Political Science 260, Section 4, Spring 2008

M, W, F 12:00-12:50, DU 459

Instructor: Michael Cook, mcook3@niu.edu

Office: DuSable 476

Office hours: M 1:50-3:20, W 12:50-1:35, F 12:50-1:35, and by appointment


Introduction to Comparative Politics


This course aims to introduce students to the comparative study of politics.  Furthermore, students will become familiar with the terms, concepts, and factual content necessary to engage in comparative analysis of several major players in the international system.  The major players that will be the focus of in depth study are: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Europe as a collective (EU), Japan, and China.  If time permits, we will also briefly deal with Iran, Russia (the treatment of Russia will likely be somewhat more extensive than, say, Nigeria or Iran), and/or Nigeria. 


In order to understand better the countries, concepts, and terms we will use for this course, students will read a contemporary comparative politics text authored by Michael G. Roskin whose title is Countries and Concepts: Politics, Geography, Culture.  In order to participate actively and to understand better the material discussed in class, it behooves students read the assigned chapters and articles (if applicable) before each session. 


In addition, I will make an effort to solicit information about current affairs.  Typically, I will ask students at the beginning of class to volunteer what they have heard about goings-on in our world.  By keeping abreast of current events around the globe and by learning about others with whom we share the globe, we are able to construct a basis for comparison that allows us to analyze and understand better our own politics. 


Required Text


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

-if there are any reading assignments in addition to the Roskin text, I will either announce in class where they can be found or I will distribute hard copies directly to the students. 


Course Requirements


Participation and Attendance 10% (regular attendance and active participation are assessed)[1]

Essay (comparative analysis) 25%

Mid-term Exam #1                 20%

Mid-term Exam #2                 20%

Final Exam                             25%


I will distribute more information about the essay a little later in the course.   Essentially, the students will have to choose two of the countries we will have discussed in class, and they must compare them.  For example, a student may wish to compare the political cultures of France and Germany and the implications.  Alternatively, a student may wish to compare the patterns of interaction in China and Japan and the implications. 


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."


Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Political Science Department recognizes annually outstanding 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.  It is expected that winners will attend the department’s Spring graduation ceremony, where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by faculty or students, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28th.  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 year can be considered for the award.  Papers completed in the Spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition, even if the student has graduated. 


Late Work and Make-up Exams

As a general rule, I do not permit the submission of late work or the make-up of missed exams.  In extraordinary cases—and only with the presentation of a doctor’s note or the like—I will allow students to take exams outside of the scheduled sessions.  Since you are given the due date of the paper in advance, you must plan accordingly, if you know that you are going to miss class.  It is imperative that you, as soon as possible, make me aware of days you intend to miss.  If an emergency situation arises, please send me a notification via email at your earliest convenience.  Keep me posted! 


NOTE: I do not accept electronic copies of papers.  If you are going to miss class, send your paper along with someone you trust to submit it on your behalf.  Otherwise, you have the choice of submitting it to the undergraduate secretary, Karen Schweitzer, or you may stick the paper in my mail slot on the 4th floor of Zulauf hall.  If you submit the paper after the beginning of class on the day it is due (or any time subsequent to that), then I will not grade it, and you should expect to receive a failing grade.  If you have a cogent excuse (i.e. doctor’s note), then you are safe.   


Tentative Schedule of Lectures, Readings, and Exams

***I reserve the right to modify the schedule as I deem it necessary.***


Introduction to Terms and Concepts in Comparative Politics

January 14th, introduction to course

January 16th, Ch. 1, introduction to terms and concepts

January 18th, Ch. 1 continued, introduction to term and concepts

January 21st, class and office hours cancelled (King’s birthday)


United Kingdom

January 23rd, Ch. 2 (this the first chapter for the UK)

January 25th, Ch. 3

January 28th, Ch. 4

January 30th, Ch. 5

February 1st, Ch. 6



February 4th, Ch. 7

February 6th, Ch. 8

February 8th, class and office hours cancelled (out of town)

February 11th, catch-up day; review for exam #1

February 13th, mid-term exam #1

February 15th, discussion of exam #1

February 18th, Ch. 10

February 20th, Ch. 11



February 22nd, Ch. 12

February 25th, Ch. 13

February 27th, Ch. 14

February 29th, Ch. 15

March 3rd, Ch. 16


European Union

March 5th, Ch. 17, distribution and discussion of comparative analysis essay assignment (DUE APRIL 14TH)

March 7th, Ch. 17 continued



March 10th-March 14th, class and office hours cancelled (Spring break)

March 17th, Ch. 23

March 19th, Ch. 24, review for exam #2

March 21st, mid-term exam #2

March 24th, Ch. 25 and discussion of exam #2 (not as extensive as the discussion of exam #1, since the students should be familiar with the format and should be better equipped to anticipate what will appear on the exam)

March 26th, Ch. 26

March 28th, Ch. 27



March 31st, Ch. 28

April 2nd, Ch. 29

April 4th, Ch. 30

April 7th, Ch. 31

April 9th, Ch. 32

April 11th, catch-up day; review of the first five units

April 14th, submission of papers


Russia (somewhat more tentative than the material covered to this point—both in terms of material to be covered from this point on and the schedule itself)

April 16th, Ch. 18

April 18th, Ch. 19

April 21st, Ch. 20

April 23rd, Ch. 21

April 25th, Ch. 22

April 28th, review for final exam and probably evaluations

April 30th, review for final and loose ends

May 2nd, class and office hours cancelled (reading day)


Final Exam

Monday, May 5th in DuSable 459 at 12:00


[1] Do not assume that participation and attendance are weighted equally.  Even, for example, if you attend every session--but you do not contribute to class discussions—it would be unwise and erroneous to expect to receive half of the available points for the composite participation/attendance component of the course grade.