Political Science | Intro to Comparative Politics
Y107 | 20063 | Smyth

Comparative politics is the branch of political science that studies
the similarities and differences across different political
regimes.  The subfield is organized around three major questions:
why some countries democracies and others are not, why some
countries are rich while others are poor, and why some countries
engage in or experience conflict when others do not.  Each of these
broad questions yields a larger number of issues and puzzles that
need to be addressed.  For example, if we think about contemporary
politics we might ask why sectarian violence has intensified in Iraq
or why democracy has suffered setbacks in Afghanistan and what the
international community might do to improve those situations.

In this class, you will be doing comparative politics.  The class is
divided into four sections.  The first section will outline the
tools that political scientists have developed in order to answer
their questions.  The second section outlines the similarities and
differences across a range of political regimes that have been
observed in the world.  The third section will address the political
mechanisms that make resource rich states prone to
authoritarianism.  This question is crucial for contemporary
politics as we observe the failure of democracy in Russia, Nigeria
and Venezuela.  The final section of the class will address a key
puzzle in electoral politics:  why do people vote and why has
political turnout declined across the world’s democracies in the
past two decades?