Mike Rossi


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Courses » Comparative Politics » Syllabus

Content: Comparative Politics: Syllabus

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A significant portion of this course involves online learning and interaction. All class related materials will be located on online, which will provide you 24/7 access to readings, discussions, additional sources of information, as well as assignment postings. You will benefit most from the course by doing the readings in advance of each session.

Grading Weights
Work Result Weight Due
One midterm examination 25% Session 8
One cumulative final examination 25% Session 15
One short analytical paper 25% Session 14
Participation 25% All sessions
Due Dates

Dates and Due date you will find in the class schedule. All late papers will be marked down by one-third of a letter grade for each day past the due date. This includes weekends.

Short Analytic Paper

Short Paper Students are required to write a short paper (3,000 words) on a topic to be posted online right after the midterm. The paper is due to session 14. No extensions will be given.

The paper requires no outside research, though you are welcome to use material you think will supplement class material. Rather, you are asked to engage with the theoretical readings and draw on country cases for illustration.

It is important that you present a clear argument and a broad range of evidence to back it up. Thus, rely on multiple sources (and acknowledge them in your footnotes). If you must use direct quotations, do so sparingly and with proper citation. A good paper usually requires several rounds of editing, so start early. Please consult me for any questions along the way.

Midterm and Final Exams

Both will be a series if short identification of terms followed by short essays (about two or three from a pool of five or six). The midterm will include all material from Parts I and II. The final exam will focus on Part III, but require you to draw comparative analyses from Parts I and II in order to successfully answer the questions.


Class participation is accumulated throughout the semester through active engagement. This includes speaking in class discussion, successfully answering unannounced quizzes, actively participating in online discussions, and coming to office hours (if necessary). Each time a student “participates”, a point will be awarded, with a maximum of 20 to be earned by the end of the semester. Maintaining a consistent participation score is not only the easiest component of your grade to achieve, but it also ensures you are up to date with your readings and provides a good opportunity for writing strong research papers.

The best way to maintain a high participation score is to participle in our online discussion forums. These are weekly, per unit assignments and will be graded on that basis.  You can certainly post messages in the discussion for a unit after the date that the unit ends if a threaded discussion is ongoing (and of course interesting!), but in order to keep up with the assignments and lectures, you must post at least one comment a week.

While you are certainly welcome to be as active as possible, you do not need to respond to every discussion question. In some cases, there will be multiple discussion boards posted each week. You may reply to other students, to me, or you may choose to expand on one of your previous posts. But please remember to post at least once a week to new topics! Please refer to the document "Grading Criteria for the Discussion Forum" online for more help in clarifying how posts should look.

Attendance is not related to participation. You can have a perfect attendance record but if you remain silent, you are not “participating”.

Provided Work Material

All assigned readings expect [Kes13] are available on our course website for download.

Chapters from [Kes13] can be purchased at:


Cengage publishing allows the student to download individual chapters relevant to the course, which greatly saves you money. Because the newest edition has not yet gone to actual print, the requested chapters can be purchased via direct download. The following chapters are required for you to download at $9.99 each. Conversely, you may also wish to purchase a used 5th edition (2010) on Amazon Marketplace for a considerably lower overall price. Page references in the syllabus reflect the 6th edition, but the chapters remains the same.

Session Content
Part I - Methodology and Concepts
Session 1

Read the syllabus, familiarize yourself with class

Session 2

Introduction: What is Comparative Politics?

  • Lijphart, "Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method"
  • Kesselman et al, Introduction to Comparative Politics (skim)
[Kes13, 4-42]
Session 2

Introduction: Comparative Politics in the Social Sciences

  • Wiarda, "Comparative Politics Past and Present"
Part II - Democratic States
Session 3

Explaining Democratic Regimes

  • Dahl, Polyarchy ch. 1 "Democratization and Public Opposition"
  • Polyarchy ch. 3 "Historical Sequences"

[Dah71, 1-16]

[Dah71, 33-47]

  • Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation ch. 1 "Democracy and its Arenas"
[LiSt96, 3-15]
  • Tocqueville, Democracy in America ch. 7
[Toc03, 287-305]
Session 4

Case Study I: Great Britain

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
[Kes13, 46-87]
Session 5

Case Study II: Germany

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
[Kes13, 140-187]
Session 6

Case Study III: India

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
[Kes13, 238 -280]
Session 7

Video: The Power of Bureaucracy – Robert Moses and the City of New York

  • Burns, New York: A Documentary Film Ep. VI: City of Tomorrow
  • Burns, Ep VII: The City and the World
Session 8

Comparative Analysis and Midterm Review

  • Democracy in America ch. 9
[Toc03, 323-370]
Session 8 Midterm Examination
Part III - The Non-Democracies
Session 9 Introduction to Non-Democratic States
  • Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation ch. 3 "Modern Non-Democratic Regimes"
[LiSt96, 38-54]
  • Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism ch. 8 "What is Fascism?"
[Pax04, 206-220]
Session 10 The Phenomena of Illiberal Democratic Movements
  • O'Rourke, "The Godfather Decade"
  • Levitsky and Way, "The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism"
  • Ottaway, Democracy Challenged ch. 6 "Games Semi-Authoritarian Regimes Play"
[Ott03, 137-160]
Session 11

Case Study IV: Venezuela

  • Democracy Challenged ch 3 "Venezuela: Democratic Decay"
[Ott03, 71-90]
Session 12

Case Study V: Russia

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
[Kes13, 332-382]
Session 13

Case Study VI: China

  • Introduction to Comparative Politics
[Kes13, 622-674]
Session 14

Democratization and Political Culture

  • Huntington, "The Third Wave"
Short Analytic Paper due and Final Exam Review
Session 15 Final Examination


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