chapter  2
Theories of comparative politics: A brief overview
Pages 16

Despite having been a subject of intellectual curiosity for centuries, com-

parative politics did not begin to attract serious scholarly attention until the

closing years of the nineteenth century. It was only then that a growing

number of scholars began studying and comparing politics on a cross-

national basis. Most of these early comparativists were English speaking,

and a majority American. Not surprisingly, their early writings did not

extend far beyond comparative examinations of American and European

politics. Over the years and decades since, the schools of thought and the approaches employed by these and other comparativists, as well as the areas

of their focus, have undergone a number of substantive changes. The scope,

direction, and focus of comparative politics has been-and continues to

be-influenced by a variety of diverse and disparate phenomena, a devel-

opment not unlike that experienced by most other disciplines. Variables

such as the evolving international system, the growth of the modern nation-

state and its far-reaching social and political ramifications, diplomatic alliances

and hostilities, prevailing prejudices and preferences, and ideological predispositions and biases have all contributed to the ways in which compar-

ativists interpret politics and develop methodological approaches to the

subject. In more ways than comparativists like to admit, the study of com-

parative politics has been captive to perspectives of its principal scholarly

interpreters, as well as, at times, the changing beats of history. That shifts in

the major theoretical and methodological approaches to comparative poli-

tics happen to correspond loosely with changing historical eras is more than

simply coincidental. In fact, such changes in the study of comparative politics have in most instances been, even if indirectly, a result of evolving

historical, national, or international circumstances. It is with this under-

standing that the different approaches to comparative politics need to be

examined. Some of these key theoretical and methodological changes to the

study of comparative politics form the focus of the present chapter.