Introduction to Comparative Politics (Fall 2020, 2021, 2022)
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.
Iranian Politics, 1953-Present (Fall 2020, 2021, 2022)
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.
Why do countries go to war? When are countries more likely to sign trade agreements or start a trade war? What is the best approach to manage global challenges such as climate change , migration, or terrorism? How does the United States make foreign policy decisions? This course introduces key issues in international politics and the main analytical approaches used to evaluate their causes. We discuss examples of how theories and policies work ranging from the Peloponnesian War to the Cuban Missile Crisis to China’s Belt and Road Initiative today. By the end of the class, students will be able to:
- Understand key issues in international politics and the value of approaching them from different analytical frameworks.
- Apply theories of international relations to key policy issues.
- Write analytical essays, persuasive commentaries, and policy memos.
Democracy & Dictatorship
Is democracy in decline? How can we tell the difference between democracy and dictatorship? What causes countries to become more or less democratic? This course will examine the conditions and processes that shape the regime type of countries around the world, with a particular focus on what causes transitions to and the consolidation of democracy. We will evaluate contemporary trends in democratization and assess whether traditional theories of transition still apply and conclude by discussing how – and whether – democracy promotion assistance can be effective.
- Understand the distinctions between regime types and the implications of using quantitative measures to compare them.
- Analyze global trends in democratization and the conditions under which they apply.
- Apply theories of democratization and democratic backsliding to individual countries.
Politics of Russia and Eurasia (Spring 2021)
How has Vladimir Putin been able to consolidate his power as president of Russia? Why are Armenia and Azerbaijan at war over Nagorno-Karabakh? How did corruption get so bad in Ukraine? Will China or Russia have more influence over the oil-rich states of Central Asia? The countries of the former Soviet Union influence regional, international, and U.S. politics every day. Starting with a brief introduction to the legacies of the Soviet Union, this course trace the major political and economic reforms in the countries of Eurasia over the past three decades and discuss their implications for the politics of the region today. By the end of this class, students will:
- Expand their understanding of Russia and the countries of Eurasia.
- Apply theories of democratization, nationalism, and economic reform to the region.
- Develop their research skills, specifically the ability to conduct effective comparisons of two or more countries.
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
Instructional videos on research methods are available here.