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Introduction to Comparative Politics

Purpose of Course  showclose

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?

The course proceeds as follows: Unit 1 introduces basic concepts in social science, comparative political theory, and methodology.  Unit 2 examines the state and compares  authoritarian, totalitarian, and democratic state forms.  Unit 3 focuses on the concept of democracy and democratization.  Unit 4 explores institutional features of government and governance.  Unit 5 moves outside the realm of government structure to explore how variables including culture, interest groups, pressure groups, lobbying, the press, media campaigns, nongovernmental and quasi-nongovernmental organizations shape outcomes in politics.  Unit 6 compares different ideologies and government policy processes.  In Unit 7, we apply comparative methods to examine variations of government structure and economic development across four different regions of the world: the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Upon successful completion of the course, you will have the methodological background to understand and explain variations in political behavior and political institutions.  You will also have a general understanding of the issues facing political systems in each of the regions covered.

This course is designed to align with a Thomas Edison State College TECEP examination. Visit the TECEP website, and click on “Introduction to Comparative Politics (POS-282-TE)” to download the content guide for the exam.  For more information about this partnership, and earning credit through Thomas Edison State College, go here.

Thomas Edison State College

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to POLSC221.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.
 
Course Designers: Thad Oliver, Dana Schueneman, and Mark Hibben
 
Primary Resources: This course relies on a variety of readings and Web Media; below you will find a few of the major resources used: Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course successfully, you must complete all required readings, as well as pass the final exam with a score of 70% or higher.
 
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through all of the readings for the course.
 
Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
 
Time Commitment: This course should take you approximately 78 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 15.5 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 3 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.3 (a total of 2 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

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.

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course you must:
 
√    Have access to a computer.
 
√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.
 
√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).
 
√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.
 
√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).
 
√    Be competent in the English language.
 
√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


Expand All Resources Collapse All Resources
  • Unit 1: Social Science and Comparative Politics  

    Effective comparative study of political systems is rooted in the scientific method.  To start off the course, Unit 1 first provides an overview and brief history of scientific inquiry and research methods.  We then build on these themes as we focus on the comparative method and outline several “positivist” models of comparison employed by political scientists. 

    As you review the material, think about if and how the comparative scientific study of politics differs from scientific inquiry focused on natural phenomena.  Can we study politics, for example, using the same research methods as a scientist studying microbes or global climate change?  Why or why not?  Also, should a study of comparative politics be objectively focused on understanding the world “as it is” or should it seek to derive better political models and outcomes?  

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Social Science Basics  
  • 1.1.1 The Scientific Method and History of Scientific Inquiry  
    • Reading: The Scientific Method and History of Scientific Inquiry

      The ideal resource would cover what differentiates a study of natural science from that of social science. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the following terms:  rationalism, positivism, antipositivism, post-positivism, and critical theory.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

  • 1.1.2 Social Science Theory and Reasoning  
    • Reading: Social Science Theory and Reasoning

      The ideal resource would cover the following terms: theory, unit of analysis, variable, independent variable, dependent variable, intervening variable, deduction, and induction.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

  • 1.2 Comparative Methodology  
  • 1.2.1 The Comparative Method  
  • 1.2.2 John Stuart Mill’s Two Methods of Comparison  
  • 1.2.3 Varieties of Methods in Comparative Politics  
  • Unit 1 Assessment  
  • Unit 2: The Nation-State  

    As introduced in Unit 1,comparative politics enables us to understand how and why nations change, how and why governments in a particular part of the world compare to governments in a different part of the world, and other patterns and regularities between political systems.  Before we can begin our work as comparatists, however, we need to learn about the basic unit of comparative political study: the state (or nation-state). In Unit 2, we first examine the history and thinking behind the modern nation state through the contributions of Hobbes and Weber. We will then discuss how states developed in our modern world, challenges to state sovereignty, the psychology of the modern nation-state, and compare totalitarian and authoritarian forms of the state. 

    As you read through unit 2, reflect on the following questions. Why do we have or need the nation- state?  How does the concept of sovereignty tie into the history and characteristics of the state?  How has the nation-state evolved since its origin in 1648?  Is there an optimum form of state rule? And finally, is the modern nation state static or evolving in its form and function?

