Comparative Politics

This graduate field seminar is structured around the critical questions and puzzles that have motivated research in comparative politics, such as: How does identity matter? Why are some countries democratic? How do governments form, and why do they fail? How does the state enforce, execute, and extract? We examine both the path-breaking readings in the field, and recent advances. The seminar begins with a short lecture on the question motivating the week's readings.


Hidden Politics

This undergraduate seminar examines politics that take place outside of the public sphere of formal governmental activity. Such informal institutions and politics also involve exchanges of power and relations of authority, but they take place outside of the purview of most political analyses. We will explore these political activities and institutions, which include norms and regulation of behavior, corruption, networks and alliances, and everyday forms of resistance. We will examine how informal politics substitute for, supplement, and undermine their formal counterparts.


East Central European Politics in Transition

PLSC 342 surveys the comparative political development in the region from 1945 to the present. Its purpose is to introduce the historical development in the region, and its theoretical ramifications, such as the determinants of democratic transitions, the difficulties of economic and political reform, and the role of the authoritarian past in determining the democratic present. Main topics include: state socialism, the collapse of the communist regimes, transitions to democracy, economic reform, political reform and the development of democracy, ethnicity and nationalism, regional security issues, and the importance of membership in supranational organizations: NATO and EU.


States and Regimes

This graduate seminar is designed to analyze the state as a critical but often vulnerable political actor. We examine the changing roles of the state, the numerous forces that have forced it to change, the variety of ways in which the state responds, and the relative failure or success of these efforts. Main topics include the theories of the state, its role in the development of political and economic institutions, the state under a variety of political systems, corruption and rent-seeking, and state development, collapse, and regeneration.


Authoritarian Regimes

While democratization and democratic politics have dominated the comparative politics literature, the persistence of and variation in authoritarian politics have given rise to a new body of research and theory. While some authoritarian regimes are in the familiar mold of predation and rule by terror, others hae developed sophisticated mechanisms of maintaining economic performance and socila order without overt violence or repression. We will examine the variation in authoritarian regimes, their origins, and the underpinnings of their persistence: formal and informal institutions, legitimation, redistribution, and elections.


Party Politics

Political parties are the main linkage between the government and the governed. This graduate seminar examines the rise and development of political parties, their role in stabilizing and destabilizing democracy, and alternative institutions of representation. Cases include fragmented party systems, ethnically-divided societies, and developed democracies. Broader theoretical themes addressed in the course include the party electoral and colaition strategies, the ramifications of political party organizations, and the threats to democracy posed by political parties themselves.

Qualitative Methods

As an effort to encourage problem-driven research, this course focuses on qualitative methods and the problems that are best addressed using these methods. Among other benefits, qualitative methods allow us to examine closely causal mechanisms at close empirical proximity. Within the literature, “qualitative methods” has referred to a) small-n research design, b) more direct interrogation of the evidence instead of distant proxies, and c) methods that focus on mechanisms and processes, rather than correlations. This course examines all three of these aspects of qualitative methods, focusing on causal inference as the main goal of social science.