This course is an introduction to some of the key concepts and theoretical approaches in the comparative politics subfield of political science, and to the government and politics of select countries. Comparative politics is the study of processes and institutions within countries (whereas international relations is the study of interactions between countries). Prompted by real-world events and puzzles, comparativists investigate broad theoretical questions such as: How and why do countries democratize (or not)? What are different ways that states organize politics, i.e., how do they differ in terms of party systems, electoral rules, presidential powers, etc.? What is the relationship between the economy and the political system?
We will spend the first half of the semester focusing on key concepts, and the final half studying those concepts in relation to a sample of countries. The five countries that we will study in depth are the United Kingdom, Mexico, South Africa, Russia, and China. These represent many regions of the world and range from authoritarian regimes to newly democratic states and long-established democracies. The overall objective of the course is to equip students with the basic tools of comparative political analysis in order to help them better understand world events and politics countries around the world.
This is an honors course and it will be based on student-centered discussion rather than lectures. Reading is essential for full participation in discussions and students will be asked to explain concepts from the readings in class. In addition, each week students will write about the readings during in-class quizzes. Finally, students will work in groups on a series of assignments culminating in an original final research paper and presentation.