The "Comparative politics and development" course looks at the politics of developing areas through the lenses of comparative political analysis.
Political science aims at investigating contemporary polities, politics and policies in a scientific way. For this purpose, the comparative method represents a key and well-established strategy in the field, enabling researchers and students to elaborate, test and assess the soundness of hypotheses that explicitly connect specific political phenomena to their plausible explanations. The comparative politics literature has focused, and produced relevant evidence, on such classic issues as forms of states, political regimes and regime changes, electoral and party systems, types and formation of governments, legislative politics, policy-making processes, voting behaviour, and many others. The predominant (if certainly not the exclusive) focus of mainstream political science has been on the political systems of advanced economies in the West. Much of what has been learnt has also been of use for understanding politics in emerging and developing countries, partly also due to the transformations gradually undergone by the latter (such as economic and social advances) and the adoption of formally similar politico-institutional frameworks (such as democratic procedures).
Politics in developing areas, however, also displays features that are less commonly seen in advanced economies, such as a much more limited state capacity, the enduring presence of autocratic rule, the frequency of civil wars and other forms of armed violence, a higher prevalence of ethnic politics, neopatrimonial practices and corruption. These phenomena are not always properly captured or accounted for by mainstream political science, but they have been and are being examined by a growing body of literature.
Understanding politics in developing areas first requires framing and addressing some basic contextual, including, for example, key notions about processes of economic and social development and trajectories of transformation.
The course will specifically, if not exclusively, focus on politics in sub-Saharan Africa by looking at issues such as state formation and fragility, domestic armed conflicts, regime types and democratization/autocratization, political institutionalisation processes, neopatrimonial practices.
The first part of the course will help students gain a basic knowledge of notions, theories and processes of development, while also specifically relating this to the experience and paths of African countries since independence in the 1960s. The second part will address more specific political themes, including state building processes and state collapses, the evolution of political regimes, the political consequences of mineral resource wealth, the social and economic impact of democracy, the role of individual national leaders and of external players in a country's development.
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