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INTL 204. Introduction to Comparative Politics. Assoc. Prof. Murat Somer, CASE 153 E-mail: Fall 2012 Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:00pm . Learning Objectives.

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intl 204 introduction to comparative politics

INTL 204. Introduction to Comparative Politics

Assoc. Prof. Murat Somer, CASE 153


Fall 2012 Office Hours:

Tuesdays, 2:00-4:00pm

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Define key concepts such as political institution, democracy, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and federal versus unitary systems.
  • Explain the role of a constitution, and understand the concept of constitutionalism.
  • Discuss the general type of political system and important constitutional issues in the TIC cases.
  • Categorize each TIC case as having either a unitary or a federal system.
what are institutions liberal conceptions
What are Institutions?Liberal Conceptions

Formal Definition:

Institutions are the rules of the game in a society or, more formally, humanly devised constraints that shape [regulate] human interaction.

(Douglas North)

how are organizations different from institutions
How are Organizations Different from Institutions?
  • Organizations are the players
  • Institutions are the rules of the game
    • GS, BJK, UEFA and MHK are organizations

Rules of the game are institutions

    • Municipalities and contractors are organizations

Rules that determine their relationship are institutions

    • Political parties are players (organizations)

Electoral rules are institutions

    • Courts are organizations

The laws they apply, the rules that determine their salaries, promotion, accountability, and powers are institutions

what do institutions do
What Do Institutions Do?
  • Determine who are the winners and who are the losers
  • Define boundaries such as property rights
  • Determine standards
  • Provide incentives and disincentives
  • Enforce contracts
  • Monitor behavior
  • Punish violatiors and reward cooperators
  • Provide information
  • Reduce uncertainty
  • Produce trust and facilitate human cooperation
  • Prevent free riders
Institutions can be:
  • formal (constitution)
  • informal (tradition)
  • social (customs)
  • political
  • economic
t he constitution a regime s rules for making rules

The Constitution: A Regime’s Rules for Making Rules

The constitution defines a country’s regime

Regime: the nature of the way a society governs itself

The nature of the relationship between the rulers and the ruled

Functional and territorial distribution of power


Rule of Law: A constitution adds legitimacy to a system

  • Constitutionalism
    • A central concept in the U.S. and other democracies
      • Constitutions are designed to limit the power of government
      • Government officials must follow the laws of the land
      • Upholding these limitations and following these laws is a key source of legitimacy
levels of government
Levels of Government
  • Functional separation of power
    • Executive
    • Legislature
    • Judiciary
      • Elected officials
      • Appointed officials (bureaucracy)

Levels of Government

Territorial distribution of power

Unitary versus Federal Arrangements

Unitary: Regional governments have no powers reserved to them.

Federal: Regional governments have constitutional status and autonomy, share powers with the central government, have certain reserved powers of their own and are represented in the federal (central) government.


Local Government

    • Exists in federal and unitary systems
    • Oversees “day-to-day” municipal governing
  • Devolution transfers Powers from Central Governments to Lower Levels
political institutions
Political Institutions
  • Regime (Political System) Types
    • Totalitarianism
      • Seeks the atomization of society (Arendt)
      • Emphasizes mass mobilization
      • Official ideology
      • Single political party
      • Reliance on terror to maintain order
      • Control of communications
      • Control over the means of force in society
      • Command economy
      • North Korea, Nazi Germany
political institutions1
Political Institutions
  • Regime (Political System) Types
    • Authoritarianism
      • Presence of a dominant leader or small group of leaders
      • Limited political participation
      • Degree of autonomy of society from state control
      • Lack of ideology
      • Limited control over the economy
      • Variants of authoritarianism
        • Military, party, bureaucratic
        • Syria, Egypt under Mubarak
political institutions2
Political Institutions
  • Regime (Political System) Types
    • Semiauthoritarianism/Semidemocracy
      • Democracy is incorporated into an otherwise authoritarian system
political institutions3
Political Institutions
  • Regime (Political System) Types
    • Democracy
      • Selection of government officials through free and fair elections
      • The balance of majority rule and minority protection
      • Limitations on government action
      • Variants of democracy
        • Majoritarian, consensus
        • European, Westminster, American and Latin American models
free fair elections
Free & Fair Elections

Free Elections:

  • Individuals have the ability to vote,
  • Their votes are made in secret,
  • Candidates have the ability to run for office,
  • Candidates have the ability to campaign for office by providing information to voters.
free fair elections1
Free & Fair Elections
  • Fair Elections:
  • Voters to have access to impartial coverage of the campaign in the media,
  • Voters to have reasonable access to polling places,
  • The vote of each eligible voter -and only of eligible voters- to be counted,
free fair elections2
Free & Fair Elections
  • Fair Elections (Cont’d):
  • The vote of each eligible voter to be counted equally,
  • The losing candidate to acknowledge and accept the results,
  • The electoral process to be administered and monitored by an impartial body of electoral specialists.
think and discuss

Think and Discuss

Look at the list of criteria associated with free and fair elections. How do Turkish elections measure up based on these criteria?


Consensusdemocracy: A democraticsystemthatunitesproportionalrepresentationelections, a multipartysystem, and diffusion of poweracrossbranches and levels of government.

