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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics

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Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics. January 28, 2008. Timothy C. Lim ... 'theories' represent different research traditions common in comparative politics ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics


1
POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics
Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
  • January 28, 2008
  • Timothy C. Lim
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • tclim_at_calstatela.edu

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theories about Violent Crime in the U.S.
  • To start off our discussion of theory, we will
    begin with an exercise
  • Consider the following 4 theories (or
    arguments) about violent crime in the United
    States

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theories about Violent Crime 1
  • A major source of violent crime lies in
    predictable human behavior. In places where the
    risks of getting caught are minimal where the
    potential rewards are high, individuals are
    likely to commit more crimes in general. This is
    especially true in poorer communities, where
    people may have limited access to jobs, education
    and skills training. Violent crime specifically
    is more likely (1) when the use of violence is a
    particularly efficient and/or necessary tool,
    and (2) where the use of violence to achieve
    ones ends entails relatively limited
    riskcompared to the alternatives

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theories about Violent Crime 2
  • Capitalism causes violence. Not directly, but
    through a unrelenting process that divides
    societies into the haves and have-nots .
    In this way, capitalism alienates people from
    each other, their families, and their
    communities, thus setting the stage for
    anti-social, increasingly violent behavior among
    ordinary people, against ordinary people.
    Violence is a response to the soulessness and
    hopelessness engendered by an inherently
    exploitativeeconomic system.

Continued on next slide
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theories about Violent Crime 2
  • Of course, violence is not unique to
    capitalism, nor are all capitalist societies
    equally violent. Where the most destructive,
    alienating, and exploitative aspects of the
    capitalist process are mitigated, intra-societal
    violence is lessened. But where the forces of
    capitalism are unleashed and where vast segments
    of society are left unprotected, violence
    thrives. This is why the United Statesis the
    most violent advanced capitalistsociety on
    earth.

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theories about Violent Crime 3
  • People and societies are responsible for their
    own actions and decisions, but they do not exist
    or act in a social vacuum. Their behavior, in
    other words, is profoundly influenced by the
    environment in which they live. This environment,
    which we might call culture, may encourage
    certain practices and values that encourage
    criminally violent behavior among certain
    groups of people.

Example Street gangs develop their own cultures,
which often glorify and sanction violence
Continued on next slide
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theories about Violent Crime 3
  • More specifically, in some places, a culture
    of violence has been created. In this culture
    of violence, members of the community learn to
    resolve or address problems and conflicts
    primarily through the use violence. Violence,
    in other words, becomes a dominant and largely
    accepted norm within the community. Importantly,
    cultures of violence are not born, but
    created. Over time, however, violent cultural
    practices become deeply embedded within a
    community, taking on a life of their own. When
    this happens, the culture itself becomes an
    explanationfor behavior.

Military forces consciously create a culture
based, to a large extent, on violence
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Summary of Theories on Violent Crime
  • Theory 1 A major source of violent crime lies
    in predictable human behavior
  • Theory 2 Capitalism causes violence
  • Theory 3 Crime reflects a culture of
    violence

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • Key points
  • Each of the three theories represent different
    research traditions common in comparative
    politics
  • Each of the three theories are marked by
    significant, but not necessarily obvious,
    differences
  • One important difference relates to a level of
    analysis

macro-level
meso-level
micro-level
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics Levels of
    Analysis
  • Micro-level
  • Looks for an explanation of behavior within or at
    the level of the individual
  • Example A psychological explanation of Charles
    Mansons violent, sociopathic personality
    psychological explanations assume that the
    answer to certain types of violence can only be
    found by looking inside the minds of individuals

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics Levels of
    Analysis
  • Meso-level
  • Looks beyond the individual to broader social
    conditions meso-level explanations can focus on
    community norms or culture more generally
    institutional arrangements, historical
    experiences state-level actions and so on
  • Example Some cultures encourage, reward, and
    even compel members of the culture to behave
    violently others, such as the Amish community,
    teach their members to abhor all forms of
    violence (only one Amish man has ever been
    convicted of murder)

The Amish A culture of peace and non-violence?
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics Levels of
    Analysis
  • Macro-level
  • Looks at the biggest forces that shape, not
    just individual behavior, but whole societies
    assumes that all human action is both constrained
    and enabled by factors beyond our individual
    control Marxists, for example, believe that
    capitalism is an all-encompassing social system
    that necessarily, unavoidably, and profoundly
    shapes our behavior

To Marxists, the global system of neo-liberal
capitalism is an overarching force shaping the
entire world
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • Another way to classify the statements is in
    terms of the three research traditions discussed
    in chapter three
  • Fits into a ___________________ framework
  • Fits into a ___________________ framework
  • Fits into a ___________________ framework

THEORY 1
rational choice
THEORY 2
structural
cultural
THEORY 3
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • Which approach best reflects your current
    understanding of violent crime? In other words,
    are you a rationalist, a structuralist, or a
    culturalist? Which hat do you already wear?

question
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • Some More Questions
  • What is theory?
  • What is meant by the word
    theorizing?
  • Is it only academics, such as
    Einstein, who theorize?

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • When we theorize, we are
  • making judgments about what it and is not
    relevant or important in terms of explaining some
    significant economic, social or political
    phenomenon
  • identifying a specific level of analysis and
    making assumptions about power, structure, and
    agency
  • connecting certain facts with specific outcomes

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • A basic definition of theory
  • A theory is a kind of simplifying device that
    allows you to decide which facts matter and which
    do not

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory in Comparative Politics
  • Theory as a simplifying device An example
  • Theory (Conceptual) Filter

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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Another Useful Metaphor Theory as a Photographic
Lens
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Theory as a Photographic Lens
  • Basic lesson Different lenses (a.k.a.,
    theories) serve different purposes this may help
    explain why, in the social sciences, there are
    multiple, often competing theories

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Multiple Theories
  • The existence of multiple theories raises some
    questions
  • Are all theories equally valid? Are different
    theorieseven personal onesall equally good?
  • Short Answer

NO!
There are good, bad, andjust plain ugly theories
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  • Some Problems in Bad Theories and Theorizing
  • Many people theorize in an extremely superficial
    or arbitrary manner jump to conclusions ignore
    or dismiss facts that dont fit into their
    understanding of the world fail to acknowledge
    logical contradictions confuse observation
    or correlation with causation never (ever)
    think about the assumptions upon which their
    views are based or regard their theories or
    theorizing about the world as self-evidently
    true

One might argue that George W. Bush uses bad
theory
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  • Some Problems in Bad Theories and Theorizing
  • The basic problem can be summed up simply Many
    people operate on a modified version of
    Descartes famous dictum (I think therefore I
    am), by asserting

I think, therefore Im right
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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • An Amended Definition of Theory
  • Theory is a simplified representation of reality
    and a framework within which facts are not only
    selected, but also interpreted, organized, and
    fit together so that they create a coherent whole

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An Introduction to Theory in Comparative Politics
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  • Key Points in Amended Definition
  • Theory necessarily simplifies reality, but is not
    separate from reality
  • Theory helps us to determine what facts are
    important, meaningful, relevant
  • Theory guides our interpretation of the facts
    (What do the facts mean?)
  • Theory tells us how to organize the facts--how do
    different facts relate to one another? Which are
    primary?
  • Theory allows us to develop whole arguments
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