POLS 260: Foreign and Comparative Politics

Northern Illinois University


Debra J. Kennedy

Spring 2006 – Section 02

DuSable 461

MWF 10-10:50am



Office Hours: MW 11am - noon (OBA)

Office: DuSable 476

Phone: 753-1818

Email: debrak72@comcast.net

Welcome to the world of comparative politics!  This course is an introduction to the comparative study of political systems, institutions and cultures across the world.  Thus, the course will introduce students to the ways in which different kinds of political systems develop and work, along with the terms and concepts necessary to understand the logic behind each. We will first generally explore diverse political systems, and then analyze in greater depth the systems of several states outside the United States, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, China, India, Nigeria and Egypt.

The primary purpose of POLS 260 is to open your minds to the diversity of political systems found throughout the world, and to understand how such systems develop and work in different political, cultural and religious environments. Most importantly, this course aims to help you examine these systems critically and objectively. After all, the more you learn about the politics and people in other parts of the world, the better you will understand yourself and your own government!


Course Policies

My Philosophy: We will frequently cover sensitive or “hot-button” topics in this course, such as religion, culture, ideology, etc. Therefore, I expect all students to conduct themselves in a scholarly, respectful manner appropriate to an academic environment, particularly when confronted with diverse opinions and information. In other words – “Leave your ideology at the door!” Thus, in this class (if not in life), we are well served to remember the immortal words of Eleanor Roosevelt:

Great minds discuss ideas.

Average minds discuss events.

Small minds discuss people.

The Learning Environment:  I am absolutely committed to the principle of active learning.  For me, this means that learning cannot take place without students’ active involvement in, commitment to, and responsibility for their own education.  Therefore, it is important that students conduct themselves in ways that indicate respect for the learning community and the learning process.  During lecture, please raise your hand if you have a question.  We can, however, be less formal during class discussions, as long as we remember to treat one another with common courtesy.  Respect for the learning community therefore precludes such behavior as private conversations with another student, falling asleep, reading the newspaper, studying for another class, rude comments or behavior directed at fellow classmates, and any disruptive or disrespectful activity during class meetings.  NIU policies on classroom decorum are further discussed in the 2004-05 Undergraduate Catalog, pp. 49 and 307, if you have questions.

Cell phones, pagers, etc.:  Unless you are an organ donor or recipient, ALL CELL PHONES AND PAGERS MUST BE TURNED OFF BEFORE YOU ENTER MY CLASSROOM.  If any noise-making device goes off during class, the student will be asked to leave and will receive a “0” for attendance that day.  

Attendance:  Regular, timely attendance is expected and will account for 20 percent of your final grade.  Two absences and two tardies are automatically excused, but documentation is required to excuse any additional absences.  An attendance sheet will be distributed within 5 minutes of class start time – thus, you must be present on time to receive full attendance credit for that day. Late-arriving students (6 -15 min. late) will be required to sign a “tardy sheet” after class to receive partial credit for that day’s attendance. Students who arrive more than 15 minutes late (without prior permission) will receive an attendance grade of “0” for the day.

In general, I will excuse absences for illness (with doctor’s note), a documented emergency or family tragedy, an occasional school activity that is scheduled at the same time, and other reasonable conflicts (such as important religious holidays).  I will not excuse absences for regular commitments (e.g. sports practices, play rehearsals, student teaching) that may be scheduled at the same time.  If you have such a conflict, you should take another section of this class or consider another course.  Nor should you schedule commitments at the time of class (e.g. routine doctor’s visits, dentist appointments, waiting for your cable to be installed, etc.). Additionally, students should not leave the room during class except in cases of dire emergency or with advanced permission.

Incompletes, Late Assignments and Make-up exams:  No incompletes or make-up exams will be given for reasons other than a medical or personal emergency and then only after presentation of verifiable documentation.  Additionally, no late assignments will be accepted. Note: Academic hardship does not qualify as an acceptable excuse.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism:  Any student found guilty of cheating or plagiarism will receive an “F” for that examination/assignment and may receive an “F” for the course.  Criteria for these offenses are fully described in both the Student Judicial Code and the 2004-05 Undergraduate Catalog (see “Academic Integrity”).  In general, however, students must provide full, formal citations any time they use the words or thoughts of another scholar in their work.

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


Course requirements

This class will primarily consist of lectures and discussion.  Students will have ample opportunity to participate in making the course both interesting and relevant; therefore 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.

