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Introduction to Comparative Politics



The aim of this course is to provide students with an overview of key political institutions and processes in contemporary political systems, such as political parties and party systems, social movements, executive-legislative relations, electoral systems or bureaucracies. At the same time, the course also introduces students to some of the key concepts in political science, such as political culture, social capital, political participation, or electoral behavior. What are the functions of political parties and how do parties organize? Is there a difference between position of presidents in the United States and in France? How can we distinguish a social movement from an interest group? What is lobbying? Why is political participation important for political systems and has it declined in recent years? The focus throughout the course is on modern representative government, but the course also encourages students to understand differences between democracies and non-democracies, and to appreciate the role of institutions and political processes in authoritarian contexts. The course is not about one particular country or region. The examples of institutions and political process are drawn from a wide range of empirical contexts, with the aim of introducing students to their patterns in international comparative perspective. In that sense, the course also serves as an introduction to comparative method, and to the discipline of comparative politics more generally.

The course also includes Academic Skills working groups that focus on improving students’ ability to understand, summarize, and critically analyse empirical political science research by writing reviews of research articles in the field of comparative politics.

Course Objectives:

Objective 1: To introduce key political institutions and processes in contemporary political systems, with a particular focus on modern representative government.
Objective 2: To introduce some of the key political science concepts.
Objective 3: To introduce patterns of politics and institutions in comparative perspective.
Objective 4: To improve students’ ability to understand, summarize, and critically analyse empirical research.

Mode of Instruction

  • Plenary lectures and extra interactive sessions centered around the literature and student questions

  • Working groups

Work group coordinator: F. Mansvelt Beck

Study Material


Rod Hague, Martin Harrop and John McComick (2016) Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan)

Working Groups:

A list of readings for the work groups is provided in the course syllabus

Assessment Method

60% final exam
40% work group assignments and participation

The final grade for the work groups is the weighted average of two assignments (each counting for 40% of the grade) and a participation grade (counting for 20% of the grade).

The time and location of inspection and debriefing of the exam will be announced via Blackboard no later than the publication of the grades.

Timetable - courses and exams



See general information on Tab 'Year 1'