American Sociological Association

Comparative/Historical Approaches

Comparative-historical approaches in sociology are research methods to study social formation and transformation. “Comparative” studies examine and contrast social structures and processes across countries or regions to identify general patterns. “Historical” studies examine social processes over time, highlighting contexts and contingencies that influence specific changes while looking for general patterns. Both methods aim to understand complexities and identify causal mechanisms.  

Many classic comparative-historical studies examine large-scale processes such as the transition to capitalism or the formation of modern states. Others study more specific social or cultural processes, such as the emergence of the working class or the professionalization of medicine. Recent studies also focus on the formation and transformation of non-Western societies, especially in Asia and Africa.

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