  • Majoritariandemocracy: A democraticsystemcombiningstrongexecutives, fewchecks on the power of the majorityto passlaws and amend the constitution, and conflictualpoliticsbetweentwomajorpoliticalparties.
topic in countries
Topic in Countries
  • The United Kingdom
    • “Westminster democracy,” highly majoritarian
    • Constitution is not in a single written document; a collection of acts, legal opinions, and customs
    • Despite significant devolution of powers to regions, remains a unitary state
in theory and practice veto points in the united kingdom

In Theory and PracticeVeto Points in the United Kingdom

Veto Points

Individuals or collective political bodies whose failure to accept a policy change results in the rejection of the proposed change

Parliamentary systems generally have fewer veto points than do presidential systems (see Chapter 6), and unicameral (single-chamber) legislatures have fewer veto points than bicameral ones

Thatcher took advantage by making significant social welfare policy changes

topic in countries1
Topic in Countries
  • Germany
    • Consensus democracy; combination of coalition governments, federalism, and corporatism
    • The constitution (Basic Law) lays out both social welfare protections and limits on government
    • “Cooperative federalism” with significant powers for the Länder
topic in countries2
Topic in Countries
  • India
    • Parliamentary democracy; system has evolved from one-party dominant to multiparty
    • Constitution is long, detailed, and heavily amended; federal system with strong central government
    • Federal system (28 federal units), but the central government has strong powers; three levels of government
topic in countries3
Topic in Countries
  • Mexico
    • Party-authoritarian system until recently; today an unconsolidated democracy
    • Constitution originally written in 1917; prohibits the president and legislators from running for reelection; provides for checks and balances that became important when PRI lost its dominance
    • Federal system with 31 federal units (estados) and one federal district; estados dependent on central government for revenue
in theory and practice political change in mexico and easton s systems theory

In Theory and PracticePolitical Change in Mexico and Easton’s Systems Theory

“Old Institutionalism” in political science had focused on describing institutions

The behavioralism movement that began in the 1950s focused on explaining political outcomes

David Easton proposed that all political systems translate inputs (demands and supports) into outputs (policy)

The system responds to changes in supports and demands

Easton’s model pays little attention to the design of the institutions themselves


In Theory and PracticePolitical Change in Mexico and Easton’s Systems Theory

Mexico and Easton’s Approach

In the latter part of the twentieth century, changes in demands and supports put pressure on the government of Mexico

Resulted in policy changes, including the political liberalization of the 1970s-1990s

Even without looking “inside” the Mexican system, Easton’s framework helps explain the changes that led to the PRI losing its dominance over Mexican politics

topic in countries4
Topic in Countries
  • Brazil
    • Has alternated between democracy and military authoritarianism; remains an unconsolidated democracy with traditional elites maintaining significant power
    • Current constitution written in 1988; enshrined privileges for the outgoing military government
    • Federal system with 26 federal units (estados); more power for lower levels than in Mexico; preserves power of local elites
topic in countries5
Topic in Countries
  • Nigeria
    • Combination of majoritarian and consensus democracy; has alternated between democracy and military authoritarianism; democratic status is increasingly unclear
    • Most recent constitution written in 1999; emphasis on the need for unity in a country with prevalent identity and political divisions since independence
    • Formerly an ethno-federal system; now more of an American-style federal system; provides a certain degree of cross-cutting identities among the otherwise complementary identity divisions
topic in countries6
Topic in Countries
  • Russia
    • Democratic following collapse of USSR; creeping authoritarianism; semiauthoritarian system today
    • New constitution since December 1993; Putin not seeking third term gave some legitimacy to the constitution in an otherwise increasingly authoritarian system
    • Federal system; since Putin came to power, central government has increased its power versus the regions (which now number 83)
topic in countries7
Topic in Countries
  • China
    • Under Mao Zedong, often considered a totalitarian system; since Deng Xiaoping, more like a party-authoritarian system
    • Evidence that a constitution, even one that is somewhat followed, does not equal democracy
    • Unitary state with 31 regions; some devolution, but still not a federal system
in theory and practice china and skocpol s states and social revolutions

In Theory and PracticeChina and Skocpol’sStates and Social Revolutions

Theda Skocpol’s 1979 book set the stage for a new focus on political institutions

Skocpol saw state institutions as an important independent variable, not a “black box” like in Easton’s approach

Led to calls to “bring the state back in”

China is a Main Case in Skocpol’s Book

Collapse of Imperial System due to the state relying on local leaders for military support

Her argument has relevance today, as China relies more and more on regional and local officials

topic in countries8
Topic in Countries
  • Iran
    • Theocracy; under former President Khatami, attempts at reform; under President Ahmadinejad, a return to hardline policies
    • Constitution after the Revolution implemented a theocracy, including the position of Supreme Leader; overhauled in 1989 (abolished prime min.)
    • Unitary state with 30 regions; powerful provincial leaders; central government has overseen “controlled decentralization”
in theory and practice iran and rational choice new institutionalism

In Theory and PracticeIran and Rational Choice New Institutionalism

New Institutionalism

Focuses on theories that use political institutions to explain political outcomes

Three main variants:

Sociological N.I.

Historical N.I.

Rational Choice N.I.

Rational Choice New Institutionalism

Sees political institutions as the product of rational choices by political actors

Existing rules constrain decision makers, but they may also try to change these arrangements


In Theory and PracticeIran and Rational Choice NewInstitutionalism

Rational Choice N.I. and Iran

Many in the West portray Iranian leaders as irrational fanatics

But, Rational Choice N.I. would see them as much more rational, designing the rules of their theocracy to maximize the goals of maintaining power and controlling society

Reformers versus Hardliners

Rational Choice N.I. explains how reformers wanting to change existing rules are constrained

It also explains the hardliners’ use of the existing rules to block pro-reform candidates