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On Time and Comparative Research

Stefano Bartolini

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1993, vol. 5, issue 2, 131-167

Abstract: The essay argues why the comparative method has been amply debated in reference to cross-cultural synchronic research, while less attention has been devoted to the problems of its application to temporal variance. Three central method-issues are discussed: (1) the definition of `temporal units' of analysis; (2) the special character of cross-time generalizations versus cross-spatial ones; and (3) the problem of historical multi-collinearity. The core arguments are that: (1) the search for a specific `historical method' is vitiated by the confusion between the peculiarity of historical `rules of method' - which cannot be identified - and the peculiarity of `cross-time variance' - which, on the contrary, is so momentous; (2) in controlling the validity of causal generalizations, resorting to temporal variance only presents methodological pitfalls not inferior to those stemming from the resort to the sole spatial synchronic variance; (3) consequently, control-maximization is best achieved by research designs which combine both types of variance and permit `slides of synchronic comparisons through time'.

Keywords: comparative method; comparative politics; methodology; political development; temporal variance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1993
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