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COURSE NAME: "Comparative Politics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall Semester 2012

INSTRUCTOR: Driessen Michael
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 15:00-16:15
OFFICE HOURS: T: 2:30-5:30pm, Th: 6-7pm or by appointment


This course is designed to be an introductory exposé of the study of “comparative politics,” one of the four classic subfields of research in the American school of Political Science. The study of comparative politics is an exercise in categorization and understanding which attempts, heroically or tragically, to chart and even predict the multitudinous political trajectories of nation-states around the planet. This course will introduce the student to a basic set of concepts and ideas which comparative political scientists employ to analyze differences and similitudes in the present and future political life of any given country. Although we will meditate on the origins of modern political systems, much emphasis will be put on using these meditations to understand contemporary political life. The personal digestion of current political events by the student will be key to this enterprise. In general, therefore, the course will tell a story about the modern nation-state, what differences have emerged among nation-states over the last 150 years and why. Ultimately, we will attempt to understand something about how human organizations deal with power and peace, poverty and wealth, and the polyphonic mess of the human experience.



The course is divided into 3 sections which look at 1) Comparative Politics in Western Modernity; 2) Transitions, Revolutions and 3rd Wave Considerations; and 3) New Directions in Comparative Politics. Over 9 units, we will study 10 countries along a timeline and critically chart out how these states differ and converge in the ways in which they organize power and distribute goods to citizens. In order of appearance, they are Great Britain, Italy, USSR, USA, Chile, the Czech Republic, Congo, Iran, China, and Egypt. Each unit introduces one major Regime Type, Country Example, and Political Idea/Theme. Along the way, the student will learn something about the dominant, enduring topics of study of comparative politics, including liberalism, fascism, communism, democracy, democratic transitions, ethnic politics, civil war, political economies, identity politics, authoritarianisms, electoral systems, political parties and revolution.


My pedagogical hope is that students will finish this course equipped with a foundational set of tools to critically distinguish among modern political systems that will allow them to begin to analyze the relationships between the ideas, institutions, cultures and histories which underpin these systems. They will also learn the defining political characteristics of 10 modern nation-states. The essential goal will be to help students to begin practicing a higher level of political analysis and a more nuanced appreciation of the practical ways in which humans attempt to achieve common goods in modern times. When finished with this course students should expect to substantively answer the following questions about any nation: 1) what is the regime type? 2) what does the political economy look like? 3) What does the state look like? 4) What are the institutions, policies, and ideas that describe these three attributes? 5) Are there cultural, historical and religious affinities to all the above?   


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Essentials of Comparative Politics, 3rd Ed.Patrick H. O’NeilW.W. Norton9780393933765  
The Communist ManifestoKarl Marx and Friedrich EngelsSoHo Books9781453704424  
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of CapitalismMax WeberPenguin Books0140439218  
Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990Vaclav HavelVintage Books0679738118  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
On LibertyJohn Stuart MillDover Thrift EditionsISBN-13: 978-0486421308  
Democracy in AmericaAlexis de TocquevillePenguin BooksISBN-13: 978-0140447606  
Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective Alexander GershenkronBelknap PressISBN-13: 978-0674226005  
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and AbroadFareed Zakaria WW Norton & Company IncISBN-13: 978-0393331523  
The Wretched of the EarthFrantz FanonGrove PressISBN-13: 978-0802141323  
Democratic Vistas and Other PapersWalt WhitmanNabu PressISBN-13: 978-1177435406  
The Collected PoetryLeopold SenghorCARAF BooksISBN-13: 978-0813918327  
The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (ed.s Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney)ISI Books ISBN: 978-1-935191-55-1  

Mid-Term Exam 20%
Final Exam 30%
Short Reflections (7)1 page each, on any weekly set of readings. Reading reflections must be turned in the week of the readings.35%
ParticipationParticipation, attendance and presence of mind are mandatory for this class. The goal here is to advance towards the art of asking good questions. Quality, not quantity of participation is what counts, although some quantity is better than no quality. Students will be allowed 2 unexcused absences. Each unexcused absence thereafter will result in the lowering of the attendance grade by 1/3rd a letter grade. More than 12 unexcused absences will result in a failure to pass the course.15%


Assessment Guidelines for assigning main letter grades: A, B, C,D, and F.

A:  Work of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensiveknowledge 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.

B:  This 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.

C:  This is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.

D:  This 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.

