Fall 2024: European, African, and Asian Adventure

POLS 241 Comparative Government and Politics [CRN 75652]

Overview of Course

In the field of political science and international relations, the study of comparative politics examines the similarities and differences among different societies and states to gain useful insights about people and their governmental systems. By making these comparisons, we can test plausible hypotheses (specific predictions about likely outcomes)—and even develop empirically grounded social scientific theories (broad claims about how the world works)—to help us gain deeper insights about the world we live in. For example, what are the factors that allow democratic governance to thrive, and why does it fail in so many places? Are some systems of government (such as presidential systems or parliamentary systems) or electoral systems (majoritarian or proportional representation) more effective than others? Why are some countries wealthier than others? How do some (sometimes poor) countries achieve the effective rule of law, while other (sometimes rich) countries find it to be so elusive? Specific topics covered will include the types and characteristics of political institutions (such as constitutions, electoral systems, and political parties), the role of economic factors (such as class structures and free markets), and the causes and effects of political culture (such as social capital, religion, tribalism, and clientelism). In this sense, we will do our best to look to the countries we visit to understand these topics. Learning as we travel across the world, our exploration of comparative politics will be a voyage in itself.