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Success of Democracy in US: Comparative Approach for Explaining Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 24th, 2021

Introduction

A comparative approach in politics is a widely used method that allows answering complicated research questions and testing controversial hypotheses. Instead of answering the who/what/when/where questions, comparative politics (CP) aims at discussing the reasons for some events explain the causal effect between facts and ideas.1 While trying to answer why questions, CP uses arguments supported by empirical evidence.2

The evidence is compiled using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, which are known to complement each other’s disadvantages.3 CP uses four different tools depending on the availability of evidence, including most-similar-systems analyses, most-different-systems analyses, comparative checking, and within-case comparison.4 Even though CP has its flaws, it can be used to answer a wide variety of questions, including why democracy is more successful in some countries but not the others by comparing their characteristics.

The United States has a history, which is unique, considering the majority of characteristics. In the country, everyone is aware of the national idea and values that Founding Fathers postulated.5 While it is difficult to find a country with similar characteristics to which the US can be compared, CP has appropriate methodologies to answer questions concerning its political regime. Therefore, the present paper claims that the comparative approach can be used to explain the success of democracy in the United States and provides sufficient evidence to prove the point.

Applying Comparative Politics

The application process of the comparative approach to studying democracy in the United States is standard for the CP method. First, one or several research questions are to be identified to guide the research.6 Second, hypotheses are to be identified for the research to support or reject it.7 Third, conceptualization is to take place, which is usually done by reviewing relevant literature and modifying the concepts that have been used in previous studies.8

Fourth, the concepts are to be transformed into dependent and independent variables, which is called operationalizing.9 Fifth, an appropriate method is to be identified to gather and analyze the data, which implies that the researchers are to decide if they want to use qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-method approach. Additionally, CP presupposes that a comparison method and the country are to be identified to analyze it against the US.10 Finally, the research should be guided by a relevant theoretical framework, which helps to build assumptions and evaluate the gathered data.11 These five steps are universally accepted by CP and can be effectively applied to explaining the success of democracy in the US.

Questions, Facts, Evidence, and Comparisons

Several questions can be addressed while applying CP to the experience of the US. For instance, the historical factors that influence the traditions of democracy in the United States should be identified to answer how the historical path of the country helped to shape modern political structure. According to Dickovick and Eastwood, open-ended question that starts with “how” are appropriate for applying CP.12 At the same time, the questions may be more specific and inquire what the effect of the Civil War on the formation of democracy in the US is. Inspecting cause-and-effect relationships are also vital for CP.13 The examples provided above are just two of the numerous questions that can be answered using CP.

In terms of evidence, the research will require statistical data gathered from questionnaires, financial statements, and various kinds of reports together with qualitative data from focus groups and expert opinions. As a legitimacy of quantitative approaches, Jarley, Fiorito, Delaney study democracy in the US, assessing a large dataset gathered in a different environment.14 At the same time, McLaughlin utilizes a qualitative approach to study a similar question using expert opinions.15 Therefore, both types of evidence can be used to answer the research question.

When discussing the success of democracy in the United States, one is sure to come across the idea of American Exceptionalism. This idea is explained by Koh as a belief that the US differs qualitatively from other countries due to its origins, national credo, historical process, and distinctive political and religious institutions.16 Even though every country has unique characteristics and history, CP can provide reasons for a wide variety of phenomena in the political structure of any given country. Moreover, Dickovick and Eastwood state that one of the questions answered by CP is “Why are some countries democratic and others not?”17

American Exceptionalism may become an obstacle for applying most-similar-systems analyses. However, other methods, such as most-different-systems analyses, can be applied to compare the experience of the US countries that differ completely, such as China, Japan, or Russia.

At the same time, American Exceptionalism is not univocally accepted by scholars and politicians. For instance, Walt claims that even though the US has a high level of religiosity and political culture, its exceptionalism is a myth.18 In fact, the belief in uniqueness is common for every country and all nationalities tend to believe that they have exceptional rights.19 Therefore, the success of democracy in the country can be studied using most-similar-systems analyses. As a confirmation, Robinson and Bell study equality, success, and social justice by comparing the US and England political systems.20 This means that any comparison can be used to identify the reason for the success of democracy in the US; however, most-different-systems analyses seem to be the most appropriate option.

The Effect of Prevailing Worldview

A prevailing worldview can have a considerable impact on the presumptions of a comparative approach. According to Martin, a worldview is an understanding of God, human, and cosmos, which is used to answer cosmological and anthropological questions and application of these answers “to all of life generally and to every area of life specifically in terms of the institutional structure and procedure flowing from those answers.”21 Worldview affects seven spheres of human life, including the legal area and international politics.22 In this case, the legal aspect includes not only the criminal law but also the concept of order that holds everything together.

