Why are some countries dictatorships and others democracies? Why are some countries rich and others poor? Why do some countries fall into civil war and others manage political conflict peacefully? This course introduces the main concepts and theories of comparative politics, focusing on the interaction of history, culture, and economics in shaping political systems. Using contemporary and historical examples from around the world, it challenges the meaning of ideas like “dictatorship” and “democracy” and explore how state strength, regime type, and institutional choice shape economic and social policy. By the end of this class, students will be able to:
- Identify key differences between political systems and articulate debates over key concepts.
- Evaluate the relative merit of institutional, cultural, and economic arguments about the origins of a country’s political system as well as the effect of those institutions on policy outcomes.
- Assess the advantages and disadvantages of applying general arguments about comparative politics to specific countries.
Who are the key players in Iranian politics and what are their bases of power? How does the Iranian government make decisions? Do the Iranian people support their government? Understanding Iran is more relevant today than ever before as the United States considers how best to implement the nuclear deal and how to address an ever-assertive Iran in the region. We study key events in Iranian politics, from the 1953 coup against Mossadeq to the nuclear deal, reading works from Iranian and American perspectives to understand how the selection of facts shapes opinions on Iran. Each unit combines these readings with broader theoretical perspectives to help understand whether Iranian politics are unique or exemplify broader political concepts. Students should leave this class with an understanding of the key issues in Iranian internal politics and a strong foundation upon which they can analyze current events.
Introduction to Research Methods for Political Science (Spring 2019)
This course will familiarize students with the basic principles of conducting political science research. We review the scientific method as it applies to politics, introduce a variety of approaches to the study of political science, and practice core research skills. Course goals for students include:
- Become a better consumer of research presented in politics classes and the media.
- Gain familiarity with the use of statistics in political science and the software used for analysis.
- Develop writing and analytical skills for research on politics.
Students should leave this course with a better understanding of the analytical and ethical implications of using different methodologies to study questions in political science. Syllabus