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Detlef Jahn, "What is left and right in comparative politics? A response to Simon Franzmann," Party Politics, 20 (March 2014), 297-301. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol20/issue2/ ]

First paragraph:
I recently developed a left-right index (Jahn, 2011) that has provoked some reaction.1 Specifically, my claim that I use a deductive approach has led others to react defensively, claiming the deductive nature of their indices while questioning this in mine (Budge, 2013; Franzmann, 2013). First, I emphasize that deductive reasoning is not at all superior to inductive inferences. However, deductive and inductive approaches certainly have different advantages and shortcomings. Deductive approaches allow for theory testing but are not as well tailored to fit empirical data. In fact it is exactly the point that data might not fit the theory that determines the essence of the deductive approach. Therefore, a deductive index of left and right asks whether the left-right dimension is still a valid tool with which to analyse programmatic preferences in modern societies. A precondition for such an analysis is, of course, that left and right are clearly defined.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. The importance of core and additional left-right issues over time and countries

Last Paragraph:
A major problem of the left-right dimension in comparative politics is that everybody has an intuitive feeling about what it consists of. That is the reason why the RILE is a kind of catch-all index aimed at satisfying everybody's needs.5 However, empirical research shows that there may not be a commonly understood left-right dimension over time and across countries. Identifying country-specific dividing lines between parties in various party systems is the strength of the FK index.6 However, following the FK approach, it remains difficult to interpret the underlying meaning of these dividing lines. Solving this problem by constructing left-right scales that meet the expectations of common sense (by correlating the indices with other left-right indices) misses the point if there is the theoretical possibility that left and right are not relevant anymore or that they change meaning in different contexts. One can analyse this question only if using a deductive approach. This is particularly relevant when we apply the left-right dimension to different contexts.7 Wiesehomeier and Doyle (2012) made this clear when they used the rationale of my index to analyse the left-right divide in Latin America. The same may be true for countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. In sum: if researchers are interested in knowing what they are measuring, the LR index developed in Party Politics is the instrument at hand.

Last updated March 2014