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Comparative Government in International Perspective


Comparative Government in International Perspective

The purpose of this lecture series is to provide students a theoretical perspective on state-society relations, and the role of public administration in shaping those relations. We deal with issues such as the formation of national states, the rise of bureaucratic government, government and cultural diversity, colonial rule, modernization, and “good governance” and corruption. All these issues crucially involve public administration, but, as this series will show, can best be understood in a broad historical and international comparative perspective.

The course is built around two classic studies—Jim Scott’s Seeing Like a State and Joel Migdal’s Strong Societies Weak States. These books are not “handbooks” in the sense of overviews of other work. Instead these studies present explicit, outspoken, and to some extent opposing theoretical perspectives. Both are based on a rich collection of comparative examples, cases, and illustrations, and thus provide a way of explaining and thinking about pressing issues in contemporary states around the world.

The aim of this course, then, is to present and discuss administrative issues in their social, economic, political, and cultural contexts, and to acquaint students with the study of countries outside Europe and the USA. It is not a regionally specific course, however. The theoretical perspectives that we discuss apply to all countries and administrative systems, hence the lectures shall illustrate issues with comparative examples from around the world.

Dr. F. de Zwart


Migdal, Joel S. 1988. Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World Princeton New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human condition Have Failed New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Tuesdat 27/3/12 from 9-12 hrs in USC

wednesday 6/6/12 from 9-12 hrs in USC

Wednesday 8/2-21/3 from 13-15 hr in SA-41, except for 29/2 no classes. Also classes on Friday 9/3 from 9-11 hrs in SA-41