Comparative politics is a field in political science characterized either by the use of the comparative method or other empirical methods to explore politics within (as opposed to between) countries. Substantively, this can include questions relating to political institutions, political behavior, conflict, and the causes and consequences of economic development.
When applied to specific fields of study, comparative politics may be referred to by other names, such as comparative government (the comparative study of forms of government).
While historically the discipline explored broad questions in political science through between-country comparisons, contemporary comparative political science primarily uses subnational comparisons. The name comparative politics refers to the discipline's historical association with the comparative method, described in detail below. Arend Lijphart argues that comparative politics does not have a substantive focus in itself, but rather a methodological one: it focuses on "the how but does not specify the what of the analysis."Peter Mair and Richard Rose advance a slightly different definition, arguing that comparative politics is defined by a combination of a substantive focus on the study of countries' political systems and a method of identifying and explaining similarities and differences between these countries using common concepts.
Sometimes, especially in the United States, the term "comparative politics" is used to refer to "the politics of foreign countries." This usage of the term is disputed.
While the name of the subfield suggests one methodological approach (the comparative method), political scientists in comparative politics use the same diversity of social scientific methods as scientists elsewhere in the field, including experiments, comparative historical analysis, case studies,survey methodology, ethnography, and others. Researchers choose a methodological approach in comparative politics driven by two concerns: ontological orientation and the type of question or phenomenon of interest.
Most Similar Systems Design/Mill's Method of Difference: This method consists in comparing very similar cases which only differ in the dependent variable, on the assumption that this would make it easier to find those independent variables which explain the presence/absence of the dependent variable.
While many researchers, research regimes, and research institutions are identified according to the above categories or foci, it is not uncommon to claim geographic or country specialization as the differentiating category.
In their work, The Civic Culture, Almond and Verba embark on the first major cross-national survey of attitudes to determine the role of political culture in maintaining the stability of democratic regimes.
In Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (1966) Moore compares revolutions in countries like England, Russia and Japan (among others). His thesis is that mass-led revolutions dispossess the landed elite and result in Communism, and that revolutions by the elite result in Fascism. It is thus only revolutions by the bourgeoisie that result in democratic governance. For the outlier case of India, practices of the Mogul Empire, British Imperial rule and the Caste System are cited.
In States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China Theda Skocpol compares the major revolutions of France, Russia and China: three basically similar events which took place in three very different contexts. Skopcol's purpose is to find possible similarities which might help explain the phenomenon of political revolution. From this point of view, this work represents a good example of a research conducted according to the Most Different Systems Design.
^King, Gary; Keohane, Robert; Verba, Sidney (1994). Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN0-691-03470-2.
^ abAnckar, Carsten. "On the Applicability of the Most Similar Systems Design and the Most Different Systems Design in Comparative Research." International Journal of Social Research Methodology 11.5 (2008): 389–401. Informaworld. Web. 20 June 2011.