What is it about?

The study of comparative politics examines political institutions, political behavior, and the general functioning of domestic politics across the World. This article lays out a research perspective to develop new network theories and methods to exploit extant knowledge that suggests the possibility that networks of various types can greatly impact outcomes such as policymaking, corruption, and the quality of democracy, among many others. The article demonstrates how the concept of a network--a system of linked entities--can be used to represent a wide range of comparative politics phenomena. The article also reviews an emerging literature that seeks to incorporate explicit analysis of networks in studies of comparative politics.

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Why is it important?

Both scholars and practitioners recognize that networks (of some type) are pervasive; and, oftentimes, these networks appear to have significant positive or negative impacts. Unlike other subfields of political science, and other social sciences, comparativists lack systematic data to enable sound empirical analysis of the impact of various networks. Empirical analysis of networks requires distinct methods and techniques that are not typically taught in most social science graduate programs. Moreover, many social science theories--including those that have a relational component--lack an explicit representation of network structures. This article calls attention to the development of network-analytic theories and empirics to advance the study of networks in comparative politics.


Comparativists lag behind other subfields in terms of incorporating network-analytic concepts and methods in their studies. I hope that some of the examples about how networks can naturally model various relational phenomena can inspire readers to build upon and expand those initial representations to develop theories with clear testable implications about network effects. I also hope that the reviewed literature--although fairly new--can inspire graduate students and faculty to incorporate a network-analytic perspective to their own studies and research projects.

Armando Razo
Indiana University

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This page is a summary of: Bringing Networks into Comparative Politics, September 2016, Oxford University Press (OUP), DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190228217.013.34.
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