Discuss to what extent comparative approaches enrich the analysis of…
Discuss to what extent comparative approaches enrich the analysis of social
policy? - Thick Plan
Responses to financial crisis.
Assist in the specification of the structural, institutional and cultural constraints of the public policy. (Dierkel)
Simon (1978) – the real world, in fact, is the most fertile of all sources of good research. (in Rose)
Of the nature and functions of social policies (Higgins).
Enables distinction between cultural and institutional variables, causes and outcomes (Higgins).
Jones' 3 Necessities
Promotes a better understanding of the home social policy environment.
Helps broaden ideas as to what may be done in response to particular issues or problems, 'lessons from abroad'.
Opens doors to a greater breadth and variety of case material.
Central purpose of comparative development is to contribute to the development of a relevant knowledge base for both domestic and foreign policy. (Dierkes).
Advantages – enables researchers to deal with complex causality methods of inquiry cannot always deal with this, comparative analysis is suited to dealing with causality, and deals with cases as a whole.
Qualitative comparative research allows researcher to better understand the relationship between and among factors - identify causality not just correlation.
Comparative can inform studies interested in the modes of policy delivery. (Clasen)
Offers constructive descriptions, intensive country by country discussions of social policy programmes, aims and delivery. (Clasen)
Output perspective - comparison of achievements and outcomes (HIll).
Social, cultural and economic manifestations imported and exported across boundaries – fluidity, dynamic. (Kennett).
Disadvantages of Comparative
Case-Oriented v Variable Oriented
'Law of Comparative Difference' Higgins
Problem of definition - what about non-decisions (Higgins)
Specific to Policy Analysis
Helco (in Higgins) - episodic descriptions.
Note that focusing on issues of complexity, but considering other issues throughout.
Competence of scholars (Higgins).
Context dependent nature of policies.
Issues of implicit vs explicit assumptions underlying approaches and influences findings: inductive v deductive reasoning. (Dierkel)
Ragin – ‘Large n’ studies are constructed as co-variants between generally few variables, countries beyond these entities tend is disappear.
Ragin - Small n - studies tend to treat countries as multi-dimensional backgrounds for comparing the content of or change within particular policy programmes of welfare state as a whole.
Issue – many aspects become quickly outdated (Clasen).
Issues with what is focuses on.
Alber et al. – concerns over limitations of traditional social policy perspective in cross-national research which has tended to concentrate only on state programmes and has utilised measures such as social spending levels to capture welfare output, results in the reduction of the welfare state to one or two highly aggregated indices. (in Kennett)
Comparative research which focuses exclusively on government social provision can be misleading and may well obscure the complex webs of welfare that might emerge in different societies. (Kennett)
Overcoming Issues with QCA
Broadening scope of study (variable-orientated) – attractive because allows use of quantitative tools of mainstream social science, but connection between research and theoretical, substantive and political concerns that motivate research tends to be strained. Data examined may have little meaningful connection to the actual empirical process.
Case-orientated studies – sensitive to complexity and historical specificity, difficult however, to sustain attention to complexity across a large number of cases, difficult to make generalisation.
Good things about case-orientated to keep – holistic (treat cases as whole entities not as parts, relations between the parts can be understood in the context of the whole), causation is understood conjuncturally (usually assumed that several combinations of conditions might produce a certain outcome).
Goal of book – to identify the unique strengths of case-orientated methods and to formulise then as a general method of qualitative comparison using Boolean algebra.
Focus on dealing with complexity.
Hence QCA has proven useful to feed the “dialogue
between ideas and evidence” (Ragin 1987).
Examples of QCA
Reference to responses to financial crisis/labour market policy - still to decide focus.
Does QCA Overcome Issues?
What the examples have to offer - policy learning, scholarly focus, theory.
Issues with countries as units of analysis – some countries might be too small, others too large, not necessarily representative of regions or towns (still remains issue with QCA - country based).
Unit of analysis - mention in disad para too.
Crow (1997) boundaries of nation states have become increasingly attenuated, people in the same geographical space may not have the same social ties by which society is conventionally defined.
QCA, despite some flaws, still offers lots to our understanding of social policies, with specific reference to post-crisis responses.