My comps questions

Day 1: Choose one question from each section:

  1. Henry Teune and Adam Przeworski argue persuasively against the use of “most similar systems” research designs. Yet it is fair to say that most similar systems designs continue to dominate in small-N, cross-national research in comparative politics. Write an essay in which you evaluate the legitmacy/utility of most similar systems designs and attempt to explain their persistence in the face of T&P’s criticisms.
  2. Among the factors that make quantitative studies superior to case-based qualitative studies are their ability to deal with issues such as reliability, validity, omitted variable bias, endogeneity, and the like. But these advantages cannot be taken as a given; the authors must ensure that their research design overcomes potential pitfalls. Using the paper we have attached (Fearon and Laitin APSR 2003 [“Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War”]), critically evaluate whether their analysis suffers from these (or any other) weaknesses that would undermine their results. Tell us if you find their argument and explanation convincing, and if not, why not?
  3. Sophisticated tools for the statistical analysis of multi-level data have been used in political science to make sense of a variety of theoretical problems, but these methods seem to be underemployed inc omparative politics. What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of these methods? How can they aid our understanding of cross-country political dynamics? Can you think of research programs within comparative politics where these methods could prove fruitful?
  1. It is common to argue, after Schattschneider, that modern democracy cannot be understood save in terms of political parties. What might this statement mean? Under what conditions are political parties likely to bolster representation of societal preferences and reinforce mechanisms of accountability? Are there circumstances under which parties become a hindrance to democracy? In your answer, please draw from comparative research into political parties and party systems.
  2. Larry Diamond argues that the consolidation of a democratic transition
    is most usefully construed as the process of achieving broad and deep legitimation, such that all significant political actors, at both the élite and mass levels, believe that the democratic régime is the most right and appropriate for their society, better than any other realistic alternative their can imagine. Political competitors must come to regard democracy (and the laws, procedures, and institutions it species) as “the only game in town,” the only viable framework for governing the society and advancing their own interests. At the mass level, there must be a broad normative and behavioral consensus – one that cutts across class, ethnic, nationality, and other cleavages – on the legitimacy of the constitutional system, however poor or unsatisfying its performance may be at any point in time (Diamond 1999, p. 65)
    Do you agree with Diamond? Why or why not? What specific processes are implicit in the theory advanced by Diamond? That is, trace in some detail the connections between democratic consolidation and the beliefs of “political competitors.” Finally, provide and example of a transitional political system that either supports or refutes the priciple hypothesis of this theory
  3. Literature on comparative political development frequently refers to the capacity of the state (e.g. strong states v. weak states). What are the determinants of state capacity? What characteristics do strong and weak states have? What does it matter to theories of development? How have these capacities changed as a result of globalization

Day 2: Choose one question from each section:

[Really, for both of these blocs I thought, why bother with choices beyond (1)?]
  1. Some years ago the social movement literature was challenged by scholars who argued that in postindustrial societies, “new” social movements were more important. Today, however, newly democratic societies and developing countries seem to be experiencing social movements and conflict that fit the “old” social movement paradigm. How relevant is the “new” social movement literature today and where would you find it most appropriate? What conceptual leverage do we gain from the distinction between old and new?
  2. Scholars disagree about many aspects of inter-ethnic conflict, ranging from how widespread it is, to its origins, to its consequences for political systems. Take a position on these three issues (level of conflict, causes, and consequences) and analyze the relevant literature. Does effective democracy require and/or profit from cultural homogeneity? Explain how and why.
  3. On of the largest and most influential literatures in comparative politics has to do with interpersonal trust. Trust is often considered as a variable with broad consequences for most aspects of democratization. For example, some believe that such trust is a fundamental building block of democracy; others assert that a primary mechanism through which cultural heterogeneity impedes democracy is the breakdown of trust in multi-ethnic societies. Even institutionalists ascribe a large role to trust. Develop a theory addressing the importance of interpersonal trust within the context of attempted democratic transitions. Pay particular attention to the interplay, if any, between interpersonal trust and trust in institutions. Also address the importance, if any, of multiculturalism in this process. Be certain to identify the myriad ways in which trust has (or is thought to have) consequences for democratization.
  1. On May 1, 2004, the European Union expanded once again and now it is a political and economic union of 25 countries. While some scholars advocate the use of the comparative method to the study of the European Union, many leading EU scholars remain skeptical. Can comparative politics, with its focus on domestic political processes, fully capture the salient issues of EU political interaction? Be sure to cite specific approaches and scholars in your answer.
  2. In Hegemony and Culture, David Laitin speaks of “two faces of culture,” one face ordering political priorities and the other facilitating collective action. Laitin’s work aims to merge these two aspects. Do one of the following:
    • critize Laitin’s approach; or
    • identify another work of comparative politics that onlyl employs one of these aspects of culture and discuss how it could be enhanced through integration of the other face of culture.
    Support your answer with references to other studies of political culture whose approaches you regard as worthy of emulation, or avoidance

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