Sociological Studies of Comparative Race and Ethnic Relations in Terms of the Comparative Method
The basic premise of comparative race and ethnic relations is that one of the specific components in one nation (e.g., sociohistorical construction of race and ethnicity, existence of racial and ethnic conflict, and cultural influence on racial ideology) is compared with its analogue in another and then investigators explore the respective national contexts in order to uncover the sources of the similarities and differences that they have found (Fredrickson 1995). Namely, the unit of analysis is unconsciously regarded as representing nations in particular.
However, one can be skeptical of the results of discussing each of the cases in question in roughly equal depth and detail (Elder 1976, Lieberson 1980, Skocpol and Somers 1980, Stone 1985) for the following two intertwined reasons: (1) there emerge unclear scope and scale of the variable, and (2) racial and ethnic conflicts are a common issue observable all over the world (Balibar and Wallerstein 1991, Omi and Winant 1994, Mills 1997, Goldberg 2002). Therefore it is easy for investigators to be misled into unsatisfactory specifications and generalizations (Wong 1999). In the following section, I discuss problems with the application of the comparative method in comparative studies of race and ethnic relations (e.g., Reuter 1945, Berrenman 1960, Rokkan ed. 1968, Vallier 1971, Payne 1973, Elder 1976, Wiatr 1977, Berting et al. 1979, Bonnell 1980, Ragin 1987, Fredrickson 1998). Two central issues associated with the variable are discussed: the difficulty in specifying its scope and scale, and the extraction of the variable from its social and cultural contexts.