Course Description

In this course students are introduced to the study of Comparative Politics. The course begins by defining comparative politics and outlining the comparative method. Students will then learn more about political institutions including electoral systems, political parties and party systems, as well as legislative and executive offices.

Following the discussion of institutions, students will then learn more about representation. This section includes discussions related to women and other minorities' advancements as well as challenges that these groups face in gaining representation.

Students then learn the basics of contentious politics including topics such as social movements, political violence, and regime change.

After completing the course, students will understand the key theme areas within the study of Comparative Politics. In addition, students will be able to identify the key concepts and debates in the field. Students will leave the course understanding not only the theoretical foundations for the study of comparative politics but also how to recognize comparative arguments and how to create/design a comparative study of their own.

Overview of themes addressed

  • Comparative Politics: Social Science and the Comparative Method

In this segment of the course, students will learn what the subfield of comparative politics is/is not. We will discuss its main tenants as well as the approach to research and design that most comparative politics scholars utilize.

  • Political Institutions: Electoral Systems; Political Parties; Executives

Here students will learn more about political institutions including electoral regimes, legislative systems, executive systems, as well as political parties. We will examine how governments are organized, elected, and nullified.

  • Political Representation: Advancements and Challenges

In this section students will learn about the different understandings of political representation (delegate/trustee; formal, symbolic, substantive, descriptive). This section will focus on the representation of minorities including women, young people, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and class representation. In addition to discussing advancements in descriptive and substantive representation of these groups, we will also discuss challenges to minority representation including violence against women in politics and the gender ideology movement.

  • Regimes and Changes: Contentious Politics; Authoritarian Regimes; Democratization

In this segment, students will engage with the literature on contentious politics and authoritarian regimes. Students will learn more about what “contentious politics” is including literature on social movements, political violence (including terrorism), as well as regime instability, change, and democratization.

Course Learning Objectives

By the end of the course students should be able to...

  1. Identify and define the major theoretical foundations of Comparative Politics

  2. Identify comparative research designs and implement these in their own design

  3. Synthesize and comprehend concepts and arguments presented in readings and lectures