Curriculum (120 credits)
Core Theory (19 credits)
The course offers introduction into basic conceptual and methodological framework of the field of contemporary Comparative Politics. It is organized into three parts. The first one will cover main theories which are to provide conceptual instruments to describe and to explain world of modern politics. Second part is to discuss basic methodological patterns related to different forms of research design, such as case or comparative studies. Special attention will be given to discussing epistemological issues related to application of statistical methods in social/political research. And the third part of the course will discuss recent developments and paradigm shifts in Political Science. As expected, the course will equip students with general conceptual understanding of the field of Comparative Politics and will help them to build their personal academic and research trajectories related to their specific interests and plans.
2. Postcommunist Politics and Society (6 credits)
3. Public Choice and Public Policy (4 credits)
The course in Public Choice and Public Policy develops a conceptual framework to enable students to conduct analysis of the political economy events that impact their everyday lives. To demystify the political world around us, in this course, we conceive of politics as synonymous with ‘group life’. That is, wherever we see individuals interacting, cooperating, coordinating, strategizing and manoeuvring we are witnessing politics in action, whether that be in the university classroom, the local community club, the office, the family, the third-sector organisation or the municipal government. To achieve this, we draw on the rich tradition of public choice economics and positive political science to addresses the questions of how, why and when organisations (including those of government) act effectively or ineffectively when confronted by a set of choices or challenges – whether that be with regard to financing healthcare, building transport infrastructure, protecting the environment or electing a representative at the local sports club. In thinking about these policy issues from a public choice and positive political analysis perspective, this module adds an essential skill and methodology to the toolkit for all scholars of the social sciences and humanities concerned with the justification for, design of and application of government policy.
4. Media in Contemporary Politics and Society (4 credits)
Course rationale New media and other means of communication are more and more pervasive in our societies. Different spheres of society – from politics to healthcare to culture – are leaving more and more “digital traces” that are becoming available globally. The society has not yet found ways to cope with and make use of this abundance of channels of communication / information storage and the huge data they carry. However, this phenomenon is already influencing elections, mobilizing grassroots initiatives, and changing political regimes. The goal of this course is to get acquainted with the latest findings in the sphere of media-political relations and to learn to analyze empirical evidence in this sphere. Course aims and scope
-to learn why communication and its content is increasingly important
-to see how communication technology and data are related to politics
-to understand the structure of media industries and to gain critical distance towards them.
-to practice team work Course topics (tentative)
-Media/Communication/IT industries and their relations to political institutions. Types of media-political regimes.
- Media/Communication/IT regulation and policies. Developmental programs. Censorship. Approaches to libel, harmful content, security and privacy.
-(New) media and elections. Political campaigning. Manipulation. Election prediction with new media data.
-Internet and political mobilization. Political participation and social movements. Protests and regime change. Arab spring and Post-Soviet internet-driven protests.
- Media and public opinion on political matters. New media and online public opinion. “Lay” journalism, political blogging, and grassroots agenda-setting.
-Politicizing ethnicity, race, migration and religion in media. Media, terrorism and armed conflicts.
Methods (11 credits)
1. Research Methods in PolSci I (quantitative) (3 credits)
This course reviews the linear regression model and introduces generalized linear models. Students will learn to use the R environment for regression analysis.The course will focus on practical problems of data analysis rather than on complex calculations. Students do not need to know calculus or matrix algebra. Some background in R programming will be extremely helpful but is not required, either.The main manual in the course is John Fox's An R Companion to Applied Regression, although other books listed in the course will also be helpful. Each class, except the first introductory one, is going to be organized in two blocks: a lecture and a lab. The lecture will introduce a particular model while the lab will give the students a feel of how it works in R. Assignments will be given after each session to help students practice the covered problems. Upon the completion of the course, students will be able to choose the right model for their analysis, diagnose and adjust the model, and interpret the results.
-Diagnostics of Linear Regression Model
- Binomial Logit Model
-Multinomial Logit Model
-Poisson Regression and Diagnostics of Generalized Linear Models
- Log-linear Models for Analysis of Contingency Tables
2. Research Methods in PolSci II (qualitative) (3 credits)
The purpose of this course is to present the fundamentals of qualitative social research, as well as to develop students’ skills of using qualitative methods in their own empirical research. Focus will be done on the possibilities of using qualitative methodology in political studies.
As part of the course, students will learn what methodological and theoretical ideas compose the basis of qualitative research in the social sciences (and why qualitative researchers demonstrate such a passion for the study of everyday experience and meanings that people have about their lives), what the research design is, which methods of data collection and analysis exist in this methodology (in-depth interviews, participant observation, focus groups, discourse analysis, grounded theory, and others). Students will learn how to plan, to organize and to implement qualitative research; how to collect qualitative interviews, to conduct participant observation and focus groups; how to analyze the qualitative data, including media texts and biographical documents. The research is the process starting with inventing the topic and preparing a research proposal, which includes the development of a research design, continuing with fieldwork and with the analysis of collected data, and ending with the writing of academic text.
