The SAGE Handbook of Comparative Politics presents in one volume an authoritative overview of the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements of comparative political science. The 28 specially commissioned chapters, written by renowned comparative scholars, guide the reader through the central issues and debates, presenting a state-of-the-art guide to the past, present, and possible futures of the field.

The Contribution of Area Studies

The contribution of area studies
Stephen E.Hanson


The role of ‘area studies’ in the comparative politics subfield of political science has been the subject of a prolonged and often acrimonious debate. On one hand, advocates of a more deductive approach to social science inference have railed against area specialists for their presumed hostility to both generalizable theory and quantitative methodology. As Robert Bates warned in 1996 in his initial ‘Letter from the President’ in the American Political Science Association (APSA) Comparative Politics Newsletter:

Within the academy, the consensus has formed that area studies has failed to generate scientific knowledge. Many see area specialists as having defected from the social sciences to the camp of the humanists … They tend to lag behind others ...

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