Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science


Professor L. Kamenitsa                                                                        Spring 2005

Office: Zulauf 310                                                                                 Sec. 1

Phone: 753-7053; e-mail: Lynnkam@niu.edu                                        MWF 11-11:50

Office Hours: M 3:30-4:30; W 12-1; & by appt.                                   DU  459


TA: Deb Kennedy

Office: DuSable 476

Phone: 753-1818; e-mail: debrak72@comcast.net
Office hours: M 12-1; T 6-6:30; & by appointment

 This course serves as NIU's introduction to politics outside the United States.  As such, it has two main goals.  First, it will give you a chance to study the politics of particular countries you probably know little about.  Second, it introduces an analytical approach to the study of politics and provides an opportunity to grapple with some of the essential questions -- old and new -- of politics.  By the end of the semester, 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 countries.

This course is based on the assumption that a useful way to learn about "politics" is to look at a wide variety of political systems, and to compare them.  Accordingly, we will examine four kinds of systems: a) liberal democracies, with the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan as case studies, b) communist and postcommunist states, using China and Russia as examples, c) newly industrialized countries, with a focus on Mexico, and d) less developed countries, drawing on the experiences of Nigeria. 

            In studying these countries, we will focus on the state.  It is at the heart of most attempts to come to grips with the changes buffeting our shrinking world.  It is the institution people turn to most frequently and most consistently in trying to solve their collective problems. The overarching questions for us will be not only about who governs and how in different systems, but also an assessment what difference the form and process of government make for the people living in these countries.




1. John McCormick, Comparative Politics in Transition, 4th ed., Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004.  (Available for purchase at both local bookstores)


2.  Required news articles are also assigned.  Most will be available on-line via Blackboard or at Print Reserve in the library.  These readings are currently listed in the syllabus as “Recent news articles: TBA.”  Information about specific articles will be announced in class and posted on Blackboard several days before you need to have them read.  This enables us to include very up to date materials about the countries we are studying.  Students are responsible for checking the Blackboard “Assignments” tab on a regular basis (at least twice a week).


All reading assignments should be completed before the class period for which they are assigned. In the event that a student might miss a class, she/he is still responsible for any assignments, schedule changes, or other information given during that class period.  



Read the assigned materials carefully.  The lectures will parallel and complement the readings, but they won’t repeat the reading.  The exams will cover readings (text and news articles), class lectures and discussions, and any videos shown in class.  Class discussions will be based on both the text and the assigned news articles. 


Write 5 short study question essays. 15% of course grade.  For all countries covered, except the US, several study questions will be posted on Blackboard (click on the appropriate date under the “Assignments” tab). Each student must write five separate short essays that respond to study questions provided (for five separate dates, of course).  Each short essay will be a 1-1½  page (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt font, 1 inch margins) essay that draws on the assigned readings to provides a thoughtful and analytical response to one of the study questions.  Each short essay should demonstrate the student’s familiarity with the assigned reading and ability to reflect upon the reading in an analytical fashion. This reflection might take the form of comparing the country at hand to another country we’ve studied, or tying the McCormick reading to an assigned current news story reading, or responding with an original thesis that is supported by evidence from the readings or lectures.

            Study questions will be posted approximately one week before the due date.  They will usually be drawn from the Study Questions at the end of each chapter in McCormick.  Short essays are due at the beginning of class (by 11:05 am) on the day designated.  They will not be accepted late (you will simply have to write yours for another class period).  Each student must turn in at least one of her/his short essays before the first exam (2/18) and at least three of her/his short essays before spring break (by 3/11).  No short essays will be accepted after 4/25.  Each student is responsible for keeping track of these deadlines & meeting them.  Do not expect any flexibility.  Look over your obligations in this and other courses and plan your short essays accordingly. (Get them out of the way soon -- you’ll be glad later!!)


Attend class and participate in class discussions. 10% of course grade. Attendance at all class sessions is expected, and we will check attendance regularly.  An attendance score will be calculated as the percentage of the class sessions that you attend, and this score will determine 10% of your course grade.  Class discussion will be a key technique for covering current events material, so your attendance and participation are particularly important.  Informed participation in class discussions will help students in borderline grade situations significantly.


Take three examinations.  75% of course grade. Two of these will be midterms written in class on February 18 (5th week) and March 30 (10th week).  Each one will count for 25% of your course grade.  The final exam is comprehensive, but approximately half of the questions will be on material covered after the second midterm exam. It will count for 25% of your course grade and take place during the regularly scheduled final exam period (May 11). The format of each exam will be a combination of short essay and multiple-choice.  THERE WILL BE NO MAKE-UP EXAMS GIVEN, except in cases of emergencies and then only at the discretion of the professor. If there are any problems or conflicts, contact the professor well in advance of the exam.


