Course Description

This course will focus on the emergence, role, and influence of political parties in the United States and Western Europe. Political parties are one of the main institutions in modern representative democracies; they recruit candidates for public office, formulate programs of government action, compete for votes, and exercise power in government (or in the opposition). For those who think of American political parties and the duopoly between Republicans and Democrats, comparative party politics highlights the complexity of multi-party competition.

The course aims to understand the organization and behavior of political parties through classical and recent literature on political parties. We will learn how to evaluate the position of political parties today, and we will investigate their role in future legislative politics/representative politics. Finally, we will discuss the challenges political parties today face; the threat of and response to of new and ideologically extreme political parties in party systems across Europe, whether or not parties—as we know them—are still important and strong in the age of globalization.

The course will begin with a discussion of the definition and role of political parties working through classic and more contemporary research and will then get into current and ongoing debates focusing on the most recent literature in the field.

After completing the course, students will understand what political parties are, where they originate from, the different roles they have depending on their role in government, opposition, or outside of parliaments. Additionally, students will come to better understand the internal organization of parties as well as how this contributes to democratic representation. Finally, students will better understand the dilemmas and struggles parties face and will be able to form answers to questions like, are parties dead? Students will leave the course understanding not only the classic literature on political parties but also how political parties relate to everyday politics and policy decisions.