Pols 260-5

Introduction to Comparative Politics

Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Spring 2008

DU 461, T& TH 6:00-7:15



Instructor: Sokbunthoeun So

Office: DuSable 476

Tel: 753-1818

E-mail: sso1@niu.edu

Office hours: T & Th 4:30-6:00 and by appointment


This course is an introduction to the study of comparative politics. It is designed with two main goals. First, it seeks to familiarize you with analytical approaches to the study of politics and to give you the opportunity to reflect on some important political issues in democratic and non-democratic countries today. Second, it gives you the opportunity to learn about various countries’ political system. Your new understanding from this class should enhance your role as citizens in a democracy, i.e., enable you to make more informed judgments on the policies that our leaders propose to follow in dealing with foreign countries.

This course will examine the politics of Great Britain, France, Japan, China, and Iran.


Please purchase a copy of textbook for this course:  Michael G. Roskin, Countries and Concepts: Politics, Geography, Culture 9th edition at the Student Center or at the Village Common Bookstore.  We will be reading most of the book over the course of the semester. Some readings will be available on electronic reserve. URL will be announced in class.

Lectures will parallel and compliment the readings.  Therefore, students cannot rely solely on lectures or readings.


Final grade for this course is assessed from students’ performance in three examinations, quizzes, attendance, and thoughtful contribution to the class.  There will be two midterm exams. The first exam (worth 25 percent) will be written in class on February 14. The second exam (worth 25 percent) will take place on April 3. A final exam, worth 40% percent, will be taken on May 08. The format of each exam will be a combination of essay, short answer, and multiple-choice.  Attendance and thoughtful class contribution constitute 10% of the final grade.

In addition, five quizzes will be given as extra credit assignments. These quizzes are designed to help students coming to class prepared. They are worth up to 5% of the final grade and will be given without prior notice. In order to do well in the quizzes, students should complete assigned readings before coming to class. These quizzes will help those who have borderline grades. For example, if your final grade falls between an A and a B, the extra credit from the quizzes can help you achieve a better grade.

Overall course grade will be assessed according to the followings:


First exam                                                       25%                             Feb 14

Second exam                                                   25%                            April 3

Final exam                                                       40%                             May 08

Attendance and thoughtful participation       10%

No make up exam will be offered, except in cases of emergency, as defined by the instructor, and with advance notification. If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and where possible before the scheduled exam. Students will be asked to support requests for makeup exams with documentation.  No makeup exam will be allowed unless arrangements are made before the regularly scheduled exam has been graded and returned. Incomplete requests will be granted only in unusual circumstances, when supported with documentation.  Missing an exam in itself is not a reason for an incomplete.

Attendance and class participation

Students are expected to attend all class sessions. I will check attendance at the start or the end of every session.  One or two absence is allowed and may not affect your final grade. However, since the attendance and class participation worth 10 percent of the final grade, frequent absences will limit your ability to achieve maximum grade. The attendance and participation grade is designed to reward students who came to class prepared. A full 10 percent grade is rewarded to students, who are present, attentive, and thoughtfully contributing to class discussions. 

Course Grade:  Course Grades will be distributed as follows:

            Final Average                                      Final Grade

            90-100 %                                                     A

            80-89 %                                                       B

            65-79%                                                        C

            50-64                                                           D

            Below 50%                                                   F                                                       

Classroom Etiquette

Students are to arrive at class on time.  Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the instructor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency. For instance, it is not acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. Sleeping in class is NOT an acceptable behavior. Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be turned off during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.). No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group. Disrespectful behavior either toward instructor or other fellow students will not be tolerated. Students, who behave inappropriately, will be asked to leave. Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.   

Academic Integrity.  Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (see p. 47 of 2001 Undergraduate Catalog). The use without proper acknowledgement of the ideas or work of another person is cheating/ plagiarism

The Undergraduate Catalog states: "students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university."

All quotations and all paraphrasing of the ideas of others must be referenced.  All sources, including the internet, must be clearly referenced by a recognised form of footnotes, endnotes or in‑text referencing, and in a bibliography. Note that all internet referencing must include the author or institution in the reference, and with all of your sources, but particularly with the internet, you must be careful to use only reputable works that are appropriate to academic writing. 

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’s 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


Schedule of Lectures, Required Readings, and Exams


January 15

            Introduction to the Course 

January 17

Key Concepts

Reading: Roskin, pp. 1-15.

 January 22

Key Concepts continued

Reading:Roskin, pp. 1-15.             

