Course Overview for Prospective Students



Fall Quarter 1997

Thursday 5:30-10:10, 715 General Classroom Building

Dr. William M. Downs

Department of Political Science

Georgia State University


This graduate seminar is designed to give participants a professional introduction to the issues, theories, and methodological approaches associated with the systematic and comparative study of nation-states and their political systems. Now in its fourth "boom" decade as a major field of political science, comparative politics encompasses a wide range of topics--including state-building, development, mass political behavior, public policy, party systems, interest representation and political participation, institutional design and political economy, among many others. We will take time to recognize the academic sociology of comparative politics, think seriously about the logic of comparative analysis, and critique some of the classics in the field as well as some more recent contributions.

The seminar's primary goal is to focus on the major substantive, theoretical, and empirical research questions concerning comparative politics. The course is not an "introduction to politics in [insert country x here]." Nor is it slanted excessively to the professor's particular region of interest and expertise (e.g., Europe). We look at the important questions and apply them geographically where they prove most relevant. That said, the literature to be read and discussed should only be considered a sampling of a richly diverse field. The seminar meetings themselves will aim at constructive criticism and analysis of these works. More broadly, students will be encouraged to relate these discussions and questioning to their own research.


Ronald H. Chilcote. 1994, Theories of Comparative Politics: The Search for a Paradigm Reconsidered, 2nd edition. Boulder: Westview Press.

Mattei Dogan and Dominique Pelassy. 1990. How to Compare Nations: Strategies in Comparative Politics, 2nd edition. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.

Sven Steinmo, Kathleen Thelen and Frank Longstreth, eds. 1992. Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Analysis. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tsebelis, George. 1990. Nested Games: Rational Choice in Comparative Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Paul R. Abramson and Ronald Inglehart. 1995. Value Change in Global Perspective. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.


Week 1 (September 25) Introduction to the Comparative Analysis of Political Systems and Comparative Politics as a Sub-Field in the Discipline

Week 2 (October 2) Logic and Methods of Comparison

Week 3 (October 9) Theories of System and State; Approaches to State-Society Relations

Week 4 (October 16) Development and Underdevelopment

Week 5 (October 23) Comparing Democratic Polities

Week 6 (October 30) Comparative Political Economy

Week 7 (TBA) Historical Institutionalism and Comparative Public Policy

Week 8 (November 13) Rational Choice in Comparative Politics

Week 9 (November 20) Value Change on Five Continents