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Thinking Theoretically and Comparatively About History

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Sabetti, Filippo
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4802
Sector: History
Social Organization
Region: Europe
Subject(s): crime
social organization
governance and politics
Abstract: "The history of Sicily is no by means unique, but it constitutes a rich laboratory for thinking theoretically and comparatively about politics and a general puzzle in the social sciences: how individuals relate to one another so as to realize their productive potentials in an interdependent situation which characterizes public affairs. This is, after all, why some of us became interested in Sicilian development. If we cannot, for a variety of reasons, do our own archival research, we can turn to the work of historians who provide us with a data base as far back as the ancient world. To be sure, most historians do not use the theoretical distinctions or language of social science but in their own fashion they address critical issues in several topics dear to comparativists: the architecture of choice and constitutional political economy more generally; collective-action dilemmas in self-governance; law and the political basis of economic development; dynamics of contentious politics; positive and dark sides of social capital; conditions under which citizens give, refuse, and withdraw their consent to government; what makes government, and what leads people to work outside the law; and, of course, the political economy of crimes and punishments. In short, problematics and issues in Sicilian history lie, in the words of Mark Lichbach and Alan Zuckerman, within the 'ambitious scope of inquiry' of comparative politics. For, 'no political phenomenon is foreign to it; no level of analysis is irrelevant, and no time period beyond its reach'."

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