Some Priority Variables in the Study of Comparative Religious Politics

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Since the inception of political science as an autonomous discipline, political scientists have been both intrigued and repelled by the possibility of a genuinely comparative science of politics. While some analysts have been impressed with the promise of genuinely cross-national laws of political behavior, others have suggested that the quest for this level of generality is misguided, and can lead to the omission of the most important aspects of social explanation. In this second camp, it is often argued that the diversity and complexity of political phenomena, in particular national and subnational settings, renders the development of serious cross-national generalizations either futile or trivial. Moreover, the search for comparability in political practices and institutions may require some strong assumptions about human rationality, which might well be ethnocentric and culture-bound. In other words, proponents of the “area studies” approach to comparative politics have suggested that the search for genuinely cross-national generalizations about political behavior involves assuming away the most interesting aspects of the study of politics. The generalizability offered by cross-national comparativists appears to many to compromise our ability to understand political phenomena in unique national and regional settings.


American Politics | Political Science