Alasdair MacIntyre, “Is a science of comparative politics possible?” in Alasdair MacIntyre, Against the Self-Images of the Age (1971), pp. 260-279.

  • Obstacles stand in the way of a general science of political action
  • Concerned with the ability to use legitimate comparative methods to test genuine law-like cross-cultural generalizations

Possible to identify political attitudes independent of institutions and parties?

  • The notion of political cultures is secondary to and parasitic upon the notion of political practice
  • Political attitudes are implausible candidates for constructing causal generalizations. What of institutions and practices?

Where environment and culture is radically different, the phenomenon is viewed so differently by those who participate in it that it is an entirely different phenomenon

  • 1) Difficulties in constructing true and warranted cross-cultural generalizations about political institutions
  • 2) This shortcoming does not undervalue the importance of the work
  • 3) This is not a new problem in political theory

We cannot identify institutions in different cultures as ‘the same’

  • A science of comparative politics necessitates a series of comparative histories.
  • Comparative history can provide us with Machiavellian maxims rather than Hobbesian laws. True? Can we formulate law-like generalizations?
  • The political agent cannot rely on law-governed regularities in his activities
  • Insistence on political science being value-free implies that justice play no part in political life
  • Predictions are not possible