The Logical Structures of Comparison: Its Forms, Styles, Problems, and the Role of History in Social and Political Research


Abstract


All political sciences share the same logic and methods as the empirical social sciences and therefore produce perceptive knowledge. Empirical knowledge is based on a specific kind of observation driven by a set of theoretically developed concepts related to clearly observable social phenomena. Not all the concepts, however, are readily amenable to observational terms. We usually need to proceed to their operationalization. The formulation and the operational definition of the empirical concepts does not exhaust the analytic process. It is also necessary to observe how the phenomenon occurs in the reality, proceeding to classification or typological constructions and, sometimes, to the production of multi-dimensional models. Only after this process will the formulation of hypotheses be possible. They will later be verified through the use of methods of empirical control. The most frequently used activity in political sociology is comparison, which is the main method of any social science according to most scholars. Comparison can be carried out both among a certain number of cases or within a single case by comparing it in its historical development. The temporal dimension becomes crucial when one wishes to produce historically rooted generalizations and theories, therefore confined to a spatial and temporal dimension. Before proceeding with the comparison we must make sure that the cases selected are actually comparable and that they possess at least one property in common. The objective of this paper is therefore to describe forms and styles of comparison within the logic of social and political sciences

Keywords: Comparison; Research logic; Social and Political Research; Empirical Concepts; Historical Sociology

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