Last modified on 3 December 2012, at 20:09

Saylor.org's Comparative Politics

Dear Wikipedians,

No doubt some of you are familiar with the free college courses available on Saylor.org. Much like the Wikimedia community, we are committed to providing free and accessible education for everyone with internet access. At Saylor, we combine some of our custom-created educational materials with materials that are already available throughout the internet. However, because we sometimes use links to third party materials, those sections of our courses are not entirely sustainable. The Saylor Wikibooks Project is a way for you to help minimize that threat. We’ve uploaded a number of our course outlines to Wikibooks in the hope that you all will contribute to our effort. Our course outlines have been developed by our consultant professors by studying a collection of syllabi of relevant courses from various traditional brick and mortar institutions. This guarantees that our students will be provided the same learning opportunity as a student enrolled in a traditional institution. We believe that we have created the best structure for our courses, which optimizes the information that students would be expected to know. By creating openly licensed content that fits in with Saylor’s established course outlines, (in the form of Wikibooks’ textbooks), you can add to the ever-expanding body of wiki material, while simultaneously improving the sustainability of our courses.

Thanks for your help,

The Saylor Team


If you'd like to learn more about the project please visit User:Thomas_Simpson


Summary

Dáil Chamber.jpg

Like it or not, we can’t escape politics. Politics, a term best defined as the distribution, exercise, and consequences of power, exists at multiple levels in our society and in our daily lives. We experience politics in action, for example, in international negotiations, government policy choices, our workplace, and even in our own families. This course focuses its efforts on exploring the formal, public sphere of politics and power relations through a systematic study and comparison of types of government and political systems.

Comparatists (practitioners of comparative politics) seek to identify and understand the similarities and differences between these systems by taking broad topics—say, for example, “democracy” or “freedom”—and breaking them down into factors that can be found in individual systems. We call this general approach “the comparative method.” The goal of the comparative method is to identify the factors and/or categories of analysis to effectively compare and contrast different political phenomena. Using the comparative method, we can tackle broader, more complicated questions like: Are certain forms of representative democracy more effective than others? Why are some countries extremely prosperous, while others are extremely poor? How does the degree of authoritarian control by a government drive economic development? Does culture impact quality of governance?


Global Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify and differentiate between various theoretical research paradigms employed in the social sciences.
  • Apply comparative methodology to the study of political systems.
  • Identify and differentiate between various methodologies used to compare political systems.
  • Define the chief characteristics of a nation state.
  • Identify and explain various comparative methodologies used to compare various political systems.
  • Distinguish between unitary, federal, and confederal governmental models.
  • Compare and contrast political cultures in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast political socialization in selected countries.
  • Describe and explain patterns of representation and participation in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the roles and functions of political parties in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of interest groups in selected countries.
  • Identify and explain governance and policy-making in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of the executive in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of the judicial branch in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of the bureaucracy and the policy process in selected countries.
  • Describe and explain the political economy and development in selected countries.
  • Identify and explain political challenges and changing agendas in selected countries.


Social Science and Comparative PoliticsEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the students will be able to:

  • Describe the scientific method.
  • Differentiate between scientific laws and theories.
  • Differentiate between inductive and deductive thinking.
  • Define explanatory, exploratory, and descriptive research.
  • Differentiate between positivist, antipositivist and postpositivist methods.
  • Differentiate between Mill’s “Method of Agreement” and “Direct Method of Difference.”
  • Define comparative politics.
  • Identify and explain various comparative methodologies used to compare various political systems.
  • Evaluate if normative theory has a place in comparative political inquiry.


1.1 Social Science Basics
1.1.1 The Scientific Method and History of Scientific Inquiry
1.1.2 Social Science Theory and Reasoning
1.2 Comparative Methodology
1.2.1 The Comparative Method
1.2.2 John Stuart Mill’s Methods of Comparision
1.2.3 Varieties of Methods in Comparative Politics

The Nation-StateEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the origins of the modern nation state system.
  • Define the chief characteristics of a nation state.
  • Differentiate between nations and nation-states.
  • Define sovereignty and identify and explain trends in sovereignty.
  • Identify characteristics of a strong and weak state.
  • Explain how Hobbes and Weber conceptualize the state.
  • Define sovereignty and identify and explain trends in sovereignty.
  • Differentiate between authoritarian and totalitarian states.
  • Identify sources for authoritarian states.


2.1 The State
2.1.1 Defining the State
2.1.2 The Treaty of Westphalia the Origins of the Modern State
2.2 The Modern State System
2.2.1 Hobbes and Sovereignty
2.2.2 Weber and the Modern State
2.2.3 Growth of the State System after the Second World War
2.3 Non-Democratic State Forms
2.3.1 Authoritarian States
2.3.2 Totalitarian States
2.3.3 Military Junta
2.3.4 Sources and Trends of Authoritarianism

Democratic States and DemocratizationEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Define democracy.
  • Differentiate between representative (indirect) and participatory (direct) democracy
  • Identify why the Magna Carta and Treaty of Westphalia are important in the history of democratization.
  • Identify prominent characteristics of democratic states.
  • Identify trends in democratization.
  • List the six major explanations for democratization.
  • Explain and assess if democracy improves economic outcomes.