F: This work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


A:      95-100

A-:     91-94.99

B+:    87-90.99

B:       83-86.99

B-:     79-82.99

C+:    75-78.99

C:      71-74.99

C-:     67-70.99

D+:    63-66.99

D:      59-62.99

D-:     55-58.99

F:       0-54.99


Attendance is compulsory! Students shall read assigned materials before coming to class and shall participate to class discussions. Please refer to the above notes and the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.

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.


Course Outline:
Part I. Comparing Politics in Western Modernity

1. Modern Nation-States and the Rise of Political Liberalism
Countries: England (and France)

2. Late Nation-State Builders and Liberalism in Crisis
Countries: Italy (and Germany)

3. Liberalism in Crisis part II.
Country: USSR

4. Liberal Revenge.
Country: USA

Part II. After the End of History: Transitions, Revolutions and 3rd Waves

5. 3rd Wave Transitions:
Countries: Chile and the Czech Republic.

6. Identity Politics, Poverty, Civil War and Failed States
Country: Congo

7. Theocracy and the Return of Religious Politics
Country: Iran

8. Authoritarian Capitalism and Competitive Authoritarianisms
Country: China

Part III. New Directions:

9. Tahrir Square and the Future of Comparative Politics: Dealing with pluralism in the 21st century
Country: Egypt

Course Calendar (Please note that this is not the final syllabus. A finalized schedule of readings, assignments and office hours will be distributed to students at the beginning of the Fall, 2012 semester).


3 September       

Class 1

Course Introduction

Part I: Comparing Politics in Western Modernity

1. Modern Nation-States and the Rise of Political Liberalism: England (and France)

5 September    

Class 2



O’Neil chapters 1 & 2

10 September  

Class 3




Weber, The Protestant Ethic,  chapters 1, 2 & 5

12 September

Class 4




Fareed Zakaria, “A Brief History of Human Freedom,” Library Reserves

Fareed Zakaria, “Capitalism, not Culture, Drives Economics,” http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-capitalism-not-culture-drives-economies/2012/08/01/gJQAKtH9PX_story.html

J. S. Mill, On Liberty, chapters 1 & 2 http://www.utilitarianism.com/ol/one.html

17 September

Class 5




O’Neil chapter 5

Magna Carta (skim), http://www.constitution.org/eng/magnacar.pdf

France’s “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/declaration.html

2. Late Nation-State Builders and Liberalism in Crisis: Italy (and Germany)

19 September

Class 6




Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism,” http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/reading/germany/mussolini.htm

The Futurist Manifesto, http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html and paintings, http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk/news/20-dynamic-paintings-from-the-italian-futurists/

Hitler, “Triumph des Willens,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C9iUaP51CI&feature=topics

24 September

Class 7




Alexander Gershenkron, “Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective,” (introduction) Library Reserves

Michael Mann, “A Political Theory of Nationalism and its Excesses,” in Notions of Nationalism, ed. S. Periwal 1995. Google Scholar.

3. Liberalism in Crisis part II: USSR

26 September

Class 8




Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto

1 October

Class 9




Lenin, “What is to be done?” pp.s 1-25, 45-62 http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/download/what-itd.pdf

Stalin, “The Foundations of Leninism: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” chapter IV: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1924/foundations-leninism/ch04.htm

3 October

Class 10




O’Neil, chapter 4 pp.s 77-82; 87-96

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: Part I: ch.s 1&4; part III: ch. 7; part IV: ch.s 1-2; Part VI: ch.s 2&7. [These selections correspond to pages 218-240; 253-273; 294-206 in The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005 (ed.s Ericson, Jr. and Mahoney) available in the Library Reserves]

4. Liberal Revenge: USA

8 October

Class 11




Alexis de Tocqueville, “Author’s Introduction” from Democracy in America, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/preface.htm

Francis Fukuyama, The End of History,” http://www.wesjones.com/eoh.htm

10 October

Class 12


Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy 6(1), 1995. E-journal http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/assoc/bowling.html

Read through Putnam’s survey instrument and data: http://bowlingalone.com/?page_id=8

Sheri Berman, “Understanding Social Democracy,”


15 October

Class 13




O'Neil Chapter 7

17 October

Class 14

Mid-term Exam

Part II: After the End of History: Transitions, Revolutions and 3rd Waves

5. 3rd Wave Transitions: Chile and the Czech Republic.

