POLS 260: Introduction to Comparative Politics

Fall 2006, Section 3; DuSable 459: Thursday 6:30pm-9:10pm


Instructor: Mr. Blake Klinkner

Office Hours: DuSable 476: Tuesday 4-5:30pm, Wednesday 1-2:30pm (and by appointment)

Office Phone: 753-1818 (NOTE: DO NOT leave voice messages on this phone if I am not available; this office phone is neither private nor secure).

E-mail: pols_260_klinkner@yahoo.com


Welcome to POLS 260: Introduction to Comparative Politics. It is my intention that this course will be informative, useful, interesting, and enjoyable. As the world is continuously becoming “smaller” and the global community more interconnected, the study of comparative politics is increasingly proving itself to be important in producing informed and prepared citizens, ready to face the challenges of a growing world society.


The course will begin by introducing you to the field of comparative politics. We will discuss how political scientists approach the field, what is studied in the field, and discuss advantages and disadvantages within the field. We will then begin studying individual countries, starting with Great Britain and France (often considered to be the “classic” comparative study in comparative politics). Next, we will study Germany, whose path of development took a very different turn. Finally, the class will conclude with China and Iran, two countries with political systems comparatively less democratic than the aforementioned countries studied.


Course Policies and Requirements


1. Attendance and Participation.  This class only meets once a week. If you miss a lecture, you have just missed an *entire* week of class. Therefore, regular attendance is expected, and will account for 10% of your final grade. As this course is a power lecture that meets only once a week, it is absolutely vital that you make yourself free every Thursday from 6:30pm-9:10pm for this class. Whenever possible, notify the instructor well in advance of any potential conflicts that will or might interfere with your ability to attend this class. If you miss one class unexcused, then you will receive an “F” for that 10% of your final grade. If you miss a second time unexcused (and hence miss two entire weeks of class unexcused), then you will fail the class. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you think that you will not be able to abide by these rules, please do not enroll in this class. Excused absences include religious observances, major medical or personal/family crises, and other unforeseen, unfortunate circumstances outside of one’s control that are approved by the instructor. If you are a student athlete who competes regularly with the university, please notify me on the first day of class. Excused absences must be approved by the instructor and submitted in writing (e-mail). At my discretion, I may require substantiating evidence of your reason for an excused absence (such as a doctor’s note, copy of funeral program, receipt from a tow truck or auto mechanic, etc.).


Regarding participation, students should actively participate in classroom discussions where appropriate. The raising of relevant questions in class is encouraged and also contributes to an atmosphere of participation.


In the unlikely event that class must be cancelled for some reason, I will do my best to notify the class in advance (via e-mail whenever possible). However, there may be unfortunate (and highly unlikely) circumstances in which class will not be held, and I am unable to notify the class in advance.  For this reason, I am instituting a “15-Minute Rule” for this class: if it is 15 minutes past the normal start-time of the class, and I am not present, then you are free to go.


2. Respect for the Classroom. When in the classroom, I expect that you show respect to myself, and your fellow classmates. Below I have listed examples of behavior that constitutes a lack of respect in the classroom. Engaging in disruptive and disrespectful behavior can result in deduction of points for your attendance and participation grade, and can also be grounds for expulsion from the class. The following list is not all-inclusive; the instructor has the right to include actions not listed below as disruptive and disrespectful.


a. Leaving the room, unless the instructor has previously agreed or there is an emergency. If you leave without prior speaking to me, e-mail me with the reason for leaving class. If you know that you must leave class early, please sit close to the door, so as to minimize disruption.


b. Allowing your cell phone to ring in class.  (If there is a true emergency that may necessitate receiving a call, please let me know before class). If you need to leave your phone on, set it to the “vibrate” mode, so as to minimize disruption. Also, if you expect to take an important call during class, sit next to the door, so as to minimize disruption when you leave the room to answer the call.


c. Using a cell phone for conversation, text messaging, or as a camera. 


d. Engaging in a private conversation.


e. Reading the newspaper, studying for another class, or undertaking some other activity that is not related to this course.


f. Falling asleep during class. If you sleep during class, I reserve the right to count this behavior as an unexcused absence, subject to the conditions stated above decreed to unexcused absences. If you are disturbing the class while sleeping (such as snoring), I have the right to ask you to leave the class, or have you removed by the university.  


g. Listening to music or the radio, even with headphones.


h. Smoking (All NIU classrooms are smoke-free environments).


i. Any other behavior that is coarse, rude, noticeably inattentive, or inconsiderate of others.


