Model Answers to PYQs (2018-2023)
1] What are the crucial functions of empirical political theory in Comparative Politics? [2023/10m/150w/1a]
Empirical political theory is essential as it bridges theory and real-world observations.
Empirical political theory allows scholars to test and validate theoretical propositions and hypotheses. It enables researchers to assess the applicability of existing political theories to real-world situations in various countries. Through empirical research, scholars can confirm or reject theoretical assumptions.
It involves the collection and analysis of data from various sources, including surveys, case studies, historical records, and government documents. This data-driven approach helps researchers understand and explain political phenomena across countries.
The empirical approach also facilitates comparative analysis by providing a systematic framework for comparing political systems, policies, and behaviors. Researchers can identify similarities and differences between countries, which can lead to valuable insights into political processes and outcomes. By identifying the factors that influence political outcomes, empirical political theory contributes to a deeper understanding of the causes and consequences of political events and behaviors.
Moreover, empirical political theory can improve the predictive power of political science. By analyzing historical data and current trends, researchers can make informed predictions about future political developments and outcomes. And policymakers can use empirical findings to design and implement more effective policies that address specific challenges in their countries.
Hence, empirical political theory is an essential tool for generating knowledge and insights that can inform both academic scholarship and public policy. [222 words]
2] Discuss the main limitations of the comparative method to the study of Political Science. [2022/10m/150w/1a]
Although comparative politics is a useful tool for understanding political systems, the use of comparative politics is beset with several limitations.
There is the problem of a standard and precise definition of various important concepts and terms. Leading writers on this subject make use of different concepts according to their specialized knowledge, what Sartori calls ‘conceptual stretching’.
Political behavior is not necessarily conducted on a rational basis or on scientific principles thereby rendering a comparative study more difficult. There is also a factor of the complexity of political systems and political behaviour. No single factor like love for power or appeal of charisma and the like can serve the purpose of a comparative study of diverse political systems and highly diverse behaviours of the people.
The role that individuals play in the politics of their country cannot be subjected to uniform rules as evolved by a student of comparative politics.
Much of the comparative is concerned with the issues of stability and maintenance of a political system perhaps on account of this basic assumption that power is always conservative’. But all political systems change and with it, politics can never remain in a changeless situation. The difficulty comes when theorists virtually ignore the aspect of change.
Lastly, the adoption of the interdisciplinary approach has so much widened the scope of comparative politics that one is often faced with the difficulty of knowing what the subject of comparative politics includes and what it excludes.
However, these limitations do not tend to suggest that the study of this subject is impossible but it explains why the development of a general theory is an arduous task. [273 words]
3] Discuss the political economy approach to the comparative analysis of politics. [2021/10m/150w/1a]
Comparative politics seeks to study relationships among countries. And it also seeks to find explanations for specific social, political and economic phenomena in these relationships.
The political economy approach to the study of comparative politics is one way of looking at this relationship. It proposes that there exists a relationship between politics and economics and that this relationship works and makes itself manifest in several ways.
The specific meaning the concept assumes depends on the ideological tradition. e.g., liberal or Marxist, within which it is placed, and depending on this positioning, the specific manner in which economics and politics themselves are understood.
The liberal tradition goes with the Modernisation theory which argues that every society goes through a transitionary process of traditional societies ‘catching up’ with the modern world. ‘This theory was endorsed by W.W.Rostow who argued that there were five stages of development through which all societies passed. These were: (i) the traditional stage; (ii) the preconditions for take-off; (iii) take-off; (iv) the drive toward maturity and (v) high mass consumption. Third World societies were regarded as traditional, and so needed to develop to the second stage, and thus establish the preconditions for take-off.
Dependency theory arose in the late fifties and the sixties as an extended critique of the modernisation perspective. This school of thought is mainly associated with the work of Andre Gunder Frank and Paul Baran. It argues that the economic relationships that existed between western Europe (and later Japan and the United States) and the rest of the world were based on conflict and exploitation.
The political Economy Approach is promised on the assumption that politics and economy are interrelated. And to understand the political processes, it is necessary to look that in economic contexts like means of production and production relations. [297 words]
4] Discuss the subject matter of comparative politics. Outline the limitations of comparative political analysis. [2020/10m/150w/1a]
The subject matter of comparative politics is domestic politics or people. It deals with political activity, processes and power. The goal of comparative politics is to encompass the major political similarities and differences between countries. The subject looks forward to developing a perspective on the mixture of constants and variability which characterises the world’s governments and the contexts in which they operate. As suggested by GA Almond et al., ‘Comparative Politics is the study of political systems, not as isolated cases but through generalisation and comparisons.’
Although widely used, comparative political analysis is not free from limitations. While comparing, one faces the problem of a standard and precise definition of various important concepts and terms in the discipline. Many political terms used in the field also suffer from ambiguity.
