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Comparative politics is a critical part of social research that can offer answers to critical questions. As such, scholars who work on the matter must understand the process utilized in the discipline. While it is similar to many other sciences in its preference for hypotheses that are tested with real-world data, there are several significant differences. The information available will usually be highly complex, leading to the need to create generalized and simplified hypotheses.
This process is known as causal inference, and the ideas produced can change significantly throughout a study as data fails to conform to a particular idea. Moreover, it is critical to understand that the historical aspect is essential to politics and is responsible for many differences. Using the concept of individual liberty leading to increased wealth, this paper will explain the process and evaluate the potential influence of prevailing worldviews, especially the Judeo-Christian one, on it.
First of all, it is critical to identify the variables and the outcomes in the initial hypothesis. In the case of this paper’s topic, individual liberty would be the variable, while wealth would be the outcome. Then, the author should formulate an initial model for the relationships that they expect to exist, which they will refine during the study. Next, the researcher has to find several subjects that would be compared to each other. There are two principal selection strategies in comparative politics: MSS, where two countries with similar variables but different outcomes are compared, and MDS, where two nations that are as different as possible but have achieved the same result are chosen1. After the choice process is complete, the researcher can begin accumulating data and analyzing it to make interpretation easier.
In this particular case, MDS may be more appropriate than its counterpart because some examples warrant study. The United States can serve as a wealthy nation with high liberty, with Saudi Arabia being another affluent country that has low liberty2. With the choice complete, the researcher can begin creating a design for the subsequent data collection and analysis. The sources of wealth and its distribution in each country can be a topic of interest, as they may indicate some external factors that can influence the outcome. After sufficient work, the author should be able to obtain a reasonable approximation of how both countries have acquired their wealth. With the process complete, it is possible to try determining whether the initial hypothesis is valid in the context of the information.
The findings may confirm that the two nations are similarly wealthy despite their differences in liberty. Alternatively, they may find some result that implies a causal relationship between the two values. However, most of the time, it will not be possible to make a confident determination either way3. It is critical to understand the influence of uncertainty on the outcome when reaching a conclusion. If the researcher doe not believe that the results are valid even with the application of uncertainty, they should work to refine their methods. Then, they can begin collecting data again or analyzing what they have gathered in a new light. Ultimately, they should be able to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory in terms of theory and data and present it for peer evaluation.
History is one particular aspect that should be considered during comparative political research. When the scholar investigates the prior events in the United States and Saudi Arabia, they may find that one country has been wealthy for a longer time than the other. Overall, it is critical to consider the differences in the development of the two countries and their influence on their current state4. They may provide a broader context or indicate that the two nations are not as suitable for comparison as initially assumed. To refine the analysis, it would be beneficial to include additional countries and improve the overall breadth of the comparison. However, in doing so, the author would increase the amount of work necessary for the study significantly. As such, refinement is usually relegated to the stage after the initial study, when a viable hypothesis has been formulated.
The researcher must understand that it is not possible to achieve complete objectivity, regardless of the discipline. Every person will have some intrinsic beliefs that they recognize as absolute truth, whether consciously or otherwise. These factors can affect their thought processes and conclusions, potentially leading the person to misinterpret the information that they collect. This process is generally unavoidable, but researchers can acknowledge and identify their biases to minimize them. Then, readers can apply their worldview to the study and identify any disagreements that stem from differences in opinion. Ultimately, a consensus may emerge in the scientific community, and one paradigm that has been modified by different worldviews to minimize bias and grown acceptable to everyone can become the prevailing opinion.
Worldviews are often considered in terms of religion, as it has been at the center of many significant philosophical conceptions in the past. However, they can inform one’s beliefs and decisions on a variety of different topics, many of which are not strongly associated with spirituality. It is possible to separate the overall institutional spectrum into seven areas: civil-social, ecclesiastical, educational, legal, economics, aesthetics, and international politics5.
One’s understanding of the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh aspects is particularly relevant in this case. A researcher may ignore the reality of a particular location because they assume that every location and society in the world share a particular principle. As the author of this paper is Western and hails from a traditionally Christian country, they are likely to possess a Judeo-Christian worldview and have to understand how it affects their perception.
Despite the ongoing decline of religion, many parts of the view are prevalent in Western culture as a whole. For example, the concept of private property was justified by divine right in the West for a long time but is rejected in its current form by both socialism and extreme capitalism6.
Understanding of property is critical to the concept of wealth, and a limited perspective on it can inhibit comparisons. One may misattribute resources or ignore the concentration of wealth that leaves most of the population disadvantaged that takes place in many dictatorial states. The result of an analysis that is inhibited by such misconceptions would likely be skewed significantly. However, by acknowledging their deficiencies and doing additional research, the author may partially reduce their bias and invite discussion on the matter.
In the context of this paper, the understanding of liberty and what guarantees it in the United States and Saudi Arabia can be incompatible. The European and Islamic concepts of history and freedom are significantly different, which can explain the disparities between the two countries7. From the perspective of a Judeo-Christian worldview, the former would be superior. However, this conception would not be accepted by everyone as objectively real or viable.
It would be challenging for a person to divorce themselves of such a fundamental conception, mainly when the results of the difference express themselves in such an overt manner as those between the two countries. However, even if it is not possible for the person to address it, they should acknowledge the concern during the comparison. By doing so, they would maintain their integrity as a researcher and invite contributions from people who are more knowledgeable on the matter.
When conducting comparative politics research, one should consider a variety of factors and issues that can affect the result. The person needs to understand the methods used to conduct research, their advantages, and their weaknesses. They should be aware that they will likely have to modify their hypotheses and data collection methods until the theoretical and practical results match. Even then, the finding will need further checking and refinement before it can be accepted as an adequate approximation of reality.
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Lastly, the researcher should be aware that objectivity is an ideal concept that is not achievable in practice due to the variety of positions and biases that form every human’s worldview. It is highly challenging to understand the position of a population that is sharply distinct from one’s own, but one should attempt to acknowledge potential sources of misinterpretation and minimize the resulting misconceptions.
Daniels, Matthew. Human Liberty 2.0: Advancing Universal Rights in the Digital Age. New York: Post Hill, 2019. EPUB e-book.
Dickovick, Tyler J., and Eastwood, Jonathan. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.
Dickovick, Tyler J., and Eastwood, Jonathan. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017.
Jenco, Leigh K., Murad Idris, and Megan C. Thomas, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.
Landman, Todd, and Edzia Carvalho. Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics: An Introduction. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2017.
Martin, Glenn. Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society Since 1500. Newton: Triangle Publishing, 2006.
Pivarunas, Dale Anthony. Christian Economics: The Integration of Capitalism, Socialism, and Laborism. Eugene: Resource Publications, 2018.
- Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases, 3rd ed (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 16-18.
- Matthew Daniels, Human Liberty 2.0: Advancing Universal Rights in the Digital Age (New York: Post Hill, 2019), EPUB e-book, chap. 8.
- Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 31.
- Todd Landman and Edzia Carvalho, Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics: An Introduction, 4th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2017), 128.
- Glenn Martin, Prevailing Worldviews of Western Society Since 1500 (Newton: Triangle Publishing, 2006), 10.
- Dale Anthony Pivarunas, Christian Economics: The Integration of Capitalism, Socialism, and Laborism (Eugene: Resource Publications, 2018), 286.
- Leigh K. Jenco, Murad Idris, and Megan C. Thomas, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), 231.