It is impossible to learn how to do qualitative research just from the books, so in this course we will also concentrate on practical tasks - students will try different methods in practice, they will develop the research design, will conduct the interviews and participant observation, will analyze collected data and will write an academic text. Students will be asked to formulate and to implement their own research project.
In qualitative research, the researcher is the main instrument of knowledge. His/her task is to understand others and their life-world. In this situation, researcher’s own backgrounds, experiences, emotions, and even the body become an integral part of the research process and need to be self-reflected. In the course, we will learn to "tune research optics " aimed not only to others but also to the researcher oneself. Also, special attention will be paid to the ethics of the research.
3. Computational Text Analysis or Social Network Analysis (5 credits)
Our society is leaving more and more “digital traces” that are being accumulated at an unprecedented scale. Some of these data are publicly available and produce immediate societal effects, others have to be mined and processed before they yield some meaning, still they are available for the analysis by scholars. The process of creation / emergence of these traces is often a process of individual or mass communication, or of digitally mediated problem solving (such as online purchases, search, or rating). This process is not just a mirror or a derivation of some offline social reality, it is a new type of social processes, and a large portion of these processes are political in nature. Therefore, all these traces, either stored or evolving in real time, can be the subject of study in political science. And they demand new methods of research. Much of this data is textual, and another large portion is closely linked to the texts, and mostly they are too large to be processed manually.Course goals:The aim of this course is to give students ready-to-use instruments allowing to analyze relatively large text and related data for the purposes of political science. The students will learn the types of research tasks that may be solved with text data, approaches to data preparation, analysis and interpretation, including text classification, clustering, topic modeling and other techniques. The students will also get acquainted with examples of such research by doing reading assignments. The course will use only interface software that demands no scripting skills. Neither will the students have to understand all mathematical details of algorithms they will learn to apply, however, they will have to learn their limitations. Course topics (tentative)
-Political science tasks involving large text data. Mining political positions from texts and automatic classification of political speeches. Detecting political polarization, radicalization and conflict in political discussions. Detecting political sentiment and opinion in internet user messages. Finding political frames and biases in media. Extracting topical structure from collections of political texts. Tracing changes in political agendas, frames and opinions. Explaining changes and differences in political aspects of texts with external factors, such as user data or country-level factors. Predicting political events or actions with text data.
-Finding relevant data. Data retrieval and sampling. Designing datasets and their structure based on research purposes. Checking raw data for overall quality.
-Text preprocessing. Clearing. Stemming and lemmatization. Creating stop-word lists and their removal. Extraction of bigrams and other text elements.
-Classification. Formulating classes. Preparing training data. Manual mark-up. Elaborating questions / tasks for assessors (coders). Recruiting coders. Crowdsourcing and its limitations. Using trained coders and its limitations. Training coders and assessing their work. Inter-coder agreement coefficients.
-Classification algorithms and software. Classification quality measures. Limitations.
-Sentiment analysis as a type of classification task. Sentiment lexicons / thesauri for Russian and other languages. Lexicon-based vs machine learning approaches. General sentiment, sentiment strength, aspect-attentive sentiment. Political opinion and positions. Limitations of sentiment analysis.
-Clustering algorithms and software. Descending, ascending and flat clustering. Advantages of unsupervised approaches. Problems of ground truth and the right number of clusters. Clustering quality measures.
-Topic modeling algorithms and software. A brief overview of advantages and limitations of different approaches. LSA, pLSA, LDA and their extensions. Cluster and topic labeling.
-Entity and fact extraction.
-Semantic networks. Representing texts as networks of concepts. Other text data visualization.
-Predictive and explanatory models using text variables.
- Information propagation models. Joint text and relational data analysis.
-Reading sample research papers that use the aforementioned approaches.
Electives (minimum 38 credits)
1. Political Economy of Post-communist Transformation (5 credits)
This course explores complicated relations between political and economic leaders in Russia in the 20th century with main focus on post-communist developments. What is command economy and why transition to market economy was so painful in Russia? We will investigate how market reforms launched by Gorbachev and Yeltsin led to the emergence of independent entrepreneurs who immediately started to participate in public politics.
The course consists of three logic parts. The first part covers such topics as the theory and practice of command economy in the USSR, reasons of economic decline in the late USSR, The Perestroika and Gorbachev’s economic and political reforms. The second part focuses on political economy of new Russian state, transition to market economy, privatization, the “oligarchs” phenomenon, Putin’s policies towards the big business and the role of the state companies in contemporary Russia. The final part presents an overview political economy of Russia under Putin and Medvedev presidencies: from economic recovery and oil shock to Medvedev’s “modernization” and up to the Ukrainian crisis.
