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COURSE NAME: "Western European Politics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Diego Pagliarulo
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 6:00 PM 7:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: PL 223

The course examines the political systems in Western Europe and major political developments affecting Western Europe since 1945 through a comparative lens. Looking at historical legacies, political cultures, types of government, and party systems shaping the major Western European powers, students will gain an understanding of the constitutive features, and transnational developments, challenges and changes in Western European states.
  • The geopolitical origins of Western Europe

  • The rise and evolution of the contemporary Western European state model.

  • The process of European integration

  • Comparative analysis of the political systems of the main Western European countries, with a special focus on Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

  • Comparative analysis of the key political challenges faced by Western European countries, such as Brexit, the rise of populism and nationalism, economic and social change, identity, and evolving attitudes toward European integration.


As a result of this course, students will:

  • Have the instruments to think critically about the key political, social, geographical, and historical features that define Western Europe.

  • Acquire a detailed knowledge of the main political systems of Western Europe as well as the ability to analyze them from a comparative perspective. 

  • Develop the means to understand the key aspects of decision-making and policy-making at the European level.

  • Understand the main political challenges concerning today’s Western Europe and develop the skills needed to further explore them through independent research and articulate solutions.

  • Improve their note-taking skills.

  • Improve their capabilities to select and analyze sources.

  • Improve their writing and oral presentation skills.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Politics in Europe. Seventh EditionM. Donald Hanckock et al.Los Angeles: Sage, 2019978-1506399096  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Prisoners of Geography. Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the WorldTim MarshallNew York: Scribner, 2015978-1501121470JC319 .M2744 2016Chapter 4 - Western Europe (pp. 92-113)

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Western Europe 2019-20Wayne P. ThompsonLondon: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019978-1475852028  
Dark Continent. Europe’s Twentieth CenturyMark MazowerLondon: Penguin, 1999 978-0140241594D424 .M39 1998 
The Struggle for EuropeWilliam HitchcockNew York: Anchor Books, 2004978-0835497992D1051 .H58 2004 
Attendance and participation 20%
Movie AnalysisEssay (max 700 words) or video presentation (max 25 minutes). Provide a critical analysis of the movie “The Iron Lady," directed by Phyllida Lloyd (2011). Pay special attention to the following questions: - How has public perception of leadership evolved in post-WW2 Western European politics? - What is the legacy of the Thatcher revolution on European politics? 10%
Midterm ExamPolicy Paper (max. 1500 words) and oral presentation/debate: How to revive Western European democracy?20%
Book AnalysisChoose one short book from the list provided by the instructor and write a short critical review (max 1000 words). Integrate in your analysis the information provided by the textbook and pay special attention to the following questions: - What are the key points of the author’s thesis? - What are the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s analysis? - Do you agree/disagree with the author? Why? 20%
Final ExamIndependent Research Project/Policy Memo (Max 3000 words) and Oral Presentation on one of the Countries and Challenges analyzed in Parts II and III of the course.30%
Optional Assignments2 optional essays (max 700 words) or video presentations: - A follow-up to the “European Dream” debate; - An essay on a topic chosen by the student among those featured in Part III of the course schedule. 1 extra point added to the overall grade for each completed assignment. 0%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


(The course schedule might be subject to changes and updates)




Part I - What Is Western Europe?

Week 1

Course introduction

The geopolitics of Western Europe


Hancock, Introduction,

Marshall, Chapter 4 (pp. 92-113).

Week 2

Western European democracy in the postwar era


Mazower Chapter 9 (pp. 290-330).

Week 3

The transformation of Western European democracy


Mazower Chapter 10 (pp. 333-366).

Watch: The Iron Lady.

Week 4

European integration and the European Union - Part I


Hancock, Chapter 8.1-8.3 (pp. 641-680).

Week 5

European integration and the European Union - Part II


Hancock, Chapter 8.4-8.5 (pp. 681-717).

Jeremy Rifkin, “The European Dream. How Europe’s Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream.”, Vortrag an der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin am 18. April 2005 (FCE3/05), http://www.whi-berlin.eu/documents/rifkin.pdf .

Prepare debate: A “European Dream?”

Week 6

Midterm Assessment

Midterm review.


Movie analysis.

Midterm policy paper.

Prepare debate: How to revive Western European democracy?

Part II - Western European Political Systems: A Comparative perspective.

Week 7

British Politics

Read: Hancock - Chapter 1.

Week 8

French Politics

Read: Hancock - Chapter 2.

Week 9

German Politics

Read: Hancock - Chapter 3.

Week 10

Italian Politics

Read: Hancock - Chapter 4.

Part III - Wither Western Europe?

Week 11


Case Study: Great Britain

Read one of the following:

Drozdiak, Chapter 2.

Kirchick, Chapter 6.

Individual presentation on British politics.

Prepare debate on Brexit and British politics.

Week 12

The rise of populism, nationalism, and far right movements in Western Europe.

Case Study: Italy

Read one of the following:

Drozdiak, Chapter 6.

Perry Anderson, “The Italian Disaster,” The London Review of Books, Vol. 36, No. 10 (May 2014), https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v36/n10/perry-anderson/the-italian-disaster

Individual presentations on Italian politics.

Prepare debate on Italian politics.

Week 13

Globalization, identity, and Western European Politics.

Case Study: France.

Read one of the following:

Drozdiak, Chapter 3.

Kirchick, Chapter 5.

Individual presentations on French politics.

Prepare debate on French politics.

Week 14

The future of European integration

Case Study: Germany

Final Review Session

Read one of the following:

Drozdiak, Chapter 1 or Chapter 4.

Kirchick, Chapter 3 or Chapter 4.

Matthias Matthijs, “The Right Way to Fix the EU,” Foreign Affairs Vol. 99, No. 3 (May/Jun 2020) 160-164,166-170, https://jculibrary.on.worldcat.org/oclc/8580483673 .

Individual presentations on German and European politics.

Prepare debate on German and EU politics.

Week 15

Final exams


Book analysis.

Policy memo.