22 October

Class 15




Havel, “The Power of the Powerless,” sections I-X, XIV-XVI, XXI-XXII; “A Word about Words;” and “New Year’s Address,” all in Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990

24 October

Class 16




Samuel P. Huntington, “Democracy’s Third Wave,” Journal of Democracy, 2(2), 1991. E-journal

Guillermo O’Donnell, “Horizontal Accountability in New Democracies,” Journal of Democracy 9(3), 1998. E-journal

Pablo Neruda, “A Call for the Destruction of Nixon and Praise for Chilean Revolution,” http://reddiarypk.wordpress.com/2007/06/12/pablo-neruda/

29 October

Class 17




Valerie Bunce, “Rethinking Recent Democratization: Lessons from the Post-Communist Experience,” World Politics, 55, 2003. E-journal

Steven Levitsky and David Collier, “Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research,” World Politics, 49(3), 1997. E-journal

6. Identity Politics, Poverty, Civil War and Failed States: Congo

31 October

Class 18




O’Neil chapter 9, pp.s 230-247

Frantz Fanon, “Concerning Violence,” chapter 1 from The Wretched of the Earth, Library Reserves

Leopold Senghor, “To New York,” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/238778

5 November

Class 19




Economist, “Africa’s Great War,” http://www.economist.com/node/1213296?story_id=1213296

Filip Reyntjens, “Rwanda, Ten Years on: From Genocide to Dictatorship,” African Affairs, (103), 2004. Google Scholar

James Fearon, “Why do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer than Others?” Journal of Peace Research (41). 2004. E-journal

7 November

Class 20







O’Neil chapter 9, pp.s 247-259

Jeffery Sachs, “The Development Challenge,” Foreign Affairs, March/April, 2005. E-journal

William Easterly, “Was Development Assistance a Mistake?” http://williameasterly.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/50_easterly_wasdevelopmentassistanceamistake_prp.pdf

Good News from Africa:



7. Theocracy and the Return of Religious Politics: Country: Iran

 9 November Class 21  
 (Make-up for 19 November)    The Economist, “In God’s Name,” 2007

O’Neil chapter 10

12 November

Class 22




Michael L. Ross, “Oil, Islam, and Women,” American Political Science Review, 102(1), 2008. E-journal

Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” The Atlantic, September (1990). Google

14 November

Class 23




Vali Nasr, “The Rise of ‘Muslim Democracy,’” Journal of Democracy 16(2), 2005. E-journal

Michael Driessen, “Religion, State and Democracy,” Politics and Religion, (3), 2010. Google

Gunes Tezcur, “Democracy Promotion, Authoritarian Resiliency, and Political Unrest in Iran,” Democratization 19(1), 2012. E-journal

19 November

No Class

 Professor Driessen at Middle East Studies Association Conference



8. Authoritarian Capitalism and Competitive Authoritarianisms: China

21 November

Class 24




O’Neil chapter 6

Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism,” Journal of Democracy, 12(2), 2002. E-journal

Andrei Illarionov, “The Siloviki in Charge,” The Journal of Democracy, (April), 2009. E-journal

26 November

Class 25




Zheng Bijian, “China’s ‘Peaceful Rise’ to Great-Power Status,” Foreign Affairs (84)5, 2005. E-journal.

Thomas Friedman, “Advice for China,” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/opinion/05friedman.html

Amnesty International, “Annual Report: China 2011,” http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/annual-report-china-2011?page=show

Part III. New Directions:

9. Tahrir Square and the Future of Comparative Politics: Egypt

28 November

Class 26




Nader Hashemi, “The Arab Revolution of 2011: Reflections on Religion and Politics,” Insight Turkey, 2011. https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?view=att&th=132aaa5bb70fe5ad&attid=0.3&disp=vah&realattid=f_gt2swo5w2&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P_UmVblcA9VRfQedvoT6m6V&sadet=1339577348836&sads=YLAwVLPgTQ_6Xk9E52EbkDYfpEY

Nathan Brown, “Dangers Ahead for Egypt,” http://carnegieendowment.org/2012/05/31/dangers-ahead-for-egypt/b0xx

Amnesty International, “Tunisia: Persepolis Trial Spotlights Attacks on Freedom of Expression,” http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/tunisia-2012-04-18

3 December

Class 27




O’Neil chapter 11

“Indonesia Watches Closely Development of Eurozone Crisis, Hormuz Conflict to Save Economy,” http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-02/14/c_131410067.htm

The Economist, “The Euro-Zone Crisis,” http://www.economist.com/node/21524378

5 December

Class 28

Conclusions and Review





Final Exam