T, Th 11-12:15, DuSable 242                                                                          POLS 260

Section four                                                                                                    Spring 2007

Professor Danny Unger, dunger@niu.edu                                                     Zulauf 105

Office hours:   , 753-7042


Introduction to Comparative Politics

This course introduces students to the comparative study of politics, providing information about how different kinds of political systems work and the terms and concepts necessary to study different political systems. We will look at politics in a general way and analyze in greater depth the political systems of particular nations: China, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, the United Kingdom.

A major purpose of Political Science 260 is to open your minds to the diversity of political systems found in the world. The course aims to help you study these systems critically and with an open mind. The more you learn about politics and people throughout the world, the more you will understand about yourself and your own government.

We will read a comparative politics text by Michael G. Roskin entitled Countries and Concepts. In 2006, the book was revised (9th edition,) making it relatively up-to-date. To benefit as much as possible from class meetings, students should do the assigned readings before the class for which for which they are assigned.

In addition, students will benefit enormously by keeping up with current news developments. This will help them raise questions and to understand current affairs around the world. In addition to using web sites noted in the text as well as other online sources, students should consider subscribing to publications such as The Economist, The Christian Science Monitor, or The New York Times.

Required text

-Michael G. Roskin, Countries and Concepts, Politics, Geography, Culture, Ninth Edition, Prentice Hall

Assigned readings not found in Roskin will be available online.

Course requirements

Class attendance and participation                                                     20

Quizzes (best three scores), 7 points X 3                                            21

Midterm exam                                                                                     24

Final exam                                                                                           35

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 Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site 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 reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu 

The Department of Political Science Statement on Academic Integrity

Cheating will not be tolerated in class. There are many types of cheating. The NIU Undergraduate Catalog states that "Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written whole or in part by someone else….If any student aids another student in either cheating or engaging in plagiarism, both students will be held responsible for their behavior."



Schedule of lectures and readings

Assigned readings should be done prior to the class meetings for which they are assigned.


Introduction to concepts in comparative politics

January 16, Course mechanics and requirements assignments

January 18, Film on

            Roskin, Ch.1

January 23, Nations and states; political culture and cleavages

            Roskin, Ch.2

Philippe C. Shmitter and Terry Karl, “What Democracy Is…and Is Not,” Journal of Democracy, Summer 1991

January 25, Comparing and explaining political systems

            Roskin, Ch.3

United Kingdom

January 30, Roskin, Ch.4

            “Public Opinion: Is There a Crisis?” The Economist, July 17, 1999

Feburary 1, Roskin, Ch.5

February 6, Roskin, Ch.6

Russell J. Dalton, Susan E. Scarrow, and Bruce E. Cain, “Advanced Democracies and the New Politics,” Journal of Democracy, January 2004

February 8,

            “Interest Groups: Ex Uno, Plures,” The Economist, August 21, 1999

Donlay T. Studlar, “The British General Election of 2005,” AP Comparative Government and Politics, 2005



February 13, Roskin, Chs.7-8

February 15, Roskin, Ch.9

Peter Ford, “French Inch Toward Social Reform,” The Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2005

February 20, Roskin, Ch.10

            “Political Parties: Empty Vessels?” The Economist, July 24, 1999

February 22, Roskin, Ch.11


February 27, Roskin, Ch.12


March 1, Roskin, Ch.13

Mark Landler, “Angela Merkel: Politician Who Can Show a Flash of Steel,” The New York Times, October 11, 2005

March 6, Roskin, Chs.14-15

March 8, Roskin, Ch.16

Richard Bernstein and Mark Landler, “Only Marginal Reforms Are Expected in Germany,” The New York Times, October 12, 2005

Spring Break

March 20, European Union

            Roskin, Ch.17

March 22, Midterm examination


March 27, Roskin, Ch.23

March 29, Roskin, Chs.24-5

April 3, Roskin, Ch.26

Norimitsu Onishi, “Koizumi’s Party, Backing Reforms, Wins by Landslide,” The New York Times, September 12, 2005

April 5, Roskin, Ch.27


April 10, Roskin, Ch.28

Joseph Kahn, “China’s Leader, Ex-Rival at Side, Solidifies Power,” The New York Times, September 25, 2005

April 12, Roskin, Ch.29-30

April 17, Roskin, Ch.31

April 19, Roskin, Ch.32

            Peter Lavelle, “What Does Putin Want?” Current History, October 2004

Brief cases

April 24, Mexico

            Roskin, Ch. 33

April 26, Nigeria

            Roskin, Ch.34

Rajan Menon, “India’s Democracy Provides Lessons,” Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2004


May 1, Iran

            Roskin, Ch.35

Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, “The True Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Policy, March/April 2003

May 3, Summing up

May 8, final exam, 10-11:50 a.m.