POLS 260: Foreign and Comparative Politics

Fall 2003, MW, DuSable 252

Section 2: 3:30-4:45 p.m.



Instructor:         Tony E. Wohlers

Office:              DuSable 461

Phone: 753-1818

Office Hours:    W: 2:00-3:30

                        & by appointment

E-mail:              wohlpicard@aol.com



Course Overview


Wilkommen and Welcome to the world of comparative politics. This course is designed to introduce and focus on the political systems outside the United States. We live in remarkable times! Communism in Eastern Europe collapsed and Apartheid in South Africa soon followed. Western European democracies have taken new steps toward political and economic integration. Governments around the world are facing old and new challenges – refugees, economic fragility, ethnic unrest, environmental decay and terrorism. Instead of studying all 170+ nation-states in the world, we will focus on several countries that will serve as examples of different types of polities. Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Russia, China and Thailand are selected to illustrate their historical development, key institutions and political culture. By focusing on these countries, this course has the following goals. First, it will give you a chance to study the politics of particular countries you probably know little about. Second, it seeks to convey an analytical approach to the study of politics and to provide you with an opportunity to reflect on some of the essential questions, old and new, with which students of politics have to grapple. Your new understandings should enhance your role as citizen in a democracy, i.e., enable you to make more informed judgments on the policies that our leaders propose to follow in dealing with these nations.



Readings and Lectures


·        Readings: Please purchase a copy of the textbook for this course: Michael G. Roskin. Countries and Concepts. 8th edition (Prentice Hall, 2004) at the NIU Bookstore or the Village Commons Bookstore. The Roskin volume contains the vast majority of the required readings for this course. Some additional short readings on political concepts and current events are available on reserve at Founders Memorial Library’s “Reserve” desk (Main Library).


·        Lectures: Lectures will parallel and complement not merely repeating the material in the textbook. You are responsible for the material covered in the readings as well as in the lectures.

Course Requirements and Grading


·        Exams: There are three exams. Two of these will be exams written in class on September 22 and October 20. The first exam will count for 20% of your course grade and the second exam will count for 25% of your grade. The final exam is comprehensive, but approximately more than half of the questions will be on material covered after the second exam. It will also count for 30% of your course grade and take place during the regularly scheduled final exam period (December 8: 4-5:50 p.m.). The format of each exam will be a combination of essay, short answer, and multiple-choice. NO MAKE-UP EXAMS WILL BE GIVEN, except at the discretion of the instructor in the case of emergencies. If there are any problems or conflicts, contact the professor well in advance of the exam.


·        Journals: Every second week of the semester, each student is required to turn in a 2 page (double spaced/font 12) essay on 1 current event outside the United States. The event should deal with a political issue in one of the foreign countries covered in this class. For the event, use the following structure. The first paragraph should describe the event, while the following paragraphs should analyze the selected political event in relation to the class readings/lectures and your personal opinion. The journals count for 15% of your course grade. Some excellent sources of international news include the hard copy and online versions of the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and the BBC World News.


·        Participation: The participation portion of your final grade is designed to reward those students who come to class prepared. Satisfactory class participation requires that students are present and attentive as well as contributing to class discussion in a manner that reflects they have read the required materials.


·        Grading:   Exam I             à 20%

Exam II            à 25%

                        Exam III           à 30%

                        Journals            à 15%

                        Participation     à 10%







Topics and Activities






August 27

Nation and State


Read:  Roskin, ch. 1, pp. 1-19

September 1

Labor Day

Enjoy the holiday


September 3

Polities of the World

Read:  Schmitter, What Democracy is…and Not ®


September 8

Great Britain:


Read:  Roskin, chs. 2 & 3, pp. 20-52

                Studlar, A Constitutional Revolution ®


September 10


Great Britain

Read:  Roskin, ch. 5, pp. 66-78

Due:    First Journal


September 15


Great Britain

Read: Roskin, ch. 4, pp. 53-65

September 17


Great Britain

Read: Roskin, ch. 6, pp. 79-93

September 22


Exam I

Write: Exam in Class

September 24



Read: Roskin, chs. 12 & 13, pp. 176-214

September 29



Read: Roskin, ch. 15, pp. 230-244

            Economist, Germany’s General Election ®

Due:    Second Journal


October 1



Read: Roskin, ch. 14, pp. 215-229

October 6



Read: Roskin, ch. 16, pp. 245-259

October 8



Read: Roskin, chs. 22 & 23, pp. 340-366


October 13



Read: Roskin, ch. 25, pp. 382-395

Due:    Third Journal


October 15



Read: Roskin, ch. 24, pp. 367-381


October 20



Read: Roskin, ch. 26, pp. 396-411

            Ibison, Radical Reverts to the Old Pattern ®

            French, Setting Sun? ®


October 22


Exam II

Write:  Exam in Class




October 27



Read:  Roskin, chs. 17 & 18, pp. 262-294




October 29



Read: Roskin, ch. 20, pp. 310-323

Due:    Fourth Journal



November 3



Read: Roskin, ch. 19, pp. 295-309


November 5


Read: Roskin, ch. 21, pp. 324-337

            Economist, Yeltsin’s Legacy ®

            Allison, Deepening Russian Democracy ®



November 10



Read:  Roskin, ch. 27, pp. 416-429



November 12



Read: Roskin, ch. 27, pp. 436-440

Due:    Fifth Journal



November 17



Read: Roskin, ch. 27, pp. 430-447

            Pomfret, Era of Deep Changes for China ®



November 19



Read:  Wilson, Historical Background



November 24



Read:  Neher, Political Succession in Thailand ®

Due:    Sixth Journal



November 26-30


Thanksgiving break

Enjoy the break


December 1



Read: Uwanno, Thai Constitution of 1997 ®


December 3



Q&A:  Come to class with specific questions


December 8

4-5:50 p.m.


Exam III

Write:  Exam in Class


Note: ® = On Reserve in the Main Library



Course Policies


·        Incompletes: NO INCOMPLETES will be given for reasons other than a medical or personal emergency and then only after presentation of verifiable documentation. Academic hardship does not qualify as an acceptable excuse.


·        Academic Integrity: Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity. Any student found guilty of cheating will receive an “F” for the course. He or she may also be subjected to additional sanctions imposed by the University.


·        Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities: Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.



Awards and Resources


·        Undergraduate Writing Awards: Papers written courses in the Department of Political Science are eligible for the Department’s undergraduate writing award. Your hard work could earn you $50, a certificate, and a nice line on your resume. Papers written in Fall 2003 are due on February 28, 2004. See the Department website for more details below.


·         Resources: The Department of Political Science Web Site is an up-to-date, central source of information. It will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu