Unit 8

Case-Oriented versus Variable-Oriented
Comparative Strategies

This part covers the following issues:

A. The distinction between case-oriented to variable-oriented approaches

B. The strengths and weaknesses of case-oriented approaches

C. The strengths and weaknesses of variable-oriented approaches

D. Case-oriented vs. Variable-oriented Methods - A Comparison

 

 

 

A. The distinction between case-oriented to variable-oriented approaches.

"The essential characteristics of the qualitative/quantitative split in the social sciences are clearly visible in comparative social science. In contrast to other sub-disciplines, this filed has a long tradition of qualitative work that is stronger and richer than its quantitative counterpart. Not only is this tradition qualitative, but also it tends to be case-oriented (as opposed to variable oriented) and historical (as opposed to abstractly causal). For these reasons the split between the two major research strategies is more complete and more profound in comparative social science than in most other sub-disciplines.

Case-oriented methods are classic comparative methods. They are oriented toward comprehensive examination of historically defined cases and phenomena. And they emerge clearly from one of the central goals of comparative social science - to explain and interpret the diverse experiences of societies, nations, cultures, and other significant macrosocial units.

The variable-oriented approach is less concerned with understanding specific outcomes or categories of outcomes and more concerned with assessing the correspondence between relationships discernible across many societies or countries, on the one hand, and broad theoretically based images of macrosocial phenomena, on the other.

The case-oriented strategy is best suited for identifying invariant patterns common to relatively small sets of cases; the variable-oriented strategy is best suited for assessing probabilistic relationships between features of social structures, conceived as variables, over the widest possible population of observations. The main weakness of the case-oriented strategy is its tendency toward particularizing (often while pretending to great generality - for example, a theory of ethnic political mobilization based on one case); the main weakness of the variable-oriented strategy is its tendency toward abstract, and sometimes vacuous, generalizations. The case-oriented strategy is incapacitated by a large number of cases; the variable-oriented strategy is incapacitated by complex, conjunctural causal arguments requiring the estimation of the effects of a large number of interaction terms or the division of a sample into many separate sub-samples" (Ragin, 1987).

 

B. The strengths and weaknesses of case-oriented approaches,

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C. The strengths and weaknesses of variable-oriented approaches,

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D. Case-oriented vs. Variable-oriented Methods - A Comparison,

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Follow the assignments of unit 8

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