POLS 260: Foreign and Comparative Politics

Fall 2005, MW, DuSable 459

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


Instructor:         Eric R. Digman                         Department of Political Science

Office:              476 Zulauf Hall                         Office: 315 Zulauf Hall

Phone: 815.753.1818                                      Phone: (815) 753-1011

Office Hours:    Tu: 2:30-4:30                                      

                        & by appointment

E-mail:              edigman@hotmail.com


Course Overview


Welcome to the world of comparative politics!  This course is NIU’s introduction to the study of political systems outside of the United States.  Key themes of Comparative Politics will be interjected into each course segment.  The aim of this course is to examine the historical, cultural, and institutional political processes of foreign countries. 


During the first half of the course we will explore key issues in comparative politics and contrast the political development of Great Britain and France, two early modernizing countries in Europe.  After the midterm exam, we will examine contending ideologies and political patterns in The People’s Republic of China and Iran, two countries who have taken different routs in the balancing ideology with modernization. 



Readings and Lectures



Michael G. Roskin, Countries and Concepts: Politics, Geography, Culture, 8th edition (Prentice Hall, 2003)


Additional handouts and readings will be provided. 


Videos will be presented if time allows. 



The course lectures will follow the general outline of the readings.  Thus, all students are expected to complete the assigned readings before attending class.  While the readings and the lectures will overlap, independent material will be presented.  Note that exams and quizzes will draw from ALL SOURCES of information assigned or presented in class. 



Course materials may be posted via Blackboard. You can access Blackboard by following these steps:

1.      Type the URL http://webcourses.niu.edu/ in the address box of your browser (Internet Explorer works best) or go to the NIU homepage and click on "Current Students," then "Academics," and then "Blackboard Course Server."  You can also access Blackboard with the A-Z feature of the NIU homepage.

2.      Click the Login Button.

3.      Type username (Novel ID = student ZID) and password.  For help with your password, please go to password.niu.edu or phone 753-8100.

4.      Click Login.

5.      Click on the title of this course.

6.      Click on assignments.

7.      Open and print out the relevant assignment.


If you have problems in accessing Blackboard, please call 753-8100.



Course Requirements and Grading


Exams: 60 pts.

Two exams are scheduled for this course.  A mid-term exam, scheduled for October 17, will be comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions.  The final exam, scheduled for December 5, will follow the same format.  Each exam will cover a discrete section of the course, though some of the material has a cumulative character.  Each exam will be worth 30% of the course grade.  If necessary, exam grades will be curved in accordance with overall student performance. I will hand back the mid-term for review in class; however, departmental policy requires me to retain all objective questions and answers on file.  The final exam will remain on file at the Department of Political Science and available for review until the end of the Spring 2006 semester. 


Make-up exams will be given only in the case of a documented medical or personal emergency.  In such an event, you must notify me before the exam when possible or immediately thereafter.  The format of make-up exams will be at my discretion and may require more intensive preparation.  If you anticipate any problems or conflicts, contact me well in advance of the exam. 


Quizzes: 20 pts.

Six unannounced quizzes will be given in class throughout the semester.  Of these six, only the best four will count towards your grade (5 points for each quiz).  Make-up quizzes will be given only under extraordinary circumstances at the discretion of the instructor. 


Paper:  20 pts.

Drawing on recent periodicals, academic journals, and/or on-line sources, each student will write a 5 page paper analyzing a major contemporary political issue or significant recent event in Great Britain, France, China, or Iran.  More specific instructions will be passed out by the third week of class.  Papers will be due in class on Monday, November 28.  Late papers will be penalized 5 points for each day of tardiness. I will not accept papers that reach me after class on November 30.  Graded papers will be returned on December 5, at the time of the final exam.  Early papers are acceptable anytime after the midterm exam (October 17). 


Attendance and Class Participation: 4 pts. Extra Credit!

Attendance and participation at all class sessions is expected.  I will check attendance regularly.  If you arrive after roll is checked, please notify me at the end of class and I will mark you tardy (a tardy may not count as an entire class).   Please do not leave class early without prior permission, as this is very distracting.  I will count any “walkouts” as absences unless the student has permission or there is an emergency.


You can earn up to 4 points of extra credit through attendance and class participation. If you have 2 or fewer recorded absences, I will add 2 points to your course average. If you have 3 or 4 recorded absences, I will add 1 point to your course average.  Thus, good attendance can help you, but you are not penalized for poor attendance.  I will also give extra credit to students who in our judgment have made significant contributions to class discussion.  I will add 1 point for above-average class participation and 2 points for outstanding participation.  In assessing class participation, I will emphasize quality, rather than mere quantity. 


After the first week of class, I ask that students try to sit in approximately the same place to facilitate my learning of your names and to be able to quickly monitor attendance. 


Course Grade:

The following weights will be use in determining your course average:


Quizzes            20%

Paper               20%

Mid-term          30%

Final                 30%




Any extra points for attendance and class participation will be added to this average.