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 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  
    • Reading: Open Library: Max Weber’s Essays in Sociology: “Politics as a Vocation”

      Link:  Open Library: Max Weber’s Essays in Sociology: “Politics as a Vocation” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      Plain Text
      HTML and EPUB

      Instructions: Select your preferred format to read the above assignment, which begins on page 77. Max Weber defines the State as a monopoly on violence. In other words, states are forms of government in which, even when not at war, there is an implicit assumption that internal peace is maintained by the potential threat of violence by the police and government.

      Reading this selection should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 2.2.3 Growth of the State System after the Second World War  
    • Reading: Beyond Intractability.org: Eric Brahm’s “The Concept of Sovereignty”

      Link: Beyond Intractability.org: Eric Brahm’s "The Concept of Sovereignty" (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read the linked essay above.  Brahm outlines several of the challenges to sovereignty since the World War II.  Make sure you can identify how the following phenomena have challenged sovereignty: human rights, globalization, and supranational organizations.

      This resource should take approximately 25 minutes to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: Philoctetes Center’s “The Psychology of the Modern Nation-State”

      Link: Philoctetes Center’s “The Psychology of the Modern Nation-State”  (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please watch the first 1:05 (one hour and five minutes) of Philoctetes Center’s “The Psychology of the Modern Nation-State.”  Note that the participants in the forum focus on group identity and shared experience as key to maintenance of a strong nation-state.  Are these more important than some variables such as geography, ethnicity, or language?

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour, 5 minutes to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 2.3 Non-Democratic State Forms  
  • 2.3.1 Totalitarian States  
  • 2.3.2 Authoritarian States  
  • 2.3.3 Sources and Trends of Authoritarianism  
    • Web Media: YouTube: University of Richmond: J. Dasovic’s “Authoritarianism Part Two”

      Link: University of Richmond: J. Dasovic’s “Authoritarianism Part Two " (YouTube)

      Instructions:  Watch the video.  Note that Dasovi? presents three explanations concerning the source of authoritarianism.  Be able to identify and differentiate between liberal, communist, and societal explanations for authoritarian states.  Which of these explanations is most convincing?  Also, what are the trends in authoritarianism? 

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • Unit 2 Assessment  
  • Unit 3: Democratic States and Democratization  

    Unit 3 focuses exclusively on the concept of democracy.  After defining the concept, this unit focuses on various attributes that characterize democratic states and differentiate them from authoritarian regimes.  We then examine processes of democratization and the breakdown of democracy followed by the  debate regarding the relationship between democracy and economic development.  The unit concludes with a focus on the contemporary case of the Arab Spring.
     
    As you work through unit 3, reflect on the following questions. What differentiates democracies from authoritative regimes? What conditions facilitate democratization and do contemporary trends in the early 21st century support or undermine democratic states?  Finally, are those who argue that democracy improves economic outcomes correct in their analysis?

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Defining Democracy  
  • 3.1.1 What is Democracy?  
    • Web Media: University of Richmond: J. Dasovi?’s “Democracy Part One”

      Link:  University of Richmond:  J. Dasovi?’s “Democracy Part One” (YouTube)

      Instructions:  Watch the video.  Make sure you can define democracy and differentiate between direct and representative democracy.  Make sure you are clear on why the following dates/events are important to the history of democracy.

      This resource should take approximately 7:02 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 3.1.2 Criteria of Democracy  
    • Reading: University of Mississippi: Gang Guo’s “Industrialized Democracies”

      Link: University of Mississippi:  Gang Guo’s “Industrialized Democracies” (PDF)
       
      Instructions:  Access the link and scroll down page to “file” under lectures for chapter 4 and 5. Download the file and read the slides.   Be able to identify the three basic criteria used to classify democracies.

      This resource should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above

  • 3.1.3 Characteristics of Democracy  
    • Web Media: Oliver Ressler’s “What Is Democracy?”

      Link: Oliver Ressler’s “What Is Democracy?” (HTML, Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Please watch the first seven parts of Oliver Ressler’s 8-part film.  This video illustrates the ongoing conflict between the ideal/normative definition and the real/empirical definition of democracy.  A pure democracy would be one in which each citizen has an equal impact on his or her own governance.  Though a pure democracy has never existed, governments have been constitutionally designed to identify who is permitted to speak and count based on democratic principles.  You will learn that many countries bear the official title of a Democratic Republic—meaning that they strive toward democracy, but have a Republican form of representative government in which one or multiple layers of leadership speak for the people.  Note that this video covers subunits 3.1.3.1-3.1.3.3.
       
      This resource should take approximately 4 hours to complete.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 3.1.3.1 Political Rights, Elections, and Accountability  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for 3.1.3.

  • 3.1.3.2 Citizens Right and Human Rights  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for 3.1.3.

  • 3.1.3.3 Representative and Participatory Democracies  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for 3.1.3.

  • 3.2 Democratization  
  • 3.2.1 What Causes Democratization?  
  • 3.2.2 Economic Development and Democracy  
    • Reading: IPC.org’s “Getting Involved: A Primer on Government Relations”

      Link: IPC.org’s "Get Involved: A Primer on Government Relations" (HTML or PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please read the above assignment.  Keep in mind that the most important tool for a lobbyist is information; a lobbyist must be truthful or they will lose their credibility.  Lobbyists can be volunteers or can be highly paid attorneys, and they can lobby anyone from a president or prime minister to the mayor or school board.

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.2.3 The Rise of the Democratic State and the “Third Wave”  
  • 3.2.4 Democracies Today: The Freedom House Index  
    • Web Media: Freedom House’s “Analysis: Freedom in the World 2012”

      Link: Freedom House’s “Analysis: Freedom in the World 2012” (Adobe Flash)
       
      Instructions: Select the full report download, then select and read “Introduction,” “Methodology,” and “Checklist Questions and Guidelines.”  After you have a clear understanding of how Freedom House ranks each country, select several individual countries, from different parts of the world, to see their respective rankings. 

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 3.2.5 Case Study: The Arab Spring  
  • Unit 3 Assessment  
  • Unit 4: Comparing Political Structures and Institutions  

    Constitutions are road maps for political systems.  They are an expression of collective values, and they enable developing institutions to begin to maintain security and stability.  Constitutions define political leadership, modes of representation, a legal framework, and the limits of a government's power.  Though constitutions vary from state to state, they also have many similarities.  In this unit, we will look at how those similarities have emerged to serve common needs.  We will also consider the ways in which differences between constitutions reflect the varying values and interests of diverse constituencies.  For instance, legislatures may be divided into different types of houses and may have different rules for selecting their members, but they typically have the same lawmaking purpose.  We will see that these similarities and differences can be traced to specific reasons that enable us to better understand a given culture or society.  For example, the way in which a government is organized often reflects the social stratification of the political community in question. 

    This unit looks at each characteristic of government as a factor to be used in a comparative study of different governments.  These factors are derived from not only the written constitution, but the types of political leadership and bureaucracy that have emerged in a society over time.  In each case, we will discuss political factors with an eye toward comparison.  We will identify the degree of bureaucratic privatization in a given system, discuss how the geography of a society determines the ways in which different levels of government interact, ask why certain governments tend towards immobilization in their policy-making, and explore how each of these factors leads to patterns in the political process over time. 

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Comparing Constitutions and Government Systems  
  • 4.1.1 Importance of Constitutions  
  • 4.1.2 Checks and Balances between Branches of Government  
    • Reading: D@dalos: “Separation of Powers”

      Link: D@dalos: “Separation of Powers” (HTML)
        
      Instructions: Read the above assignment.  Constitutions describe how power is divided among various branches of government. How has the role of the judiciary evolved over time in regards to separation of powers ?

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 4.1.3 The Role of the Executive Branch  
    • Reading: United States White House’s “The Executive Branch”

      Link:  United States White House’s “The Executive Branch” (PDF)

      Instructions: Read the linked entry.  In presidential systems like the United States, the Executive Branch is a central point of political power.   As you read through the White House’s description of the Executive Branch, make sure you are clear on the specific roles and responsibilities of the Executive Branch.  

