Reducing complexity in qualitative comparative analysis (QCA): remote and proximate factors and the consolidation of democracy
Title: Reducing complexity in qualitative comparative analysis (QCA): remote and proximate factors and the consolidation of democracy
Citation: European journal of political research, 2006, 45, 5, 751-786
Comparative methods based on set theoretic relationships such as 'fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis' (fs/QCA) represent a useful tool for dealing with complex causal hypotheses in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions under the constraint of a medium-sized number of cases. However, real-world research situations might make the application of fs/QCA difficult in two respects - namely, the complexity of the results and the phenomenon of limited diversity. We suggest a two-step approach as one possibility to mitigate these problems. After introducing the difference between remote and proximate factors, the application of a two-step fs/QCA approach is demonstrated analyzing the causes of the consolidation of democracy. We find that different paths lead to consolidation, but all are characterized by a fit of the institutional mix chosen to the societal context in terms of power dispersion. Hence, we demonstrate that the application of fs/QCA in a two-step manner helps to formulate and test equifinal and conjunctural hypotheses in medium-size N comparative analyses, and thus to contribute to an enhanced understanding of social phenomena.
Subject: Social sciences; Democracy; Comparative analysis; Qualitative analysis; Research methods; European studies; Statistics; Electoral systems; Europe
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