Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2023

Course Description

The course is designed to introduce students to Comparative Politics (the study of domestic politics around the world), one of the main subfields in political science. The course has two main objectives. First, it will make students understand the central ideas, core concepts, theories, and methodologies of comparative politics used to study various political systems, cultures, and economies. We will explore various approaches to the study of comparative politics—authoritarian and democratic governments, parliamentary and presidential forms of government, modernization and development, political culture, systems analysis, crisis of liberal democracy, democratic deconsolidation, and the rise of illiberal democracy—which will provide a solid foundation for further studies in political science. Second, these concepts will be applied to understand contemporary politics in select cases: Great Britain and the U.S. from the industrialized and liberal democracies; China from the communist and post-communist states; and India, Pakistan, and Nigeria from the newly industrializing and developing nations. The political experience in each case will be studied in the context of its own cultural and historical settings. Such an approach will allow us to see the differences within a particular type of regime. We shall inquire, for example, why Chinese communism is different from communism in the former Soviet Union; why democratic institutions have come under strain in the U.S. and many European democracies; why democratic institutions endured in India but not in Pakistan, the separated twin of the subcontinent, and most other Third World countries; why Great Britain, the mother of parliamentary democracy with no written constitution, has had a stable political system in modern times; what caused the Brexit vote to pass in the U.K. in May 2016; what caused the rise and demise of an authoritarian populist leader Boris Johnson in Britain; and why democracy is deconsolidating or backsliding in many developed and developing nations. The answers to these questions, and many others, will invariably be found in the history, tradition, and political culture of these nations and the challenges they are facing due to (a) the deepening of globalization since the 1990s and (b) the inherent tensions between liberalism and democracy.

Student Outcomes

After taking this course, students will be able to 1. Explain why countries choose different mechanisms and institutions for governing and why these choices are important; 2. Explain why some countries are democratic while others are authoritarians or somewhere between representative and repressive; 3. Compare major aspects of democratic and non-democratic political systems; 4. Analyze patterns, processes, and regularities among political systems; and 5. Compare models of development strategies.