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Incorporating Comparison within a World-Historical Perspective: An Alternative Comparative Method

Philip McMichael
American Sociological Review
Vol. 55, No. 3 (Jun., 1990), pp. 385-397
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095763
Page Count: 13
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Incorporating Comparison within a World-Historical Perspective: An Alternative Comparative Method
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Abstract

Recent critiques of modernization theory have questioned the comparability of its central organizing concept, the "national society." The logic of comparative inquiry requires independent or independent uniform "cases" and formal quasi-experimental designs for comparative generalization. Global conceptions of social change violate formal comparative requirements, necessitating an alternative form of "incorporated comparison," that takes both multiple/diachronic and singular/synchronic forms. Incorporated comparison is used to conceptualize variation across time and space when time and space dimensions are neither separate nor uniform. The fixed units of analysis employed by modernization and world-system theories yield to an alternative strategy of grounding the analytical units of comparison in the world-historical processes under investigation. Recent studies illustrate this alternative to formal comparison and incorporate comparison into the process of substantive inquiry.

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