Course Grades will be distributed as follows:


Final Average                                                   Final Grade

90-100%                                                                     A       

80-89%                                                                       B                                

70-79%                                                                       C

60-69%                                                                       D

Below 50%                                                                  F






The Learning Environment:

Respect for the learning community and the learning process would normally include coming to class on time and remaining in ones seat, requesting permission to speak and exclude persistent lateness, leaving the class room during class time, studying for another class, and reading a newspaper.  Comments that are not relevant to the ongoing discussion, off the point, disruptive, insensitive to others, or attempt to dominate the discussion will not be rewarded.  I expect all of you to treat one another with respect.  Hurtful comments of your classmates will not be tolerated.  Also, there is a cell phone policy in this class.  I expect all of you to turn your phones OFF before class begins.  If you are expecting an emergency call, please inform me and you may turn your phone to vibrate and respond to it in the hallway. 


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.  If you have some cause for concern, please see me as soon as possible. 


Adjustments in Course Schedule:  I will do my best to follow the course schedule outlined below, but I reserve the right to make reasonable adjustments with adequate warning if unforeseeable or uncontrollable circumstances (e.g. weather, illness, travel) so warrant.  However, it is not fair to modify the class schedule or set exam dates simply to accommodate the preferences of some students as other students inevitably suffer.


Academic Integrity:  Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (see p. 49 of 2004-05 Undergraduate Catalog).  Any student found guilty of cheating will receive an “F” for the course.  He or she may also be subject 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 Service Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CAAR and instructor be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


Department of Political Science Web Site:

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis.  This up-to-date, central source of information 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


Undergraduate Writing Awards:

The Department of Political Science recognizes, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies, such as independent studies or honors theses.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and a check for $50.00.  There is no requirement as to the length of papers submitted for the award.  Often the Department awards prizes for both an outstanding short paper and an outstanding long paper. The number and types of awards is dependent upon the papers submitted for consideration in any given year.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Only papers written in the previous calendar can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to the undergraduate studies secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Direct any further questions to the director of undergraduate studies. 


Class Schedule

Introduction and Concepts: Nation and State, Democratization


August 22:                    Introduction to Course

                                    No assigned readings.


August 24:                    Basic Concepts: Nation and State

Read: Roskin, pp. 1-9, box on p. 17.


August 29:                    Democratization

Read: Roskin, boxes on pp. 9 and 15


Great Britain


August 31:                    Great Britain: The Impact of the Past

Read: Roskin, pp. 20-35.


September 5:              Labor Day; University Closed!


September 7:                Great Britain: The Impact of the Past (continued)          

Great Britain: Political Culture

Read: Roskin, pp. 11-12, boxes on pp. 13-14, 53-65.


September 12:              Great Britain: Electoral Systems and Parties

Read: Roskin, p. 10 (paragraph on parties), pp. 50-51; review  pp. 56-58 and 61; pp. 66-73. 


September 14:              Great Britain: Governmental Institutions

Read: Roskin, pp. 9-10, 12-16, 36-50, 73-78.


September 19:              Great Britain

Video: Order! Order! Britain’s Parliament at Work


September 21: Great Britain: Quarrels

Read: Roskin, pp. 17-18, 79-93; review box on pp. 16.




September 26: France: The Impact of the Past

                                    Read: Roskin, pp. 96-112.

Video: The French Revolution


September 28:              France: The Impact of the Past (continued)

Video: The Essential History of France

France: Political Culture

Read: Roskin, pp. 130-145.


October 3:                    France: Elections and Parties

Read: Roskin, box on p.119, pp. 124-126, review boxes on pp. 136 and 144; pp. 147-157.


October 5:                    France

                                    Video: François Mitterrand: A Tale of Power 


October 10:                  France: Governmental Institutions

Read: Roskin, pp. 113-124, 127-128 157-160.


October 12:                  France: Quarrels

Read: Roskin, pp. 162-175.


Mid-Term Exam


October 17:                Mid-Term Exam


People’s Republic of China


October 19:                  China: The Impact of the Past

                                    Read: Roskin, pp. 416-423, pp. 433-440, box on pp. 429


October 24:                  China

                                    Video: The Two Coasts of China


October 26:                  China: The Impact of the Past (continued)

                                    Video: The Chinese Revolution


October 31:                  China: Political Culture

                                    Read: Roskin, 430-432

China: Governmental Institutions

Read: Roskin, pp. 424-429


November 2:                China: Quarrels

                                    Read: Roskin, pp. 440-447




November 7:                Iran: The Impact of the Past

                                    Read: Roskin, pp. 518-525


November 9:                Iran: The Impact of the Past (continued)

                                    Video: TBA


November 14:              Iran: Political Culture

                                    Read: Roskin, pp. 529-541, box on pp. 547


November 16:              Iran

                                    Video: TBA


November 21:              Iran: Governmental Institutions

            Read: Roskin, pp. 525-529


November 23:            Thanksgiving Break Begins!


November 28:              Iran: Quarrels

                                    Read: Roskin, pp. 541-549

                                    Paper Due!


November 30:              Review for Exam

Teacher Evaluation


Final Exam


December 5:               Final Exam: 4:00-5:50 p.m.

                                    Paper handed back