Important dates to remember:

            February 18     Exam I   and  one of five short essays due by this date

            March  11        Three of five short essays due by this date

            March 30         Exam II

            April 25            All five short essays due by this date

            May 11            Exam III


Most of the assignments and some of the communication for this course will be conducted through the university’s Blackboard Course Server.  It is kind of like a course website that can be accessed through the internet, but only by students enrolled in this course.  The web address for Blackboard at NIU is http://webcourses.niu.edu . You will need your student Z-ID and password to log into Blackboard. If you have questions about Blackboard or logging in, go to http://www.helpdesk.niu.edu/ and click on “Blackboard.” The system uses your NIU student e-mail account (your Z-number account) as the default e-mail address.  If you wish to receive course-related e-mails at any other address, you need to log in to Blackboard immediately and edit your personal information to indicate the e-mail address you want to use for this course. Otherwise you will not receive communications sent to all students. Do that today!  (On the first Blackboard screen, go to the “Tools” box on the left and click on “Personal Information.”) Blackboard sometimes goes down unexpectedly.  Therefore, do not wait until the last minute to access materials you need on Blackboard.  For example, if a reading assignment for Friday is posted on Monday, an outage Thursday night will NOT be an acceptable excuse for not completing the assignment.  If you have login problems, contact ITS at 753-8100.



The class will consist of lectures and discussions.  Students will have ample opportunity to participate in making the course interesting and relevant.  Students' comments and questions on readings, lectures, and current events are welcome and encouraged.  You’ll learn more and we’ll all enjoy the course more if you are actively involved in each class session.



Students should be in place in the classroom by 11:00. Habitual tardiness will not be tolerated. Although I’ll make every effort to end each class by 11:50, students should act with respect and courtesy by giving the lecturer the opportunity to conclude before gathering papers and books and rising to leave.  Please be especially courteous to guest lecturers.

Students should not read materials, shuffle papers, fall asleep, send text messages, or talk to neighbors during lectures or videos.  It’s distracting to the presenter and to other students.  Students should not leave the room during class except in case of dire emergencies or with advanced permission of the instructor. Students are not allowed to respond to cell phones or pagers in the class, nor may students leave the classroom to do so.  Please turn them off during class.  Students are not permitted to have access to any electronic devices during exams.

Each participant in the course, staff and students, will respect the right of every individual to voice opinions, offer information, & reflect on readings whether or not she/he agrees with what is expressed. Healthy debate is encouraged; disrespect is not.




Any student found guilty of cheating or plagiarizing can receive an "F" for the examination and the course.  Criteria for these offenses are described in the Student Judicial Code and  the 2004-2005 Undergraduate Catalog (see "Academic Integrity"). In any and all written assignments, students must provide full, formal citations any time they use the words or thoughts of another (this also applied to readings assigned for the course).


            - Any schedule or assignment changes will be announced in class and/or posted on Blackboard. Readings listed as “Bb” are available on this course’s Blackboard site under the “Assignments” tab.


Week and Date                        Topic                                       Required Readings 


1          1/19                 Introduction


1          1/21     I.  Liberal Democracies                     Read:  McCormick, “Introduction,” pp.1-20

                                                                                                McCormick, “Liberal Democracies,” pp. 21-33


2          1/24,26            A. United States                     Read:   McCormick, Ch.1, pp. 34-79.

                                                                                                Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


2          1/28                 B. The United Kingdom         Read:  McCormick, Ch. 2, pp. 80-125


3          1/31- 2/4          U.K. (continued)                      Read:   Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


4          2/7 - 2/11         C.  Japan                                Read:   McCormick, Ch. 3, 126-170


5          2/14                 Japan (continued)                     Read:   Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


5          2/16                 D.  Summary & Conclusion  


5          2/18                 ***** EXAM I *****


6          2/21   II.  Communist and Post-Communist Systems

                                                                                    Read:   McCormick, pp. 171-183


6          2/23-2/25         A.  Russia and Former Soviet Union

                                                                                    Read:   McCormick, Ch. 4, pp. 184-229


7          2/28- 3/4          Russia (continued)                    Read:   Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


8          3/7 - 3/11         B. China                                  Read:   McCormick, Ch. 5 pp. 230-274


****SPRING BREAK: No class meetings on 3/14, 3/16, or 3/18****


9          3/21- 3/25        China (continued)                     Read:   Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


10        3/28                 C.  Summary and Conclusions (& catch-up)

                                                                                    Read:   review McCormick, pp. 171-183


10        3/30                 ***** EXAM II *****

10        4/1       III. The Newly Industrialized Countries & Less Developed Countries

                                                                                    Read:   McCormick, pp. 275-289


11        4/4                   (continued intro to NICs)


11        4/6, 4/8            A. Mexico                               Read: McCormick, Ch. 6, pp. 290-335


12        4/11- 4/15        Mexico (continued)                   Read: Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


13        4/18                 B. LDCs                                 Read:   McCormick, pp. 381-395


13        4/20-4/22         C. Nigeria                               Read:   McCormick, Ch. 8, pp. 396-442         


14        4/25-4/29         Nigeria (continued)                   Read:   Recent news articles: TBA - Bb


15        5/2, 5/4            C. Summary & Conclusion


            5/6  Reading Day - no class meeting


Wed. May 11, 10-11:50 a.m. *****EXAM III *****



Undergraduate Writing Awards:  Papers written for 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 calendar year 2005 are due in February 2006. See the Department website for more details.


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. 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.


Department of Political Science Web Site:  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