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Rethinking Comparison
Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Inquiry

$34.99 (P)

Erica S. Simmons, Nicholas Rush Smith, Jason Seawright, Frederic Charles Schaffer, Nick Cheesman, Joe Soss, Thea Riofrancos, Jonathan Obert, Sarah E. Parkinson, Jillian Schwedler, Mala Htun, Francesca R. Jensenius, Benjamin L. Read, Lisa Wedeen
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  • Date Published: October 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108965743

$ 34.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Qualitative comparative methods – and specifically controlled qualitative comparisons – are central to the study of politics. They are not the only kind of comparison, though, that can help us better understand political processes and outcomes. Yet there are few guides for how to conduct non-controlled comparative research. This volume brings together chapters from more than a dozen leading methods scholars from across the discipline of political science, including positivist and interpretivist scholars, qualitative methodologists, mixed-methods researchers, ethnographers, historians, and statisticians. Their work revolutionizes qualitative research design by diversifying the repertoire of comparative methods available to students of politics, offering readers clear suggestions for what kinds of comparisons might be possible, why they are useful, and how to execute them. By systematically thinking through how we engage in qualitative comparisons and the kinds of insights those comparisons produce, these collected essays create new possibilities to advance what we know about politics.

    • Provides novel strategies for conducting comparative political research
    • Creates bridges between diverse research methods including fieldwork, historical research, case studies, and statistical research
    • Provides comparative strategies to researchers from wide variety of backgrounds including positivist and interpretivist epistemologies
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'What a refreshing read this volume is. At a time when dominant ways of doing things are suddenly in question, this is a sophisticated wake-up call to the field of political science to study the world differently. The many rich contributions and Simmons' and Smith's masterful elucidation of them remind us that our purpose is to understand the world, not perpetuate the ways in which it is understood. Bravo to the editors and contributors for opening our eyes.' Katherine Cramer, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    'The world gives us almost as many ways to compare and reasons to compare as places to compare. Rethinking Comparison embraces and even expands the existing pluralism of comparative approaches in political science. Erica Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith assemble a brilliant and eclectic cast of characters to think anew about all the things we can do – including some things we should consider doing very differently – when we compare.' Dan Slater, University of Michigan

    'This path-breaking volume shows scholars how to think and work 'outside the box' of Mill's logic of controlled comparison of nation-states, regions and organizations toward generative comparison of political processes, practices, meanings, and concepts. In chapter after chapter, the authors develop new conceptions of comparison that yield fundamental insights – new questions, concepts, categories, ways of viewing the world – not available under narrow conceptions of the comparative method.' Elisabeth Jean Wood, Yale University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108965743
    • dimensions: 228 x 151 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • contains: 2 b/w illus. 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Rethinking comparison: an introduction Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith
    Part I. Rethinking the Building Blocks of Comparison:
    2. Beyond mill: why cross-case qualitative causal inference is weak, and why we should still compare Jason Seawright
    3. Two ways to compare Frederic Charles Schaffer
    4. Unbound comparison Nick Cheesman
    5. On casing a study versus studying a case Joe Soss
    6. From cases to sites: studying global processes in comparative politics Thea Riofrancos
    Part II. Developing New Approaches to Comparison Through Research:
    7. Comparing complex cases using archival research Jonathan Obert
    8. Composing comparisons: studying configurations of relations in social network research Sarah E. Parkinson
    9. Against methodological nationalism: seeing comparisons as encompassing through the Arab uprisings Jillian Schwedler
    10. Comparative analysis for theory development Mala Htun and Francesca R. Jensenius
    11. Problems and possibilities of comparison across regime types: examples involving China Benjamin L. Read
    12. Comparisons with an ethnographic sensibility: studies of protest and vigilantism Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith
    13. Theory and imagination in comparative politics: an interview with Lisa Wedeen Erica S. Simmons and Nicholas Rush Smith with Lisa Wedeen.

  • Editors

    Erica S. Simmons, University of Wisconsin, Madison
    Erica Simmons is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies and holds the Department of Political Science Board of Visitors Professorship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

    Nicholas Rush Smith, City University of New York
    Nicholas Rush Smith is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the City University of New York – City College and Senior Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg.


    Erica S. Simmons, Nicholas Rush Smith, Jason Seawright, Frederic Charles Schaffer, Nick Cheesman, Joe Soss, Thea Riofrancos, Jonathan Obert, Sarah E. Parkinson, Jillian Schwedler, Mala Htun, Francesca R. Jensenius, Benjamin L. Read, Lisa Wedeen

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