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PS204 - Introduction to Comparative Politics

We are currently at a global political crossroad. On the hand, the collapse of communism in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, as well as the near universal embrace of democracy as a political system has signaled to many that world history has reached its natural culmination. It would seem that we have nothing left to compare, since many nations, at least on the surface, pledge allegiance to the values and ideals of democratic rule. Yet, recent events, such as the increase in terrorism, the collapse of fragile states, and the failure of various attempts at "nation building" illustrate the world has moved from one arena of conflict to another, and that nations are separated by vast differences in their approach to governance.

This course surveys the field of comparative politics. We will look at the political evolution of three types of countries: industrialized democracies, current and former communist regimes, and developing states. By studying the experiences of six countries that have evolved in a variety of contexts, we will get a better understanding of how countries have responded to the challenges of political inclusion, economic development, and social welfare. We will find that countries have taken a variety of paths to political, economic, and social modernity, and that some have met these challenges with greater success than others.

Required Readings

All reading in this class is mandatory. If you merely come to class, but do not do the reading, you will not pass. All students are expected to purchase the following material, which is available at the OSU Bookstore.

Charles Hauss, Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges, 4th Edition (Thompson Wadsworth, 2003).

In addition, you will be reading a selection of articles, many of which are available on the Internet. Articles not available on the Internet will be placed on reserve at the Valley Library.

Course assignments

  • Collegiality 10 %
    Quizzes 10 %
    News briefs 15 %
    Data assignments 15 %
    Midterm exam 25 %
    Final exam 25 %
  • Collegiality
    • I have two expectations of my students: you will come to class, and you will be prepared to discuss aspects of the reading or class lecture. This is because we work together as a group. If you come to class and also participate, this is an easy A. However, if class attendance is hard for you, your grade will suffer, for you cannot participate if you are not in class.
    • You will be evaluated by your attendance and your participation. If you miss more than 6 classes, you will automatically fail this part of the class.
  • Quizzes
    • Number of quizzes: 6
    • I will give pop quizzes based on the assigned reading at various times throughout the term to encourage you to keep up with the reading. There will be no make-up quizzes; if you miss class, you miss the quiz. The lowest score will be dropped.
  • News briefs
    • Number of assignments: 5
    • Since you are taking a political science course, I also expect you to keep abreast of current events throughout the world. You are expected to read a national daily newspaper or weekly journal (or listen to National Public Radio, or British Broadcasting System) on a regular basis. Examples include: The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, and the Economist. Many of these publications are available at the Valley Library, or can be found on the Internet.
    • In order to encourage you to keep up with current events, we will start class with a discussion of the current political situation of the country or region that we are currently studying. You are responsible for finding a current article (at least four paragraphs in length and written within the previous month) about a contemporary issue in the country we are studying. Your news brief should be two paragraphs (about one page) in length. The first paragraph should summarize the article, and the second paragraph should discuss its relevance to the reading. Your news analysis might address some of the following questions: What issue does the reporter focus on and why? Is this a critical issue in the contemporary politics of the country and why? How does this article reflect or diverge from the material covered in the assigned reading? How does this issue illustrate a key similarity or difference with how politics work in the United States or other countries we have studied?
    • Your analyses are due at the beginning of class, and you must attach the article. You may do only one analysis per country. You may not turn in an analysis on a country once we have finished studying it in class.
    • Possible due dates:
      • Great Britain: October 5 & 7
      • Germany: October 12 & 14
      • Russia: October 28 & November 2
      • China: November 4 & 9
      • India: November 16 & 18
      • Iraq: November 23 & 28
    • You will receive a check plus (95), a check (85), or a check minus (75).
    • You will be evaluated along the following criteria:
      • Does the summary clearly reflect the main points of the article?
      • Did you connect the article to the material covered in the reading?
      • Is the news brief written clearly and without grammatical errors?
      • Did you bring me a copy of the article and was it appropriate for the assignment?
  • Data assignments
    • Number of assignments: 3
    • Your textbook comes with an interactive CD. You will be completing short data assignments on liberal democracies, former Communist regimes, and countries of the developing world.
    • Your assignments should be typed, and questions that ask for further explanation should be answered fully. In other words, they should be at least a paragraph in length.
  • Midterm exam
    • The midterm examination will be given in class on October 21. It will be composed of a mixture of multiple choice, short answer, and short essay.
  • Final examination
    • The final examination will be given at 9:30 AM, December 9. It will be composed of a mixture of multiple choice, short answer, and short essay. The short essay will draw from material covered throughout the course.
Class policy

You must take the midterm and final in order to pass the course.

Please note examination dates and due dates for assignments. Since you know them now, make your arrangements accordingly. There will be NO make-up exams unless there is a note from a doctor or a funeral notice. If I do not hear from you the day you miss the exam, you will not be allowed to make it up. All other excuses (a cold, travel arrangements, family illness) are not accepted.

Papers and assignments must be handed in on time. Late assignments (even by less than one hour) are graded down a grade a day. Assignments that are more than 3 days late will not be accepted; you will receive a zero.

All writing assignments must be:

  • typed
  • double-spaced
  • 12-inch font
  • proofread and spell checked

Please notify me within the first week of class if you have any alternative needs as a result of a learning disability. This must be accompanied by medical documentation.

Cheating on the exams, purchasing or plagiarizing someone else's work for written assignments will result in an F for the class and a potential end to your college career. Don't do it!


*Reading should be done by the day under which it is listed.