There are serious difficulties in collecting information and data about the political systems and other non-state institutions. Political behaviour is not necessarily conducted on a rational basis or scientific principles, thereby rendering a scientific study more difficult. Further, the roles that individuals play in the politics of their country cannot be subjected to uniform rules as evolved by a student of comparative politics.
The adoption of an inter-disciplinary approach has so much widened the scope of comparative politics that one is often faced with the difficulty of knowing what the subject of comparative politics includes and excludes. Nevertheless, it remains an important tool to analyse and better the political systems all over. [243 words]
5] Examine the significance of the comparative method in political analysis. Discuss its limitations. [2019/20m/250w/2a]
As suggested by Alexis de Tocqueville, ‘Without comparisons to make, the mind does not know how to proceed.’ The comparative method in politics has several significances;
Even to understand our own politics, we must study other countries as well. We often take the political institutions, practices and customs in our own country for granted, assuming them natural and inevitable. But only when we start looking around do we understand that our own ways are sometimes unique, even odd or peculiar.
Knowing the history, culture and institutions of different countries helps us to understand and explain their actions and perhaps change the situation for the better.
Comparative politics also helps in generalisation and theoretical formulation. Social scientists who emphasise scientific precision, validity and reliability, see comparisons as indispensable. Going beyond the compare-and-contrast approach, comparison helps us explain political phenomena and relationships.
However, the comparative methods are also criticised at times. Critics argue that it does not answer value questions, although it may provide evidence that helps some people to make up their minds about them.
Even after dealing with facts and empirical evidence, it often lacks an adequate supply of data. There is an asymmetry in the availability of data. The wealthiest countries produce more organised data, but poor countries mostly do not release data for reasons like lack of resources or intentionally hiding facts.
Comparative methods lack tools that can help to make statements of universal political truth and lacks scientific character. It deals in probabilities, not certainties. It can only make if-then statements of a probable or likely kind and does not give any laws on the working of an institution.
Every country in the world is unique, so wholesome comparisons are impossible. No single factor can serve the purpose of a comparative study of diverse political systems and the highly political behaviour of the people. [307 words]
Comparison is at the heart of the analysis. And comparative politics is one of the core subjects in political science. Comparative politics means comparing the politics of different states. Not just governments and constitutions, but also social, and economic forces influencing the politics of a state.
Comparative politics make the enterprise of political science more scientific. In comparison, the meaning is searched. Natural sciences have the luxury of laboratory conditions. In politics, comparative politics serve the purpose of a laboratory for the discipline.
By comparison at the micro level, one learns about the politics of different countries. It helps us to understand the politics of our country in a better way. The study allows us to understand best practices and mistakes done by other states. Thus, it can be incorporated/avoided from the politics of our country e.g. institution of Lokpal in India is inspired by Ombudsman institutions in Scandinavian countries.
The comparison also allows us to verify/reject/modify political theories. When certain assumption works universally, it establishes its’ authenticity. Comparative politics increases the objectivity of our research and avoids the criticism of being ethnocentric. How different institutions work under different circumstances can be understood by observing their functioning in different circumstances.
However, comparative politics is not a one-stop solution. The culture, society, and economy of every state are unique. Thus same institutions behave differently under these circumstances. Something which works for one country may not work for someone else e.g. democracy may be the best form of govt. in the West, but in a country like Iraq, it may lead to anarchy and chaos.
Comparative politics also lack ‘out of the box’ solutions to the problems. Since it mostly focuses on existing practices and their comparison. Innovations seldom come from comparison.
Nonetheless, comparative politics remains a highly useful branch of political science. And its utility cannot be overstated. [307 words]
6] Describe the changing nature of comparative politics. Briefly explain the Political Economy approach to the study of comparative politics. [2018/10m/150w/1a]
The discipline of comparative politics has witnessed a lot of changes throughout history.
Until the mid-18th century, the method of comparison was largely normative and philosophical. With the establishment of democracies in the west, the focus shifted to the study of constitutions and statues (legal-institutional approach). After 2nd World War, many new countries (former colonies) were established. In these, there was a difference between theory and practice, text and context. This gave rise to many Modern comparative approaches. Political sociology and Political economy, being prominent among them.
The political economy approach focuses on the issues at the interaction of economy and politics. It analyses the macroeconomic policies of the state. The role played by various political organs like bureaucracy, judiciary, and legislature in the formulation and implementation of such policies. Tariff structures of state and the influence of domestic and international factors in determining these.
The political economy approach has the advantage of being quantitative as well as prescriptive. There are a lot of variations in political economy. Liberal scholars like Adam Smith support the laissez-faire model of the economy. While Marxist scholars have criticized such a mode and suggest communism.
Since political economy focuses on economic factors, the approach in itself is not sufficient and should be used in combination with other approaches for comprehensive understanding. [217 words]
The post contains answers to the last 6-year papers i.e. (2023-2018). Answers to the previous year questions from 2013-2017 are a part of our book PSIR Optional Model Answers to PYQs (2013-2022)