17.50 | Fall 2022 | Undergraduate

Introduction to Comparative Politics


Topic 1: State and government

Session 1: Introduction

Course syllabus

Session 2: The state and its discontents (1)

Selection from Aristotle, Politics, Book 3, Part 6, c. 350 BCE.

Selection from Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah (Introduction to a Universal History), c. 1377 CE.

Selection from Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan: Or, the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil [1651], Chapters 13 and 17.

Hume, David. Selections from “Of the Origin of Government.” Part 1, Essay V in Essays, Moral, Political and Literary. 1742. econlib.org. 

Dahl, Robert A. “Anarchism.” Chapter 3 in Democracy and Its Critics. Yale University Press, 1991. ISBN: ‎9780300049381. [Preview with Google Books]

Fukuyama, Francis. “Preface.” In State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century. Cornell University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780801442923. [Preview with Google Books] (Read the first three pages only, and not the last paragraph.)

Session 3: The state and its discontents (2)

No readings assigned.

  • Deadwood, Season 1, Episode 1. Directed by Walter Hill. Color, 62 min. 2004.
  • Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Penguin Books, 2003. ISBN: ‎9780399501487. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Hotel Rwanda. Directed by Terry George. Color, 121 min. 2004.
  • The Killing Fields. Directed by Roland Joffé. Color, 141 min. 1984.
  • Orwell, George. 1984. epubli, 2021. ISBN: 9783753145136. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Lowry, Lois. The Giver. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. ISBN: 9780544340688. [Preview with Google Books]
  • Burn! Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. Color, 112 min. 1969.

Topic 2: Making rules

Session 4: Making rules and the state in countries that are “born free”

No readings assigned.

Session 5: Presentations by breakout groups

No readings assigned.

Topic 3: Picking and constraining rulers

Session 6: Picking rulers

Allison, Graham. “The Lee Kuan Yew Conundrum.” The Atlantic, March 30, 2015. 

Lee Kuan Yew: The Wise Man of the East.” The Economist, March 22, 2015. 

Silverstein, Ken. “Teodorin’s World.” Foreign Policy 185 (2011): 54–62.

Sun Yat-sen. Selections from “The Principle of Mínquán.” In The Three Principles of the People: San Min Chu I. Translated by Frank W. Price. Soul Care Publishing, 2011. ISBN: 9781927077030.

Dahl, Robert A. “Guardianship.” Chapter 4 in Democracy and Its Critics. Yale University Press, 1991. ISBN: ‎9780300049381. [Preview with Google Books]

Session 7: Constraining rulers

No readings assigned.

Topic 4: Entering the real world: Improving governance through better selection of leaders

Session 8: Can we design better representative institutions?

Lijphart, Arend. “Introduction.” Chapter 1 in Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. Yale University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780300078930. [Preview with Google Books]

———. “Executive-Legislative Relations: Patterns of Dominance and Balance of Power.” Chapter 7 in Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. Yale University Press, 1999, pp. 116–24. ISBN: 9780300078930. [Preview with Google Books]

———. “Electoral Systems: Majority and Plurality Methods Versus Proportional Representation.” Chapter 8 in Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. Yale University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780300078930. [Preview with Google Books]

Session 9: Buzz groups

No readings assigned.

Topic 5: In the real world: Improving governance through federalism and devolution

Session 10: Does decentralization improve governance?

“Political Decentralization.” Decentralization & Subnational Regional Economics, The World Bank Group.

Meenakshi, D. “Essay on the Decentralisation of Power.” Political Science.

Session 11: Can participatory mechanisms enhance the quality of governance?

Baiocchi, Gianpaolo. “The Citizens of Porto Alegre: In Which Marco Borrows Bus Fare and Enters Politics.” Boston Review, March 1, 2006.

Rao, Vijayendra, Kripa Ananthpur, and Kabir Malik. “The Anatomy of Failure: An Ethnography of a Randomized Trial to Deepen Democracy in Rural India.” World Development 99 (2017): 481–97.

Session 12: Class discussion

No readings assigned.

Topic 6: In the real world: Improving governance through monitoring and motivating officials

Session 13: Monitoring street-level bureaucrats

Fordham, Alice. “App Aims to Track Engrained Corruption in Lebanon.” NPR. March 9, 2015. (Make sure to listen to the interview rather than read the transcript.)

