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Instructor: Ryan Kennedy Office: 3125 Derby Hall Office Hours: 12-1 pm. Tuesday and Thursday, or by appointment. E-mail: Phone: 537-6714 (cell) Webpage: Introduction to Comparative Politics GEC Goals

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introduction to comparative politics

Instructor: Ryan Kennedy

Office: 3125 Derby Hall

Office Hours: 12-1 pm. Tuesday and Thursday, or by appointment.


Phone: 537-6714 (cell)


Introduction to Comparative Politics
gec goals
GEC Goals
  • Learn theories and methods of scientific inquiry as they are applied to individuals, groups, organizations and societies.
  • Comprehend differences and similarities in various psychological, social, cultural, economic, geographic and political contexts.
  • Develop abilities to comprehend and assess individual and social values, and recognize their importance in social problem solving and policy-making.
additional goals
Additional Goals
  • To have a strong theoretic foundation for analysis of politics in various countries.
  • To have a base understanding of several example countries, which will serve as reference points for the course.
  • To improve students' ability to conduct analysis and analyze arguments.
  • To be well-prepared for higher-level courses in comparative politics, or any course involving political analysis.
course design
Course Design
  • Lecture format, but students are encouraged to ask questions and participate in discussions. Students may also be called on to answer questions about the readings or to comment on presented theories.
  • Six countries used for reference points: Britain, Mexico, China, Iran, Nigeria and Russia.
  • Readings primarily focus on country examples, while lectures primarily focus on theory.
current events quizzes
Current Events Quizzes
  • Based off international articles from The Week Online (
  • Additional online sources located on webpage.
  • Hard copies can be purchased for the quarter for $4 if there is enough interest.
  • 5 quizzes, 5 questions, worth 3 points total.
group project constitutional design
Group Project, Constitutional Design
  • Groups will be assigned in class.
  • Groups will design a constitution for an assigned country, if that country were to democratize.
  • Students will design executive power, the structure of the legislature, electoral system, territorial division of power, and design of judiciary.
  • Each group will present at the end of the quarter, and students will be asked to explain their choices.
constitutional design individual project
Constitutional Design, Individual Project
  • Individual student will write a 5 page justification for a section of his/her group's presentation.
  • No two group members can write on the same section.
  • Class materials can only be used as a starting point, individuals will need to do independent research and cite several sources (with at least four academic sources).
class attendance
Class Attendance
  • Attendance will be taken, starting third day of class.
  • Two unexcused absences.
  • If absence is anticipated, especially coinciding with assignments, students should inform me immediately.
  • Full attendance is worth 15 of the 20 class participation points. The rest are based on participation in asking/answering questions, participating in current events discussions, and attending office hours.
  • 2 exams – midterm and final.
  • Multiple choice and two essay questions.
  • Essays must involve critical analysis to receive full credit.
  • Attendance and class participation, 20pts.
  • Current events quizzes, 15 pts.
  • Midterm exam, 40 pts.
  • Final exam, 50 pts.
  • Group project, 40 pts.
  • Individual project, 35 pts.
  • Total pts. Available, 200 pts.
  • Textbook: Introduction to Comparative Politics. (Kesselman, Krieger, and Joseph, 2004).
  • Online readings available through jstor or through website (
  • Students should have an active e-mail address for class announcements.
academic honesty
Academic Honesty
  • Don't Cheat!!!
  • You will fail the course and be taken to the disciplinary board.
  • If in doubt, don't do it!!!
  • Please report any disabilities to me as soon as possible.
  • I cannot be held accountable for any disabilities that have not been brought to my attention.
what is comparative politics
What is Comparative Politics
  • Comparison is the basic method for analyzing phenomena and building theory, whether we make it explicit or not.
  • Politics – has may definitions, including:
    • The process by which groups make decisions
    • The authoritative allocation of values.
    • Who gets what, where, when and how.
    • From the roots, Poli, meaning many, and tics, meaning blood sucking insects.
history of comparative politics
History of Comparative Politics
  • Generally, comparative politics is used to describe the analysis of politics in countries outside of the United States (or the individual's home country).
  • Pre-WWII comparative politics primarily consisted of “thick description” of different constitutional and government decisions.
behavioral revolution
Behavioral Revolution
  • Post-WWII, a number of scholars who were involved in the war effort, along with refugees from from Europe, accused the descriptive political science of lacking usefulness for policy-makers.
  • “The Chicago School”, led by Charles Merriam, accused the traditional school of political science of being: overly parochial, overly descriptive, and overly normative.
behavioral revolution17
Behavioral Revolution
  • Behavioralism brought with it a greater focus on building generalizable theory and large-N statistical analysis.
  • Focus on answering “why” events occur, instead of “how” they occur.
criticisms of behavioralism post behavioralism
Criticisms of Behavioralism (Post-Behavioralism)
  • Overly focused on groups, and ignored individual decision-making – Rational Choice.
  • Ignored importance of normative questions – Political Theory (Straussians)
  • Too much focus on sociological variables – Neo-Institutionalists.
  • Questions of “how” are just as important as “why” -- Post-Modernist.
  • Overly quantitative – Perestroika.
basic vocabulary
Basic Vocabulary
  • State – a political association with effective control over geographic territory. (Weber - “Monopoly over the legitimate use of physical force in a given territory.”)
  • Nation – A people who share common customs, origins, and history.
  • Ethnicity – A population whose member identify with one another, usually on the basis of presumed common genealogy or ancestry.
  • Regime – A set of formal and informal rules that regulate the operations of government and its interactions with society and the economy.
  • Government – body of authority with the power to enforce the rules (capital G to denote particular executives).
levels of analysis
Levels of Analysis
  • Individual – ex. Voting behavior
  • Group – ex. Interest groups, businesses
  • State – ex. realism
  • System – ex. dependency
what kind of world
What Kind of World?
  • (Blyth, 2006)
  • Type-one World – We know the probability generator (ex. legislative politics).
  • Type-two World (“fat tails”) – Can observe past data, but do not know the probability generator, large events can skew data (ex. elections or causes of war).
  • Type-three World – Not only is the generator unknown, no amount of sampling will give an expected mean, because the causes can change over time (ex. the welfare state).
toulmin model of argument
Toulmin Model of Argument
  • Claim – conclusions to be established.
  • Data – facts appealed to as a foundation for the claim.
  • Warrant – statement authorizing movement from data to claim.
  • Backing – credentials to certify the statement in the warrant.
  • Rebuttal – statement recognizing the restrictions to the claim that can be legitimately applied.
  • Qualifier – words or phrases expressing the author's degree of certainty.