Comparative Politics
T-TH - 11:00 A.M. - 12:15 P.M.
Location: Cantor 101

William Clark
715 Broadway, 4th Floor (Office 449)
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 4:00-6:00

Teaching Assistants:
Sona Golder, e-mail:; Office Hours: Thursday 3:00-4:00.  
Sunny Kaniyathu, e-mail:; Office Hours: Tuesday 1:30-2:30. 
Won Ik Kim, e-mail:; Office Hours: Tuesday 2:00-3:00.
Marcelo Lacombe, e-mail:; Office Hours: Monday 10:00-12:00.

Course Description:

                Why is there an influential third party in many rich democracies, but not in the United States?  Why do political parties that profess radically different ideologies often enact surprisingly similar policies?  Why are government bureaucracies in some countries blatantly corrupt while others are relatively professional?  Why does democratic consolidation occur more easily in some setting than others?

                This course is an introduction to a field of study that attempts to answer such questions.  It seeks to understand why political systems are stable or unstable, free or unfree, violent or peaceful, stagnant or productive.  This field of study has a long pedigree (going at least as far back as Aristotle) and has been called many things.  Here we will call it comparative politics.

Comparative Politics can be viewed as that area of political science that uses cross-national comparisons to add to our understanding of political phenomena.  Thus, "comparison" is a defining factor of comparative politics and will be addressed in a self-conscious manner through out the class.  That said, self-conscious comparison is not unique to the field of comparative politics, but rather, is a key component in the scientific method - to do science is to compare.  Thus, all political science is comparative politics, but we will focus our attention on that area of political science that attempts to understand politics through comparing characteristics of nation states. 

But what is political science?  Politics can be thought of as the area of human interaction involving the use of power.   Science is a method of asking questions and building and testing explanations.  Thus, political science is that science which aims to explain the exercise and regulation of power.   Accordingly, I have organized this class around questions that have arisen concerning the study of power, rather than around the study of countries or regions of the world.

                I have chosen to pursue a "two-track" strategy in choosing readings.  The text books that will be our guide through the semester does a good job of telling you what political scientists do.  It will be supplemented by journal articles which will allow you to see them actually doing it.  The text is well organized and oriented toward beginning students, the journal articles will be a good deal more challenging, but, I think, well worth the effort.  All of the readings not found in the texts will be available in a course pack.  While I hope they supplement the text they are not supplemental in the sense of being optional - my expectation is that all readings on this syllabus will be done before they are discussed in class. 

Course Requirements:

To help you prepare for discussions sections, homework exercises will regularly assigned.  These assignments will be due at the start of that week's discussion section.  Homeworks will be graded on a four point scale:

3               exemplary
2               satisfactory
1               needs improvement
0               incomplete


In addition to the homeworks, there will be two in-class exams: a mid-term and a final. These will contain both objective and essay portions.  The homeworks will be particularly good preparation for the objective portions of the exams.


Grades will be determined in the following manner:

Participation:                   10%
Homeworks:                   20%
Mid-term:                       35%
Final:                              35%


Academic Honesty:

I expect and require that you will conduct yourself within the norms of academic honesty.  First and foremost among these is the need to distinguish between your words and ideas, and the words and ideas of others.   Failure to do this puts you on the wrong side of this institution's rules regarding academic honesty and you will be punished accordingly.  Please see me if you are uncertain in any way about what your responsibilities in this area are.

Required Texts:

W. Phillips Shively (2000) Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science (New York: McGraw Hill).

Kenneth A. Shepsle and Mark S. Boncheck (1997) Analyzing Politics: Rationality, Behavior, and Institutions (New York: Norton).

Course Packet - Available for New University Copy (Waverly Place near Green St.)


Scope and Methods

Tuesday, Jan. 22

1)       - Introduction - What is Comparative Politics?

a)       Shively, Chapter 1.

b)       Shively,  Appendix

Thursday, Jan. 24

2)       - What is Political Science?

a)       Shepsle and Boncheck Chapters 1 & 2

b)       McGaw and Watson, Political and Social Inquiry Chapter 2. Formal Fallacies and Causation.

Tuesday, Jan.29

3)       - The Comparative Method

a)       Stanley Lieberson, (1992) "Small N's and big conclusions: an examination of the reasoning in comparative Studies based on a small number of cases," in Charles C. Ragin & Howard S. Becker, eds., What is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press): 105-118

Thursday, Jan. 31

4)       - What is Politics?

a)       Albert Hirschman, 1970. Exit, Voice, and the Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), Chapters 2-4.

