states is, of course, to measure,
codify,
and simplify land tenure in much the same way that scientific
forestry
reconceived the forest, since the state cannot begin to the
incorporate
luxuriant variety of customary land tenure. The historic solution, for
the liberal state anyway, has been the heroic simplification of individual
freehold tenure. Land is owned by a legal individual who disposes of
wide powers of use, inheritance, or sale and whose is repre
ownership
sented by a uniform title deed, enforced through the judicial and police
institutions state. Just as the flora of the forest are reduced
of the to
Normalb?ume, so were the complex tenure arrangements of customary
reduced to freehold transferable title. In an
practice agrarian setting, the
administrative was blanketed with a uniform
landscape grid of ho
mogenous land, each parcel of which had a as owner,
legal person
hence, taxpayer. The modern land register and its tax roll were thus the
for land tenure of the scientific forester's table of timber
equivalent
and yield. A central consequence of its imposition was that it
growth
radically devalued local knowledge and autonomy, and this specialized
backed state the balance of power be
knowledge, by authority, changed
tween the and the state.
locality
Again, like the forest, land tenure never quite measured up to the
utopia envisioned by the people who did the settlement reports and the
taxation maps and who issued title deeds, because a whole series of
resistance, went on in spite of what the paperwork
practices, including
said. One of the important about the modern state is that most
things
of its officials are of necessity usually
at least one
step, and often several
steps, removed from direct contact with the reality and the citizens they
administer. They observe and assess the life of their society by a series
of simplifications and shorthand fictions that are always some distance
from the full reality these abstractions are meant to capture. The func
sees
tionary of any large organization actually the human activity of in
terest to him or her largely through the simplified approximation of
documents and statistics and tax proceeds.
SYMPOSIUM 35
The facts of the administrator are
necessarily of a certain
simplified
type?static?even when they
are a series of facts that give a time se

quence of different observations. A series of individual, static facts can


never tell you what between observation A and observation
happened
B; that is, a line drawn between the two observations is not
straight
an accurate of events. The facts have to be
necessarily representation
standardized, because if they are not cannot be and as
they aggregated
sembled in a way that allows for an overall view. The facts also have to
be stylized to simplify a reality out there.Thus, if the objective is to di
vide the population into the employed and the unemployed, then one
must a whole series of intermediate statuses that represent the
simplify
real life of the many thousands who are or in
unemployed employed
ways that defy easy categorization; must be sorted
complicated they
into one bin or the other because the exercise requires that the popula
tion be divided into these categories. The who actually make the
people
to these know the fictional and arbitrary quality
assignments categories
underlying each of these decisions and know that they hide awealth of
problematic variation.
Once these categories are established, of course, in
they operate
as if all cases classified are, in fact, homogenous and
eluctably together
uniform. All Normalb?ume in a given size range are exactly the same for
the purposes of statistical All auto workers, if we are
manipulation.
classifying by industry, are the same.All Catholics, ifwe are classifying
are the same. Students of bureaucratic behavior un
by religious faith,
derstand that central coordinating schemes do their work most effec
where the task environment is known and
tively under conditions

unchanging, and where it can be treated as a closed system. What I


want to argue about state is that the modern state,
simplification
through its official attempts and with varying success, creates a popula
tion with those standardized characteristics because it will be easier to
monitor, count, assess, and manage. That is a little bolder than Iwould
like to state it and itmisses the fact that these efforts fall enormously
short. However, I think there is an effort by officials either to transform
or to as transformed the population, space, and nature under
represent
their jurisdiction into a closed system, without the surprises that frus
trate their
ability
to control and observe it.This often provides for some
enormous do not work out as well.
surprises when things
The important thing about the state
in this context is that it in par
ticular has the capacity to make its categories and simplifications stick
because it can insist on treating according
to its
categories. If
people
to are
you want to defend your claim real property, you normally
36 WORLD POLITICS

