Political Science 260-1

Introduction to Comparative Politics


Jim Ockey

Office:  Zulauf 113

Office Hours: Monday 4:00-5:30; Tuesday 1:00-2:30

Email: jockey@niu.edu


Course Objectives

This course is an introduction to Comparative Politics.  It is designed to introduce the tools, techniques, and topics of comparative politics.  We begin by discussing the nature of comparative politics.  Is politics a science?  an art?  madness?  something else?  We then turn to some more basic and more difficult questions.  Who are we?  Here we will explore the nature of identity and its relationship to politics.  Nation, religion, and ethnicity are all sources of identity powerful enough to cause tremendous destruction in our world, and will all be considered.  Next, how do we participate?  Here we will examine how people participate in various types of states around the world.  How are we governed?  Since politics and politicians have a major impact on our daily lives, we will explore how political systems work.  How does democracy come about?  Over the last two decades, thousands of people like you and I have battled armed soldiers in the streets in order to win the right to participate in a democratic system.  Soldiers from many countries have worked in peace-keeping roles to help establish democracies in various nations.  We will try to understand the reasons they care so passionately.  Finally, we ask perhaps the most intriguing questions of all: Where do we go from here?  Is globalization our future?  Does the future hold peace and prosperity?  Or war and chaos? 



The assigned textbook is Martin Needler, Identity, Interest, and Ideology (Westport: Praeger, 1996).  I have chosen this text because it is organized around concepts, it is only 250 pages, and it is inexpensive.  We will be reading most of the book over the course of the semester.  We will also be making extensive use of the university’s Blackboard Academic Suite software in the class, with an outline of the key points in each lecture provided to you there.  Please check it regularly for announcements as well.  If you have not previously used Blackboard, you should learn how to use it for this course.  For general information on the department and faculty, see the department website, http://polisci.niu.edu/ 



In the course, there will be two tests and one assignment.  The tests are to assess your knowledge of the material, and your ability to think critically.  The test will not require memorizing historical facts, but will focus on your understanding of concepts and patterns.  The assignment will allow you to apply one or more of the concepts we study to specific countries or events that interest you.  The assignment should be about 7-8 pages.  More information will be provided in class.  One extra credit assignment, worth up to 5%, is available at your option.





Mid-term                                              30%                             October 16

Paper                                                   30%                             November 13

Final                                                     40%                             As Scheduled by NIU


Assignments should be handed-in to a Department secretary in ZU 415 to be time-stamped and recorded.  Any assignment that is not handed in according to this procedure will be deemed to have arrived only on the day a secretary receives it.  In other words, if you slip it under my door, it is considered to have arrived only when I give it to the secretary, which may be several days after you slip it under the door.  This is to ensure that there is verification for all assignments received.


Classroom Etiquette


Students are to arrive at class on time.  Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the professor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency. For instance, it is not acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be turned off during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.). No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group. Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.



Plagiarism is the use without proper acknowledgement of the ideas or work of another person.  To do so is cheating.  All quotations and all paraphrasing of the ideas of others must be referenced.  All sources, including the internet, must be clearly referenced by a recognised form of footnotes, endnotes or in‑text referencing, and in a bibliography. The Undergraduate Catalog states: "students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university."


Note that all internet referencing must include the author or institution in the reference, and with all of your sources, but particularly with the internet, you must be careful to use only reputable works that are appropriate to academic writing. 


Late Penalties

Late work will be penalized at the rate of up to 5 percent per day. Since students have been given the assignment on the first day of class, late penalties will be waived only in extreme circumstances.


Make-up Exams

Makeup exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and where possible before the scheduled exam. Students will be asked to support requests for makeup exams with documentation.  No makeup exam will be allowed unless arrangements are made before the regularly scheduled exam has been graded and returned.


Incomplete requests will be granted only in unusual circumstances, when supported with documentation.  Missing an exam in itself is not a reason for an incomplete.


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.


Contacting Me

I will endeavor to answer email in a timely manner.  However, I do not access my email every day, particularly on the weekends.  As a general guideline, you should expect that a response to your email may be no quicker than meeting me during my office hours.  You should be aware that email messages can go awry, while coming to my office guarantees that I am made aware of your problem.  Keep in mind, too, that your tuition helps to pay for the time I devote to students during my office hours, so don’t be shy about coming to see me.  Make an appointment to see me outside office hours if necessary.






Please note: Do not expect to do well in the class if you do not attend the lectures.  The readings are not a substitute for attending class.


