PLSC3321 Comparative Politics

Course Description

A comparative examination of the political systems of selected economically developed nations.

This course is numbered as PLSC 3321: Comparative Politics. The catalog provides this description of the course: A comparative examination of the political system of selected economically developed nations. And while the catalog is certainly correct, it is slightly more complicated than the catalog description.

This course is numbered PLSC 3321: Introduction to Comparative Politics. It is an upper level course in political science that fulfills 3 hours of credit for political science majors and minors. It serves as the department of political science’s introduction to one of the three main sub-fields in political science. Many students may have already taken Introduction to International Relations which is a
similar introductory course in that particular sub-field. In comparative politics, the focus is on the development of comparative politics through an institutional approach. Once students have a clearer grasp of comparative politics through an institutional perspective, the transition to certain subtopics such as democratization, political economy, pork barrel politics and area studies such as Latin American Politics, East Asian Politics, The Politics of Western Europe, and the Politics of Japan will be less rocky.

Also, in this course, students will be exposed to some of the main methodological conventions in comparative politics. This does not mean that all students will have a firm grasp of empirical and formal modeling, but students will be exposed to the conventions so they may grasp the findings and implications of research in political science. This course will discuss the following topics: methodology in comparative politics (in a conceptual not mathematical context), Comparative Democratization, Rational Choice Institutionalism, Electoral Systems, Political Institutions, Political Culture and Civil Society, Distributive Politics, and Comparative Political Economy. This course requires a considerable amount of reading and writing.

Course Credits: 3

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course. However, it would be useful for students to have taken PLSC 3301 or 3302 prior or concurrently with this course. It will help aid the transition into scientific explanations of politics. Also, students should have an openness to basic mathematical concepts. Additionally, students should expect to spend roughly 6 hours a week in the course. This is just an estimate as some students may complete the work in less or more time; it depends on the student.

Student Learning Outcomes

State and explain the scientific method

  • Differentiate between Most Similar and Most Different Systems Designs. Understand and explain arguments, premises, conclusions.
  • Understand and explain the concepts of exit. loyalty, and voice from Albert Hirschman’s Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States. Produce some examples of citizens may express exit, loyalty and voice in public life.
  • Define and explain the concepts of a game, strategy, and Nash equilibrium in the context of formal modeling.
  • Identify and explain the difference between extensive and normal form games.
  • Define and explain the concept of a Subgame Perfect Nash Equilibrium.
  • Explain and identify the functions and limitations of the state.
  • Explain and understand the premises of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
  • Calculate the conditions under which an individual and the state may enter a social contract.
  • Identify, explain, and list predatory state functions
  • Explain and understand Classic Modernization Theory.
  • State the empirical relationship between wealth and democracy.
  • Explain and deduce quasi-rents.
  • Understand and explain the resource curse.
  • Understand and explain the difference between Primordialist and Constructivist formulations of culture.
  • Explain various hypotheses regarding the relationship between religion, democratic transitions and democratic survival.
  • Identify and restate the common theoretical reasons democracy should be linked to economic growth.
  • Identify and deduce why authoritarian regimes may have advantages in terms of economic growth.
  • Understand, restate, and explain the differences between monarchies, military juntas, and civilian dictatorships.
  • Understand the implications of the assumptions in Selectorate Theory.
  • Graph the spatial relationship between the Size of Selectorate (S), Winning Coalition (W), and regime type.
  • Analyze the importance of the distribution tax rates, public and private goods in retaining power.
  • Analyze and deduce the weaknesses in Selectorate Theory.