POLS 260: Introduction to Comparative Politics

Spring 2007, Section 2; DuSable 459: Mo, We, Fr: 12-12:50pm


Instructor: Mr. Blake Klinkner


Office Hours: Zulauf Hall 114 (1st floor grad computer lab…if the door is closed, just knock): Monday 1-2:30pm, & Wednesday 1-2:30pm (and by appointment) NOTE: Students are strongly encouraged to inform me of ahead of time, anytime they plan on stopping by during office hours.


E-mail:  pols260@yahoo.com   NOTE: All students must e-mail the instructor ASAP, with “POLS 260” in the subject heading, and your full name and Z-ID number in the body of the e-mail. Doing so allows me to have your e-mail on file. I will occasionally send out e-mails to the class using these e-mail addresses, so make sure to check your e-mail often for important messages. I try to check e-mail several times daily, so e-mail is a good way of communication.


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.  Students are expected to regularly attend class. Regular attendance ensures that you will get the most out of this class, and be fully prepared for the exams. Attendance will be taken for every class. However, attendance will not be directly figured in as a part of your final class grade. I understand that personal circumstances may arise which will cause you to miss class: for this reason, I will not ask you to explain your absence, and you do not need to contact me to explain your absence. However, it is still appropriate to maintain a record of your attendance, to observe how many classes have been missed (if any), and also which particular classes have been missed. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to obtain lecture notes from class, view movies on your own time, and inquire as to any changes in scheduling or other relevant information which was provided in class on the day you missed.  


Regarding participation, students should actively participate in classroom discussions where appropriate. As this is a 50 minute lecture, there will not be abundant time for group discussions, as would be the norm in upper-level courses with smaller room sizes. Nonetheless, the raising of relevant questions and outside information in class is encouraged.


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.  This 15-Minute Rule also applies to office hours: if I am not within the office after 15 minutes of the start of office hours, then office hours have been unavoidably cancelled. 


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 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. Repeatedly getting up and moving around in class. If you must leave class early for some reason, please sit as close to the door as possible, in order 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 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.


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, 9th edition (Prentice Hall, 2007)


You should complete reading assignments for each date before coming to class. Every chapter begins with “Questions to Consider”; keep these questions in mind when doing the readings, as they will help you focus on important points in the readings. 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, and earning a good grade for the class.


Since this is an introductory-level class, and the beginning class for comparative politics, I will assume that you have no previous knowledge of the study of comparative politics. Therefore, please do not be apprehensive if this is your first course in political science. If you already have completed coursework in political science, most likely you will already be familiar with many of the themes and concepts discussed in this course. The in-class lectures will closely model the readings from the textbook. Therefore, if you read the assigned sections before class, then you should have no problem following along in class.



4. 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 (if applicable).  I will help you to focus on the most important aspects of the videos.  Information from the videos will be “fair game” for the exams.


5. Exams.  There will be 4 exams 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. Exams will consist of multiple choice questions, with the possibility of true/false questions 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, preferably via e-mail.  Make-up exams may be all short answer, a format that may require more intensive preparation. In addition, it should be noted that the curving standard for make-up exams, when using an alternate format, is often different than the curving standard for the regularly-scheduled exams.



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


Exam #1                                  25%

Exam #2                                  25%

                                                            Exam #3                                  25%

                                                            Exam #4 (Final exam)             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



7. 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.


8. 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. 


9.  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, such as looking at barred material during exams, looking at another student’s exam answers, talking with students during exams, 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.


10. 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



11. 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.


12. 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


January 17:      Introduction to the Class

January 19:      No Class…..Use this time to make sure you obtain a copy of the textbook!


January 22:      The Concept of Country, Chp. 1

January 24:      Issues in the Study of Comparative Politics (continuation of Chp. 1)

January 26:      Great Britain, Impact of the Past:  Chp. 2


January 29:      Video: Order, Order! Britain’s Parliament at Work

January 31:      Great Britain, Key Institutions: Chp. 3

February 2:      Great Britain, Patterns of Interaction: Chp. 5


February 5:      Great Britain, Political Culture: Chp. 4

February 7:      Great Britain, Quarrels: Chp. 6

February 9:      Video: The Commanding Heights (British Political Economy)


February 12:     Review for Exam #1 (Great Britain & Concepts in Comparative Politics)

February 14:    Taking of Exam #1

February 16:    Discussion of Exam #1


February 19:    France, Impact of the Past: Chp. 7

February 21:    Video: The French Revolution

February 23:    France, Key Institutions: Chp. 8


February 26:    France, Patterns of Interaction: Chp. 10

February 28:    France, Political Culture: Chp. 9

March 2:          France, Quarrels: Chp. 11


March 5:          Review for Exam #2 (France)

March 7:          Taking of Exam #2

March 9-19:     No classes due to Spring Break


March 21:        Discussion of Exam #2

March 23:        Germany, Impact of the Past: Chp. 12



March 26:        Germany, Key Institutions: Chp. 13

March 28:        Germany, Patterns of Interaction: Chp. 15

March 30:        Video: The Essential History of Germany


April 2:            Germany, Political Culture: Chp. 14

April 4:            Germany, Quarrels: Chp. 16

April 6:            Video: The Germans: Portrait of a New Nation


April 9:            Review for Exam #3 (Germany)

April 11:          Taking of Exam #3

April 13:          Discussion of Exam #3


April 16:          China, Impact of the Past: Chp. 28

April 18:          China, Key Institutions: Chp. 29

April 20:          China, Patterns of Interaction: Chp. 31


April 23:          China, Political Culture: Chp. 30

April 25:          China, Quarrels: Chp. 32

April 27:          Iran, Impact of the Past, pp. 542-548; Key Institutions, pp. 549-553; Patterns of Interaction, pp. 558-562


April 30: Iran, Political Culture, pp. 553-557 & Quarrels, pp. 563-570

May 2: Review for Final Exam (China and Iran)

May 4: No class


May 7th: Final Exam, 12:00pm-1:50 p.m.