What Do Social Scientists Do When They Do Comparative Work?

  • Lilian MathieuEmail author


Comparison is nowadays recognized as a major scientific tool among social movement analysts. But if the development and the standardization of comparative methodology in the study of contentious politics is a positive sign of scientific maturity, the other side of the coin is that it is also quite often taken for granted. Relying on various examples and on Wittgenstein’s philosophy, this chapter focuses on some of the shortcomings that researchers face when comparison becomes an analytical routine rather than, what French historian Marc Bloch called, a “divining rod” for social sciences. The chapter’s aim is to restore the undeniable and irreplaceable heuristic vocation of comparison by recalling some of the basic methodological rules that researchers should follow in order to make their results rigorous and convincing.


Collective Action Social Movement Feminist Movement Comparative Work Democratic Transition 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre Max WeberEcole normale supérieure de LyonLyonFrance

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