Research Projects

Ongoing Projects: Theorizing and the Longue Durée:

I am currently working on two follow up projects to my recent book The Grammar of Time: A Toolkit for Comparative Historical Analysis. 

I am close to completing a draft of on a book length manuscript tentatively entitled "The Anatomy of Theory: Validating Causal Inferences with Rigor and Imagination". This manuscript revisits C. Wright Mills' famous essay The Sociological Imagination that invited scholars to leverage different theoretical perspectives to problematize existing scholarship and generate new scholarly insights. It explores how historians, despite their much noted antipathy for theory, heeded Mill's invitation more thoroughly than social scientists. Historians problematize existing research findings by pivoting among different theoretical perspectives to look at the same phenomenon from different perspectives. Social scientists, by contrast, placed their wager increasingly on achieving more rigor by deploying ever more complex causal inferences strategies. The book discusses how social scientists can learn from historians to revitalize what Mills referred to as sociological imagination.

The second project focus on longue durée analysis. Longue durée analysis is one key strand of comparative historical analysis widely employed by demographers, economic historians, environmental historians, evolutionary psychologists and other literatures trying to explain slow-moving, long-term social changes. Longue durée scholars often resort to evolutionary analogies to explain long-run changes. For this, they have often been accused of committing the functionalist fallacy of attributing efficiency to history and of reading history backwards by explaining the cause of change in terms of the outcomes. The project explores under what conditions do evolutionary arguments provide valid non-functionalist explanations?  And what alternative transformation mechanisms do longue durée scholars employ and for what phenomena do they provide plausible explanatory templates?


These two projects are still ongoing and have not translated into publications. If you interested in the theorizing project, I would be happy to share draft chapters from the "Anatomy of Theory". Please contact me.

Comparative Historical Analysis (CHA):

I always enjoyed reading historians and understanding the origins of present-day phenomena.  Aristotle was on to something profound when recommended that "If you want to understand anything, observe its beginning and development." For the early stages of my career, I simply imitated the historical methods that my favorite scholars employed without thinking of comparative historical analysis having a core set of methodological tools. This intuitive and craft-like approach, however, made it increasingly difficult to defend your research in a methodological landscape that has become ever more technical in both the quantitative and qualitative research traditions. To bolster CHA's methodological foundations, I therefore began to explicate more fully the methodological practices and bring it in closer conversations with vocabulary of more formalized methods. Key for this explications was to standardize the wide range of temporal terms used in CHA. It also became important to highlight CHA's contribution to the more exploratory stages of the research process, its reliance on non-linear, historical notions of causality, and abductive understanding of causal inference. My efforts to explicate CHA's methodological tools led me to regularly teach CHA at various methods summer schools and produced the following publications. 


Qualitative Methodology:

My work on qualitative methodology overlaps with the work on CHA except for the fact that it does not pay direct attention to question of time and history. I always enjoyed the exploratory aspects of social inquiry necessary to formulate new research questions. This exploratory focus let me to pay closer attention what social scientists do when they don’t test. I therefore became interested description, theorizing, research transparency, and knowledge accumulation. and test connection play in generating plausible causal inferences. I found that Bayesian analysis dealt with  very similar issues because it emphasizes the dialogue between the existing foreknowledge and new theoretical propositions, the close conversation between competing hypotheses to construct meaningful tests, and ultimately the evolutionary nature of human knowledge.


    • Luebbert Best Article Award (Honorable Mention) American Political Science Association, Comparative Politics Section, (June 2020)
    • SAGE Best Method Paper, American Political Science Association, Multi-Methods Section (September 5, 2015)
    • This article led to an exchange with Cusack, Iversen and Soskice who challenged my recoding of their data. Here is my response to their challenge.
    • SAGE Best Method Paper, American Political Science Association, Multi-Methods Section (September 3, 2010)
    • SAGE Best Conference Paper, American Political Science Association, Comparative Politics Section, (September 2, 2010).

Origins of Electoral Systems:

I became interested in the origins of proportional representation (PR) in the late 19th and early 20th century for two reasons. First,  PR constituted a key role in the constitutional bargaining between the Right's rights demand for minority protections and the Left's insistence on widening democracy. Second, scholars with very different methodological backgrounds studied the origins of PR and thus made to contrast their methodological choices shaped the answers they got and how those answers complemented each other.  The PR literature thus became my go-to literature explore the differences and complimentarities between CHA and non-CHA methodologies.


European Political Development:

I have always been fascinated by Edmund Morgan's Inventing the People that retraces the origins of American and English democracy. It illustrates the complex interplay between how democrats made democracy, but also how how institutions, that originally were not part of modern day democracies, made democrats.  I have tried to extend this insight into the evolution of European party systems, parliamentary sovereignty, and electoral practices. This line of research was the focus of my first book Institutions and Innovation. Interest Groups and Parties in the Consolidation of Democracy. France and Germany 1870-1939.  It also got me reading a lot of historians and became the stepping stone for my subsequent interest in CHA. My recent methodological work has kept me from pursuing this line of research further in recent years. However, I hope to return to it by exploring how the US and Switzerland, the world two oldest, modern liberal democracies, influenced each other's constitutional choices. 


Political Parties:

The literature on political parties has been a fix point during the early stages of my career. It arguably is one of the oldest literatures in political sciences and thus illustrated the benefits of studying the same phenomena from different methodological and theoretical perspectives. The changing nature of political parties or the varieties of parties across the world, in turn, underscored the importance of varying the tools to be used to properly analyze them--a key insight of CHA. My work on parties also involved a collaboration with Vello Pettai in which we studied the formation and transformation of post-communist party systems in the Baltics.