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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Political Science"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2014

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Driessen
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00 AM 11:15 AM
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment


This course introduces students to basic concepts, methods, and theories of the scientific study of politics. In so doing, the class provides a systematic understanding of the foundations of states, political systems, political culture and political behavior. The course familiarizes students with the functioning of political institutions and political power, constitutional frameworks and procedures to obtain public legitimacy, and approaches to different fields, problems and issues of—domestic, comparative, and global—politics in the 21st century.



The course will be run as an introductory seminar, with emphasis on class participation through reading discussions and presentation of written work. Students will read four classic works from the various subfields and discover the wider field of inquiry and enduring problems that occupy Political Science research as a whole. Students will also be introduced to basic political science research methodology and writing styles.


In order to encourage deep, critical reading, students will be required to regularly reflect on the assigned texts and class discussions through a series (6) of short essays (2 pages each) as detailed in the syllabus below. In order to promote and assess active, engaged discussion, students will receive a mark for their participation in each class and the average of these will make up their final participation grade. Students, therefore, should come to class ready to discuss the readings. They should take notes, write down questions, form opinions and always, always bring the reading material to class with them.


Finally, the class is designed to promote the digestion and analysis of contemporary political dynamics. Students will be encouraged, therefore, to apply the classic theories to understand current events. To aid in this task, there will be weekly New York Times quizzes on the Global Headlines. Students can purchase a personal subscription to the New York Times or read the print edition available in the JCU library or the Tiber Café.

Following this course students should expect to begin thinking, reading, writing and acting like a political scientist!
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Coercion, Capital and European StatesCharles TillyWiley-Blackwell978-1557863683 please get all of my books at the Almost corner bookstore! thanks!
Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern ItalyRobert PutnamPrinceton University Press978-0691037387  
The Future of FreedomFareed ZakariaWW Norton and Company978-0393331523  
Guide to Methods for Students of Political ScienceStephen van EveraCornell978-0801484575  
New York Times SubscriptionNytimesNytimesdigital  

Newspaper Quizes 10%
Reading Reflections/assignments (4)6% each, due on the day marked in the syllabus25%
midterm 20%
proposal and bibliography 5%
class presentation 5%
Final Paper 25%
class participationAttendance 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.10%

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 cour
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.

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 Calendar


September 1

Class 1

No Class! American Political Science Association Annual Conference, Washington DC


September 3

Class 2

Course Introduction: What is Political Science?


Part I: The State

September 8

Class 3

What is a state?  (Library Day 1)


Read Tilly, ch. 1


September 10

Class 4

Where does a State come from?


Read Tilly, ch. 2


New York Times Quiz 1


September 15

Class 5

What does a state do?


Read Tilly, ch. 3


Short Essay 1 Due: Describe Tilly’s idea of State


September 17

Class 6

What do people do in states?


Read Tilly, ch. 4


New York Times Quiz 2


September 22

Class 7

Are there different kinds of states? Alternatives to states?


Read Tilly, ch. 5






Part II: The Regime

September 24

Class 8

What should states do?


Read Larry Diamond and Leonardo Morlino (2004), “The Quality of Democracy: An Overview,” http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/20729/Diamond-Morlino.QoD.intro%28book%29.drft1.pdf


New York Times Quiz 3


September 29

Class 9

What is Democracy?


 Read Putnam ch. 1


October 1

Class 10

What are Institutions?


Read Putnam ch.s 2 & 3


New York Times Quiz 4


October 6

Class 11

What makes Institutions Perform Well?


Read Putnam ch. 4


October 8

Class 12

What is a Political Culture? What is a Civic Culture?

Case study: Italy


Read Putnam ch. 5    


Short Essay 2 Due: Reflect on Putnam’s study and weigh in on the debate – is culture or good institutions more important for “making democracy work”? Draw in evidence from the US and Italy.


October 13

Class 13

What is Collective Action ?


Read Putnam ch. 6 And Mancur Olsen (1965) The Logic of Collective Action, pp.s 1-5, 53-60 :



New York Times Quiz 5

October 15

Class 14



Part III: Political Science Methodology or How to Read, Think and Write like a Political Scientist


October 20

Class 15

Basic Assumptions


Read van Evera pp.s 1-30


October 22

Class 16

Qualitative Research & Case Studies


Read van Evera pp.s 35-43, 50-71, 74-88


New York Times Quiz 6


October 27

Class 17

Literature Searches, Bibliographic Work (Library Day 2)


 Paper Proposal and Bibliography: Due Class 20


October 29

Class 18


Quantitative Research


Read Driessen (2010) “Religion, State and Democracy,” skim pp.s 1-16, read pp.s 17-25 very carefully and closely study all the tables



New York Times Quiz 7


November 3

Class 19

Writing Political Science Papers


Read van Evera ch. 4









Part IV: Political Behavior & Public Policy

November 5

Class 20

How do people participate in politics? Classifying and Comparing Party Systems


Read this introduction by Scott Mainwaring to Giovanni Sartori’s party theory (read 1-13 very carefully; skim the rest, make sense of the tables and read the conclusion): https://kellogg.nd.edu/publications/workingpapers/WPS/260.pdf


New York Times Quiz 8


November 10

Class 21

Why do people vote the way they do?


Read this introduction to Anthony Downs’ Median Voter Theory:



Short Essay 3 Due: Count and describe the party and electoral system of one of the following countries: Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Chile or Canada. Reflect on this portrait in light of Mainwaring’s article.


November 12

Class 22

What makes for good Public Policy? Case study: Health Care Reform


Read Theda Skocpol:

1)      “Flashpoint in Healthcare Reform” Dissent (2012) http://www.rockinst.org/newsroom/news_stories/2012/2012-Spring-Dissent.pdf

2)      “What does Healthcare Reform do for Americans,” SSN 2013: http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/sites/default/files/ssn_basic_facts_skocpol_and_jacobs_on_health_reform_1.pdf

3)      “A Fieldguide to the Implementation of Obamacare,” SSN 2014



for more of where this came from: http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/scholar-profile/45


New York Times Quiz 9



November 17

Class 23

What do social movements do?


Read Charles Tilly (1997), “Social Movements as Political Struggle,” http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:2v1r03UpxUsJ:www.ciaonet.org/wps/tic03/&client=firefox-a&hl=en&gl=us&strip=1


Part V. Authoritarian Politics and the future of Political Science

November 19

Class 24

Are all countries democracies?


Read Zakaria, Introduction & ch. 2


New York Times Quiz 10


November 24

Class 25

What do authoritarian regimes look like?


Read Zakaria, ch.s 3 & 4


Short Essay 4 Due: Reflect on Zakaria’s thesis and think about Russia today. Are illiberal democracies the future of global politics?


November 26

Class 26

The Global Politics of Democracy and how they can Fail


Read Zakaria ch.s 5 & 6


New York Times Quiz 11


December 1

Class 27




December 3

Class 28

Conclusions: On the future of democracy & global politics


Read Zakaria, Conclusion


New York Times Quiz 12





Final Exam

Final Paper Due