Tuesday, Feb. 5

5)       - The Modern State

a)       Shively, Chapter 3.

Thursday, Feb. 7

6)       - Another view of the Modern State

a)       Charles Tilly, "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime," in  Bringing the state back in edited by Peter B. Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Theda Skocpol. (New York : Cambridge University Press, 1985.) pages 169 - 191.


Tuesday,  Feb. 12

7)       - Comparing Competing Ideologies

a)       Shively, Chapter 2.

b)       Adam Przeworski, (1991) "Could We Feed Everyone? The Irrationality of Capitalism and the Infeasibility of Socialism," Politics & Society. 19:1 (March 1991):1- 39

Thursday, Feb. 14

8)       - What Do States Do?

a)       Shively, Chapter 4 and 5

Tuesday, Feb. 19

9)        - Group Choice: An Introduction

a) Shepsle and Bonchek Chapter 3

Thursday Feb. 21

10)   - A Problem with Democracy

a)       Shepsle and Bonchek Chapters  4

Tuesday, Feb. 26

11)     - The Median Voter Theorem

a)       Shepsle and Bonchek, Chapter 5

Thursday, Feb. 28

12)    - Strategic Manipulation

a)       Shepsle and Bonchek, Chapter 6

Tuesday, March 5

13)    - How Do We Judge States?

a)       Shively, Chapter 6

b)       Garrett Hardin, (1977) "The Tragedy of the Commons," Science 162: (1968) 1243-1248.

14)    Thursday, March 7     Mid-Term Exam

*** Spring Break ***

Comparing Political Systems

Tuesday, March 19

15)     - Democratization

a)       Shively, Chapter 8

b)       Robert H. Bates (1991) "The Economics of Transitions to Democracy," PS: Political Science & Politics 24:1 (March):24-27.

Thursday, March 21

16)    - Autocratic Government

a)       Shively, Chapter 9

Tuesday, March 26

17)   - Constitutional Design

a)       Shively, Chapter 10

Thursday, March 28

18)    - Electoral Systems & their Consequences

a)       Shively, Chapter 11.

b)       Shepsle and Bonchek  Chapter 7

Tuesday, April 2

19)    - Political Parties

a)       Shively, Chapter 12

b)       William H. Riker, 1982. "Duverger's Law Revisited,"  in Electoral Laws and Their Political Consequences, in Bernard Grofman and Arend Lijphart, eds., (New York: Agathon Press):19-42. (or APSR version: Vol. 76, No. 4. (Dec., 1982), pp. 753-766. )

Thursday, April 4

20)   - Political Parties, Continued.

a)       Octavio Amorin Neto and Gary W. Cox, 1997."Electoral Institutions, Cleavage Structures, and the Number of Parties," American Journal of Political Science 41:1 (January) :149-174.

Tuesday, April 9

21)    -  The effects of party competition

a)       G. Bingham Powell, Jr.  Contemporary Democracies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 1982. Chapter 5.

Thursday, April 11

22)    Non-Party Forms of Interest Articulation

a)       Shively, Chapter 13

b)       Shepsle & Bonchek, chapters 8-10

Tuesday, April 16

23)    - Parliamentary Government

a)       Shively, Chapter 14

b)       Shepsle and Bonchek, chapter 16

Thursday, April 18

24)   - Presidential Systems

a)       Shively, Chapter 15

b)       Alfred Stepan and Cindy Skach, (1993) "Constitutional Frameworks and Democratic Consolidation: Parliamentarianism versus Presidentialism," World Politics  46 (October):1-22.

Tuesday, April 23

25)    - Combining institutions

a)       Scott Mainwaring (1993) "Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy: The Difficult Combination," Comparative Political Studies, 26:2 (July):198-228.

b)      Scott Mainwaring. (1999) "The Surprising Resilience of Elected Governments" Journal of Democracy 10:3: 101-114.

Thursday, April 25

26)    - Bureaucracy and the Public Sector

a)       Shively, Chapter 16

b)       Shepsle and Bonchek, Chapter 13

Tuesday, April 30

27)  - The Problem of Bureaucratic Reform

c)       Barbara Geddes (1991) "A Game Theoretic Model of Reform in Latin American Democracies," American Political Science Review 85:2 (June):371-392. JSTOR

Thursday, May 2

28) Review

FINAL EXAM - May 9, 10:00 - 11:50 AM