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

Assignments: Students are required to keep and submit (on designated due dates) a current events journal pertaining to the states covered in this course.  A total of 5 journal entries must be submitted (in a simple pocket folder, with your name PRINTED on the front, upper right corner of the folder) ON TIME throughout the semester. You may submit up to 7 entries; of these, the best 5 entries will be used to determine your final journal grade. All students MUST complete a journal entry on the UK (due February 1), or a grade of 0% will comprise 1/5 of your final journal grade.

Each entry must consist of 2 components to receive full credit:

1.      A print-out/copy of a relevant news article on a current event in the state under study

Ø      These can be obtained through paper or online editions of the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor or other reputable newspapers; or by accessing any of the suggested news websites listed at the end of each chapter in the course textbook.

2.      A one-page, type-written “comment” on the event

Ø      Comments must be double-spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman font, with no more than 1” margins

Ø      The comment page cannot include your name, date, a title or any other extraneous information that I may consider “filler” to meet the one-page requirement

Ø      Comments should include:

a.       An introduction (a short [3-4 sentences] summary of the news event)

b.      A brief discussion of how the event applies to the theories of Comparative politics covered in the course (does it support or contradict the textbook or lectures?)

c.       Your opinion on how the event may or may not impact the future of the state

If you miss class the day a journal entry is due, you must email your comment page to me (attached as a Word file) PRIOR to class time, so I know you completed it on time, AND submit a hard copy of the entry with your journal at the next class meeting to receive credit. Further parameters and expectations for the current events journal will be detailed in class at least one week prior to the 1st journal entry due date.

Course Schedule: Lectures are designed to parallel and complement, not merely repeat, the material in the textbook.  You are therefore responsible for the material covered in the readings and that covered in lectures and class discussion. Also, you should complete the reading assignments for each date before coming to class in order to fully participate in the learning experience from an informed, scholarly position.




Lecture Topic




Course Introduction/Syllabus



What is Comparative Politics?

McCormick: pp. 1-20



Liberal Democracies

McCormick: pp. 21-33


Intro to United Kingdom

McCormick: pp. 80-125


U.K. (cont.)




U.K. (cont.)



U.K. (cont.)



Intro to Japan

McCormick: pp. 126-169



Japan (cont.)



Japan (cont.)



Japan (cont.)

Japan Journal Entry Due




McCormick: pp. 171-183





Intro to Russia

McCormick: pp. 184-229



Russia (cont.)



Russia (cont.)



Russia (cont.)




Intro to China

McCormick: pp. 230-274


China (cont.)



China (cont.)




China (cont.)



Mid term review






3/12 -3/19

SPRING BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!!







Newly Industrializing Countries

McCormick: pp. 275-289


Newly Industrializing Countries

McCormick: pp. 275-289



Intro to India



India (cont.)

McCormick: pp. 336-280


India (cont.)




India (cont.)



Less Developed Countries

McCormick: pp. 381-395


Less Developed Countries




Intro to Nigeria

McCormick: pp. 396-442


Nigeria (cont.)




Nigeria (cont.)




Nigeria (cont.)



Islamic States

McCormick: pp. 443-457


Islamic States




Intro to Egypt

McCormick: pp. 458-500


Egypt (cont.)



Egypt (cont.)




Egypt (cont.)



Course Conclusion

McCormick: pp. 501-504


Final exam review





FINAL EXAM!!!!!!! (10-11:50am)

Exams:  There are two exams in this class. A mid-term exam, scheduled for March 10, may consist of any or all of the following: multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions.  The final exam, currently scheduled for May 8, will follow a similar format, but may also include one essay question.  Each exam will include only that material covered in class lectures and readings prior to the exam. Although the final exam is not specifically cumulative, it is important to remember that much of the material covered in any Comparative Politics course has a cumulative character. 




Attendance                   = 20%

Participation                 = 10%

Journal                         = 25%

Midterm Exam  = 20%

Final Exam                   = 25%

90% -100%                 A

80% - 89%                  B

70% - 79%                  C

50% - 69%                  D

Below 50%                  F




News sources: http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/~PJV24/pol4-sources.htm

Paper writing guides: http://www.ipl.org/div/subject/browse/ref73.00.00/

Additional Information for Students in Political Science Courses

Undergraduate Writing Awards: The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the Spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.

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.

Department of Political Science Website: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website 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 access the site, go to http://www.niu.edu/acad/polisci/pols.html