William M. Downs
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: 404/651-4841 Fax: 404/651-1434

Dr. William M. Downs (Ph.D, Emory University 1994) is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. His research and teaching interests comprise comparative politics, European politics with emphases on western and northern Europe, and political economy. He has published a book, entitled Coalition Government, Subnational Style: Multiparty Politics in Europe's Regional Parliaments (Ohio State University Press, 1998), which investigates the machinations of postelection alliance building in the subnational legislatures of Germany, France, and Belgium. He is editor as well as contributor to "Regionalism in the European Union," a special issue of The Journal of European Integration, and he is the author of articles in The Journal of Legislative Studies, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Regional and Federal Studies, Electoral Studies, West European Politics, Journal für Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung, Political Leaders of Western Europe (David Wilsford, ed.), History Behind the Headlines:  The Origins of Major Twentieth Century Geopolitical Conflicts (Meghan O'Meara, ed.), The New Europe at the Crossroads (Ursula E. Beitter, ed)., and Political Parties of Europe, 1980s to 1990s (Vincent E. McHale and Andreas Sobisch, eds.). Current research projects include a study of Catalonia's autonomous parliament, an investigation into the electoral strategies of regional nationalist political parties in Belgium, and a survey of responses to the emergence of pariah parties in Belgian and Norwegian local government. Prior to joining the GSU faculty, Professor Downs taught at Emory University (1996-97), Aarhus University in Denmark (1995-96), and Odense University in Denmark (1994-95). He spent one year as a research fellow at the Harvard University Center for European Studies (1993-94) and has held research fellowships (Fulbright, Belgian-American Educational Foundation) in Belgium (1992-93).

Upcoming Course Offering (Maymester 2002):

    POLS 3200 Comparative Politics

Current Course Offerings (Spring 2002):

    POLS 4242 European Union

    POLS 3230/8230 Political Negotiations

             Useful Links for Students

Previous Course Syllabi:

    POLS 2401 Global Issues

   POLS 3200 Comparative Politics

   POLS 427 European Politics

   POLS 4240 European Politics

    POLS 4242 European Union

   POLS 491F Political Negotiations

   POLS 820 Comparative Politics

   POLS 8200 Comparative Politics

   POLS 825 Comparative Political Economy

   POLS 8280 Comparative Political Economy

   POLS 827 European Politics

    POLS 8240 European Politics

   POLS 850F Political Negotiations

GLOBAL ISSUES: POLS 2401 Resource Page
I serve as Coordinator for the department's course on Global Issues, which is part of the core curriculum.  The course provides an introduction to contemporary trends and problems in world politics, focusing on conflict and cooperation, business and trade, population dynamics, environmental threats, and human rights.


Georgia State University is home to the Beta Alpha Chapter of Sigma Iota Rho, the national honor society for the study of international affairs.  I currently serve as Faculty Advisor, and I welcome inquiries from those interested and eligible to join.

Conference on Regionalism in the European Union
Georgia State University
April 20, 2001

In conjunction with the European Union Center of the University System of Georgia, the Department of Political Science hosted a multidisciplinary conference on "Regionalism in the European Union" on April 20, 2001.  Dr. William M. Downs, who serves as chair of the EU Center's Regionalism Policy Network, organized the conference, which brought scholars from nine American universities (GSU, Yale, Emory, UGA, Bradley, South Florida, North Georgia, Wesleyan, Casper) together with counterparts from seven EU member states (UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Spain) and Russia.  Participants presented sixteen papers on a range of themes, including:  promotion and defense of regional, political and cultural identities in Europe; regional policy to combat economic and social disparities; decentralist trends in EU member states; cross-border, inter-regional cooperation; and development of regional policies in eastern and central Europe.

Georgia State University students now how the opportunity to pursue a Certificate in European Union Studies.  The Certificate is a unique program that is designed to provide in-depth study of the European Union and the relationship between the EU, the United States, and other nations. The program is supported by 26 institutions statewide.  I currently serve as campus representative for the program, and I invited interested students to contact me.


Comparative Politics Links


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Recent Publications

A pioneering cross-national study, Coalition Government, Subnational Style examines parliamentary democracy in the richly diverse area of subnational legislative assemblies. Comparing three different European democracies--Germany, France, and Belgium--the book provides a powerful account of the ways politicians and political parties spend days, weeks, and often months negotiating the composition of new governments following elections in which no single party wins a clear majority. Downs argues that postelection alliance building is a window onto many of the political processes fundamental to representative democracy: the interpretations of electoral verdicts; the compromises of campaign pledges; the trade-offs between policy and power; the temporary cooperation between long-term adversaries; the collective decisionmaking; and the blurring of lines of accountability through collective responsibility. The study reports findings from an unprecedented collection of information, including cross-national survey responses, interviews with political elites, and three decades of postelection studies of coalition building in the German state parliaments, the French regional assemblies, and the Belgian provincial councils and regional parliaments. Coalition Government, Subnational Style conclusively demonstrates that the struggles for government status at subnational levels are profoundly important to both parties and voters and that the outcomes of these struggles can result in governments of varying political complexions. The findings will question key assumptions of democratic theory and raise important concerns about individual and organizational behavior in changing institutional and electoral environments, ultimately allowing for a deeper understanding of representation, power, and cooperation outside the more familiar arena of national parliamentary politics.

William M. Downs, ed. "Regionalism in the European Union," Special Issue of The Journal of European Integration" 24:3 (Summer 2002)
One of the apparent contradictions of the twenty-first century is that, in a world of globalisation and interdependence, there is an increase in the number of constitutional regions and stateless nations aggressively seeking autonomy and influence.  Despite powerful arguments that inherent in globalisation is a process of deterritorialisation, the politics of place enjoys a reinvigorated salience.  Uncertainty generated by the countervailing forces of integration and disintegration prompts contentious questions about shared sovereignty, viability of small entities, possibilities for transborder co-operation, competing loyalties, and democratisation via devolution.  Perhaps nowhere are the dilemmas associated with these questions better illustrated than in the European Union.  This issue of The Journal of European Integration introduces a collaborative research project that addresses the reciprocal relationship between regionalism and European unification.

William M. Downs, "How Effective is the Cordon Sanitaire?  Lessons from Efforts to Contain the Far Right in Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway,"  Journal für Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung 4:1 (April 2002).
Political scientists with research interests in Europe’s far right often shy away from the question, “What is to be done?”  As a discipline we tend to be much more comfortable as empiricists trying to explain the relative success of various extremist parties and identifying the traits of their supporters than we are of venturing prescriptions for how to contain and roll back the far right.  It is clear, however, that if we are to avoid the extant literature’s penchant for virtuous yet ineffective one-size-fits-all solutions, then systematic cross-national analysis of the successes and failures of responses by mainstream political parties to the presence of far-right parties in legislatures is necessary.  It is to that end that this article aims (1) to describe and classify alternative strategic responses to successful extremist parties and (2) to draw inferences about the relative success of alternative anti-extremist strategies from the experiences of four European countries.  While it is evident that no single strategy holds the key to combating the far right, the evidence from Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway suggests that so-called “constructive engagement” strategies rather than “clean hands” strategies have led—and therefore can lead—to greater success.  “Doing the right thing,” by erecting a cordon sanitaire around a far right party—as has been done most dramatically in Antwerp—may be politically correct, it may adhere to the advice of most anti-racism groups, and it may give mainstream politicians the ability to present their clean hands to the voters; however, doing the right thing often yields unintended and undesired consequences.

Send e-mail to: William M. Downs