Introduction: The Problem of Balancing Discourse On Cases and Variables In Comparative Social Science CHARLES C. RAGIN* GOOD COMPARATIVE SOCIAL science balances emphasis on cases and emphasis on variables. On the one hand, comparative social science is defined by the existence (or at least the presumption) of meaningful "cases." It is the perception that there are distinct and singular entities (major events or periods in countries, world regions, cultures, or other macrosocial units) that parallel each other in meaningful ways that motivates comparison (e.g., the emergence of environmental parties in advanced countries during a par- ticular period). Comparativists treat cases as whole entities purposefully selected, not as homogeneous observations drawn haphazardly from a large pool of equally plausible selections. And comparative analysis differs from many other types of analysis (e.g., statistical analysis of large Ns) because units are treated as meaningful wholes. On the other hand, one of the primary goals of comparative social science is to make general statements about relation- ships. Making general statements requires using concepts. At the level of cases, concepts are represented through observable variables. Even the state- ment that "case 2 is too different from case 1 with respect to attribute A
International Journal of Comparative Sociology (in 2002 continued as Comparative Sociology) – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1991
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