Winter Quarter 1998

Tuesday, Thursday 10:50-1:05

523 General Classroom Building

Dr. William M. Downs Office Hours: M, W 2:00-3:30

Department of Political Science 1013 General Classroom Building

Georgia State University Tel: 651-4841



The principal aim of this upper-level undergraduate course is to achieve an advanced understanding of major substantive and theoretical issues in contemporary European political systems. A comparative methodological approach will encourage critical thinking about key trends and controversies, and it will enable students to assess the performance of individual political systems in relation to broader patterns in both Europe and--by extension--the United States. Among the topics covered by lectures and readings will be the following: political culture and value change, party systems and party government, electoral behavior, political control over national economic policy making, effects of unemployment and inflation on government stability, territorial decentralization, right-wing extremism, public policy, and integration. We will ask such questions as: How stable is the existing democratic order? How serious are threats to this order, such as recent internal conflicts, persistent socioeconomic inequalities, and violence with racist underpinnings? How did Europe react to genocidal violence on its eastern doorstep--and with what implications for the future? How, if at all, have traditional political party systems adapted and evolved in response to changing electorates? What is the best model for balancing the demands of economic performance and social services? Is European monetary union desirable/possible? How does European integration impact the United States?


The following texts are available for purchase at the Park Place Bookstore and the University Bookstore:

Michael Curtis, ed. 1996. Western European Government and Politics. New York: Longman.

Stephen George. 1996. Politics and Policy in the European Union, 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Russell Dalton, 1996. Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, 2nd edition. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.

Additionally, you should purchase a small course packet from the University Bookstore.

Note: Where possible, readings have been placed on reserve at Library South for your use.


Students will be evaluated along four dimensions. Approximately two-thirds (65%) of your grade will be determined by a midterm exam and a comprehensive final exam. The remaining 35% will be determined by regular and active class participation and scores on two written assignments.

Attendance. This is a lecture-discussion course. Students are thus expected to attend all class sessions and will sign an attendance sheet at each class. Students who miss more than two classes will lose 2% of the final course grade for each additional class missed, up to a total of 10%. Absences for medical reasons or for attending an official university sponsored inter-collegiate event (but not a practice) will be excused only when accompanied by a written note from the attending physician (one week following absence) or team coach (one week prior to event).

Class Participation. Students must complete the assigned readings on time, and actively participate in class discussions. To stay abreast of developments in European politics, students should follow current events through the reading of a major national newspaper, such as the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, or the Wall Street Journal. Regular reading of news magazines such as The Economist, Time, Newsweek, or US News and World Report is also recommended. All these papers are available for free on the World Wide Web. Current events will be discussed throughout the course and may also be part of the exams.

Examinations. Two in-class examinations, consisting of a midterm exam and comprehensive final, will constitute 65% of each student's grade. The exams will consist of a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions. I also reserve the right to schedule unannounced quizzes on the readings if deemed necessary. No make-ups will be given for missed quizzes. Both material discussed in class and material covered in required readings will appear on the exams.

Written Assignments. At the beginning of the quarter, students will select two European countries that will subsequently be the focus of two take-home written assignments worth 25% of your grade. The assignments will be distributed at least one week in advance of their due date. These assignments (approximately 4-5 double-spaced, type-written pages plus bibliography) will require each student to use traditional research methods, such as library research, and newly emerging research tools, such as the World Wide Web.

Paper 1 10%

Paper 2 15%

Participation 10%

Mid-term Exam 30%

Comprehensive Final Exam 35%

FYI: You should periodically check my web page for assignment updates, useful resources, and class materials.


Topic 1 Introduction to European Politics & Political Economy

January 6 Introduction to Course

Introductory comments and discussion of course format. Framing of central issues and questions.

January 8 The Nature of European Politics

Topic 2 Parliamentary Government: the British model

January 13 Historical Context of Contemporary Politics/ Processes and Institutions

January 15 The Road to Tony Blair and "New Labour"

Topic 3 Mixed Parliamentary-Presidential Systems: The French Model

January 20 Constitutional Engineering and the Durability of the Fifth Republic

January 22 Evaluating System Performance

Topic 4 Federal Political Systems: The German Model

January 27 From Occupation to Reunification: Political Development

January 29 Coping with the Problems of Unity

February 3 Midterm


February 5 Politics and the Public in Europe and America

February 10 Measuring Value Change

February 12 Electoral Behavior

Topic 6 Consociationalism In Europe

February 17 The Dutch Case

Topic 7 Democratization in Europe

February 19 The Spanish Road to Reform

February 24 The Italian Road to Reform

Topic 8 Political Economy of the Welfare State

February 26 Politics of Privatization

Topic 9 European Integration

March 3 Origins and Institutions of the European Union

March 5 The Politics of Monetary Union

March 10 Eastward Expansion

Supplemental (i.e., optional but recommended):

March 17 Final Exam 11:30

Suggested (Supplemental) Readings:

Anderson, Perry. 1974. Lineages of the Absolutist State. London & New York: Verso.

Betz, Hans-Georg. 1994. Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Cossolotto, Matthew. 1995. The Almanac of European Politics 1995. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Dalton, Russell J., and Manfred Kuechler. 1990. Challenging the Political Order: New Social and Political Movements in Western Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Downs, William M. 1998. Coalition Politics, Subnational Style. Multiparty Politics in Europe's Regional Parliaments. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

Keohane, Robert O., and Stanley Hoffmann, eds. 1991. The New European Community: Decisionmaking and Institutional Change. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Kesselman, Mark, et al. 1997. European Politics in Transition. 3rd ed. Lexington, MA and Toronto: D.C Heath.

Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1990. Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Meny, Yves, with Andrew Knapp. 1993. Governments and Politics in Western Europe: Britain, France, Italy, Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rasmussen, Jorgen S., and Joel C. Moses. 1995. Major European Governments. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Steiner, Jürg. 1998. European Democracies. Fourth Edition. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Useful Journals:
American Political Science Review

British Journal of Political Science

Comparative Political Studies

Comparative Politics

Electoral Studies

European Journal of Political Research

Foreign Affairs

German Politics


Government and Opposition

International Political Science Review

Journal of Common Market Studies

Journal of Comparative Economics

Journal of European Social Policy

Journal of Legislative Studies

Journal of Politics

Parliamentary Affairs

Party Politics

Plural Societies

Revue française de science politique

Rivista de Estudios Politicos

Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica

Scandinavian Political Studies

Studies in Comparative Communism

West European Politics

World Politics

Note: This course syllabus provides a general plan for the course; deviations may be necessary.

Note: Students are responsible for the information contained in the Academic Honesty policy found in On Campus.