Intro to Comparative

Course Description: This course is a graduate-level introduction to comparative politics. The objective is to expose students to the range of research questions asked in comparative politics, the different theoretical approaches that underlie those questions, and the methodological tools used to answer them. The course begins by examining different scholars' perspectives on the subfield and how it became what it is today. It then examines some of the major theoretical approaches to the study of comparative politics, including political culture, behavioralism, rational choice, and new institutionalism. The course continues with an examination of the diverse methodological approaches used in comparative politics evaluating the merits and drawbacks of each. The bulk of the course is an investigation of key substantive topics in comparative politics, such as public opinion, political behavior, political economy, democracy, and institutions. Finally, the course concludes by evaluating the state of the subfield today. By the end of the course, students should have a solid grasp of the major theories and methods of comparative politics, understand how scholars apply them to different research areas within comparative politics, and be able to use those theories and methods in their own comparative research.

Comparative Political Institutions

Course Description: The study of comparative political institutions has exploded over the past twenty years. As theories of new institutionalism took hold in American politics, comparative scholars began to explore the causes and consequences of the wide variety of rules and norms governing democracies around the world. This gave rise to an array of questions such as: Why do democracies emerge and break down? How do presidential and parliamentary systems differ and what are the consequences of these differences? How do electoral rules shape party systems and the nature of political representation? How do political institutions affect policy outputs and policy outcomes? Where do institutions come from in the first place? Drawing on theories of new institutionalism, specifically historical institutionalism and rational choice institutionalism, comparative politics scholars have created a vast literature that answers these and many other questions about political institutions. This course examines a cross-section of the literature on comparative political institutions to provide students with sufficient background for future research in this area.


Introduction to Comparative Politics

Course Description: This course is an introduction to the study of comparative politics, or perhaps more appropriately, comparative political science. Comparative politics involves describing, comparing, and explaining political phenomena around the world. It asks questions such as how do different countries' political systems compare to one another and why are they similar or different? Why are some countries democratic while others are authoritarian? How do states become democratic? Does the type of regime in a country affect the stability and functioning of government? How? Why? What kinds of government institutions do countries have? Why are some countries presidential while others are parliamentary? What effect does having a presidential form of government rather than parliamentary have on public policy outputs? How do rules for elections differ across countries and what effects to they have on politics? Why do some countries have a multiparty political system while others have a two-party system? This course teaches students how to answer these questions and provides them with the tools to tackle more complex questions in comparative politics. By understanding how to do "comparative politics," students will be well-suited to study and understand the politics of any country in the world by the end of the course.

Latin American Politics

Course Description: In the 1980's, Latin America transitioned from a region fraught with abusive, authoritarian regimes to a region of new democracies. This transition called for constitutions that would give citizens political rights and civil liberties, political entities that would comply with and carry-out democratic governance, and policy reforms that would facilitate economic growth and the functioning of democracy. Thirty years later democracy persists, but it has not been without setbacks and difficulties. What does democracy look like in Latin America? What challenges does it face? How well is it working? What is its future in the region? This course answers these questions by analyzing Latin American politics through the lens of democracy and democratic institutions to better understand where democracy came from, how it functions, and what the prospects are for its future. The course examines democracy in Latin America thematically, but draws upon both region-wide and country-specific perspectives to illustrate major themes.

Latin American Politics Through Film

Course Description: The political history of Latin America is diverse and complex. From the Spanish and Portuguese colonial regimes to the democracies of today, the region has witnessed an array of political types and associated problems. It has had to deal with repression from within and abroad, revolutionary struggles, an entangled church and state, extreme poverty, and violence to unprecedented degrees. The challenge for us is to understand why Latin America has developed as it did and how current democratic governments deal with the legacies of the past.

This course provides an introduction to Latin American politics by surveying some of the major political issues the region has faced during the past four hundred years; however, it does this in a rather untraditional fashion - through film. The first part of the course explores (albeit superficially) the political history of Latin America up until 1960. Specifically, the class looks at the European conquest, examining the complicated relationship between the Catholic Church, the imperial powers, and indigenous groups, and then progresses to the revolutionary struggles of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in the 1950's. Part II of the course analyzes the repressive authoritarian governments of the 1970's and 1980's in South and Central America, evaluating the United States' role in putting those regimes in power, its counter-insurgency efforts during prominent civil wars, and the more general consequences of these regimes for social, economic, and political (in)stability in the region. The course concludes with an examination of today's democracies and the myriad of challenges that they face - poverty, crime, drugs, economic instability, populist leaders, and the ever-present threat of a return to the authoritarian past.

Each week, students view a film and analyze the political issues that emerge from it. They are required to read extensive background materials and contribute analysis of the film and readings to class discussion. Students submit a weekly analysis paper on the film, readings, and class discussion. The course stresses critical thinking, analytical, and writing skills. By the end of the semester, students should have a solid understanding of the nuances of politics in Latin America and the challenges facing new democracies in Latin America, and they should be able to study specific countries in the region in more depth. Thus, the final project is an analysis paper on one country of the student's choosing.

Gender and Politics

Course Description: Women have long been excluded from the political arena because traditional thinking saw women's work as in the private sphere whereas men's work was in the public sphere. In recent years, however, women's participation in politics has increased around the world. Women have attained the right to vote and stand for office in nearly all countries. They hold distinct attitudes and beliefs about politics and express them by joining women's groups and women's movements, exercising their right to vote and run for office, and winning office in local and national governments. With their participation, women have altered the way that politics is done and the types of policies that countries enact. Yet the extent to which this occurs varies widely across countries and regions of the world. For example, countries as distinct as Nicaragua, Indonesia, and Finland have had female chief executives while the U.S. and many other countries have not. Scandinavian countries boast the highest representation of women in national legislatures averaging 40% while Arab states have an average of only 7% women. Women's movements have played a substantial role in politics in Latin America helping to transform countries from military-led authoritarian governments to liberal democracies, yet they have been far less visible in recent African transitions to democracy. What explains these differences? Why have some countries more successfully integrated women into politics than others? Politically, how do men and women differ, and what do these differences, if there are any, mean for how the political game is played? This course aims to answer these questions by applying a "gender lens" to comparative politics. The course focuses on three key parts of the political system—mass political participation, the legislature, and the executive—and analyzes each from a gender perspective. Doing so distinguishes women from men and considers the ways in which women participate in politics similarly or differently than men, it facilitates exploring how gender shapes politics and vice versa and what the consequences of that are, and it teaches students how to use a gender lens to study politics in countries throughout the world.