General Reading:  Please read the political news in a daily newspaper (New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune) and in a weekly news magazine (e.g. Time, US News and World Report, Newsweek, etc.).  Many concepts we learn can be applied to contemporary events.  Of particular interest at present are Iraq, Israel/Palestine, any upcoming election, and any military coup or democratic uprising.  Your ability to apply concepts to current events may be tested, so it is important that you have some knowledge of current events.



1.  Introduction:  World Politics and Its Parts (August 28)


            Reading: Needler chapter 1


Section One. Tools and Techniques

2.  The Science in Political Science: A Tool Kit? (August 30)


Reading: Sodaro, Comparative Politics pp. 51-93


3.   Insanity and Reason: Other Tool Kits (September 6)


Reading: Finish Sodero reading


Section Two. Who Are We?

Identities and Politics


4.   It’s in the Blood? Ethnicity (September 11)


Reading: Walker Connor, "The Nation and its Myth," in Ethnicity and Nationalism


5.   Heavenly Creatures: Religion, Identity, and Politics (September 13)


            Reading: Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “Islam, Muslim Polities, and Democracy,” Democratization 11 (August 2004), pp. 90-110


6.  Imagine That: Nationalism (September 18)


Reading: Stalin, "The Nation," in Hutchinson and Smith, eds., Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 18-21


7.   Waving the Flag: Official Nationalism (September 20)


            Reading: Vella, Chaiyo! chapter 6, esp. pp. 136-146


8.  Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall: Nationalism after Communism (September 25)


Reading: Veljko Vujacic, “Nations, Regions, Mentalities: The Many Faces of Yugoslavia,” in Victoria E. Bonnell, ed., Identities in Transition: Eastern Europe and Russia After the Collapse of Communism (Berkeley: University of California, 1996), pp. 103-116


9.  Globalization (September 27)


Reading: Lowenthal, "'European Identity': An Emerging Concept." Australian Journal of Politics and History 46 (no. 3, 2000) 314-22


Section Three. How do we participate?


10.  Something Old Something New: Traditional and Neo-Traditional Government (October 2)


            Reading: Needler chapter 2


11.  Big Brother: Tyrannies (October 4)


            Reading: Orwell, 1984, pp. 11-20; Almond, et. al., pp. 116-127; 193-199


12.  One is the Loneliest Number: One Party States (October 9)


            Reading: Needler chapter 6


13.  I Wanna Be Elected: Elections and Participation (October 11)


            Reading: Finish Needler chapter 6


14.  Midterm (October 16)


Section Four. How are decisions made?

          Political Institutions


15.  Talking Heads: Prime Ministers and Presidents (October 18)


            Reading: Needler chapter 8


16.  We the People…Written Constitutions (October 23)


            Reading: Needler chapter 7;


17.  Red Tape?  Bureaucrats and Bureaucracy (October 25)


            Reading: Needler chapter 9


18.  Its Party-Time! Political Parties (October 30)


Reading: Duverger, Political Parties, introduction


19.  Broken Institutions:  Corruption (November 1)


            Reading: Needler chapter 5


20.  Broken Institutions Too: Militaries and Politics (November 6)


            Reading: Needler chapter 5


Section Four. How Does Democracy Come About?

Developing Democracy


21.  It's Raining, Jim Must Have Washed His Car: Wealth and Democratic Development (November 8)


            Reading: Huntington, The Third Wave, pp. 59-72; 311-16


22.  Power to the People! Democratic Uprisings (November 13)

            Note:  Paper Due

            Reading: Aung San Suu Kyi, "In Quest of Democracy" in Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear; Needler chapter 4


23. A Democratic Uprising in a Communist State? (November 15)


Reading: Yi and Thompson, Crisis at Tiananmen, documents


24.  Political Culture: Six Strokes of the Cane (November 20)


            Reading: Kim Dae Jung, "Is Culture Destiny," Foreign Affairs 73 (November 1994):189-94; Needler chapter 2


Section 5.  Where Are We Going? 

Alternative Futures


25. The End of History? Liberalism, Neo-liberalism and the IMF (November 27)


            Reading: Fukuyama, "The End of History," in O'Meara, Mehlinger, and Krain, Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century


            Supplementary Reading: Needler chapter 11, 15


26.  Clashing Civilizations and World Disorder? (November 29)


            Reading: Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations," Foreign Affairs 72 (no. 3, 1993):22-49


27.  The New World and the Old World: Empires and Communities (December 4)


Reading: Robert Cooper, “The New Liberal Imperialism,” Observer Worldview 2002;


28.  Review for the Exam  (December 6)