POLS 673-1: West European Politics


Spring Semester 2009

Weds 6.30-9.10pm: DuSable 466

Asst. Professor Michael Clark

Office: Zulauf Hall 416

Office hours: Tues/Thurs 10.45-12.15pm or by appointment

Office phone: (815) 753-7058

E-Mail: mclark12@niu.edu



Course Description:

Western Europe is currently going through what many observers have regarded as a period of ‘transition.’  The increasing role of the European Union into the affairs of the individual, business, and government, the effects of globalisation, the emergence of extremist groups, partly in response to European integration and immigration, and the changing values and attitudes of the publics in European countries are creating new challenges for national governments and changing the nature of European politics.  What has remained largely the same, however, has been the role of political parties as the primary means of providing democratic representation to the European electorate. Even here though, parties are facing challenges, and have needed to adapt in order to remain the primary vehicle for providing political representation.  In this graduate-level seminar, students will become familiar with the political institutions of various European countries (executives, legislatures, party systems etc), which shape processes such as representation and policy-making, as well as analyse some of the major issues facing governments in Western Europe. Beyond examining these institutions and processes, we will also spend time focusing on other aspects of governance, such as the role of the European Union, EU foreign policy, identity politics, and extremism in the form of terrorist groups and far right political parties.  Although the countries of Western Europe now have a shared fate more so than at any other time in their history thanks to the growth of the EU, there is still much about their politics which is unique.


Course Readings:

The following texts are required and should be available in the University Bookstore (or can be bought used from a store like Amazon if you prefer):


1. Hay, Colin, and Anand Menon, European Politics (Oxford University Press, 2008)

2. T.R. Reid, The United States of Europe (Penguin Publishing, 2004)

3. Bomberg, Elizabeth, John Peterson, and Alexander Stubb, The European Union: How Does It Work? 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2007)

4. Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy (Yale University Press, 1999)

5. Dalton, Russell J., Citizen Politics (CQ Press, 2008)


Copies of book chapters, pieces from The Economist, and other assigned articles will be made available either by being posted directly to the class’s Blackboard website or via the class’s e-reserve website.  It is now possible to easily access e-reserves via Blackboard thanks to new links and updates.


Course Focus:

We will spend time examining various political institutions in Western Europe such as the differing executive and legislative structures employed, the different electoral systems currently in use, and the different types of representative democracy that result.  We will also spend time considering the “electorate” side of the equation as well by examining political behaviour in Western Europe and how electorates have evolved in recent decades in terms of what compels them to vote, and what issues are of importance.  Given that political parties are still the cornerstones of politics in Europe, we will focus on subject matter related to the origins of parties in Western Europe, how party policies have developed and changed, as well as how parties in Europe have had to adapt to a changing electorate.  Given that graduate students at NIU tend to come from diverse backgrounds, we will also focus on some of the contemporary debates involving Western European countries, such as the European Union and its policies, identity politics, Islam, terrorism, and so forth. 


Course Requirements:

Class attendance/participation – 30%

Class presentation – 20%

Research paper – 50%


Since this is a graduate level seminar, attendance is always expected, as is participation.  If you cannot make class for any reason, please e-mail the professor beforehand.  Students are also expected to have completed all reading assignments before class and be prepared to discuss the week’s readings accordingly.  This is especially important since a large part of each student’s grade will be based on his or her contribution to the class discussion (30% of total grade). Each week’s class meeting will start with a discussion of current events in Western Europe that have occurred over the course of the preceding week.  This is “supposed” to be a student-led discussion so it is strongly recommended that students identify and read a good news source on European politics on a regular basis during the course of the semester. Wherever possible, discussions of current events will be related to the material covered in class.  Each student will also be required to make a presentation on a given week’s reading.  The professor will assign readings.


The other major class requirement will be a research paper on a topic related to the class material.  Students should discuss their topic with the professor at some point during the semester to ensure their research topic is suitable.  While students are encouraged to think about this paper early on, do not overlook a research question based upon the last few weeks of reading if this material is of particular interest.  The paper should be around 15 pages in length – about 5,000 words – and draw on relevant class readings.  No outside research is necessary, though students are welcome to do so if they wish.  The paper can be thought of, in large part, as a “relevant” literature review, but must present a balanced argument, and come to some form of conclusion rather than merely summarising various authors’ arguments.  Papers that present connections between the readings from different weeks, and can identify aspects where the readings can be viewed as “speaking” to one another, or where commonalities or differences in emphases can be identified, will be looked upon favourably. Those that simply summarise the authors’ work, with no clear analysis/critique/argumentation will not.  Naturally, papers should start with a clearly presented thesis, and present evidence both for and against the thesis.  These points will be taken into consideration when grades are awarded, along with style and organisation.  Late papers will be penalised.  Papers should be simply formatted: double-spaced, 12-point font with standard Word margins, include appropriate citations/footnotes, and a bibliography.  Papers will be due the Monday after the final class meeting (May 4th) though students are free to turn in their paper anytime before this.  Hard copies are preferred, but e-mailed papers will be accepted should the student’s circumstances merit it.