Breaks during class: As this is a power lecture, and on top of that a late-night power lecture, I will allow a short break during class. Use the allotted break time as you wish, but be respectful to the instructor and the class by reporting back to your seat on time and within the allotted break. If I feel that the class is not respecting the break time, I have the right to reduce the amount of time allotted for breaks, and the right to not have breaks during class at all.


3. Readings and Lectures.  There is only one required textbook to be purchased for this class:


Michael G. Roskin, Countries and Concepts: Politics, Geography, Culture, 8th edition (Prentice Hall, 2004)


Some short readings may also be handed out in class or placed on Blackboard.


You should complete reading assignments for each date before coming to class. Lectures will usually complement, parallel, and reiterate information from the book. However, information will be provided in the lectures that was not included in the book readings, and some information from the book readings will not be discussed during lecture. Therefore, students should finish the assigned readings on time and attend all lectures in order to obtain all necessary information for the class. Doing so is the best way to maximize your chances of knowing the material, being prepared for exams, quizzes and assignments, and earning a good grade for the class.


4. Study Guides and Quizzes.  20% of your final grade will consist of unannounced quizzes held during class. These quizzes will usually be given at the beginning of class, so do not be late, as I will not allow make-ups for walking into class late after the quizzes have been passed out (unless approved for extraordinary circumstances at my discretion). I also will not allow make-up quizzes for missed classes, unless the absence is excused at my discretion. Quizzes will pertain to the readings assigned for that day.


Study guides will be provided a week in advance of the class lecture to which they are pertinent, either via the Blackboard website (www.blackboard.niu.edu), or as handouts in class.  If for any reason you are unable to obtain a copy of the handout via Blackboard or in class, then send me an e-mail requesting a copy sent as an attachment (I will check e-mail several times daily under most circumstances, so I will respond within 24 hours). It is *your* responsibility to make sure that you have a copy of the study guide after it has been made available. The purposes of the study guides are to highlight important people, terms, and concepts from the readings, as well as to present study questions that will assist you in extracting the most important concepts, themes, and ideas from the readings. Quizzes will be based upon the study guides, so it is a good idea to use the study guides when completing the readings.


6. Videos.  I will show several videos in class on course-related topics to the extent that time and scheduling permit.  These classes should be treated as would any regular lecture: come to class prepared, and bring the study guide with you for the week.  I will help you to focus on the most important aspects of the videos.  Information from the videos will be “fair game” for the final exam.


7. Exams.  A mid-term exam and final exam will be held in class, each worth 25% of the final grade.  Each exam will cover a discrete section of the course, though some of the material has a cumulative character.  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 for a short period of time following the end of the semester for the purpose of review as well.


Make-up exams will be given only in the case of a documented medical or personal emergency, or as appropriate when the exam time conflicts with another class’.  In such an event, you must notify me before the exam.  Make-up exams may be all short answer, a format that requires more intensive preparation.


8. Papers.  There will be 2 papers assigned in class, each worth 10% of your final grade. Each paper must be between 1-2 pages in length, and in your research you should utilize at least 3 academic resources outside of the Roskin textbook (newspapers, journals, news magazines, other academic books, etc.). Proper citation and references for your research is required. Each week’s study guide will include at least one thematic question, which can be answered in a research paper. If you choose to answer one of these questions, then your paper will be due to me by the start of class the following week. Your two research papers should not pertain to the same country; otherwise, you are free to choose which questions you would like to answer for your two papers. Late papers will not be accepted, unless under extraordinary circumstances at my discretion.  Papers MUST be submitted to me via e-mail. I advise you to not wait until the last minute to send your papers via e-mail, as I will strictly enforce the time deadline for when they are due. Upon receipt of your paper, I will respond with a confirmation e-mail. Please send your paper in Microsoft Word format. If for some reason you cannot submit your papers via e-mail, please see me in advance.


