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Regular version of the site

Comparative Politics

Academic Year
Instruction in English
ECTS credits
Course type:
Compulsory course
2 year, 1, 2 module


Course Syllabus


The course offers an introduction to the core concepts in comparative politics and their empirical applications. The course consists of two principal parts: the first 7 topics focus on democracies, while the subsequent 6 weeks are dedicated to autocratic and hybrid regimes; the course is concluded with a debate session in seminar groups. In the first half of the course, those varieties within democratic regimes – such as the difference between parliamentary and presidential systems, consensual and majoritarian democracies, etc. – are discussed which served as the inspiration for classical works and theories in comparative politics. The second half of the course continues this discussion by addressing key questions around authoritarian regimes, such as – among others – the problems of authoritarian rule, selectorate theory, or methods of authoritarian control. In conclusion, the course familiarizes students with the foundations of regime-level and institutional comparisons, and enhances their understanding on the relationship between fundamental concepts and their various empirical manifestations.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • The main objective is getting general idea of comparative political studies
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Student is capable of retrieving, collecting, processing and analyzing information relevant for achieving goals in the professional field
  • Student is capable of choosing research methods appropriate for resolving the professional tasks
  • Student is capable of posing research problems relevant to the study of political phenomena and political processes; setting particular research tasks; and putting together a research design
  • Able to conduct professional activities internationally
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Overview on political systems: what makes a regime ‘democratic’?
  • Presidential and parliamentary systems
  • Party systems and coalitions
  • Constitutional politics and non-majoritarian institutions
  • Federalism
  • Varieties of democracy
  • Democracy, diversity, and power-sharing
  • Authoritarian regimes and the problems of authoritarian rule
  • Authoritarian power-sharing and the selectorate theory
  • Civil-military relations, coups, and coup-proofing
  • Authoritarian control
  • Resource curse and rentier states
  • Political violence: civil war, ethnic conflict, terrorism
  • Summary: debate session
  • Position paper
  • Film analysis
  • Final exam
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking film analysis
    Recommendations for the film analysis For this assignment, the students will be asked to pick a topic from the syllabus. Each topic has questions about political processes and accompanying movies assigned. The students should watch the movies with these questions in mind. Then, they should write a critical film analysis, answering the given questions based on the film. The analysis shall not exceed 1,000 words, including foot/endnotes, excluding the bibliography. The grade will be based on the clarity and relevance of the answers to the given questions, and the depth of understanding of the subject matter. Originality of the analysis will also distinguish excellent answers from good answers. Clarity and relevance means how well the student can connect the ideas in these movies with the works that were studied during the lectures and seminars. Originality means whether the student can offer a fresh perspective to connect these ideas. The following points are important: - The analysis should answer all of the questions listed for a topic on the assignment. - In the answer, students should use the comparative politics concepts learned in this course (e.g. representation, veto player, authoritarian control, etc.) to answer the questions with specific examples/anecdotes/analysis from the movies. The students are NOT expected to criticize the movie artistically, but rather to consider its political and theoretical implications. - The analysis should cite scholarly sources whenever possible. There should be at least five scholarly sources (books, articles, etc.) cited to back up the arguments.
  • non-blocking position paper
    Recommendations for the position paper The position paper shall be a problem-based, argumentative text demonstrating the student’s capacity to identify academically relevant problems, finding avenues to tackle it, and communicating her/his arguments in a persuasive, transparent, and succinct manner. The position paper should also demonstrate the student’s firm understanding on the differences between epistemic and methodological traditions. The position paper’s extent shall not exceed 1,000 words, including foot/endnotes, excluding the bibliography. The review part of the essay shall not exceed 40% of the position paper. The deadline for sending a position paper linked to each specific topic is the beginning of the following seminar session. Essay structure: 1. Short and general formulation of answer, outline of structure 2. Review of relevant claims in the literature 3. Critical review of relevant positions. 4. Core of argument, supported by analytical and/or empirical claims. 5. Conclusion, summarizing the core points of the argument.
  • non-blocking class participation
    Recommendations for class participation ● Meaningful engagement with the mandatory readings demonstrated ● Own critical approach to the reading and lecture materials elucidated ● By bringing in concepts and empirical examples from other fields of study, the student demonstrates a complex understanding of the introduced concepts ● Contribution to the class dynamics: by reflecting on earlier points and comments, students can again demonstrate a practical understanding of the discussed concepts, as well as their abilities to understand the dynamics of ongoing discussions. Conversely, redundant and self-serving comments will lower the participation grade. ● In case someone finds participation in discussions challenging, there is also an opportunity to send questions and comments related to the mandatory readings before the respective class sessions.
  • non-blocking final exam
    Recommendations for the exam The exam will combine closed-book and open-book formats, reflecting both on the factual knowledge of students and their analytical skills. In the first, closed-book part of the exam (30 minutes) students will be given multiple choice questions, or tasks requiring very short answers, focusing on key concepts and the mandatory readings. In the second, open-book part (90 minutes) students will answer two essay questions: one pertaining to topics 1-7, while the other to topics 8-15. In both cases, students will be given at least two different questions, and will have to answer each in max. one hand-written page. In the second part of the exam, students are allowed to use any relevant material, but cannot communicate with each other.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • 2023/2024 2nd module
    0.1 * class participation + 0.2 * film analysis + 0.4 * final exam + 0.3 * position paper


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Clark, W. R. (DE-588)13711754X, (DE-576)302153160. (2013). Principles of comparative politics / William Roberts Clark; Matt Golder; Sona Nadenichek Golder. Los Angeles [u.a.]: CQ Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.359208835
  • Comparative politics / ed. by Daniele Caramani. (2011). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.330675516

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Erica Frantz. (2018). Authoritarianism : What Everyone Needs to Know®. Oxford University Press.
  • Newton, K., & Deth, J. W. van. (2005). Foundations of Comparative Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=165069