January 24

Great Britain: Impact of the Past

Reading: Roskin, pp. 18-29.

January 29

Great Britain: Political Culture

Reading: Roskin, pp. 46-57.   

January 31

Great Britain: Elections and Parties

Reading: Roskin, pp. 58-69.    


February 05

Great Britain: Key Institutions

Reading: Roskin, pp.30-45

Video: “Order! Order!” VIDEO: JN508 .O6331994

February 07

Great Britain: Quarrels

Reading:  Roskin, pp. 70-83.

Donley Studlar, “A Constitutional Revolution in Britain?” in Christine   Soe ed., Annual Edition: Comparative Politics, 03/04, (Guilford: McGraw, 2004), pp. 12-17. [E-reserve].

February 12

            Review and Catch Up (No Class)

February 14

            First Exam

February 19

France: Impact of the Past

Reading: Roskin, pp. 86-99.

Video: “The Death of the Old Regime: The French Revolution.”

VIDEO: CB245 .D4271989         

February 21

France: Political Culture

Reading: Roskin, pp. 132-145; pp. 116-131.



February 26

France: Elections and Parties

Reading: Roskin, pp. 112 (France’s electoral...)-113; p. 129 (democracy); pp.133-

141; box on page 142 (democracy)

The Economist, “France’s chance,” (April 12, 07)

The Washington Post, “Sarkozy wins, wow to restore pride in France,” (May 07, 07)

February 28

France: Key Institutions

Reading: Roskin, pp. 100-112, pp. 114-115; pp. 141 (business and …)-145.

March 04

France: Quarrels

Reading: Roskin, pp. 146-159.

Matine Durand and John Martin, “The 35-hour week: Portrait of a French Exception,” OECD Observer, No. 244 (September 04), pp. 10-12; The Economist, “France’s Failure,” and “An Underclass Rebellion,” November 12, 05); pp.11-12, 24-26 [E-reserve].

March 06.

Japan: Impact of the Past

Reading: Roskin, pp. 337-351.

Video: “Meiji: Asia’s Response to the West.” DS882 .M4451992

March 11: Spring Break

March 13: Spring Break



March 18

Japan: Political Culture

Reading: Roskin, pp. 366-379.

March 20

Japan: Elections and Parties

Reading: pp. 358 (the parties)-362; pp. 385-388; box on page 389 (democracy)

March 25

Japan: Government Institutions

Reading: Roskin, pp. 351-358; pp. 382-385; pp. 362 (the Ministries)-365; p. 388

(no one in charge)-389.

Video: “Inside Japan, Inc.” DS 849.U61574 1992           

March 27

 Japan: Quarrels

Reading: Roskin, pp.392-405.

                        The Economist, “The Sun Also Rises,” (October 8, 05), pp. 3-6.


April 01

            Catch up and review

April 03

            Second Exam




April 08

China: Impact of the Past

Video: “Two Coasts of China.” DS706 .T8631992

Reading: Roskin, pp. 408-421.

April 10

China: Political Culture:

Reading: Roskin, pp.436-438; box on page 452 (the Great Leap Forward); box on page 453 (The Great Proletariat ...); pp. 440-442.             

April 15

China: Government Institutions

Reading: Roskin, pp. 422-435.

April 17

China: Quarrels

Reading: Roskin, pp. P. 439 (Nationalism); pp.443 (Crouching Anger ...)-448;


Minxin Pei, “The Dark Side of China’s Rise,” Foreign Policy,    March/April 2006, pp. 32-40 [Electronic Reserve].

Video: “China” HC 427.92C457 1999

April 22

          Iran: Impact of the Past

                        Reading: Roskin, pp. 542-549.

                        Video: “Which Way Next for Iran?” DS 318.825.W45 2000 



April 24

Iran: Political Culture

Reading: Roskin, box on page 552 (Is Islam Anti-Modern); pp. 553 (Iranian

Political Culture)-563.            

April 29

Iran: Political Institutions, Elections and Parties

Reading: Roskin, pp459-553.            

May 1

Iran: Quarrels

Reading: Roskin, pp. pp.563-571.

                        Afshin Molavi, “Buying Time in Tehran: Iran the China Model,” Foreign Affairs,

83, 2004, pp. 9-16. [Electronic Reserve];

                        The Economist, “Still Failing, Still Defiant,” pp. 23-25 [Electronic Reserve].

May 6

Catch up and review

May 8

            Final Exam