POL S 204 A: Introduction to Comparative Politics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 12:50pm
* *
Susan Whiting
Susan H. Whiting

Syllabus Description:

Important Zoom Links

Section AA: Fridays, 9:30-10:20 am

Section AB: Fridays, 10:30-11:20 am

Section AD: Fridays, 11:30-12:20 pm

Section AF: Fridays, 12:30-1:20 pm

Tao Lin's Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:00 pm

Jintong Han's Office Hours: Mondays, 10:00-12:00 pm

Course Description

   The full course syllabus is here.

   This course introduces students to Comparative Politics by focusing on three of the most important issues in the field: economic growth, democratization, and ethnic & nationalist conflict. The course is organized into three main parts, in which we will address each of these issues in turn.

First, why do some countries achieve wealth, while others remain mired in poverty?  Social scientists and policy makers continually struggle with this question, which determines the life chances of billions of people around the world.  Today, policy makers debate two distinct explanations of economic growth around the world since World War II, and different explanations are tied to two different policy prescriptions: the so-called “Washington Consensus” and what some observers have inaccurately termed the “Beijing Consensus.”  These competing ideas actually reflect different emphases on the role of market forces versus the role of the state in promoting economic growth.  We will examine the debates as well as the evidence and reasoning behind them. 

Second, why do some countries become democratic, while others remain stubbornly authoritarian?  Near the end of the twentieth century, Francis Fukuyama foresaw the “End of History,” suggesting that most countries around the world would naturally become liberal democracies.  In the decades since his prediction, vibrant new democracies have indeed replaced authoritarian regimes in some countries; yet, elsewhere in the world one authoritarian regime replaced another, and in still other countries existing authoritarian regimes have survived and even thrived.  We will examine the factors shaping democratization as well as resilience of authoritarian regimes.

Third, why do ethnic or nationalist conflicts emerge in some countries at certain periods of time but not in others?  Ethnic and nationalist conflict is frequently in the news—clashes between the government and armed ethnic groups in Myanmar is only one recent example.  Traditionally, scholars have regarded ethnic or national identity as something immutable and ethnic or nationalist conflict as inevitable, but social scientists increasingly regard these identities as constructed or mobilized—often for the political purposes of elites.  We will examine the political causes of ethnic and nationalist conflict as well as some policy prescriptions for ending conflict. 

Learning Goals

   Through this course, you will gain both substantive knowledge and academic skills.  You will encounter real-world puzzles or problems and learn some of the Comparative Politics theories that explain them.  Along the way, you will master key concepts that are the building blocks of these theories. 

   You will hone your skills reading scholarly articles for both the author’s theoretical argument and the empirical evidence he/she relies upon.  You will also practice writing your own argument supported by evidence.  You will learn how quickly to access scholarly resources, and by the end of the quarter you will construct a scholarly bibliography.  These skills prepare you for more advanced courses in the social sciences; they also translate readily into other disciplines and the professional world.

Additional Course Information

Diversity Statement

   The Department of Political Science recognizes and affirms the University of Washington’s mission to “value and honor diverse experiences and perspectives, strive to create welcoming and respectful learning environments, and promote access, opportunity and justice for all.” We expect every member of this community to contribute toward cultivating an inclusive and respectful culture throughout our classrooms, work environments, and campus events.

Disability Resources

   If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disability Resources for Students, 011 Mary Gates Hall (http://depts.washington.edu/uwdrs ). If you have a letter from DRS indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so that we can discuss the accommodations you may need for class.

Registrar Guidance to Students Taking Courses Outside the US

   The University of Washington community is committed to academic freedom. The curriculum includes topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events. If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws. If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.

International Access

The following link contains important information from UW IT about international access to online learning technologies (https://itconnect.uw.edu/learn/tools/international-availability/).

Religious Accommodation

   Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).

Academic Integrity

   Students at the University of Washington (UW) are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct, professional honesty, and personal integrity. Plagiarism, cheating, and other misconduct are violations of the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-120). 

Catalog Description: 
Political systems in a comparative framework. Traditional and contemporary approaches to the study of governments and societies in different countries. Offered: AWSpS.
Department Requirements: 
Introductory Courses
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
October 12, 2020 - 11:51pm