A wave-swept shore, remote, forlorn / here he stood, rapt in thought and drawn / to distant prospects.

The Bronze Horseman, Alexander Pushkin (1837) Photo from Senatskaya Ploshchad, St. Petersburg (2018)


Week 1


Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • Patrick H. O’Neil, Essentials of Comparative Politics, 6th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2018), pp. 6-19.

  • Jeffrey Kopstein, Mark Lichbach, and Stephen E. Hanson, “What is Comparative Politics?” in Jeffrey Kopstein, Mark Lichbach, and Stephen E. Hanson, eds., Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities, and Institutions in a Changing Global Order, 4th ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 1-7, 12-13.*

  • Daniel L. Posner, “The Political Salience of Cultural Differences: Why Chewas and Tumbukas Are Allies in Zambia and Adversaries in Malawi,” American Political Science Review 98, 4 (November 2004), pp. 529-545.*

  • Lussier, Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia, pp. 22-27, 29-39.

What is comparative politics all about? What is the role of comparison in our thinking in comparative politics— or for that matter in any attempt to make sense of the world around us? How does Posner make use of comparison to understand when cultural cleavages between Chewas and Tumbukas become politically salient and when they do not? What is a “natural experiment,” and how does Posner use one to investigate relations between Chewas and Tumbukas?

Week 2


Who Are We and What Do We Want? Human Nature and the Ends of Political Life
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, published in Walter Kaufmann, ed., Basic Writings of Nietzsche (New York: The Modern Library, 1992 [originally published 1885]) pp. 391-405.*

  • Bertrand Russell, “The Impulse to Power”; “Leaders and Followers”; and “The Ethics of Power,” in Power: A New Social Analysis, 2nd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2004 [originally published 1938]), pp. 1-22, 215-223.*

  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, excerpts from The German Ideology, in Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: Norton, 1978 [originally published 1845-46]), pp. 155-162, 172-175.*

  • Max Weber, “Political Communities: The Distribution of Power within the Political Community,” in Economy and Society (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978 [originally published 1922]), pp. 926-39.*

  • Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with That of the Moderns,” in Benjamin Constant, Political Writings (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988 [originally published 1819]), pp. 309-28.*

  • Emile Durkheim, Suicide (Free Press, 1951 [originally published 1897]), pp. 208-16, 246-58.*

Each of the theorists we are reading this week presents a distinctive view of who we are and what makes us tick. How would you characterize each theorist’s view? Can you think of contemporary writers or political leaders whose assumptions about human nature and how the world works resemble those of one or more of the writers we are reading this week?

Week 3


  • Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, “What Democracy Is…and Is Not,” Journal of Democracy 2, 3 (Summer 1991), pp. 75-88.*

  • Lussier, Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia, pp. 1-11.

  • William A. Galston, “The 2016 U.S. Election: The Populist Moment,” Journal of Democracy 28, 2 (April 2017), pp. 21-33.*

  • Sheri Berman, “The Pipe Dream of Undemocratic Liberalism,” Journal of Democracy 28, 3 (July 2017), pp. 29-38.*

  • Dickson, The Dictator’s Dilemma, pp. 262-300.

Consider how the readings inform our conception of what democracy is, how it emerges, whether it can take root anywhere in the world, and how it may be sustained. In the West, we have long taken democracy for granted, assuming that it will never again face serious challenge. The recent rise of political forces whose commitment to democracy is dubious has suddenly upended that assumption. How can we comprehend the challenge to democratic institutions in the West? What brought it on? Think also about the relationship between liberalism (rights) and democracy (rule by the people) that Berman’s piece highlights. Furthermore, in light of Dickson’s chapter, consider how rulers can manipulate conceptions of democracy to suit their own interests in maintaining power.

Week 4


  • Dickson, The Dictator’s Dilemma, pp. 1-95.

  • Susan L. Shirk, “China in Xi’s ‘New Era’: The Return to Personalistic Rule,” Journal of Democracy 29, 2 (April 2018), pp. 22-36.*

  • Timothy Snyder, “Individualism or Totalitarianism,” and “Succession or Failure,” Ch. 1 and excerpt from Ch. 2, The Road to Unfreedom (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2018), pp. 15-60.*

  • M. Steven Fish, “What Is Putinism?,” Journal of Democracy 28, 4 (October 2017), pp. 61-75.*

  • Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, Introduction and Ch. 1.

What methods do governments in countries with authoritarian regimes use to control the people and survive in power? How would you compare authoritarian regimes in Russia and China?

Week 5


Socioeconomic Development and Structure
  • Seymour Martin Lipset, “Economic Development and Democracy,” excerpts from ch. 2 of Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics (Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1963), pp. 287-295 (excerpts reprinted).*

  • Lussier, Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia, pp. 11-14.

  • Andrew J. Nathan, “The Puzzle of the Chinese Middle Class,” Journal of Democracy 27, 2 (April 2016), pp. 5-19.*

  • Dickson, The Dictator’s Dilemma, pp. 222-232.

Consider Lipset’s argument on the correlation between socioeconomic development and democracy. How is level of economic development causally linked to political regimes? How do Nathan and Dickson explain the endurance of the Communist Party regime in China even in the face of rapid socioeconomic modernization? Do you think that socioeconomic modernization will eventually lead to political opening in China?

Week 6


Political Culture: Values, Attitudes, Beliefs
  • Ronald F. Ingelehart, Cultural Evolution: People’s Motivations Are Changing, and Reshaping the World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 36-41, 114-130.*

  • Lussier, Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia, pp. 14-21 and chs. 6 & 7.

  • Dickson, The Dictator’s Dilemma, pp. 237-244.

How can people’s values and beliefs, influenced by their histories, affect the forms of political regime they are likely to live under? Do some cultures foster attitudes that are more conducive to democracy than others? How does Lussier help us understand the link between people’s beliefs and regime outcomes?

Week 7


Political Participation and Civil Society
  • Lussier, Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia, chs. 3 & 5.

  • Dickson, The Dictator’s Dilemma, pp. 123-163.

What is the role of civil society organizations in challenging or sustaining political regimes? What forms of action do they engage in, and to what ends? How does the relationship between the state and civil society differ in Indonesia, Russia, and China?

Week 8


Political Parties and Leadership
  • Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, chs. 2, 3, 4, 7, 8.

What do Levitsky and Ziblatt teach us about how the behavior of American political elites has compromised democracy in the United States? What can be done to counteract such behavior?

Week 9


Formal and Informal Institutions
  • Patrick H. O’Neil, Essentials of Comparative Politics, 6th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2018), pp. 146-165.*

  • M. Steven Fish, “Stronger Legislatures, Stronger Democracies,” Journal of Democracy 17, 1 (January 2006), pp. 5-20.*

  • Louise Tillin, “India’s Democracy at 70: The Federalist Compromise,” Journal of Democracy 28, 3 (July 2017), pp. 64-75.*

  • Levitsky and Ziblatt, How Democracies Die, chs. 5 & 6.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of different electoral systems and of different ways of apportioning power between the central state and subnational units? Consider informal as well as formal institutions. According to Levitsky and Ziblatt, what are informal institutions and what role have they played in sustaining democracy in the United States?

Reading & Writing

Reading Resources:

How to Read Political Science: A Guide in Four Steps from Amelia Hoover Green, Drexel University (2013)

Writing Resources:

Chicago Manual of Style

Research Writing Calculator

Three Templates for Introductions to Political Science Articles by Andrew Little (2016)