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The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics

The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics

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Published by: DiegoQuiroga on Oct 13, 2010
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The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics: A SymposiumAuthor(s): Atul Kohli, Peter Evans, Peter J. Katzenstein, Adam Przeworski, Susanne HoeberRudolph, James C. Scott, Theda SkocpolSource:
World Politics,
Vol. 48, No. 1 (Oct., 1995), pp. 1-49Published by: Cambridge University PressStable URL:
Accessed: 19/03/2010 11:23
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=cup.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
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THE ROLE OF THEORYINCOMPARATIVE POLITICSASymposium
ByATULKOHLI,PETEREVANS,PETERJ.KATZENSTEIN,ADAMPRZEWORSKI,SUSANNE HOEBERRUDOLPH,JAMESC.SCOTT,andTHEDASKOCPOL*Introduction:AtulKohliTHECenter of International StudiesatPrincetonUniversityorganizedasymposiumduring1993-94onthetopicof"The Role of
TheoryinComparativePolitics."Thesymposiumseminarsgeneratedconsiderableinterestamongparticipants,enoughtolead the editors of
World Politicstopublishthiseditedandcondensedversionof thepro
ceedingsforabroaderaudience.Agroupofdistinguishedscholars?PeterEvans,PeterKatzenstein,AdamPrzeworski,SusanneHoeber
Rudolph,JamesScott,andThedaSkocpol?respondedtothemain
themes of thesymposium.Thesethemesareitemized belowfollowedbytheresponsesofthe individualscholars.Someof themainconclusionsthatemergefrom these diverseresponsesarethen summarizedatthe end.
The field ofcomparativepoliticalanalysisisagainembroiledinthe
oreticalcontroversy.While theoreticaldebatesarehardlynewtocomparativepolitics(forexample,nosingle paradigmhas dominatedthe
fieldfortoolong,andbothmethodologicalandideologicaldifferences
are commonamongcomparativepoliticsscholars),currentclaimsandcounterclaimsappeartobedeeplydivisive.Atoneend of the methodologicalspectrum,therearethenewstudents ofpoliticalculture,inspiredbyavarietyofpostmodernorculturallyrelativisticclaims,whodoubt the valueof causalexplanationsaltogetherand thusofconventionalsocialsciencetheorizingincomparative politics.Theother
*ThesymposiumwasorganizedundertheauspicesoftheCenterof InternationalStudies,PrincetonUniversity.SymposiumseminarswereallheldatPrincetonUniversityduring1993-94.ThanksareduetoJohnWaterbury,the directoroftheCenter ofInternationalStudies,for hisencouragementandsupport.This editedand condensedversionoftheproceedingswaspreparedforpublicationinWorld Politics.
WorldPolitics48(October 1995),1-49
 
2WORLDPOLITICSmethodologicalextremeisdefinedbynomothetic claims: becauseallsocialactors,includingpoliticalactors,arerationalutilitymaximizers,deductivelogicandmodeling,inspiredbymicroeconomics and/orgametheory,canhelpuncoverthe coherencethat underliestheapparentchaosofpoliticallife.Inbetweenthesetwoextremes?thatis,towardthe "center"?remainthemajorityofcomparativepoliticsscholars.Too"socialsciency"forsomeandtoomuch of"storytellers"forothers,theyaretheoneswhomainlypursuetheoreticallyinformedempirical politicalanalysis, focusingononeor morecountries,throughdiverseconceptuallenses andutilizingavarietyofdata,contemporaryorhistorical,qualitativeorquantitative.ThesymposiumatPrincetonhelpedelucidatethesecompetingtheoretical debates:shouldthe"center" hold?Ifso,why?Ifnot,whynot?The invited scholarswereaskedtoaddress these broadissues.Instead
ofgivingformalpapers,theywereadditionallyaskedto(1)characterize
theirownapproachtocomparativepolitics;(2)discusswhytheirapproachmaybepreferabletootherapproaches;and(3)mostimportantly,inlightof the theoreticalcontroversiesoutlinedabove,providetheirviewsonwherecomparativepoliticsasasubfieldisheaded and/oroughttohead.Asummaryoftheirresponsesfollows.1
PeterEvans
The centralquestionofthissymposium,asIunderstandit,iswhethertheeclecticmessycenterthat hasconstituted the traditionalcoreof thestudyofcomparativepoliticsis indangerofbeingoverrun.Mybottomlineresponseissimple:thestudyofcomparativepoliticswillneitherdescendintoaswampofimpenetrablejargonthatpurportstobe aboutdiscourse andsymbolsnorturnintoadesertofahistoricalformal models thatpurporttodescribe themicrofoundationsofpoliticalbehavior.Therearepowerfulreasonswhythecoreofcomparative politicsisasitisand thosereasonshavenotdisappeared.Obviouslythestudyofpoliticsmustdealwithvaluesandsymbolsand howpeopleunderstandthem.Likewise,itshould makeuseof theconceptualtoolscurrentlybeinggenerated bygametheorists.Nonetheless,the eclecticmessycenterwillnotbeoverrun.Sincethisconvictionstemsinpartfrommyview ofthegeneric
1The talkswererecorded andthen transcribed.Itookconsiderable licenseincondensingandadaptingthe talks forpublication.Thepublishedversion hasbeenapprovedforpublicationbyeachindividualparticipant.

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