10. Course Grade.  The following weights will be use in determining your final course grade:


Attendance and Participation 10%

Quizzes 20%

Research Papers 20%

                                                            Mid-term         25%

                                                            Final                25%



Note: no extra credit will be available for the class.



The following scale will be used for assigning letter grades:


Percentage                                                                   Final Grade

                            90-100%                                                                         A       

                            80-89%                                                                           B                                

                            65-79%                                                                           C

                            50-64%                                                                           D

                            Below 50%                                                                     F


11. Seating and Checking Attendance.  After the first week of class, all students will sit in permanently assigned seats to facilitate the checking of attendance and so that I can learn your names.  If you arrive after roll is checked, please notify me at the end of class; it is your responsibility to make sure that you are recorded on the attendance roster that is passed around at each class. Walking into class excessively late (more than 15 minutes) is disrespectful and disruptive to the class; if you come in excessively late to class, you must have a good, legitimate reason for doing so if you wish to be added onto the attendance roster for that day.    


12. 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.


13. 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 (weather, illness, etc.) so warrant. 


14.  Academic Integrity.  Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (for more information, consult the Undergraduate Catalog).  Any student found guilty of cheating (including and not limited to plagiarism (both intentional and unintentional), submitting work that is not original and one’s own, looking at barred material during exams and quizzes, etc.) will receive an “F” for the course.  Students can also be expelled from the university or face other punishment for engaging in cheating and other acts of dishonesty. I take academic dishonesty very seriously, and will pursue the most extensive punitive actions as allowed by the university.


15. Students with Disabilities. NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations be provided for qualified students

with disabilities. If you have a disability and may require some type

of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early

in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing

accommodations you may need. If you have not already done so, you will

need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR),

the designated office on campus to provide services and administer

exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is

located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building



16. Department Web Page. Students are encouraged to access the Political Science Department’s website at www.polisci.niu.edu. The website contains many important links and information that can be helpful to political science students.


17. Undergraduate Writing Awards. For more information on the Undergraduate Writing Awards, please stop by the political science office (415 Zulauf Hall) or call 753-1011.




Course Outline and Reading Assignments


August 31: Introduction to Course


September 7: The Concept of Country; Issues in the Study of Comparative Politics

            Roskin, Chp. 1


September 14: Great Britain: The Impact of the Past

            Roskin, Chp. 2

                        Great Britain: The Key Institutions

            Roskin, Chp. 3


September 21: Great Britain: Patterns of Interaction

            Roskin, Chp. 5

                        Great Britain: British Political Culture

            Roskin, Chp. 4


September 28: Great Britain: Quarrels

            Roskin, Chp. 6

                        France: The Impact of the Past

            Roskin, Chp. 7


October 5: France: The Key Institutions

            Roskin, Chp. 8

                        France: Patterns of Interaction

            Roskin, Chp. 10


October 12: France: Political Culture

            Roskin, Chp. 9

                        France: Quarrels

            Roskin, Chp. 11


October 19: Review for the Midterm Exam on Great Britain and France


                    Taking of the Midterm Exam


October 26: Germany: The Impact of the Past

            Roskin, Chp. 12

                        Germany: The Key Institutions

            Roskin, Chp. 13



November 2: Germany: Patterns of Interaction

            Roskin, Chp. 15

                        Germany: Political Culture

            Roskin, Chp. 14


November 9: Germany: Quarrels

            Roskin, Chp. 16


November 16: China

Roskin, pages 412-447






November 30: Iran

            Roskin, pages 518-549


December 7: Review for Final Exam



December 14: Final Exam 6:00pm-7:50pm