Political Science 231

POSC 231: Introduction to Comparative Politics

Prerequisites: POSC 110 or POSC 120

Credit Hours: (3)

Gives students a grounding in the comparative study of politics. Considers political regime types, political violence, political identity, gender and politics, political economy of development, and religion and politics. Prerequisite for any 300- or 400-level Comparative Government courses within the Department of Political Science, including topics courses and seminars with a comparative government focus.

Note: Student cannot receive credit for both POSC 130 and POSC 231.

Detailed Description of Course

The course will include three major units:

1.        The Nature of comparative political analysis.

a.      the historical development of comparative politics and its relation to the other major sub-fields of political science;

b.      methodological approaches to comparative politics and their relation to methodological issues in political science as a whole;

c.      the relationship of comparative politics to political science and to other disciplines (and their components) which study human societies and activities from a comparative perspective.

2.        The principal themes or topics of comparative politics, including but not limited to:

a.      various types of classifications of political regimes;

b.      political culture;

c.      political identities, nationalism and ethnicity;

d.      comparative political institutions and institutional arrangements (constitutions and legal systems; systems of representation and voting; interest groups and political parties;

e.      theories and topics in the study of political development and in the political economy of developing, industrial, and post-industrial political regimes.

3.        An in-depth consideration of a particular theme or topic as it relates both to the nature of comparative political analysis and to contemporary politics. For instance, a likely topic for consideration at present (2009) might include the impact of globalization on various kinds of societies or the effect of the global economic crisis on prospects for the consolidation of democracy in selected political regimes.

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Since POSC 231 will involve imparting a considerable amount of substantive knowledge to students with limited previous background in comparative politics, a lecture format will be necessary at times. Students will be encouraged to discuss ideas with one another, and class participation and verbal communication will be encouraged and emphasized. Additionally, informal discussion groups may be formed to achieve this objective. At various times, students will be asked to write informal reaction papers to ideas expressed in the discussions and readings. Written tests and examinations will employ primarily an essay format. Additionally, students may be asked to write analytical essays, reviews, and/or annotated bibliographies. In sum, students who successfully complete POSC 231 will have had the opportunity to develop the sorts of oral and written communication and research skills needed in upper-level courses in comparative politics and political science courses generally.

Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students successfully completing POSC 231 will be able to:

1.      Explain the relation of comparative politics to the other major sub-fields of political science;

2.      Understand the relation of comparative politics, as a sub-field of political science, to other disciplines and areas of knowledge;

3.      Discuss the methodological approaches to comparative politics and their relation to methodological issues in political science as a whole;

4.      Discuss the principal themes or topics of comparative politics and relate them to the study of particular political systems and societies;

5.      Effectively use journals and other resources related to comparative politics;

6.      Understand the communications and analytical skills necessary for rigorous comparative political analysis;

7.      Discuss recurring questions concerning the human condition from a comparative perspective.

Assessment Measures

Professors will assess attainment of the course objectives by evaluating student's ability to:

1.      Demonstrate reasonable mastery of basic vocabulary and concepts in this subfield of political science;

2.      Take analytical positions on ideas and interpretations presented in lectures, class discussions, and assigned readings;

3.      Both orally and in writing, synthesize and apply to the analysis of specific political developments the concepts read about and discussed in the course.

4.      Show an understanding of how key political tasks and problems are addressed in diverse ways in different political and cultural settings.

Other Course Information



Review and Approval

March 31, 2016

April 2009