Since citizens of one country share a common worldview to a certain degree, it should be included in the comparative analysis of the success of democracy in the US against other countries. For instance, the US is characterized by a high level of religiousness in all spheres of life, and the international policy and legality of deeds is often judged from the Bible’s perspective.23 According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, “in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.”24

This means that democracy in the US means equality between males and females. However, in Islamic cultures, traditional gender inequality may lead to a different perception of democracy.25 In this case, religion may be a facilitator or obstructer of spreading democracy. Therefore, researchers are to consider the prevailing worldview while conducting the comparative analysis.

Worldviews may also become a source of bias for researchers. For instance, if a scholar believes in American Exceptionalism, it may influence the research process by creating biased hypotheses. The follower of American Exceptionalism tends to believe that the US is the founder of democracy and that the nation is entitled by God to spread the political regime. According to Koh, the United States is the only country ready to “to build, sustain, and drive an international system committed to international law, democracy, and the promotion of human rights.”26 This intention to control world order is influenced by American Exceptionalism, which is not widely accepted by scholars.

However, according to Martin, worldview affects the institutional structure and procedure of nations and individuals.27 People always have worldviews; therefore, an unbiased approach to comparative research is impossible.28 However, subjectivity can be reduced to a minimum by acknowledging one’s own beliefs and values and trying to approach the subject of different angles.

Conclusion

CP can be used to explain the success of democracy in the United States. In order to approach the matter, the researchers need to follow the standards procedure of CP, which includes identifying research questions, creating hypotheses, conceptualization, operationalizing, and identifying the guiding theory and methods. All four types of comparison, including most-similar-systems analyses, most-different-systems analyses, comparative checking, and within-case comparison. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches to gathering analyzing the evidence can be used. When conducting a comparative analysis, it is vital to consider the prevailing worldviews of countries under analysis. Moreover, researchers are to be aware that their worldview may affect the results of research; therefore, they need to take precautions to avoid bias.

Bibliography

Dickovick, Tyler J. and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. ISBN: 9780190854867.

Dickovick, Tyler J. and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. 1st ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. ISBN: 9780199730957.

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. “Religion and democracy.” Journal of Democracy 20, no. 2 (2009): 5-17.

Jarley, Paul, Jack Fiorito, and John Thomas Delaney. “A structural contingency approach to bureaucracy and democracy in US national unions.” Academy of Management Journal 40, no. 4 (1997): 831-861.

Koh, Harold Hongju. “On American Exceptionalism.” Stanford Law Review 55, no. 5 (2003): 1479-1527.

Martin, Glenn. Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society since 1500. Newton: Triangle Publishing, 2006. ISBN: 9781931283168.

McLaughlin, Andrew C. “American History and American Democracy.” The American Historical Review 20, no. 2 (1915): 255-76. Web.

Robinson, Robert V., and Wendell Bell. “Equality, Success, and Social Justice in England and the United States.” American Sociological Review 43, no. 2 (1978): 125-43.

Walt, Stephen M. “Foreign Policy. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Dickovick, Tyler J. and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 3.
  2. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 7.
  3. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 22.
  4. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 16-21.
  5. McLaughlin, Andrew C., “American History and American Democracy,” The American Historical Review 20, no. 2 (1915): 258. Web.
  6. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 6.
  7. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 26-27.
  8. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 10.
  9. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 11-12
  10. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 12-21.
  11. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 26.
  12. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 6.
  13. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 6.
  14. Jarley, Paul, Jack Fiorito, and John Thomas Delaney, “A structural contingency approach to bureaucracy and democracy in US national unions,” Academy of Management Journal 40, no. 4 (1997): 831-861.
  15. McLaughlin, “American History.”
  16. Koh, Harold Hongju, “On American Exceptionalism,” Stanford Law Review 55, no. 5 (2003): 1481.
  17. Dickovick and Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, 5.
  18. Walt, Stephen M., “The Myth of American Exceptionalism,” Foreign Policy. Web.
  19. Walt, “The Myth.”
  20. Robinson, Robert V., and Wendell Bell, “Equality, Success, and Social Justice in England and the United States,” American Sociological Review 43, no. 2 (1978): 125-43.
  21. Martin, Glenn, Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society since 1500 (Newton: Triangle Publishing, 2006), 27.
  22. Martin, Prevailing Worldviews, 20.
  23. Walt, “The Myth.”
  24. 1 Cor. 11:11.
  25. Elshtain, Jean Bethke, “Religion and democracy,” Journal of Democracy 20, no. 2 (2009): 5-17
  26. Koh, “On American Exceptionalism,” 1487.
  27. Martin, Prevailing Worldviews, 21.
  28. Dickovick, Tyler J. and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 1st ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 31.
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IvyPanda. "Success of Democracy in US: Comparative Approach for Explaining." July 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/success-of-democracy-in-us-comparative-approach-for-explaining/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. "Success of Democracy in US: Comparative Approach for Explaining." July 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/success-of-democracy-in-us-comparative-approach-for-explaining/.

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