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The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics: A Symposium

  • Atul Kohli (a1), Peter Evans (a2), Peter J. Katzenstein (a3), Adam Przeworski (a4), Susanne Hoeber Rudolph (a5), James C. Scott (a6) and Theda Skocpol (a7)...

The Center of International Studies at Princeton University organized a symposium during 1993—94 on the role of theory in comparative politics. Presented here is an edited and condensed version of the proceedings. In light of recent challenges posed by both rational choice and post-modern cultural approaches, the symposium helped elucidate the merits of competing theoretical approaches. A group of distinguished scholars presented a variety of views on the subject. In spite of recent intellectual developments, a diverse group of symposium participants adhered to a loosely defined “core,” or to what one participant characterized as the “eclectic center” of comparative politics.

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1 The talks were recorded and then transcribed. I took considerable license in condensing and adapting the talks for publication. The published version has been approved for publication by each individual participant.

2 In this sense my vision of the evolution of scientific paradigms is distinctly “un-Kuhnian.” Cf. Kuhn, , The Structure ofScientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

3 See Evans, Peter, Dependent Development: The Alliance of Multinational, State and Local Capital in Brazil (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979).

4 See, for example, Evans, Peter, Embedded Autonomy: States, Firms, and Industrial Transformation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).

5 I say “parasitically” because I make no claim to be a contributor to the development of this body of theory.

6 See Evans, , “Class, State, and Dependence in East Asia: Some Lessons for Latin Americanists,” in Deyo, Frederic, ed., The PoliticalEconomy of the New Asian Industrialism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987).

7 See, for example, Krugman, Paul R., Rethinking International Trade (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990); Romer, Paul, “The Origins of Endogenous Growth,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 8 (Winter 1994); and Arthur, Brian W., “Positive Feedbacks in the Economy,” Scientific American (February 1990), 9299.

8 The reference is to Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Affairs 72 (Summer 1993).

9 This project is conducted jointly with Mike Alvarez (DePaul University), Jose Antonio Cheibub (University of Pennsylvania), and Fernando Limongi (University of Sāo Paulo).

10 Weber, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (New York: Charles Scribner's, 1958), 13.

11 Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), 89.

12 For an illuminating philosophical and historical perspective on the modern project, see Stephen Toulmin, , Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (New Yorlc Free Press, 1990).

13 Almond, Gabriel and Coleman, James, The Politics of the Developing Areas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960), vii. Parenthetically, this quotation was characteristic of most comparative studies in the way it conceived the project as something carried on by a community of Western viewers looking at the “foreign."The creation of multinational and transnational social science communities in the 1990s, as “native” social scientists have broken the Western monopoly, compromises the idea of the “foreign” and has softened the imperialism of categories typical of the 1960s.

14 Parsons, Talcott and Shils, Edward, Toward a General Theory of Action (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), 77. It is not self-evident that Parsons and Shils themselves, in this essay, saw the left and right side of pattern variables as displayed above systematically related. However, the examples in the essay—which are few—suggest such a grouping (p. 79). Francis Sutton and Fred W. Riggs developed systematic models, complete with presumptions that history was moving from one set of characteristics to another. Sutton is so cited in Almond. For Riggs, see “Agraria and Industria: Toward a Typology of Comparative Administration,” in Siffin, W. J., ed., Toward a Comparative Study of Public Administration (Bloomington, 1957), 23116. Almond, in his introduction to The Politics ofthe Developing Areas (fn. 13), explicitly avoids such “unfortunate theoretical polarization” and stresses the em-beddedness of traditional in modern structures (p. 23).

15 Parsons and Shils (fn. 14), 77.

16 Report by the Faculty Committee, The Behavioral Sciences at Harvard (Cambridge: Harvard University, June 1954), 114.

17 We did so in Rudolph, and Rudolph, , The Modernity of Tradition: Political Development in India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967, 1984, 1996).

18 For a discussion of types of voice and their relationship to truth claims, see McCloskey, Donald N., If You're So Smart (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

19 Weber, Max, “‘Objectivity’ in Social Science and Social Policy,” in Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans, and ed. Shils, Edward A. and Finch, Henry A. (New York: Free Press, 1949), 71.

20 Ibid., 72.

21 Ibid., 82.

22 Ibid.

23 The career of the inverted comma in academic disciplines is worth a biography. It is the caution light on the road to cognition, warning the unwary that a word may not be what it seems, telling the leader that she should walk all around “sovereignty” or “growth” and have a conversation with it about its provenance before incorporating it. Note that Weber does put inverted commas around “Objectivity” in the above-cited article (fn. 19).

24 Weber (fa. 10), 183.

25 Conclusion to Skocpol, Theda, Social Revolutions in the Modern World (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

26 Skocpol, Theda, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

27 Crowley, Wickham, Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America: A Comparative Study of Insurgents and Regimes since 1956 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); and Goodwin, , State and Revolution in the Third World: A Comparative Analysis (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, forthcoming).

28 Burawoy, Michael, “Two Methods in Search of Science: Skocpol versus Trotsky,” Theory and Society 18 (1989).

29 Skocpol (fn. 25).

30 Kiser, and Hechter, , “The Role of General Theory in Comparative Historical Sociology,” American Journal of Sociology 97, no. 1 (1991).

31 See Taylor, Michael, ed., Rationality and Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); and idem, “Structure, Culture, and Action in the Explanation of Social Change,” Politics and Society 17, no. 2 (1989).

32 The exchange between Sewell and me about culture and ideology in revolutions is reprinted in Skocpol (fn. 25), pt. 3.

33 Sewell, William Jr., “Three Temporalities: Toward an Eventful Sociology,” in McDonald, Terrence J., ed., The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, forthcoming).

34 See Smelser, Neil J., “The Rational Choice Perspective: A Theoretical Assessment,” Rationality and Society 4 (October 1992).

* The symposium was organized under the auspices of the Center of International Studies, Princeton University. Symposium seminars were all held at Princeton University during 1993–94. Thanks are due to John Waterbury, the director of the Center of International Studies, for his encouragement and support. This edited and condensed version of the proceedings was prepared for publication in World Politics.

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