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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Political Science"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2015

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 States: AD 990-1992Charles TillyWiley-Blackwell978-1557863683  
Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern ItalyRobert PutnamPrinceton University Press978-0691037387  
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and AbroadFareed ZakariaWW Norton & Company Inc 978-0393331523  
Guide to Methods for Students of Political ScienceStephen van EveraCornell University Press978-0801484575  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Political Science: An Introduction 13th Edition (Global Edition)Roskin, Cord, Medeiros and JonesPearson978-1-292-06005-7  

Newspaper Quizes 10%
Reading Reflections/assignments (4)Due on the day marked in the syllabus30%
midterm 20%
proposal and bibliography 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

January 19

Class 1

Course Introduction: What is Political Science?

Part I: The State

January 21

Class 2

What is a state?  

Read Tilly, ch. 1

January 26

Class 3

Where does a State come from?

Read Tilly, ch. 2

New York Times Quiz 1

January 28

Class 4

What does a state do?

Read Tilly, ch. 3

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

February 2

Class 5

What do people do in states?

Read Tilly, ch. 4

New York Times Quiz 2

February 4

Class 6

Are there different kinds of states? Alternatives to states?

Read Tilly, ch. 5

Part II: The Regime

February 9

Class 7

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

February 11

Class 8

What is Democracy?

 Read Putnam ch. 1

February 16

Class 9

What are Institutions?

Read Putnam ch.s 2 & 3

New York Times Quiz 4

February 18

Class 10

What makes Institutions Perform Well?

Read Putnam ch. 4

February 23

Class 11

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 – are culture or good institutions more important for “making democracy work”? Draw in evidence from the US and Italy.

February 25

Class 12

What is Collective Action ?

Read Putnam ch. 6


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


New York Times Quiz 5

March 2

Class 13


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

March 4

Class 14

Basic Assumptions

Read van Evera pp.s 1-30

March 9

Class 15

Literature Searches, Bibliographic Work (Library Day)

 Paper Proposal and Bibliography: Due Class 20

New York Times Quiz 6

 March 11

Class 16

Qualitative Research & Case Studies

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

March 16

Class 17

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

March 18

Class 18

Writing Political Science Papers

Read van Evera ch. 4

Part IV: Political Behavior & Public Policy

March 23

Class 19

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

March 25

Class 20

Why do people vote the way they do?

Read this introduction to Anthony Downs’ Median Voter Theory:


March 30

Class 21


Group Activity and Essay number 3 Due: Count and describe the party and electoral system of your home country. Reflect on this portrait in light of Mainwaring’s article. Share with the Class what makes your country’s politics special

April 1

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

April 13

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

April 15

Class 24

Are all countries democracies?

Read Zakaria, Introduction & ch. 1

New York Times Quiz 10

April 20

Class 25

What do authoritarian regimes look like?

Read Zakaria, ch. 2 & 3

April 22

Class 26

The Global Politics of Democracy and how they can Fail

Read Zakaria ch.s 4 & 5

New York Times Quiz 11

April 27

Class 27

On the future of democracy & global politics

Read Zakaria ch. 6

April 29

Class 28


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

Read Zakaria, Conclusion

New York Times Quiz 12

Final Exam

Final Paper Due