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (HTML).  It is attributed to Whitehouse.gov, and the original version can be found here (HTML).

  • 4.1.4 The Role of the Judicial Branch  
    • Reading: United States White House’s “The Judicial Branch”

      Link:  United States White House’s “The Judicial Branch”   (HTML)

      Instructions: Read the linked entry.  As you read through the White House’s description of the Judicial Branch, make sure you are clear on the specific roles and responsibilities of the Judicial Branch.  

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 4.1.5 Presidential, Semi-Presidential, and Parliamentary Systems  
    • Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Types of Democracy"

      Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Types of Democracy" (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the "Types of Democracy."  Make sure you can distinguish the major differences between presidential, semi-presidential and parliamentary systems.  For example, what are the basic operating principles of parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential systems?  Are political parties more powerful in parliamentary or presidential systems?  Also, be able to give an example of a country with a parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential system.  Evaluate what you see as the strengths and weaknesses or each system.  Is anyone of these three systems better than the other?  Why or why not? 

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.

  • 4.1.6 Types of Legislatures: Unicameral vs Bicameral Systems  
    • Reading: United Nations Development Project’s “Legislative Chambers: Unicameral or Bicameral?”

      Link: United Nations Development Project’s “Legislative Chambers: Unicameral or Bicameral?”  (HTML)
       
      Instruction: Read the above assignment.  Make sure you can answer the following questions.  What characterizes and differentiates  bicameral and unicameral systems? What is federalism ? Why are bicameral legislatures generally associated with federalism while unicameral legislatures are generally associated with unitary systems?  Also, be able to give examples of states with bicameral and unicameral legislatures.

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.
        

  • 4.1.7 Limits of Written Constitutions  
    • Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s “Constitutionalism”

      Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s “Constitutionalism” (HTML)
        
      Instruction: Read the above assignment.  As the article discusses, there are several tensions around the role and limits of constitutions.  Are constitutions best thought of as ‘living’ documents open to interpretation and change? 

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 4.2 How to Design Multi-level Government  
  • 4.2.1 Understanding Diverse Populations and Public Opinion  
    • Reading: WorldPublicOpinion.org: Steven Kull’s “Listening to the Voice of Humanity”

      Link: WorldPublicOpinion.org: Steven Kull’s “Listening to the Voice of Humanity” (PDF)
        
      Instructions: Read the above assignment: it begins on the linked page and continues in the attached PDF (accessible clicking on the blue link that reads: “Read More”).   What is your reaction to the “Citizen Advisory Panel” advocated by Kull?  Spend some time looking at this web site that reflects a wide range of public opinion.  Will public opinion play an increasingly large role in government policy decisions in the 21st century?  Why or why not?

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
        
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 4.2.2 Confederations vs. Federations  
    • Reading: The Federal Trust: Joschka Fischer’s “From Confederation to Federation”

      Link: The Federal Trust: Joschka Fischer’s "From Confederation to Federation" (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Click on the link above. As you read the speech, keep in mind the existing European Union of 2000 is a confederation, where each participating nation-state is sovereign. Under a federation, the federal government is sovereign.  Also note that Fischer warns of some of the issues that have currently come to pass in the European Union.  Based on Fischer’s speech, what would you predict he would suggest to solve the current crisis in the European Union?
        
      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 4.2.3 Consensus vs. Majoritarian  
  • 4.2.4 Direct Democracy: Evaluation and Feedback  
  • 4.3 Bureaucracy  
  • 4.3.1 Defining Bureaucracy  
    • Reading: Open Library: Max Weber’s Essays in Sociology: “Bureaucracy”

      Link: Open Library: Max Weber’s Essays in Sociology: “Bureaucracy” (PDF)
       
      Also available in:
      Plain Text
      HTML and EPUB
      iBook ($12.99)

      Instructions: Select your preferred format to read the above assignment, which begins on page 196. Modern society is defined in part by the presence of bureaucracy. Weber defines the characteristics of bureaucracies and explains why they are part of modern social systems. As you read his essay, think about how bureaucracy impacts governance.

      Reading this selection should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 4.3.2 Bureaucrats vs. Political Appointments  
  • 4.4 Trends in Governance: Public Sector and Privatization  
  • 4.4.1 The Public Sector  
    • Web Media: International Labor Organization, LABORSTA: “Public Sector Employment”

      Link: International Labor Organization, LABORSTA: “Public Sector Employment” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: On a piece of paper, make headings across the top: 1) country, 2) total employment, and 3) public employment.  Select the above link and under the Statistics by topic subheading click on Employment heading then choose Public Sector Employment.  Once on that page, select 2 countries—1 developed and 1 developing, and press Go to formulate your data.  View your data by clicking the Your data selection box that appears.  View the tables for “Public sector employment by type of institution and level of government, total and private employment ”in order to compare their total employment with their public employment.  Can you figure what percentage of total employment is public employment?  In what direction is the trend from 1999-2008 going?  “Public employment as a percentage of total employment” is a ratio that is a common factor in political analysis.  It tells us how big a government is relative to the country's economy and how “socialized” the political system has become.  This factor can be read as an indicator of either social welfare or “immobilism,” a prolonged period of slow economic growth.

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 4.4.2 Privatization in Government  
  • Unit 4 Assessment  
  • Unit 5: Political Behavior  

    The behaviors of different populations influence, and are influenced by, political institutions.  This unit focuses on how other (i.e. non-institutional) factors affect political prospects in different societies.
    Culture is defined as the sum of the ideas, values, beliefs, and norms that inform the ways in which you behave and lead you to anticipate how you will be judged for your behavior.  We will see that cultural factors influence the political process in many different ways, often leading to different political values, differing degrees of alienation from the local process, and different means of mobilization.  We will also examine how subcultures and recent shifts in political activism have influenced government of late before taking a look at interest groups, pressure groups, lobbying, the press, media campaigns, and nongovernmental and quasi-nongovernmental organizations.  In these discussions, we will emphasize the use of the Internet in policy and administrative processes.  Note that as we progress through this unit, we will discuss each of these topics in terms of their application in comparative politics.  Finally, we will conclude with an introduction to comparative voting processes.

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Political Behavior and Political Culture  
    • Reading: SparkNotes: “Political Culture and Public Opinion”

      Link: SparkNotes: "Political Culture and Public Opinion" (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Please read all 6 “Sections” of this assignment. This reading covers subunits 5.1.1 - 5.1.3.   How do we define political culture?  How is it related to processes of political socialization?   What is social capital?  Why is this important in regards to democratic political participation and governance?  What are the three forms of political participation?

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 5.1.1 How Do People Form Political Attitudes?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 5.1.

  • 5.1.2 How Do Cultural Patterns Influence Institutions?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 5.1.

  • 5.1.3 How Do We Measure Political Participation?  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 5.1.

  • 5.1.4 Political Mobilization and Alienation  
  • 5.1.5 Political Alliances and Cleavages  
  • 5.2 Civil Society  
    • Reading: Beyond Intractability.org: Charles Hauss’ “Civil Society”

      Link: Beyond Intractability.org: Charles Hauss’ “Civil Society” (HTML)
        
      Instructions: Read the above assignment.  Civil society refers to all that goes on in public life, outside of institutions.  Civil society includes interest groups, associations, non-profit groups, and the media.  While extra-institutional, these groups are integral to the political process.

      This resource should take approximately 1hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 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  
    • Reading: FreedomHouse.org’s “Leaping over the Firewall: A Review of Censorship Circumvention Tools”

      Link: FreedomHouse.org’s “Leaping over the Firewall: A Review of Censorship Circumvention Tools” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above, scroll down, and click on the hyperlink after “Download the full report” to open PDF file.  Please read the entire text (76 pages).  What are states doing to try to censor the flow of information on the Web?  FreedomHouse is actively working with NGOs to subvert authoritarian state’s ability to censor information.  Returning to the concept of sovereignty outlined in unit 1, should states have the right to censor the Web internally without outside interference?  Why, or why not?
       
      Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 3 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 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  
    • Reading: en.academic.ru: “Proportional Representation”

      Link: en.academic.ru: “Proportional Representation” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read the above assignment.  In parliamentary systems, the number of seats given to a particular party is proportional to the number of votes that party receives.  A minimum number of votes (a threshold) are required to secure any seats at all.

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (HTML).  It is attributed to en.academic.ru and the original version can be found here (HTML).

  • 5.4.4 Protest Votes and Non-Voters  
  • Unit 5 Assessment  
  • Unit 6: Comparing Ideology, Policy, and Decision Making  

    This unit deals with ideology and decision-making tactics.  We first compare five different ideologies that shape mainstream political party platforms and governance in contemporary democratic systems (conservatism, liberalism, Christian democracy, social democracy, and environmentalism).   We then look at frameworks for understanding the policy process before discussing the ways in which policymakers garner feedback and use indecision strategically. The unit concludes with a focus on informal influences that shape government policy choices.

    Unit 6 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 6 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 6.1 Contemporary Mainstream Political Ideologies  
  • 6.1.1 Conservatism  
  • 6.1.2 Liberalism  
    • Reading: Democrats.org’s “What We Stand For”

      Link: Democrats.org’s “What We Stand For” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Open the link and open up the issue areas under  “What We Stand For.” Liberalism in the context of political parties focuses on the use of government to promote greater equality and opportunity in society while still supportive of capitalism.  How are these positions manifested in the Democratic Party positions?

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above. 

    • Reading: liberal.ca’s “The Constitution of the Liberal Party of Canada”

      Link: liberal.ca’s “The Constitution of the Liberal Party of Canada” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Open the link and scroll down to “The Constitution of the Liberal Party of Canada.”  Download the PDF and  read page 5 of the Liberal Party Constitution.  How similar in tone and content is the Liberal Party in Canada to the Democratic Party in the U.S.?

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 6.1.3 Christian Democracy  
    • Reading: cdu.de’s “The Christian Democratic Party of Germany”

      Link: cdu.de’s  “The Christian Democratic Party of Germany”  (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the document.  Christian Democratic parties are prominent in continental Europe, particularly Germany. How is the platform of the CDU different than what is seen in either conservative or liberal party platforms?

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

  • 6.1.4 Social Democracy  
  • 6.1.5 Environmentalism  
  • 6.2 The Public Policy Cycle  
  • 6.2.1 Agenda Setting  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 6.2.

  • 6.2.2 Debate and Compromise  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 6.2.

  • 6.2.3 Implementation and Choice of Means  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 6.2.

  • 6.2.4 Evaluation and Feedback  

    Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 6.2.

  • 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  
    • Reading: EconomicThinking.org: Gregory F. Rehmke’s “Parallel Societies”

      Link: EconomicThinking.org: Gregory F. Rehmke’s “Parallel Societies” (HTML)
       
      Instructions: Read the above assignment.  What is meant when we describe the informal economy?  What are positive and negative impacts of informal activities relative to governance?

      This resource should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 6.3.2 Corruption and Cronyism  
  • Unit 6 Assessment  
  • Unit 7: Comparative Case Studies  

    This last unit will introduce you to area studies as they are conducted in political science and international studies.  Please bear in mind that this unit is by no means exhaustive either geographically or topically.  Over the course of this unit, we will apply factor analysis and other comparative methods we learned in earlier units to practical examples from 4different regions of the world  (Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East).   The classification for such area studies have developed out of the standard geopolitical organization of American political science.  For instance, Asian politics is often divided into East, South, Southeast, and Central Asia sub-fields.  Likewise, political scientists often divide Africa into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and sub-Saharan Africa.  This unit will also look at how political elites and policy makers hold distinct views on democratization and modernization and how those views impact political conflict in these regions.  

