Comparative Politics

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
Comparison is the most typical way to understand political phenomena. Regardless of the specific approach used, it aims at a non-idiographic knowledge of these phenomena, and therefore at the formulation, verification and control of specific research hypotheses.
Specifically, comparative politics aims at the joint analysis of institutional arrangements, transformation dynamics and functioning of political systems. This analysis can proceed through the systematic comparison of individual aspects in different countries - that is, forms of states and governments, electoral and party systems, parliaments, etc. - as well as through the juxtaposition of national cases examined in their entirety.
Knowledge and understanding: The course aims to promote knowledge and understanding of the different types of political regimes and of the functioning of advanced democracies, as well as to provide analytical concepts and tools to consciously compare political institutions and processes.
Applying knowledge and understanding: The students will acquire an independent ability to read the main features of a political system, including through the use and application of some indicators and quantitative indices employed in comparative politics. He/she will be able to critically reflect on the links between the various institutions of established democracies, to trace the data relating to the characteristics of these institutions, and to set a research question in terms of relationships between variables, as well as to consciously outline a strategy to respond to such question.
Making judgments: Through the course and class discussions, the student will learn to consciously and correctly use the empirical evidence in order to make judgments. In particular these will concern relations between different aspects of the functioning of the main models of democracy, and their impact on economic systems.
Communication skills: The course includes the possibility of making individual presentations to the class. In this way, different expressive abilities will be brought into play and developed, in particular the preparation of a presentation through digital tools, its presentation and communication to fellow students, and the open discussion on the main issues raised by topic and its presentation.
Learning skills: In the first part of the course the main themes and tools of comparative politics will be introduced. In the second part, individual national cases will be examined in depth. In this second part, students will have a possibility to give individual presentations in class on specific topics, aimed at allowing the speaker as well as fellow students a deeper, more aware, autonomous and debated understading of key issues.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, the student will have acquired both methodological skills and substantive knowledge.
On the methodological level, learning concerns the knowledge and understanding of what the comparative method is and what it is used for, as well as of its various possible applications in the study of political institutions and processes. These tools can subsequently be useful and usable so as to fully grasp the investigative strategies, the meaning and implications of various types of analysis that the student will be faced with, as well as in starting to use them directly to carry out analysis work or own research, in the political sphere but not only.
The possibility of making oral presentations in the classroom, in addition, will allow students to become familiar with the digital tools typically used for these purposes and to directly experience a situation in which they are required to prepare and communicate specific contents in front of an audience.
On the level of substantive knowledge, the student will have acquired knowledge and understanding of the main institutional structures and political processes of advanced democracies (i.e. forms of states and governments, electoral systems, party systems, parliaments, etc.), both in broad and comparative terms as well as, for those cases that examined and discussed in more depth, in terms of individual national systems and paths.
The level of learning - that is, if and what has been learned by the student, with respect to the expected learning outcomes - will be verified and evaluated by means of one or more written tests aimed at assesing acquired knowledge and tools as well as analytical skills.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Third trimester
Course syllabus
Introduction to comparative politics
Authoritarian regimes
Parties and party systems
Electoral systems
Parliaments in democratic regimes
Forms of government
Models of democracy and performances
The UK and the Westminster model
France: the evolution of semipresidentialism
Germany: a Chancellor's democracy
Spain: regime transition and the evolution of the political system
South Africa: democratic transition and new leaderships
The US: the presidential model
Prerequisites for admission
Students must take the exam of the Political Science course prior to that of Comparative Politics
Teaching methods
Lectures will be supported by powerpoint presentations.
Students taking classes are invited to take part to discussions on each topics as well as required to prepare class presentations.
Teaching Resources
Vassallo, Salvatore (a cura di), Sistemi politici comparati, Il Mulino, 2016 (Seconda edizione)

Daron Acemoglu - James Robinson, Perché le nazioni falliscono, Il Saggiatore, 2013
Assessment methods and Criteria
Students are assessed through a written exam based on questions aimed at verifying their knowledge and understading of the topics in the programme as well as their capaicty for critical thinking. The written exam may include multiple choice questions, open questions and/or the completion or interpretation of tables or figures.
SPS/04 - POLITICAL SCIENCE - University credits: 6
Lessons: 40 hours