 “Corruption and Economic Development.” Chapter 2 in Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank. The World Bank Group. 1997.

Davis, Jennifer. “Corruption in Public Service Delivery: Experience from South Asia’s Water and Sanitation Sector.” World Development 32, no. 1 (2003): 53–71.  

Rheault, Magali. “Many World Citizens Trust Neighbors More Than Police.” Gallup. October 25, 2007.

Davis, Diane E. “Law Enforcement in Mexico: Not Yet Under Control.” NACLA. September 25, 2007.

Mazzolla, Francisco. “Community Policing in Lebanon.” Middle East Institute. October 29, 2018.

Session 14: Buzz groups on corruption

No readings assigned.

  • Brubaker. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Color, 131 min. 1980.
  • Leviathan. Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Color, 140 min. 2014.

Topic 7: Who are the people?

Session 15: Who are the people?

Review pop quiz question 10.

Fukuyama, Francis. “Tribal Societies: Property, Justice, War.” Chapter 4 in The Origins of Political Order. Profile Books, 2011. ISBN: 9781847652812. [Preview with Google Books] (Read the section “Law and Justice.”)

Episode 1.3: The Upside of Nationalism, with Aram Hur.” Scope Conditions Podcast.

Blakemore, Erin. “Who Are the Rohingya People?National Geographic, February 8, 2019.

Estrin, James. “Breaking Through Walls of Bias,” New York Times, November 5, 2012.

Bilefsky, Dan. “Walls, Real and Imagined, Surround the Roma,” New York Times, April 2, 2010.

The Struggle for Survival of the Roma People: Europe’s Most Hated.” YouTube. (video)

CNN documentary on the Roma community in Romania.” YouTube. (video)

Berger, Miriam. “Israel’s Hugely Controversial ‘Nation-State’ Law, Explained.” Vox. July 31, 2018. 

Burgess, Chris. “A Japanese Multicultural Society Still Far Off.” East Asia Forum. October 13, 2016.

Stokes, Bruce. “What It Takes to Truly Be ‘One of Us’.” Pew Research Center. February 1, 2017.

Session 16: Building national identity

 “The American Identity: Points of Pride, Conflicting Views, and a Distinct Culture.” (PDF - 2.2MB) Associated Press / NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. March 2017.

Huntington, Samuel P. “Foreword.” In Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN: ‎9780684870533. [Preview with Google Books]  

———. “The Crisis of National Identity.” Chapter 1 in Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN: ‎9780684870533. [Preview with Google Books]  

Lozada, Carlos. “Samuel Huntington, a Prophet for the Trump Era,” Washington Post, July 18, 2017.

Session 17: The debate over immigration

Papademetriou, Demetrios G. “Policy Considerations for Immigrant Integration.” Migration Policy Institute. October 1, 2003.

Hamilton, Tracy Brown. “Losing Identity during the Refugee Crisis: The Difference between Assimilation and Integration in the Classroom.” The Atlantic, May 16, 2016.

Creatura, Isabella. “Rethinking ‘Integration’ and ‘Assimilation’ of Refugees.” Brown Political Review, March 13, 2017.

Zappi, Sylvia. “French Government Revives Assimilation Policy.” Migration Policy Institute. October 1, 2003.

Griffith, Andrew. “Building a Mosaic: The Evolution of Canada’s Approach to Immigrant Integration.” Migration Policy Institute. November 1, 2017.

Goings, Rick. “Stop Telling Immigrants to Assimilate and Start Helping Them Participate.” World Economic Forum. January 14, 2017.

Bernstein, Hamutal, with Nicole DuBois. “Bringing Evidence to the Refugee Integration Debate.” (PDF) Urban Institute. April 2018. 

Session 18: Class discussion and debate

No readings assigned.

Topic 8: What can the government do to promote prosperity? What should it not do?

Session 19: Bloated states and their consequences

Goodman, John B., and Gary W. Loveman. “Does Privatization Serve the Public Interest?Harvard Business Review, November–December 1991.

Ball, Molly. “The Privatization Backlash.” The Atlantic, April 23, 2014.

Fukuyama, Francis. “The Missing Dimensions of Stateness.” Chapter 1 in State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century. Cornell University Press, 2004, pp. 1–23. ISBN: 9780801442923. [Preview with Google Books]

Session 20: Broad explanations for economic development

No readings assigned.