2. Russia in World Politics (5 credits)
3. Russia’s Electoral Politics: Comparative Perspective (5 credits)
The course explores Russian electoral process as the most important part of the institutional politics in the Postcommunist Russia. It intends to analyze structure of the Russia’s electoral institutions and related sphere of formal and informal social and political practices.The course is organized into three parts. They cover conceptual debate on electoral politics in hybrid forms of contemporary authoritarianism (with focus on regime pattern of electoral authoritarianism), dynamics and determinants of Russian electoral politics over two decades of the Post-Soviet transformation, and social and cultural context of Russia’s institutional politics (with focus on Russian civil society and social movements).
4. Nationalism in USSR and Russia (5 credits)
5. Postcommmunist Civil Society: Comparative Perspective (4 credits)
Civil society approach transforms and evolves thanks to attempts to empirically and theoretically apply its main argument in contemporary societies with different political and social legacies. Initially, it was incorporated into the debate on the dynamic of political regime and the role of civic participation. Further on, the role of civic initiatives in service provision has also become prominent and deserved scholarly attention. Postcommunist societies follow western trends where “national states become too small for global issues and too big for local ones”. Outsourcing and delegation of social obligations involve non-state actors into policy-making and implementation. This course sheds light on various aspects of the civil society development in comparative perspective (XIX-XX century). Three main phenomenon are planned to be covered: civic movements, grass-root initiatives and professional associations which provide services. The logic of the course is two folded: to examine factual aspects of civil society development in various countries through the glasses of political science and sociology which explain their particularities. Therefore, the course is framed by the analytical tools with reliance on empirical material and attraction of theoretical explanatory models.
6. Conflict in the EU-Russia Relationship) (4 credits)
A course on the conflict between the European Union and Russia may have seemed a curiosity until the very recent past. But the Ukraine crisis has changed all that. It has brought into sharp relief the divergence in the EU and Russia’s approaches to security policy in their shared vicinity. And it has divided the most strategically important of their common neighbours. The escalation of this conflict has led to a dynamic of sanctions and count-sanctions, rising militarism on Russia’s borders with Europe and a broader conflict with NATO and the West. Many scholars and practitioners are now talking openly about the beginning of a New Cold War.This course blends together political theory and international relations to provide fresh insights into the origins and dynamic of this conflict between the EU and Russia. It traces the roots of the conflict back long before the Ukraine crisis. And it examines the implications of this conflict for the practice of diplomacy, security and economic cooperation in the EU-Russia relationship. Ultimately it invites a deep and critical perspective on whether what has been going on for the last few years is really the start of a New Cold War, or of some other kind of international conflict that is altogether new. This course will be of interest to students who are interested in modern Russia’s strained relationship with Europe, contemporary European and Russian foreign policy, the international security and politics of Eurasia, international conflict analysis and the discipline of International Relations more broadly. It takes an interpretive approach to its subject matter, meaning that it looks to instil a deep understanding of what has been going on in the EU-Russia relationship as a means to explaining the character of the conflict between these neighbouring, continental powers. AssessmentFormative coursework: An assessed 15-minute presentation (20%) and a 2,500-word essay (60%), marked by the seminar teacher.
The course offers introduction into study of traditional institutional structure of East Asia societies. Special attention will be given to analysis of the institutional development of China – a key historical society in the region. Comparative historical analysis of China’s institutional history will shed light on how to conceptualize societal tradition which is behind contemporary East (South-East) Asia. The course will cover development of the basic economic institutions (commercial practices, financial and bank system, etc.); evolution of social and cultural institutions (education, class system and social mobility, family, special urbanization patterns, bureaucracy, religion in Chinese society, science and technology, etc.); China as a model for historical development in East Asia; Chinese communism; historical legacies and contemporary growth in China and East Asia. Students will familiarize themselves both with classical texts and contemporary literature on the field.
8. Post-Soviet Central Asia: Politics and Society (3 credits)
9. Russia in Arctic Region (3 credits)
The course will be organized into two parts. The first one will cover economic, environmental, cultural and political history of the Arctic. It will explore colonial expansion in the region and resulted structure of the international cooperation and competition, environmental and global security issues, and issues related to the history and contemporary development of indigenous population.
The second part will focus on international relations in the region and Russia’s standing in the Arctic. It will explore regional structure of international organizations as well as Russia’s Arctic policies (at both federal and local levels). Special attention will be paid to Russia’s Arctic energy and security strategies and its ways to manage indigenous population affairs.
Research and Practice (52 credits)
- Research/dissertation seminar (16 credits)
- Internship (12 credits)
- Master Dissertation (24 credits)