obliged to defend itwith a property deed and in the courts and tri
bunals created for that purpose. If you wish any standing in law, you
must have the documents?the birth certificate, passport, identity card,
and so on?that officials as of The
accept proof citizenship. categories
used state agents are not a means to make their environment
by merely
more are also an authoritative tune to which the popula
legible, they
tion has to dance, at least some of the time.
If I had more time, Iwould make the argument that these simplifi
cations become in combination with other factors. One of the
deadly
most important of these is an ideology of high modernism, that is, the
nineteenth-century worldview, with its supreme self-confidence about
the inevitability of linear progress, the development of scientific and
technical knowledge, the expansion of production, and, most impor
tant, the rational design of the social order, the growing satisfaction of
human needs, and, not least, an increasing control over nature, includ
nature commensurate
ing human (also including eugenics, with sci
entific of natural laws). It seems to me that
understanding high
modernism at its flood tide is an that requires an enormously
ideology
state?it has obviously and straightforwardly authoritarian as
powerful
pects to it. According to
high modernism, there is only one answer to
almost any social problem, and that is determined by the technicians,
and social who see these
engineers, analysts things correctly according
to the laws have devised. When state are married
they simplifications
to high modernist plans for the transformation of human life and its
and when these plans are on a that is
improvement, imposed society
weakened or war?so that it is relatively
by revolution prostrate and
easy to push around?then you have, I think, a recipe for the worst dis
asters of
high modernist planners.
In conclusion, the parallel I would draw is between how states sim

plify the societies they govern and how scholars simplify the societies

they study. Both types of simplications may well be necessary, but one
must never also have conse
forget they may profoundly negative
quences. I
personally have never been able to think my way through a
fourth-order extraction or without it in a
simplification embedding
concrete case. I cannot understand fourth-order extractions; once
just
there are four or five of them simultaneously in the air, I am
essentially
lost because I have no empirical reference. I have never been able to un
derstand abstract concepts unless I can run them through something
that I understand well. For this reason I find
the anthropologists' ap
as a if not as a
proach terribly important, certainly technique, theory:
a field site where a lot of time, and co
they have they spend observing
SYMPOSIUM 37
as if were a camera, as if were and
piously recording they they stupid
na?ve.When Iwas doing my dissertation, I had a colleague who was
influenced by Gabriel Almond. He was applying Almond's scheme to
and was a standardized survey. This scholar was
Malaysia, conducting
enormously subtle, widely read, and clever. He would tell me things
aboutMalaysian society that he had picked up on the bus or observed
in this little village, but when it came time to write his dissertation, all
these things that he knew and had taught me no longer seemed rele
vant. At that point, he saw Malaysia only through the instruments of
his survey. The great thing about anthropology, by contrast, is that you
are at work from the moment you open your eyes in the morning until

you close them at night; everything is grist for the mill. So itmay often
be fine to have instruments that will measure but if you see
carefully,
theworld only through your instruments, then it is likely to be aworld
that is hard to broaden that may very well be poverty
and stricken.
These instruments define the conclusions you can reach.
Now for that maxim, although I'm against maxims in principle be
cause they have a habit of hardening into doctrines: If half of your read
ing is
not outside the confines of political science, you are risking
extinction along with the rest of the subspecies. Most of the notable in
novations in the discipline have come in the form of insights, perspec
tives, concepts, and originating elsewhere. Reading
paradigms
exclusively within the discipline is to risk reproducing orthodoxies or,
at the very least, absorbing innovations far from the source. We would
do well to emulate the hybrid vigor of the plant and animal breeding
world.

Theda Skocpol
For my contribution to this I draw on my 1994 essay "Re
symposium,
flections on Recent Scholarship about Social Revolutions and How to
as I revisited the field of the comparative
Study them," which Iwrote
study of revolution.25 It reallywas a revisiting because I had not done
more than an occasional in that area since the publication of
piece
States and SocialRevolutions (ssr) in 1979.261 used the occasion of gath
various of my own essays written before and after SSR as
ering together
an to review the other literature that has accumulated since
opportunity

25 and New York:


Conclusion toThedaSkocpol, Social Revolutions in theModem World (Cambridge
Cambridge UniversityPress, 1994).
26 and China
Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis ofFrancet Russia,
(Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979).
38 WORLD POLITICS
the mid-1970s in the comparative study of modern social revolution. I
was interested in how recent built upon or went
scholarship beyond
what I was trying
to argue in 1979, and I reentered the?at times
with critics of my work. These critics, writing from a
feisty?dialogue
number of perspectives?Marxist, rational choice, and what I would
call interpretive historical?have more than the
disagreed with particu
lar arguments made in SSR. have also taken issue with the entire
They
strategy of analysis that I call macroanalytic comparative history.
As I see it, comparative politics people, including comparative polit
ical sociologists, should compare?a idea!?and not
startling simply
study places in the world that are not America. Moreover, the purpose
of comparison should be partly to test a
explore and hypotheses from

variety of theoretical perspectives and partly to notice and hypothesize


about new causal regularities. This kind of approach, which I call
can be very fruitful when
macroanalytic comparative history, applied,
either by single scholars or communities of scholars, to understand
by
ing substantively pressing issues, such as patterns of democratization,
the causes and outcomes of social
revolutions, and the origins of na
tional systems of social provision or the challenges they have faced in
the postwar The substantive concerns of communities of ana
period.
can be but the that I am and that
lysts quite varied, approach proposing
I illustrate in the comparative revolutions field can be powerful and
fruitful for individuals and communities of scholars.
In retrospect I think it is fair to say that SSRwas an
agenda-setting
on several counts, not because
book, everybody simply agreed and that
was the end of it, but rather, in a much more
interesting way. Some
chose to argue with it and new theoretical and method
people develop
ological approaches in a self-conscious
dialogue
or in
disagreement
with my arguments. Other scholars
picked up the methodological ap
proach of macroanalysis. Almost everyone who took up
comparative
the study of revolutions after SSR did things that almost no one had
done beforeit: they put the state as a set of administrative and coercive
at the center of at var
organizations analysis; and they looked in depth
ious historical cases.
When I look back, I am struck extent and richness of the his
by the
torical and comparative historical work on the causes of modern social
revolutions. Most ofthat work has moved on to na
study Third World
tions in the mid-twentieth century; and some of it is now at
looking
situations like Eastern Europe after 1989. Some of the work consists of

in-depth, single-case studies that are theoretically informed. But quite


a bit involves and two or more countries, much
juxtaposing comparing
SYMPOSIUM 39
as I did in SSR.In my opinion, there have been two studies about the
causes of social revolutionary transformations inThird World nations
in the mid-twentieth century that are blockbusters. Both are full com
of both and negative cases (cases where
parative macroanalyses positive
revolutions happened and cases where they did not); these books are
Timothy Wickham-Crowley sGuerrillas and Revolution inLatin Amer
ica and Jeff Goodwins State and Revolution in theThird World?7There
is not sufficient space here to elaborate on the and findings of
designs
these studies, but they arewell worth looking at; they show the fruit
fulness of the macroanalytic to that SSR
approach comparative politics
helped to launch.
The comparative historical macroanalytic work of the last fifteen or
so years about the causes of social revolutions from the 1800s forward
has provided us with a lot of solid knowledge. The research comes from
a series of studies that built each other's and methods.
upon insights
We now know that democratic are not
regimes particularly susceptible
to We know that certain authoritarian
revolutionary challenge. regimes
are not to be either to strong revolutionary
likely susceptible challenge
or to actual of rulers. We have a good idea of the partic
displacements
ular kinds of authoritarian regimes and circumstances in which revolu
tions have actually from certain kinds of agrarian
succeeded?ranging
bureaucratic monarchies to to (as op
patrimonial dictatorships directly
posed to indirectly) ruled colonies. We also know quite a lot about
which kinds of international pressures and disruptions contribute to the
weakening of regimes or to the strengthening of revolutionary constel
lations. We know less about exactly what sets of forces
shape revolu
tionary outcomes; but we do know something about the circumstances
that promote centralization, authoritarianism, and often military coups
in almost all revolutionized regimes.
In turning now to more theoretical and methodological matters, the
main purpose here, I should like to focus on challenges that have been
to the to whose value for the field of the
posed macroanalytic approach,
comparative study of revolutions I have already alluded. I deliberately
referred to substantive achievements before considering methodological
challenges, because comparative historical macroanalysis deals with
and varying causal patterns. One cannot a gen
complex simply develop
eral model and go out and it universally, in
place after place.
apply

27
Wickham-Crowley, Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America: A Comparative Study of Insurgents
and Regimes since 1956 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); and Goodwin, State and Revolu
tion in the Third World: A Comparative Analysis (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, forthcoming).
40 WORLD POLITICS
is therefore vulnerable to the accusation that it is
Comparative history
not theoretical of view, however,
enough. From another point this ap
involves across contexts that historians often con
proach comparisons
sider to be unique. So comparative can also be on
history challenged
the grounds that it does violence to the richness and uniqueness of each
case. Both were .
leveled at SSR The
types of challenges only appropri
ate answer to these is to show that important
polar-opposite objections
causal are
theoretical, questions being asked by those doing compara
tive macroanalysis, questions about substantive processes in the world.
The bestresponse is to show, substantively, that there has been progress
in answers to those
developing questions.
The analytical to SSR and other, similar books are of inter
challenges
est not care about the causes and outcomes of rev
only for people who
olutions. The same sorts of appear in many other literatures
challenges
about other substantive matters. That iswhy it isworthwhile in a sym

posium like this to discuss these challenges.


I shall be brief about the first theoretical-methodological challenge
directed against SSR, because I am not sure how many people are likely
to take this a
challenge seriously. A few years ago Michael Burawoy,
Marxist at leveled a broadside Bura
sociologist Berkeley, against SSR.2S
woy asserted that SSR and all comparative analytic work of its type are
flawed because do not start from a fixed set of theoret
inherently they
ical premises. According to most
Burawoy, Marxist theory has been the
powerful for understanding revolutionary situations; he values the the
because it involves a commitment on the
ory, moreover, part of the
scholar to promote revolution as well as to understand it. Burawoy crit
icized SSR for "abandoning" any commitment to Marxist theory. He
holds that rather than using Marxist as a source of
theory empirically
refutable it is better to operate within Marxist
hypotheses, theory,
bringing historical cases to bear on it for the sole purpose of enriching
that theoretical tradition.
Now, even if the audience of this journal were to reject such an argu
ment from a in fact the same
coming Marxist-Trotskyist perspective,
sort of argument could actually be made from other kinds of theoretical
such as the rational choice perspective. further
perspectives, Burawoy
criticizes comparative analysts such as myself for apparently reasoning
by empirical induction rather than by theoretical deduction and thereby
smuggling in an entire untestable set of theoretical
propositions. We do
this, he believes, our selection of cases and hypotheses.
through
28 versus
Michael Burawoy, "Two Methods in Search of Science: Skocpol Trotsky," Theory and Soci
ety 18 (1989).
SYMPOSIUM 41
I do not havethe space here to elaborate on either the details of these
accusations or on my responses to them in the "Reflections"
essay.29 If
the standard is Trotsky versus then the kinds of
Skocpol, comparisons
that I made in SSR?particularly the comparison between 1905 and
1917 in a
Russia?help explain why purely working-class-based theory
of revolution is simply not going to be able to or where a
predict when
revolution will succeed. Marxist theory, along with other theories,
should be a source of hypotheses for comparative historical explo
rations; but if the hypotheses do not accord with the comparative evi
dence, so be it. not refines assumed
Comparative history only
theoretical traditions; it can also suggest new and combine
hypotheses
from old perspectives in a far more powerful way than can
hypotheses
the essentially dogmatic approach advocated by Burawoy.
Let me now move on to a second
challenge, which ismore pertinent
to a
symposium
on
comparative politics, because itwas issued by a ra
tional choice theorist, Michael Hechter (in conjunction with a collabo
a Hechter a
rator, Edgar Kiser).30 Although sociologist, speaks for
perspective that has a much more substantial presence in political sci
ence than it does in sociology. He and Kiser argue that theorizing is not
"scientific" unless one can offer a model and deduce in a
general logical
way hypotheses that in a sense cover the patterns one is
pointing
to
historical or inductive historical Their essay trum
through description.
pets the value of model building, as opposed towhat they argue is the
arbitrary of comparative history. They suggest that compara
approach
tive history is really just old-fashioned history, with fuzzy concepts and
tailored to cases.
analysis particular
After pages of this, you expect the authors finally to tell you how
their general choice on microfounda
theory?rational theory, based
tions?can explain revolutions better than SSR or the work that has
flowed from it. But just at the point in the essay where Kiser and
Hechter would have to deliver the goods, the subject! In
they change
stead of offering any general, cover-law explanation of revolutions,
they
make a brief allusion to thework ofMichael Taylor.
I ran off to the library to get Taylor s essays, in search of the
general
theoretical based on microfoundations.31 What I discov
explanation
ered were essays comments on how one
lengthy containing thoughtful
29
(fn. 25).
30Skocpol
Kiser and Hechter, "The Role of General Theory in Comparative Historical Sociology," American
Journal of Sociology 97, no. 1 (1991).
31
See Michael Taylor, ed., Rationality and Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1988); and idem, "Structure, Culture, and Action in the Explanation of Social Change," Politics and
no. 2 (1989).
Society 17,
42 WORLD POLITICS
reconstruct in rational choice terms that part of SSR focusing on
might
peasant communities and how they rebelled during the French and
Russian Revolutions. Taylor offers some convincing speculation (be
cause, of course, we really do not know what those Russian and French

peasants were thinking back in 1789 and 1917) about how peasants
could have overcome obstacles to collective action
through network ties
and institutions?very much the sorts of relationships that I had dis
cussed in my analysis. Why, he asks, would ra
supposedly self-seeking
tional individuals have engaged in the inherently risky business of
state is very careful to say that he is
rebelling against authority? Taylor
reconstructing the arguments in SSR, and in no way contradicting them.
And indeed, he presumed the entire analysis in my book about the
breakdown of state power that made the peasant community rebellions
In short, Taylor s is partly a on mine and partly
possible. analysis gloss
a to it.
complement
This of interaction between is not so differ
type scholarly argument
ent from what I have seen in some other literatures, where there is a di

alogue between rational choice theorists and historical institutionalists


or So that is exactly where we are in
comparative political sociologists.
the rational choice contributions to the study of comparative revolu
to the
tions?and frankly, also in rational choice contributions study of
many other macroscopic processes that might interest us. There have
been intelligent commentaries linking individual-level processes with
macroscopic conflicts and institutional processes. What rational choice
theorists have not done, however, is to create successful general theo
ries of such as revolutions or democratization or the rise of
phenomena
authoritarian Hechter and others are all and no deliv
regimes. promise
ery on this score. And it seems unlikely that microlevel models will ever

completely historical-institutional analyses of macroscopic pat


displace
terns of conflict and social
political change.
The final
challenge
to the
macroanalytic approach embedded in SSR
and work comes from the opposite direction. On the one
subsequent
hand, we have the rational choice analysts like Kiser and Hechter who
feel that comparative historical work is simply a return to old-fashioned
unscientific On the other hand, we have critics like the
totally history.
historian William Sewell, Jr., who believe that comparative historical
work is to science, a total violation of all that is
equivalent experimental
sacred in historical work. What to say to one another,
would they have
andwhy am I caught in the middle?!
Prior towriting the critique I focus on here, Sewell had criticized SSR
SYMPOSIUM 43
over the question of the role of ideology and culture in the understand

ing of revolutions.32 He is now my book to criticize its


revisiting
methodology.33 Arguing for what he labels "eventful" historical sociol
ogy, Sewell advocates interpretation of particular historical processes
and the tracing out of narratives of events, looking especially for events
that are in some sense turning points in a narrative sequence. Outlining
this overall approach to historical social inquiry is SewelTs basic goal;
in the process, he reviews major books by Charles Tilly, Immanuel
Wallerstein, and me.
Sewell approaches
SSRwith I take to be a
what uncertainty.
flattering
Although that it is a powerful
he argues book, he seems perplexed
about why that is so, since it violates his own theoretical and method
for the social sciences. Sewell criticizes SSR
ological prescriptions along
several, somewhat lines. He first echoes com
contradictory Burawoy's
ment that SSR uses purely inductive methods, but he soon abandons this
untenable The thrust of his attack is instead to say that SSR is
position.
deeply flawed because it uses comparisons
to test and
develop explana
tory arguments. He likes the fact that SSR recounts narratives about the
French, Russian, and Chinese Revolutions and considers those narra
tives to be quite powerful. He nevertheless argues that my decision to

compare across those revolutions?and also to compare these cases


with other instances of sociopolitical conflict where successful social
revolutions did not occur?violates what he calls the unbreakable
unity
and the complexity of history. Sewell argues that all historical social sci
entists who do comparative work are falsely applying experimental logic
to the act of comparing takes particular sets
history, because necessarily
of events out of context and juxtaposes them to one another, thereby
the flow of events across world historical time.
breaking
answer to Sewell s must "fracture" his
My charge that comparativists
tory is to admit that yes, we must?and so must he or anyone else who
uses concepts and language to talk about use of the
history. The very
word "revolution," the very invocation of "French Revolution," is in
a of the flow and of The use of
escapably fracturing complexity history.
such terms and concepts, including by Sewell himself, suggests that
there is something we want to bundle "Revolution"
together. implies
similar across times and places; and "French Revolution"
configurations
32 me about culture and ideology in revolutions
The exchange between Sewell and is reprinted in
Skocpol (fn. 25), pt. 3.
33 an Eventful
William Sewell, Jr., "Three Temporalities: Toward Sociology," in Terrence J.Mc
Donald, ed., The Historic Turn in theHuman Sciences (Ann Arbor: University ofMichigan Press, forth
coming).
44 WORLD POLITICS

assembles happenings in French history that not allwould agree should


be discussed together.
So the mere charge of "fracturing"
is hard to take seriously. Critics
must move from a logical charge to the substance of social science his

tory arguments; they need to explore which kinds of fracturing yield


fruit and which ones do not. To make any kind of powerful critique,
Sewell needs to do what he refuses to do in his methodological treatise;
he needs to engage the substantive analysis advanced in SSRy as well as
the many other powerful substantive analyses put forth by compara
tivists about revolutions and other macroscopic phenomena.
Those of us who do macroanalytic work in comparative politics
must
our selections and groupings of cases. We must show that we are
justify
dealing with sufficiently similar instances tomake it possible to explore
arguments about the phenomena in question, and we must attend to
both similarities and differences across our range of cases. To the extent
that all of us who practice macroanalytic comparative history do pre
cisely this,
our critics must deal with the substance of our arguments
and not dismiss the operation logically. It is therefore incumbent upon
Sewell to show that scholars who have made studies of
comparative
revolutions in the modern world have failed to generate new
powerful
arguments about their causes, processes, and outcomes. Not only does
Sewell fail to take on this task, but he also seems blithely unaware of
the best in the comparative-historical social sciences about
scholarship
revolutions or other macroscopic phenomena.
Finally, I find it ironic that Sewell appreciates the narrative aspects
of SSR yet would discount the book's "scientific" com
allegedly overly
parisons.When I think back on how I developed the narrative parts of
this book, I realize narratives were
just how profoundly informed those
not have ex
by the concomitant comparative-causal analyses. I may

plained this adequately when I originally talked about the methods


used in SSR.Those of us who do comparative-historical social science
often do not explain adequately how the methods we use for
investiga
tion and for presentation of results relate to narrative modes of presen
tation that are convincing to historians and other readers. Narratives are

compelling. Children like stories. We all like stories. But narratives do


not
just spring forth naively. It was precisely the comparative analyses
in SSR that made it possible for me to write the narratives of what hap

pened during the revolutionary breakdowns and the reconstructions of


the old regimes into the revolutionized new in France, Russia,
regimes
and China. If I had not had the comparative, causal to
analysis high
SYMPOSIUM 45

light the importance of the breakdown of administrative and military


state organizations and to highlight the contributions of peasant revolt,
Iwould not have been able to select from the mass of events the kinds
of things that I ended up highlighting in the narratives that Sewell likes
so much. And if I had set out to write narratives, I could never
merely
have covered three major social revolutions and several other sociopo
litical conflicts in one book.
So my second answer to Sewell is to say, if you like the narratives of
SSR, you cannot have them without the comparative analysis. Good
and powerful narratives go together; are not
comparative analysis they
separate enterprises. I think that the kind
of purely interpretive narra
tive he is taken apart from an to
approach suggesting?if aspiration
ward causal analysis, hypothesis testing, and the achievement of rigor
through comparative analysis of positive and negative cases?will lead
students and other scholars who practice "eventful" historical sociology
into a hopeless muddle of descriptive accounts. SewelFs prescription
may further anthropologically rich descriptive work in history, but it
will not further efforts to the causes, process, and outcomes of
explain
revolutions and other important macroscopic transformations in the
modern world. Yet this latter effort iswhat I take to be the brief of
comparative politics and comparative political sociology.
This of substantive research and theoreticaldevelop
exploration
ments in one area of leads to conclusions that I
comparative politics
should like to present in a summary fashion. For those of us who do
it pays to compare. And it is not necessary to get
comparative politics,
hung up on grand model building and purely deductive theorizing, on
the one hand, or on producing rich narratives of particu
interpretively
lar times and places, on the other. There is a middle way, comparative
historical analysis, which allows us to notice patterns in history and

generate better theoretical ideas from them. At the same time, we can
use to
well-designed comparisons explore and better specify hypotheses
derived from whatever theories we have available as we launch into a

given investigation.
This historical macroanalytic approach to comparative politics has
flourished in quite a few substantive literatures beyond the one that I
have talked about today. I feel certain that people will carry comparative
into additional substantive areas, further developing an
macroanalysis
alytically powerful, yet historically grounded arguments about regimes,
social structures, and sociopolitical transformations in the modern
world. Those of us who do comparative history in the social sciences
46 WORLD POLITICS

have nothing to for!We can take counsel from and cooperate


apologize
with the model builders and the interpretivists. But we need not defer
to either group.

Conclusion: Atul Kohli


The main concerns of the were outlined in the introduc
symposium
tion. While most of the invited participants addressed these concerns

directly, a few were more implicit, choosing to focus instead on their


research. Whether or the responses of these
ongoing explicit implicit,
scholars
of a rich of views on
leading comparative politics provide array
the role of theory in comparative common
politics. What conclusions,
if any, emerge? Given that the diverse messages of each of the sympo
sium participants are in a
already presented relatively abbreviated form,
it is not necessary to resummarize them. What follows instead is a brief
discussion of three themes that underline areas of agreement
important
across a group a to the
of scholars representing variety of approaches
study of comparative politics.
The first strong conclusion?near consensus, I may add?that

emerges is that comparative is very much a


politics problem-driven
field of study.What motivates the best comparative politics research are

puzzles of real-world significance: Under what conditions do democra


cies emerge and stabilize? Why do revolutions occur? What is the role
of different types of regimes in facilitating prosperity and equity?This
orientation from other so
problem distinguishes comparative politics
cial science fields that tend to be driven primarily by theoretical and/or
methodological ends. Of course, given the inevitable link between the

ory and data, these are relative. Even in


emphases comparative politics,
debates involving the claims of superiority of one "approach" over an
other are Such debates tend not to endure, however. Given a
perennial.
strong interest in real-world puzzles, comparative politics scholars tend
to treat theories, and methods as tools to
approaches, mainly help
frame and explain empirical This spirit is best captured above
puzzles.
in Adam Przeworski's characterization of his own as
scholarly style
whatever works, whether game theory, history, or
"opportunist"?using
cultural deconstruction?or in Peter Katzenstein s that he is
suggestion
stimulated variable" or
mainly by the "dependent by important prob
lems requiring explanation.
A second theme on which there was a fair amount of agreement

among symposium concerns the significance of causal gen


participants
eralizations. Given that require explanation, com
important problems
SYMPOSIUM 47
scholars pursue causal analyses, hoping to discern rela
parative politics
that hold across a cases. an old
tionships variety of comparable Though
research norm, this approach has in recent years been challenged by
those who hold that there are other, equally valid scholarly objectives
for the study of "foreign cultures and societies":"thick description" of
cultures, an of the "other," and critical de
empathetic understanding
construction of much-used conceptual categories. Some of these sensi
bilities are into the positions
seeping comparative politics. Nevertheless,
of the two symposium participants likely to be most sympathetic to
these intellectual claims are notable: James Scott defines his current re
search interests as disasters occur; and Susanne
why development
Rudolph explicitly suggests that her interest in the "Foucaultian sug
gestion[s]" is "not about suspending comparison, generalization, and

explanation."
If the problem orientation of the field tends to relegate the role of
to that of a tool of research, the quest for causal
theory mainly empirical
moves its role to the forefront. This healthy
generalizations, by contrast,
tension, along with other scholarly preferences, inclines comparative
scholars to pursue a of intellectual aimed at
politics variety strategies
generating theoretically significant scholarship. The last concluding
theme thus concerns, not so much an area of among sympo
agreement
sium participants, as the
variety of their preferences.
The attempts to generate relevant scholarship may have
theoretically
more of either a macro or a microfocus, and also vary along
they may
the dimension of deductive to inductive. these dimen
Dichotomizing
sions and utilizing the conventional 2x2 matrix gives us four sets of the
oretical tendencies that infuse comparative politics scholarship (see
Figure 1).Most scholars of comparative politics reside in cell 2. This
follows from observations already noted above, namely, that problems
of interest to scholars are often macro in nature (for exam
comparative
revolutions, state and that attempts to
ple, democracy, performance)
discover or examine causal explanations of such phenomena lead schol
ars to one or more country cases.
study
Peter Evans captures the role of theory in such macro
eloquently
inductive scholarship: theory helps frame empirical puzzles, and it gen
erates causal hypotheses that are worth And one
plausible examining.
may add that inductive search for regularities generates additional new
Theda
Skocpol also strongly advocates something similar,
hypotheses.
an she labels "macroanalytical." In her contribution she goes
approach
further still, demonstrating how through such research ac
knowledge
cumulates over time.
48 WORLD POLITICS
Deductive Inductive

Macro 1. structural fiinctionalism 2. single or comparative case


Marxism studies; political institutions
and social groups as

empirical foci

Micro 3. rational choice 4. local


anthropology-inspired
political studies; social
structural or cultural foci

Figure 1
Dimensions of Theoretical Scholarship

The macroinductive genre of scholarship, though practiced widely by


scholars of comparative is hardly without detractors.
politics, Among
the symposium participants, both James Scott and Susanne Rudolph
register their skepticism of such research, indicating their preference for

scholarship that would instead reside in cell 4. Adam Przeworski also


warns some of their standard methods
that may be bi
comparativists
ased and urges the use of counterfactuals and thus of a priori theorizing
as an intellectual
strategy to deal with such problems.
Deductive, a would, of course, be the refrain of
priori theorizing
scholars who operate within strongly defined paradigms. Over the years
has witnessed the rise and decline of several such
comparative politics
intellectual movements. During the 1950s and the 1960s proponents of
both structural fiinctionalism andMarxism (cell 1) competed for a par
status. More those who adhere to a rational choice
adigmatic recently,
approach (cell 3) have similarlymade claims for the superiority of their
The however, are not
approach. symposium participants, persuaded.
While they all welcome new hypotheses that emerge from deductive
frameworks, they also resist their all-encompassing claims: both Peter
Evans and Peter Katzenstein worry about the problem of "aggregation"
in the rational choice approach, the former arguing that aggregating
numerous is not the most "efficient" intellectual strategy
microinsights
for generating macro Adam Przeworski, a
generalizations; practitioner
of the rational choice approach, suggests that he treats it as
implicitly
one set of tools among others for both
researching important problems;
Susanne Rudolph and James Scott distrust frameworks that provide
abstract or accounts of different cultures and
overly overly homogenous
SYMPOSIUM 49

people; and Theda Skocpol views recent contributions of rational


choice theorists to as on
comparative politics mainly building existing
accounts rather than offering novel insights. An important recent essay
echoes and systematizes many of these criticisms of the rational choice
that, by claiming too much, this deductive ap
approach, suggesting
has many of the same encountered ear
proach developed problems by
lier deductive intellectual movements.34
To sum up, this was to take stock of the role of
symposium designed
theory and of theoretical controversies in comparative politics. A vari
ety of views were
expressed. An important and surprising conclusion
however?that theoretical controversies are
emerged, contemporary
not deeply divisive. In spite of the challenges thrown out by both ratio
nal choice and postmodern cultural approaches, a diverse group of sym

posium participants adhered to a loosely defined "core," or to what one


characterized as the "eclectic center" of
participant comparative politics.
The minimal definition of this "core" includes a orientation
problem
and a commitment to causal
generalizations. Beyond that, a variety of
theoretical is considered desirable. Nevertheless, even on
approaches
this score, while microinductive approaches and deductive frames of
reference most
provide important complements, comparative politics
scholars in this eclectic center pursue
theoretically relevant, macro
on one or more countries,
empirical analyses, focusing through diverse
lenses, and a of data, contemporary or his
conceptual utilizing variety
torical, quantitative or
qualitative.

34
See Neil J. Smelser, "The Rational Choice Perspective: A Theoretical Assessment," Rationality
and 4 (October 1992).
Society

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