Special Needs:

Please speak to the professor if you have any.


Class Schedule and Assigned Readings:


January 14th  – Introduction/Class Overview (no reading assigned)


January 21st – Some Background to Contemporary Europe


- Chs. 2 and 3 in The United States of Europe

- Ch. 13 in European Politics and pgs. 9-12, 26-28, 42-44, 59-62, 76-80, 94-98, 111-115, 118-124

- Charles S. Maier, “The Two Postwar Eras and the Conditions for Stability in 20th Century Europe”, The American Historical Review, Vol. 86, No. 2 (1981)


January 28th – Democracy Euro-style: Majoritarianism and Consensualism, Presidentialism and Parliamentarism


- Chs. 2-3 and 6-7 in Patterns of Democracy

- Ch. 14 in European Politics and pgs. 6-7, 18-23, 32-38, 47-54, 68-70, 83-88, 103-106,

- Kaare Strom, “Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 37 (2000)


February 4th – Party Systems in Europe: Sociological and Institutional Perspectives


- Chs. 5 and 8 in Patterns of Democracy

- Ch. 12 in European Politics along with pgs. 7-9, 24-26, 39-42, 54-59, 70-72, 89-92, 107-110, 122-126,

- Ch.7 in Citizen Politics


February 11th – Political Representation in Europe: Through Parties and Beyond


- Ch. 11 in Citizen Politics

- Ch. 9 in Patterns of Democracy

- Ch. 5 in The European Union: How Does It Work?


February 18th European Publics: Ideology, Values, and Issues


- Ch. 5 & 6 in Citizen Politics

- Ronald Inglehart, “Changing Values Among Western Publics from 1970 to 2006”, West European Politics, Vol. 31, Nos. 1 & 2, (2008), 130-146


February 25thChanging Political Behaviour in Europe: Explaining Vote Choice


- Chs. 8-10 in Citizen Politics

- John Curtice and Soren Holmberg, “Party Leaders and Party Choice” in Jacques Thomassen ed. The European Voter (Oxford University Press, 2008), pgs. 235-253


March 4th The European Union: The Basics


- Chs. 1-4 in The European Union: How Does It Work?

- Ch. 11 in European Politics (recommended)

- Chs.2 and 3 in The United States of Europe

- “Fact Sheet 16: The Bosman Ruling, Football Transfers, and Foreign Footballers” can be found online at: http://www.le.ac.uk/sociology/css/resources/factsheets/fs16.html


March 11th – Spring Break.  No class (obviously)

Reading:  None assigned


March 18th The European Union – Contemporary Challenges


- Ch. 21 in European Politics (also revisit pgs. 88-193)

- Jeffrey Karp and Shaun Bowler, “Broadening and Deepening Or Broadening versus Deepening: The Question of Enlargement and Europe’s ‘Hesitant Europeans’”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 45 (2006)

- Sarah Binzer Hobolt, “Taking Cues on Europe? Voter Competence and Party Endorsements in Referendums on European Integration”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 46, No. 2 (February 2007), 151-182

- Daniel Gros and Sebastian Kurpas, “What Next? How To Save The Treaty of Lisbon”, CEPS, No. 163 (June 2008).  Online at:


- “The Record: Europe (Special Edition 2008 Review)”, to watch online at:


- “Victory for Britain’s Metric Martyrs as Eurocrats Give Up The Fight” from The Daily Mail, September 11th 2007

- “A Taoiseach in Trouble” from The Economist, November 27th 2008

- “Nice Project, Shame About the Voters” from The Economist, November 19th 2008

“Ever Greater Union” from The Economist, November 19th 2008

- “Fit at 50? A Special Report on the European Union” from The Economist, March 17th 2007


March 25thImmigration and Identity Politics in Europe


- Anthony D. Smith, “National Identity and the Idea of European Unity”, International Affairs, Vol. 68, No. 1 (1992)

- Ch. 8 in The United States of Europe

- Lauren M. McLaren, “Opposition to European Integration and Fear of Loss of National Identity: Debunking a Basic Assumption Regarding Hostility to the Integration Project”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 43 (2004)

- Markus Thiel, “Constraints on the Development of a European Identity: Territorial and Demographic Challenges”, EUMA, Vol. 4, No. 11 (2007)

- “Minorities in Germany: The Integration Dilemma”, July 19th 2007

- “Migration From Eastern Europe: Shutting The Door”, The Economist, October 26th 2006

- “Spain: Huddled Against The Masses”, The Economist, October 12th 2006

- “France: Sound And Fury”, The Economist, October 12th 2006

- “Italy and Immigration: Sing A Song of Xenophobia”, The Economist, August 31st, 2006


April 1stMuslims in Europe


- Timothy Savage, “Europe and Islam: Crescent Waxing, Cultures Clashing” from The Washington Quarterly, Summer 2004. This article can be found online at: http://www.twq.com/04summer/docs/04summer_savage.pdf

- Stephanie Giry, “France and Its Muslims”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5 (2006)

- “Special Report – Islam, America, and Europe”, The Economist, June 24th, 2006

- “Living With Islam: The New Dutch Model”, The Economist, May 31st 2005

- “Few Signs of Backlash From Western Europeans”, National Pew Global Attitudes Survey, No. 13, July 6th 2006


April 8th The Extreme Right: Fad or Trend?


- Eoin O’Malley, “Why Is There No Radical Right Party in Ireland?”, West European Politics, Vol. 31, No. 5 (2008), 960-977

- Reinhard Heinisch, “Success in Opposition – Failure in Government: Explaining the Performance of Right-Wing Populist Parties in Public Office”, West European Politics, Vol. 26, No. 3 (2003)

- Kai Arzheimer and Elisabeth Carter, “Political Opportunity Structures and Right-Wing Extremist Party Success”, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 45, No. 3 (may 2006), 419-443

- “Scandinavia’s Far Right: Nordic Nasties”, The Economist, December 13th 2006

- “Belgium: Right On”, The Economist, October 12th 2006

- “German Neo-Nazis: Welcome To No-Go Land”, The Economist, May 25th 2006

- “Anti-Semitism in France: The Terrible Tale of Ilan Halimi”, The Economist, March 2nd 2006

- “British National Party: Nasty, Brutish, and Short-Lived”, The Economist, August 5th 2004

- Jean-Marie Le Pen “The Wily Old Trooper Won’t Go Away” from The Economist, August 10th 2006

- Britishness “Gordon’s History Lesson”, from The Economist, January 19th 2006


April 15th – Social/Welfare Policy in Europe


- Ch. 17 in European Politics

- Ch. 6 in The United States of Europe

- Robert Kuttner, “The Copenhagen Consensus”, Foreign Affairs (March/April 2008)

- Maurizio Ferrera, “The European Welfare State: Golden Achievements, Silver Prospects”, West European Politics, Vol. 31, Nos. 1 & 2 (January 2008), 82-107

- “Public Holidays: An Idle Proposal”, The Economist, August 30th 2007

- “Pricing Drugs: A New Prescription”, The Economist, February 22nd 2007

- “Drug Strategy Review: Prescription Renewal”, The Economist, July 26th 2007


April 22nd –Europe: Global Influence or Global Weakness?


- Ch. 10 in The European Union: How Does It Work?

- Ch. 23 in European Politics

- Ch.s 4 and 7 in The United States of Europe (Ch. 5 suggested)

- Robert Kagan, “Power And Weakness”, Policy Review, June/July (2002)

- “Britain And America: Special Friends”, The Economist, July 30th 2007

- “Switzerland: Splendid Isolation”, The Economist, February 12th 2004

- “EU Warns of Legal Action Over Gas”, to be found online at:



April 29th (last day of class) – Terrorism in Western Europe


- Joanne Wright, “The Importance of Europe in the Global Campaign Against Terrorism”, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 18, No. 2 (2006)

- George Kassimeris, “Europe’s Last Red Terrorists: The Revolutionary Organisation 17 November, 1975-2000”, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 13, No. 2 (2001)

- U.S. Institute of Peace, “The Basque Conflict: New Ideas and Prospects for Peace”, Special Report, No. 161 (2006)

- “ETA Separatists Down But Not Out” to be found online at:


- “Timeline: ETA Campaign” online at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/545452.stm


Papers due no later than Monday, May 4th.  E-mailed papers will only be accepted under exceptional circumstances.