Introduction to Comparative Politics
If you have not yet taken the prerequisite course and would still like to enroll, please contact the course instructor to establish whether your other previous courses qualify you for enrollment.
Understanding the functioning of democratic and representative politics requires knowledge of political parties and party systems. Parties represent the main vehicles for the aggregation of societal interests and they remain at the core of the political process, from elections to government formation and the generation of policy. Parties structure political competition among voters, party activists, and party elites and they are consequential for the political interactions within the executive-legislative arena and beyond.
This course aims to present students with a systematic overview of political parties and party systems, in a comparative framework. The first weeks of the course will cover important questions related to the origins and organization of political parties, party types and ideological labels. The class will then center on party systems – the dimensions along which they differ and the factors driving party system change. Throughout the class, the focus of the material will cover all stages of the political process at which parties operate, including the electoral and government domains. A major component of the course will also link distinct institutional features with party systems characteristics. For example, we will consider at length the impact of electoral rules on the number of political parties in a given polity.
The theoretical material will also be empirically grounded, with a focus on both advanced democracies and newly democratic countries. A special section will be devoted to the discussion of party politics at the level of the European Union.
Upon completion of the course, students will be expected to successfully:
Describe why political parties are necessary for democratic politics, and why they occupy such a central role,
Identify the most important components of parties as organizations,
Identify the major dimensions along which party systems differ, both theoretically and in a comparative perspective,
Be able to describe the connection between a broad set of institutional rules and party system features and be able to critically apply this knowledge to specific cases.
Once available, timetables will be published here.
Mode of instruction
Every session will be structured in a seminar format. Sessions will usually start with short presentations by myself, which will provide students with a synopsis of relevant aspects of the topic, with some extensions to the readings as well as with key questions emerging from the material. Group exercises and plenary discussions will then represent the core of the remaining class time. Interactive and pre-designed class assignments (some of them involving the country experts) will be provided, with the goal of engaging the students with the theoretical concepts from a different angle. Overall, the goal is a class atmosphere that facilitates discussion and debate of the main issues, as well as using small group activities to engage all participants.
The assessment for this course includes the following components:
Class participation, 10%
Reaction Papers, 15%
Party System Specialists, 15%
Research Paper, 30%
Final Exam, 30%
There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.
The following books are compulsory:
Mair, P. (1990) (Ed.). The West European Party System. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Ware, A. (1996). Political Parties and Party Systems. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.