POLS 260:  FOREIGN AND COMPARATIVE POLITICS

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

 

Professor L. Kamenitsa                                                                    Spring 2008

Office: Zulauf 107                                                                              Sec. 1

Phone: 753-7053; e-mail: Lynnkam@niu.edu                                    T&Th 11-12:15

Office Hours: Tues. 1:30-3:00; Thurs. 10-11 (by appt)                      DU  459

All other times by appointment only.                        

 

 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 five 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, d) less developed countries, drawing on the experiences of Nigeria, and e) Islamic countries, which we will examine briefly at the end of the semester.

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.

 

REQUIRED READINGS

 

1. John McCormick, Comparative Politics in Transition, 5th ed., Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007.  (Available for purchase at both local bookstores)

 

2.  Required news articles are also assigned.  Most will be available on-line via Blackboard, e-reserves, 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).

 

3. Students should keep up to date on current news developments by reading a respected international news source regularly.  Such sources include: The New York Times, The Economist, and The Christian Science Monitor.

 

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.  


COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING

 

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. 

 

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 reading quizzes:  15% of course grade.  At least four quizzes will be administered to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their grasp of assigned readings.  Scheduled dates for those four quizzes will be announced in advance.  If it is evident that students are not keeping up on the readings, I reserve the right to administer “pop” quizzes. Thus, the total number of quizzes given may be more than four.  No matter how many are given, each student’s single worst quiz grade will be dropped, and the average of the remaining quizzes will comprise 15% of that student’s course grade.  PLEASE NOTE: absence on a quiz day results in a grade of “0” (zero) for that quiz. There are no make-ups given for quizzes.

 

Take three examinations.  75% of course grade. Two of these will be midterms written in class on February  21 (6th week) and April 1 (11th 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 6). 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 (your chances of some flexibility improve if you call AND e-mail the professor as soon as possible after the onset of said emergency, but no guarantees). If there are any foreseeable problems or conflicts, contact the professor well in advance of the exam. 

 

Important dates to remember:

            February 21     Exam I  

            April 1             Exam II

            May 6              Exam III

 

CLASS FORMAT:

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.

 

BLACKBOARD:

Most of the assignments and some of the communication for this course is conducted through the Blackboard Course Server.  This course website can be accessed only by students enrolled in this course.  The URL for Blackboard is http://webcourses.niu.edu . Login to Blackboard with your student Z-ID and password. For login questions go to http://www.helpdesk.niu.edu/ and click on “Blackboard” or contact ITS at 753-8100. The system uses your NIU student webmail account (NetMail).  If you wish to receive course-related e-mails at another address, you need to forward mail from your NIU account to another account. Learn how to do this on the ITS helpdesk home page (http://www.its.niu.edu/its/helpdesk/webmail_students.shtml).  It is your responsibility to set this up -- do it today!

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 Thursday is posted on Monday, an outage Wednesday night will NOT be an acceptable excuse for not completing the assignment. 

 

 

EXPECTATIONS OF BEHAVIOR:

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 12:15, 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.

 

 

ACADEMIC HONESTY & PLAGIARISM:

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 2007-2008 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).

 

 

COURSE SCHEDULE

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

                                                             

Week

 

Date

Topic

Required Readings

1

1/15

Introduction

 

1

1/17

Liberal Democracies

McCormick, “Introduction,” pp.1-21

McCormick, “Liberal Democracies,” pp.23-35

2

1/22

Liberal Democracies

& begin US

McCormick, “United States,” Ch.1, pp. 36-79.       

2

1/24

US 

Recent news articles: TBA – Bb

Week

 

Date

Topic

Required Readings

3

1/29

UK

McCormick, “Britain,”Ch. 2, pp. 80-123

3

1/31

UK

Recent news articles: TBA - Bb

4

2/5

UK  

 

4

2-7

Japan

McCormick, “Japan,” Ch. 3, 124-167

5

2/12

Japan

Recent news articles: TBA - Bb

5

2/14

Japan & Conclusions

 

6

2/19

Communist & Post-Communist Countries

McCormick, “Communist & Post-communist Countries,”pp. 169-180

6

2/21

Exam 1

 

7

2/26

Russia

McCormick, “Russia,” Ch. 4, pp. 182-223

7

2/28

Russia

Recent news articles: TBA - Bb

8

3-4

Russia 

 

8

3/6

China

McCormick, “China,” Ch. 5 pp. 224-263

 

3/11  3/13

SPRING BREAK – no classes

 

9

3/18

China

Recent news articles: TBA - Bb

9

3/20

China

 

10

3/25

Conclusions

review McCormick, pp. 169-180

10

3/27

Introduction to Newly Industrialized Countries (NICs) & Less Developed Countries (LDCs)

McCormick, “Newly Industrialized Countries,” pp. 267-280

11

4/1

Exam 2

 

11

4/3

NICs & Mexico

McCormick, “Mexico,” Ch. 6, pp. 282-325

12

4/8

Mexico

Recent news articles: TBA - Bb

12

4/10

Mexico 

 

13

4/15

Mexico (& begin LDCs)

McCormick, “Less Developed Countries,” pp. 369-383

13

4/17

LDCs & Nigeria

McCormick, “Nigeria,” Ch. 8, pp. 384-427

14

4/22

Nigeria

Recent news articles: TBA - Bb

14

 

4/24

Nigeria

 McCormick, “Islamic Countries,” pp.429-440

15

4/29

Islamic Countries

Recent news articles: TBA – Bb

15

5/1

Summary & Conclusion

 

 

*** Final Exam:  Tuesday, May 6 at 10:00 a.m. in DuSable 459 ***

 


Undergraduate Writing Awards:  Papers written for 300-400 level 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 2008 are due in February 2009. 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