Comparative Politics Comparative politics textbooks Case study approach Thematic (issues and concepts) Little real comparison Draper and Ramsay, The Good Society Comparative; cases as archetypes of distinct patterns Empirical (observation, analysis) and normative (evaluation) ○ How do states compare? (similarities, differences) ○ What constitutes the good society? ○ Why are some countries better than others at creating conditions that permit citizens to realize potential? Explicitly institutional ○ Different institutional arrangements (rules governing political, economic, and social life) produce different outcomes in terms of the ability of citizens to realize potential The Good Society Capability approach Good society = meets minimal conditions that permit people (if they choose) to flourish Political institutions Distribution of power; exec/leg/jud; regime types Economic systems State-market relations Nature of political conflict Types of cleavages, group identities, parties Regime (clusters of politics, policy, institutions) types Rich democracies ○ Social democratic (Sweden), conservative (U.S.), Christian democratic (Germany) Developing states ○ Developmental dictatorships (S. Korea); predatory (Nigeria); fragmented democracies (Brazil); developmental democratic (Chile) Russia and China Which set of institutional arrangements provide citizens with most capability? Good Societies Wealth, level of economic development (GDP/capita) insufficient Includes desirable/undesirable goods/services Does not account for many desirable goods Does not capture wealth/income and other inequalities The good society Meets physical needs (food, healthcare, housing, etc.) Insures physical safety (security, freedom from violence) Promotes informed decisions (access to education) Protects civil and political rights (speech, religion, etc., due process and equal protection) Capability approach Focus on importance of each individual’s capability Different combinations of functionings the person can achieve High – Low levels across categories (physical well-being, safety, informed decision-making, civil and political rights) Goal of a good society: make it possible for each individual to have a high level of capability No particular set of institutions necessary for good society State’s responsibility to create conditions in which individuals can choose a high level of capability Criticisms Too idealistic – not impossible; some states do better than others Human nature/self-interested – mixed bag, wide range of behaviors; dramatic differences in performance; not an overarching obstacle (function of institutional arrangements) Cultural relativism – cultures not homogenous; often conflictual; cultures change and evolve; not impartial Institutions Draper and Ramsay: institutional arrangements shape a country’s ability to enhance citizen capability Different institutional arrangements (ways of organizing economic, social, and political life) yield different results Institutions: formal (written laws) and informal (cultural norms) rules that structure relationships among individuals Constrain individual behavior; exert power Create regularity, predictability Provide structure and meaning; “the grammar of our lives” Make social life possible Shape expectations, preferences, and behavior Institutions and Politics Institutions organize politics, the struggle for power in groups, organizations, and the state Groups struggle for influence over institutions because they: Exert substantial power over us Tend to be enduring, self-reinforcing ○ people adjust their expectations, behavior, and interests around them, and develop a stake in their maintenance, which raises the cost of changing them Are not neutral ○ they benefit some groups more than others ○ shape and reflect distribution of power ○ those with power design institutions to preserve and enhance advantage Shape the nature of political conflict Institutional Approach Potential problem – Institutions appear as iron cages, negating power of choice Trouble accounting for political change Institutions are not hard and fixed; they shift and change Political coalitions that bring them into existence and support them change Respond to new imperatives and accommodate powerful new actors Culture and ideology influence political behavior Culture, ideology, and institutions Culture and ideology influence political behavior People subject to power of institutions and power of ideas Ideas and values guide how people respond to institutional openings Institutions exert variety of influences, which may conflict Values people hold, meanings they give to facts come between hard logic of institutions and how people construct their interests and act on them Institutions shape actions and are shaped by them Power of ideas especially important during periods of crisis and uncertainty Discussion questions 1. How does the discussion of human nature reinforce the importance of institutions for explaining variations across countries? 2. Do you agree that GDP per capita is an inadequate standard for judging “the good society”? 3. What is the difference between saying “it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that each individual has a high level of capability” and “it is the role of the state to create conditions in which persons can choose a high level of capability?” 4. Explain how institutions relate to “the good society.” If institutions are so influential, why aren’t they included in the criteria of the capability approach? 5. If you had to choose one of the four criteria from the capability approach that you would like your government to provide, which would it be and why? 6. One might argue that the enjoyment of civil and political rights is the only necessary or essential component of the good society because it can be used to obtain the other three criteria. Do you agree? 7. The authors’ state institutions are not “iron cages” that are unchangeable once created. What are the ways they can change? What are the factors that make them more or less resistant to change? 8. What are the major benefits and drawbacks of institutions? Use specific information in the chapter in your response. 9. The authors imply that because everyone can agree that some behaviors are undesirable and immoral, that we can therefore also all agree on behaviors or standards that are desirable or morally acceptable. But is this true? Does the one necessarily follow the other? Discuss. Assuming the authors are correct, why would it lead to the four criteria they settle on to judge countries’ performance and not others? 10. How does the capability approach relate to the institutional approach? In particular, how can institutions shape a country’s ability to achieve the good society? Refer to specific sections of the text in your response.
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