Comparative politics

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The aim of this course is to present some of the major topics of the current debate in the field of comparative politics, illustrate the way in which different quantitative and qualitative models help understanding the effects of different institutional setups, and thus provide an in-depth understanding of how the main political processes operate within democratic countries. The course fits into the overall organization of the Master programme by familarizing its students with the empirical test of theoretical oriented hypotheses, and with the relationships between political and economic arenas.
Expected learning outcomes
Knowledge and understanding: The course aims at improving the knowledge and understanding of the main institutional mechanisms and dynamics of modern democracies, and how they relate to a range of diverse political and economic effects. The course will focus mainly on electoral systems, party systems and issues of political economy.
Applying knowledge and understanding: Through the critical review of recent research articles published in the best international journals, students are expected to learn how to apply their knowledge to specific research questions, and how to cope with the methodological problems of empirical research. Political issues that could emerge during the course, or the own experiences of students coming from different countries, will be used in order to verify and apply the understanding of modern democracies.
Making judgements: By reviewing the original datasets associated to some of the readings in the syllabus, and by replicating and updating some of the models, students will learn how to confirm or to falsify hypotheses, how to avoid fallacies and the major problems in understanding causal relationships. This will help them in making judgements that are consistent with the empirical evidence.
Communication skills: During the course, students will have to present and/or discuss the research articles included in the syllabus, and/or present their own replication results, thus further developing their communication skills through oral presentations, and the preparation of slideshows.
Learning skills: At the end of the course, students should be more autonomous in the evaluation of scientific evidence in the field of political and economic phenomena,and should be capable of performing a quantitative test of their own research hypotheses. They should have thus developed or improved their analytical skills and capabilities, so that they could be apply them in a range of situations and environments.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Third trimester
If necessary, classes and exams will be organized online as follows.

Teaching method
Classes will be organized online on Microsoft Teams following the time schedule of the trimester. Moreover, they will be registered and could be retrieved on that same platform.

The program of the course will remain the same, including the part with statistical analyses and group work.

Written exams will be held online using the platforms and Zoom (if they will continue to be provided freely to our University), or on similar platforms if agreed with the students.
Course syllabus
Attending students will be exposed to some of the most relevant debates within the field of political science on the actual functioning of modern democratic systems. We will review the empirical evidence concerning the causes of different levels or quality of a democracy, tackling topics such as gender parity, electoral participation and political representation, the ideological congruence between government and citizens, and the degree of political responsiveness. The course is entirely based on a reading list of articles published by the major international journals in the field, and adopts a quantitative approach. We will review the advantages and limits of this methodology, also replicating some of the analyses proposed in the reading list.

The program for non-attending students focuses on the major institutional variables for the comparative analysis of different democratic political systems, and some of its topics partially overlaps with the program for attending students. The Handbook on political institutions (Gandhi and Ruiz-Rufino) serves as a broad introduction to the variegate institutional setups of democracies, whereas Gallagher's edited volume focuses mostly on the origins, functioning and consequences of electoral systems.
Prerequisites for admission
It is important to have a basic understanding and familiarity with the use of quantitative methods in the social sciences, including the use of statistical packages like Stata. For this reason, taking in the first trimester the courses in Advanced Computer Skills and in Research Methods is highly recommended.
Also a previous knowledge of political science and comparative politics is recommended. In case you haven't any Bachelor's experience with these topics, the following handbook (already suggested for the admission interview) is a good way to fill the gaps: Clark W.R., Golder M. and Golder S.N., Principles of Comparative politics, Washington DC, CQ Press 2012.
Teaching methods
The course for attending students is a varying mix of frontal lectures and group works, both requiring the understanding of quantitative methods applied to political phenomena, and the use of the statistical package Stata.
Teaching Resources
Attending students will receive a complete reading list for the beginning of the course. To have an idea of its structure, students can take a look at last year's syllabus in the Ariel web pages of the course.

Non-attending students need to study the following books:
J. Gandhi and R. Ruiz-Rufino (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Comparative Political Institutions, London: Routledge 2015
M. Gallagher and P. Mitchell (eds.), The Politics of Electoral Systems, Oxford: Oxford UP 2006.
Assessment methods and Criteria
Attending students are assessed according to the following criteria:
Intermediate and final written exams: 75%
Group research project: 25%
Participation in class can also be taken into consideration

Written exams are mainly aimed at verifying the students' knowledge and understanding, and will take different forms, including open questions, multiple choice questions and exercises. Presentations, group works and class discussions (together with some of the written questions) mainly verify their capacity to apply that knowledge.
Non-attending students' knowledge and understanding is assessed in written exams, mostly using open questions.
SPS/04 - POLITICAL SCIENCE - University credits: 9
Lessons: 60 hours
Educational website(s)
Due to the Covid emergency, office hours are organized online on demand, even besides the official office hours. Send me an email to reserve your meeting on Microsoft Teams.
Room 305 - 3rd floor