(Non)Comparative Politics in Britain



This article compares the state of the art of comparative politics in Britain with the US and continental Europe. Three main traditions are distinguished: a narrative single-country tradition, in which comparative politics is understood as the study of foreign countries, a methodology-oriented tradition, which is concerned with the development of the techniques of comparison, and an analytical comparative tradition, which understands comparative politics as a combination of substance and method. It is argued that comparative politics in Britain is dominated by single-country studies, while the methodology-oriented and the analytical comparative traditions are more strongly developed in the US and continental Europe respectively. A comparative analysis of research interests and teaching provision furthermore demonstrates that, in Britain, comparative politics is an underdeveloped sub-field in terms of both teaching and research. This currently results in the need to import comparativists trained outside the British system in order to sustain the discipline. The article concludes by stressing the potential for the development of comparative politics in Britain.