3.1 Defining Democracy
3.1.1 What is Democracy?
3.1.2 Criteria of Democracy
3.1.3 Characteristics of Democracy
3.2 Democratization
3.2.1 What Causes Democratization?
3.2.2 Economic Development and Democracy
3.2.3 The Rise of the Democratic State and the “Third Wave”
3.2.4 Democracies Today: The Freedom House Index
3.2.5 Case Study: The Arab Spring

Comparing Political Structures and InstitutionsEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the role of constitutions in government systems.
  • Distinguish between presidential, semi-presidential, and parliamentary systems.
  • Distinguish between unitary, federal, and confederal governmental models.
  • Compare and contrast the role of the executive in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of the judicial branch in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of the bureaucracy and the policy process in selected countries.


4.1 Comparing Constitutions and Government Systems
4.1.1 Importance of Constitutions
4.1.2 Checks and Balances between Branches of Government
4.1.3 The Role of the Executive Branch
4.1.4 The Role of the Judicial Branch
4.1.5 Presidential, Semi-Presidential, and Parliamentary Systems
4.1.6 Types of Legislatures: Unicameral vs Bicameral Systems
4.1.7 Limits of Written and Unwritten Constitutions
4.2 How to Design Multi-level Government
4.2.1 Understanding Diverse Populations and Public Opinion
4.2.2 Confederations vs. Federations
4.2.3 Types of Electoral Systems
4.2.4 Direct Democracy: Evaluation and Feedback
4.2.5 The 'Iron Triangle': Legislators, Bureaucrats, and Interest Groups
4.3 Bureaucracy
4.3.1 Defining Bureaucracy
4.3.2 Bureaucrats vs. Political Appointments
4.4 Trends in Governance: Public Sector and Privatization
4.4.1 The Public Sector
4.4.2 Privatization in Government

Political BehaviorEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Define political culture, political socialization, and political participation.
  • Compare and contrast political cultures in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast political socialization in selected countries.
  • Describe and explain patterns of representation and participation in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the roles and functions of political parties in selected countries.
  • Compare and contrast the role of interest groups in selected countries.


5.1 Political Behavior and Political Culture
5.1.1 How Do People Form Political Attitudes?
5.1.2 How Do Cultural Patterns Influence Institutions?
5.1.3 How Do We Measure Political Participation?
5.1.4 Political Mobilization and Alienation
5.1.5 Political Alliances and Cleavages
5.2 Civil Society
5.2.1 Social Movements and Activism
5.2.2 Lobbying/Government Relations
5.2.3 Quasi Non-Governmental Organizations (QUANGOs)
5.3 The Media
5.3.1 Media Ownership and Multimedia Conglomeration
5.3.2 The Free Press and the Information Market
5.3.3 Regulating the Media
5.3.4 Electronic Politics (e-Politics)
5.4 Voting System Factors
5.4.1 Voting and the Human Development Index (HDI)
5.4.2 Controlling the Vote: Turnout, Suffrage, and Gerrymandering
5.4.3 Proportionality and Election Thresholds in Parliamentary Systems
5.4.4 Protest Votes and Non-Voters

Comparing Ideology, Policy, and Decision MakingEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the basic belief systems of various mainstream ideologies found in contemporary democratic societies and political parties.
  • Identify and explain governance and policy-making in selected countries.
  • Identify informal influences on governance and policy making.


6.1 Contemporary Mainstream Political Ideologies
6.1.1 Conservatism
6.1.2 Liberalism
6.1.3 Christian Democracy
6.1.4 Social Democracy
6.1.5 Environmentalism
6.2 The Public Policy Cycle
6.2.1 Agenda Setting
6.2.2 Debate and Compromise
6.2.3 Implementation and Choice of Means
6.2.4 Evaluation and Feedback
6.2.5 The 'Iron Triangle': Legislators, Bureaucrats, and Interest Groups
6.3 Politics beyond the Policy Process
6.3.1 Informal Economies and Black Markets
6.3.2 Corruption and Cronyism

Comparative Case StudiesEdit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe and explain the political economy and development in selected regions and countries.
  • Identify and explain political challenges and changing agendas in selected regions and countries.


7.1 Africa
7.1.1 Colonial History
7.1.2 African Case Studies
7.2 Latin America
7.2.1 Overview of Latin American Development and State Forms
7.2.2 Latin American Case Studies
7.3 Asia
7.3.1 Overview of Asian Development and State Forms
7.3.2 Asian Case Studies
7.4 The Middle East and the Islamic World
7.4.1 The Colonial Division of the Ottoman Empire
7.4.2 The Creation of Israeli Statecraft
7.4.3 Political Islam