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Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics*

  • Giovanni Sartori (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2014

“To have mastered ‘theory’ and ‘method’ is to have become a conscious thinker, a man at work and aware of the assumptions and implications of whatever he is about. To be mastered by ‘method’ or ‘theory’ is simply to be kept from working.” The sentence applies nicely to the present plight of political science. The profession as a whole oscillates between two unsound extremes. At the one end a large majority of political scientists qualify as pure and simple unconscious thinkers. At the other end a sophisticated minority qualify as overconscious thinkers, in the sense that their standards of method and theory are drawn from the physical, “paradigmatic” sciences.

The wide gap between the unconscious and the overconscious thinker is concealed by the growing sophistication of statistical and research techniques. Most of the literature introduced by the title “Methods” (in the social, behavioral or political sciences) actually deals with survey techniques and social statistics, and has little if anything to share with the crucial concern of “methodology,” which is a concern with the logical structure and procedure of scientific enquiry. In a very crucial sense there is no methodology without logos, without thinking about thinking. And if a firm distinction is drawn—as it should be—between methodology and technique, the latter is no substitute for the former. One may be a wonderful researcher and manipulator of data, and yet remain an unconscious thinker.

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An earlier draft, “Theory and Method in Comparative Politics,” was submitted as a working paper to the IPSA Torino Round Table of September, 1969. I wish to thank, in this connection, the Agnelli Foundation which provided the grant for the Torino panel. I am particularly indebted to David Apter, Harry Eckstein, Carl J. Friedrich, Joseph LaPalombara, Felix Oppenheim and Fred W. Riggs for their critical comments. I am also very much obliged to the Concilium on International and Area Studies at Yale University, of which I was a fellow in 1966–67. This article is part of the work done under the auspices of the Concilium.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Ralph Braibanti , “Comparative Political Analytics Reconsidered,” The Journal of Politics, 30 (021968), 4449

Edward R. Tufte , “Improving Data Analysis in Political Science,” World Politics, 21 (071969), esp. p. 645.)

Reinhard Bendix , “Concepts and Generalizations in Comparative Sociological Studies,” American Sociological Review, 28 (1963), p. 533

R. E. Dowse , “A Functionalist's Logic,” World Politics, (071966), 607622

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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