Brazil. Directed by Terry Gilliam. Color, 132 min. 1985.

Session 21: Industrial policy and its discontents

Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats - BBC Four.” YouTube. (video)

DOUALA. “The Road to Hell is Unpaved.” The Economist, December 19, 2002.

Rodrik, Dani, Arvind Subramanian, and Francesco Trebbi. “Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions over Geography and Integration in Economic Development.” Journal of Economic Growth 9, no. 2 (2004): 131–65.

de Soto, Hernando. “The Five Mysteries of Capital,” “The Mystery of Missing Information,” and “By Way of Conclusion.” Chapters 1, 2, and 7 in The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else. Basic Books, 2003. ISBN: ‎9780465016150. [Preview with Google Books]

Rodrik, Dani. “Industrial Policy: Don’t Ask Why, Ask How.” (PDF) Middle East Development Journal 1, no. 1 (2009): 1–29.

Session 22: Further discussion of industrial policy

No readings assigned.

Topic 9: Revolution, democratization, and regime change

Session 23: Regime change

How did the Arab Spring start in Tunisia? - BBC What’s New.” YouTube. (video)

Here’s How the Arab Spring Started and How It Affected the World | History.” YouTube. (video)

Anderson, Lisa. “Demystifying the Arab Spring: Parsing the Differences between Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 3 (2011): 2–7.

Brownlee, Jason, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds. “Tracking the ‘Arab Spring’: Why the Modest Harvest?Journal of Democracy 24, no. 4 (2013): 29–44.

Episode 1.2: Forging Democracy Out of the Trauma of Repression, with Elizabeth Nugent.” Scope Conditions Podcast.

Kendall-Taylor, Andrea, and Erica Frantz. “How Autocracies Fall.” Washington Quarterly 37, no. 1 (2014): 35–47.

Session 24: Arab Spring

No readings assigned.

Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. Directed by May Ying Welsh. Color, 51 min. 2011.

Z. Directed by Costa-Gavras. Color, 127 min. 1969.

Topic 10: Do new technologies increase accountability or social control?

Session 25: Theories of technological impacts on politics

Diamond, Larry. “Liberation Technology.” Journal of Democracy 21, no. 3 (2010): 69–83.

Morozov, Evgeny. “Liberation Technology: Whither Internet Control?Journal of Democracy 22, no. 2 (2011): 62–74.

Little, Andrew T. “Communication Technology and Protest.” (PDF) Journal of Politics 78, no. 1 (2016): 152–66.

Bahrani, Yasmine. “What Is It like to Live in a Modern Surveillance State? Look to Dubai,” Washington Post, September 10, 2019.

Farrow, Ronan. “How Democracies Spy on Their Citizens.” The New Yorker, April 18, 2022. 

Satariano, Adam, and Paul Mozur. “Russia Is Censoring the Internet, with Coercion and Black Boxes,” New York Times, October 22, 2021.

Why China’s Social Credit System Is Worse Than You Think.” YouTube. (video)

Marr, Bernard. “Chinese Social Credit Score: Utopian Big Data Bliss or Black Mirror on Steroids?Forbes, January 21, 2019.

China’s Social Credit System Keeps a Critical Eye on Everyday Behavior.” YouTube. (video)

Keeping Score: China’s ‘Social Credit System’ | Radio Free Asia (RFA).” YouTube. (video)

Session 26: Buzz groups

No readings assigned.

Boye, Karin. Kallocain. Translated by Gustaf Lannestock. University of Wisconsin Press, 2002. ISBN: ‎9780299038946. [Preview with Google Books]

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Harper Perennial, 2006. ISBN: ‎9780060850524.

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orion, 2022. ISBN: 9781473234819. [Preview with Google Books]

Eggers, Dave. The Circle. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013. ISBN: 9780385351409. [Preview with Google Books

Logan’s Run. Directed by Michael Anderson. Color, 119 min. 1976.

Topic 11: The future of democracy and the state

Session 27: The fundamental challenge of governance

Mounk, Yascha. “The Undemocratic Dilemma.” Journal of Democracy 29, no. 2 (2018): 98–112.

Svolik, Milan W. “Polarization versus Democracy.” Journal of Democracy 30, no. 3 (2019): 20–32.

Session 28: The future of democracy and the state

No readings assigned.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2022
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments