Course description
This is an introductory-level undergraduate course in comparative politics (CP). CP is a sub-field of political science dedicated to the study of domestic political behaviors, institutions, processes, and outcomes primarily through the method of comparison broadly defined. It is a distinct area of inquiry in the discipline alongside International Politics, Philippine Politics, Political Theory, and Public Administration/Public Policy. 

As a field of study, CP can be described as the following:

  • First, CP is a diverse field of study. The scope is broad, and it covers a range of varied research areas. Why are some states strong and others weak? Why do some autocracies endure and others break down? Why are there more elected women leaders in some countries than others? These are only some questions comprising the CP research agenda.
  • Second, another hallmark of CP is the healthy methodological competition within the field—students and scholars draw on case studies, ethnographies, field experiments, formal modeling, surveys, and historical analysis in answering research questions accurately and innovatively.
  • And lastly, CP also often draws from deep substantive knowledge of specific regions of the world, from North America to the Pacific (or from Latin America to Southeast Asia), to address research questions distinct to those regions, to entire CP, or to the discipline of political science in general.

The primary goal of this course is to equip students with an understanding of the key concepts, debates, questions, and theories that have animated CP. Students will be taken through a series of pioneering classical and contemporary texts concerning some of the most important issues in the field including the following:

  1. State building and capacity
  2. Democratic and authoritarian transition and consolidation
  3. Economic development
  4. Rebellions and revolutions
  5. Ethnic and nationalist conflicts
  6. Party systems and political regimes
  7. Political culture. 

The course will also cover country case studies, drawn from different regions of the world, to help students link factual knowledge to broader questions in CP. By the end of the course, students should have developed their own “conceptual, empirical, and theoretical toolkit” that they can use to examine political institutions, processes, and outcomes of any country or region.

Course structure
This is a reading-intensive course delivered in a fully remote/online format. Throughout the semester, there will be a mixture of asynchronous and synchronous activities. Aside from completing the course requirements, all students will go through eight intensive modules with reading and research breaks in between each module. 

Each module is divided into the following three core learning tasks:

  1. Reading and engaging the assigned texts
  2. Viewing and reviewing the recorded lecture
  3. Attending and participating in the online seminar

Each of these learning tasks address a specific learning goal. The first two learning tasks is meant to develop a mastery of the course materials. It involves comprehension of ideas and facts as well as familiarization and recall of key ideas, scholars, and texts. The third learning task, the online seminar, is intended to facilitate the deeper goal of analytical and critical thinking. This involves guided conversations among the students. A list of guide questions will be at the center of the discussions in the seminars a la Socratic method.

Students MUST READ ALL the assigned texts and VIEW the recorded lecture prior to attending the online seminar. Only the synthesis of the texts will be discussed in the recorded lecture, so attending the online seminars cannot replace the need to read the assigned texts on your own. You will also be unable to fully participate in online seminars without understanding the core issues discussed in the assigned texts and recorded lectures. Completing the assigned texts and recorded lectures according to the course schedule will also help students be prepared for the oral examinations. There is no way that you will be able to complete all the assigned texts and recorded lectures by cramming it days before the scheduled oral examinations (or you can but it may lead to poor outcomes!). All course participants are also encouraged to provide comments or ask questions during online seminars. You are also expected to respond thoughtfully to ideas offered by your fellow students.

Course outline

The following outlines the topics and assigned texts covered for each module.

Module 00: Course orientation

  • Course syllabus
  • The Economist. (09 November 1996). “The man in the Baghdad café.” In The Economist, volume 341, Issue 7991, pp. 23-26.
  • Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes. (2009). “Introduction”. In The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, edited by Carles Boix and Susan C. Stokes. Oxford University Press, pp. 3-24.

Module 01: Why are some states strong and other states weak?

  • Charles Tilly. (1985). “Warmaking and Statemaking as Organized Crime.” In Bringing the State Back In, edited by Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol. Cambridge University Press, pp. 169-191.
  • Joel S. Migdal. (1988). Strong Societies and Weak States: State-Society Relations and State Capabilities in the Third World. Princeton University Press. [Read Part One, “States and Societies”, pp. 3-44.]
  • Dan Slater. (2010). Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press. [Read Chapter One, “To Extract and To Organize”, and Chapter Two, “States and Regimes That Run Them”, pp. 3-54.]

Module 02: Where do democracies come from? Structural responses

  • Barrington Moore, Jr. (1966). Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Beacon Press. [Read Chapter Seven, “The Democratic Route to Modern Society”, pp. 413-483]
  • Daniel Ziblatt. (2017). Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy. Cambridge University Press. [Read Chapter One, “Two Pattrns of Democratization” and Chapter Two, “The Old Regime and the Conservative Dilemma”, pp. 1-53]

Module 03: Where do democracies come from? Agency responses

  • Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe C. Schmitter. (1986). Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Nancy Bermeo. (1997). “Myths of moderation: Confrontation and conflict during democratic transitions.” Comparative Politics 29(3): 305-322.

 Module 04: Where do democracies come from? Economic responses

  • Seymour Martin Lipset. (1959). “Some social requisites of democracy: Economic development and political legitimacy.” The American Political Science Review 53(1): 69-105.
  • Adam Przeworski, Michael Alvarez, Jose Cheibub, and Fernando Limongi. (2000). Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Wellbeing in the World, 1950-1900. Cambridge University Press. [Read Chapter Two, “Economic Development and Political Regimes”, pp. 78-141]

Module 05: Why do democracies break down?

  • Nancy G. Bermeo. (2003). Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times: The Citizenry and the Breakdown of Democracy. Princeton University Press. [Read Chapter One, “Heroes or Villains? Images of Citizens and Civil Society in the Literature on Democracy, Chapter Two
  • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. Crown Publishing. [Read Introduction and Chapter One, “Fateful Alliances”, pp. 1-32]

Module 06: Why do autocracies persist?

  • Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds. (2013). Tracking the “Arab Spring”: Why the modest harvest? Journal of Democracy 24(4): 29-44.
  • Jennifer Gandhi and Adam Przeworski. (2007). “Authoritarian institutions and the survival of autocrats.” Comparative Political Studies 40(11): 1279-1301.
  • Milan W. Svolik. (2012). The Politics of Authoritarian Rule. Cambridge University Press. [Read Chapter One, “Introduction: The Anatomy of Dictatorship” and Chapter Two, “The World of Authoritarian Politics”, pp. 1-50]

Module 07: Why are some states wealthier than others?

  • Daren Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James Robinson. (2005). “Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-run Growth.” In Handbook of Economic Growth, edited by Philippe Aghion and Steven N. Durlauf. North-Holland, pp. 385-472. 
  • Gary Gereffi. (1990). “Paths of Industrialization”. In Manufacturing Miracles, edited by Gary Gereffi and Donald L. Wyman. Princeton University Press, pp. 3-23.

Module 08: Why do people rebel? And how do revolutions succeed?

  • Theda Skocpol. (1976). “France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 18(2): 175-210. 
  • Ted Gurr. (1968). “A Causal Model of Civil Strife: A Comparative Analysis Using New Indices.” American Political Science Review 62(4):1104-1124.
  • Mark Iriving Lichbach. (1990). “ Will Rational People Rebel against Inequality: Samson’s Choice.” American Journal of Political Science 34(4):1049-1076.
  • Marwan Khawaja. (1994). “Resource Mobilization, Hardship, and Popular Collective Action in the West Bank.” Social Forces 73(1):191-220.
  • Kurt Schock. (1996). “A Conjunctural Model of Political Conflict: The Impact of Political Opportunities on the Relationship between Economic Inequality and Violent Political Conflict.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution 40(1):98-133.

Course assessment
The purpose of the course outputs is to enable your ability to think independent as you encounter both enduring and emerging concepts, debates, questions, and theories in comparative politics. These outputs will challenge you to become critical readers of scholarly literature and improve your skills as researchers and writers. To this end, you will be assessed in the following ways:

  1. Active participation in online seminars (20%): Students are required to actively participate in online seminars. In every seminar, a set of students will be called to respond to a set of questions. I also encourage students to volunteer to ask questions, share insights, and respond thoughtfully to the ideas of other students. Both types of participation will receive a corresponding grade using the Seminar Participation Rubric (see Annex I). I welcome reasoned disagreements and debates in this class. Students will only be graded on the quality of their participation (so attendance on its own only contributes minimally to your grade for this particular assessment).
  • Response paper [By group] (20%): Students, in groups of 5-6 members, must write a group response paper (length: 1,500-2,000 words) on any one of the questions in the list I will provide (see Annex II). Each question will come with a set of assigned texts. Students are especially encouraged to apply, critique, or modify approaches derived from the assigned texts through analysis of a comparison of selected country cases. The paper will be graded based on the development and strength of the main argument, effective use of evidence and theory, breadth of research on chosen country cases, and clarity of expression (See Annex III). 
  • Explainer video [By group] (20%): The same group in the response paper requirement must produce a brief “explainer video” (think VOX explainer vids) on your response paper. In short, your in-depth paper must be translated to a video format that is publicly accessible but still with its substance and rigor. The explainer videos will be graded based on the development of argument, effective use of evidence, and level of creativity and persuasiveness (See Annex IV). 
  • Oral examinations (40%): Students are required to complete two oral examinations, one preliminary exam and the other a final exam. Each exam will cover four modules/topics. For students to complete the examinations successfully, they will need to read the assigned texts consistently, review the recorded lectures critically, and reflect deeply on the discussions in the online seminars. The exams will be graded based on student’s mastery of key concepts and texts covered in the module as well as the capacity to think critically and independently (See Annex V). 

Course rules

  1. I personally and professionally take academic dishonesty seriously. All forms of academic misconduct, including plagiarism and cheating, will be responded to appropriately. Students found to commit academic misconduct will result in a failing grade in this course and a possible disciplinary action by the university. 
  2. There will be penalties for late submission of any of the course requirements. Unless you have secured an extension before the due date, outputs submitted late will receive a two points deduction for each day that it is late.
  3. Extensions on due dates for course outputs may be granted in cases of exceptional circumstances including but not limited to medical reasons, employment-related issues, and official university activities. If possible, secure an extension in advance.
  4. Consultation is strictly by appointment via email. This is especially useful for those who think they will benefit more from a brief one-to-one session. We can discuss course issues and other academic matters.
  5. It is the student’s responsibility to be updated about course activities and schedule. I will use both email and the course site to disseminate course announcements.