    Unit 7 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 7 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 7.1 Africa  
  • 7.1.1 Colonial History  
  • 7.1.2 African Case Studies  
  • 7.1.2.1 Cameroon  
  • 7.1.2.2 Guinea-Bissau  
  • 7.2 Latin America  
  • 7.2.1 Overview of Latin American Development and State Forms  
    • Reading: LatinoStories.com: “US Department of State History of Latin American Countries”

       
      Instructions: Read the above assignment. The Argentinean political scientist Guillermo O’Donnell has compared Brazil and Argentina in the 1960s to explain bureaucratic-authoritarianism emerging at that time. Drawing on dependency theory (which assumes that resources will flow from poorer peripheral nations to wealthier core nations), he argues that dependent development in Latin America had led to sharpening class cleavages within Latin American countries. This explains both the dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s as well as the growth of a technocratic elite that had emerged as a result of state-led industrialization. In Latin America, modernization has led to increasingly repressive governments. The rise in the popularity of socialist and revolutionary military movements is the result of backlash against the technocratic elite.

      Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • 7.2.2 Latin American Case Studies  
  • 7.2.2.1 Brazil  
  • 7.2.2.2 Peru  
  • 7.3 Asia  
  • 7.3.1 Overview of Asian Development and State Forms  
  • 7.3.2 Asian Case Studies  
  • 7.3.2.1 China  
  • 7.3.2.2 Vietnam  
    • Reading: The Economist’s “Is Vietnam the Next China?”

      Link:  The Economist’s “Is Vietnam the Next China?” (HTML)
       
      Instructions:  Read the article.   Some Asian scholars argue  that a strong state is necessary for successful development and that authoritarian systems as seen in Vietnam and China are a key component to rising living standards across the region. Is this a reasonable argument?

      This resource should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
                                         
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

  • 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  
    • Web Media: shaykhspeersahib’s “Doha Debates – Political Islam”: Parts1-5

      Link: shaykhspeersahib’s “Doha Debates – Political Islam”: Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 , Part 4 , and Part 5
        
      Note: All videos are in YouTube format.
       
      Instructions: Watch the above video.  The American political scientist Samuel Huntington has criticized the idea that technological and political modernization leads to democracy.  He believes that an impending “clash of civilizations” will demonstrate that education, mass communication, and urbanization may lead us to be politically active—and not in a democratic way.  Using this framework, he concludes that modernization may actually lead to political disenchantment amongst the citizens of industrialized countries.  In response, he calls for strong political institutions that will channel or suppress demands. 

      This resource should take approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
       
      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the web pages above.

    • Reading: University of Tampa: Norms & Ideas in International Relations: “Realist Constructivism”

      Link: University of Tampa: Norms & Ideas in International Relations: “Realist Constructivism” (PDF)
       
      Instructions: Read this anaysis discussing the main arguments in Samuel Huntington’s 1991 formulation of the Clash of Civilizations. Be sure to read and think about scholars analyses of both the strengths and weaknesses of Huntington’s propositions about contemporary international conflict.
       
      Reading this commentary should take approximately 1 hour.
       
      Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Tangient LLC and the original version can be found here.

  • Unit 7 Assessment  
  • Final Exam  
    • Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation's "POLSC221 Final Exam"

      Link: The Saylor Foundation's "POLSC221 Final Exam"

      Instructions: You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this exam.  If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.

      Note: This exam has been designed as a practice exam for the credit bearing Thomas Edison State College Introduction to Comparative Politics (POS-282-TE) TECEP exam. You can register for that exam here. Please note that unlike The Saylor Foundation practice exam for this course, which is free, the TECEP exam will cost $102.00. Passing that exam will earn students 3 hours of college credit, which can be applied to a Thomas Edison State College degree program, or potentially transfered to another college.

      If you choose to take the TECEP exam, upon completion you will be prompted to take a short survey. We encourage that you take the time to fill this out, as it will allow you to tell Thomas Edison State College that you used Saylor materials to prepare for their exam. This information can be useful in encouraging the development of additional TECEP exams and credit opportunities aligned to Saylor courses.

      To read more about the partnership between The Saylor Foundation and Thomas Edison State College, and to learn more about credit transfer opportunities and procedures for this course, go here.


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