Comparative Sociology and the Comparative Method

Comparative Sociology and the Comparative Method Comparative Sociology and the Comparative Method CHARLES C. RAGIN Northwestern University, Evanston, U.S.A. Introduction "T HINKING WITHOUT comparison is unthinkable. And, in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific thought and scientific research." (Swanson 1971: 145). (See also Cassirer 1946: 25-6.) It is clear that the com- parative method in this broad sense constitutes the core of social scientific methodology. Even statistical techniques are based on aggregated comparisons of relevant cases. While virtually all social scientific methods are comparative in this broad sense, in sociology the term comparative method usually is used to refer to a specific kind of comparison, the comparison of whole societies. In fact, the comparative method traditionally has been treated as the method of comparative sociology, the branch of sociology concerned with cross-societal differences and similarities (Easthope 1974). Recently, however, several comparativists have argued that there is nothing fundamentally distinctive about either comparative sociology or the comparative method (see Grimshaw 1973: 18; Smelser 1976). Smelser (1976: 2-3), for example, claims that comparative social scientific inquiry is not a "species of inquiry independent from the remainder of social scientific inquiry" and that "the analysis of phenomena in evidently dissimilar units (especially different societies or http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Comparative Sociology (in 2002 continued as Comparative Sociology) Brill

Comparative Sociology and the Comparative Method

International Journal of Comparative Sociology (in 2002 continued as Comparative Sociology), Volume 22 (1-2): 102 – Jan 1, 1981

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 1981 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0020-7152
eISSN
1745-2554
DOI
10.1163/156854281X00073
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Comparative Sociology and the Comparative Method CHARLES C. RAGIN Northwestern University, Evanston, U.S.A. Introduction "T HINKING WITHOUT comparison is unthinkable. And, in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific thought and scientific research." (Swanson 1971: 145). (See also Cassirer 1946: 25-6.) It is clear that the com- parative method in this broad sense constitutes the core of social scientific methodology. Even statistical techniques are based on aggregated comparisons of relevant cases. While virtually all social scientific methods are comparative in this broad sense, in sociology the term comparative method usually is used to refer to a specific kind of comparison, the comparison of whole societies. In fact, the comparative method traditionally has been treated as the method of comparative sociology, the branch of sociology concerned with cross-societal differences and similarities (Easthope 1974). Recently, however, several comparativists have argued that there is nothing fundamentally distinctive about either comparative sociology or the comparative method (see Grimshaw 1973: 18; Smelser 1976). Smelser (1976: 2-3), for example, claims that comparative social scientific inquiry is not a "species of inquiry independent from the remainder of social scientific inquiry" and that "the analysis of phenomena in evidently dissimilar units (especially different societies or

Journal

International Journal of Comparative Sociology (in 2002 continued as Comparative Sociology)Brill

Published: Jan 1, 1981

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