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Introducing Comparative Politics

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1 Introducing Comparative Politics
1. Introduction

2 The Study of Politics Politics: The process by which human communities make collective decisions




6 Political science: The systematic study of politics and power
Political science studies governments in all their forms and aspects, both theoretical and practical.


8 Comparative politics: A major subfield of political science







15 Comparative Politics and International Relations
Comparative politics focuses on power and decision making within national boundaries International relations focuses on the interactions between national governments

16 What Is Comparative Politics?
Can focus on the politics of one specific country (at the national or local level) Can focus on comparing several places Can focus on comparing issues and processes in one or more places through time

17 Why Study Comparative Politics?
To understand political issues in various countries To generate lessons from one place to apply in another Overall, the goal is to develop generalized understandings of political activity through the development of broad theories about how politics works

18 Developing Theory Theory: An abstract element that provides a systematic explanation of some phenomena Empirical theory: An argument explaining what actually occurs Normative theory: An argument explaining what ought to occur rather than what does occur

19 Research Methods Single case studies: One country or community to generate theories or test existing ones The comparative method: A comparison of states that are similar on most issues but differ on a key question Quantitative statistical techniques: used to systematically compare a large number of cases

20 Three Major Questions What explains political behavior? Who rules?
Where and why?

21 What Explains Political Behavior?
Why do political actors act as they do in the political arena? Political actor: Any person or group engaged in political behavior

22 What Explains Political Behavior?
Three broad approaches focus on: Individual motivation Culture and ideology Underlying structures

23 Individual Motivation
Rational choice theory Assumes that people are rational, have self-defined interests and the knowledge and ability to pursue them Psychological theories Look for nonrational explanations: individuals’ psychological experiences or dispositions

24 Culture and Ideology Political culture theories: Widely held values and beliefs help explain political behavior Modernists believe clear attitudes, values, and beliefs can be identified within a political culture Postmodernists see culture as sets of symbols that political actors can use Political ideology: A systematic set of beliefs about how a political system ought to be structured

25 Structuralism Political behavior is influenced and limited, perhaps even determined, by socioeconomic or political structures Marxism: Economic structures largely determine political behavior Rational-choice institutionalism: Institutions are the products of the interaction and bargaining of rational actors

26 Who Rules? Pluralist theory Elite theory
Power dispersed among various political groups in society Elite theory Societies ruled by elite with effective control over virtually all power e.g., Marxism, neocolonialism, patriarchy

27 Where and Why? Particular focus and contribution of comparative politics Comparison across multiple cases to understand why political phenomena occur in certain places and times and not in others Useful in generating broad theories of political behavior

28 Major Topics in Comparative Politics
Political development Regime type and change Participation and representation Policy-making processes Political economy

29 Political Development
Focus is on why and how did modern nations and states arise Nations: groups with a shared identity States: administrative apparatuses that control territory and monopolize the use of force

30 Political Development
Modernization: The transformation of poor agrarian societies into wealthy industrial societies Some countries achieve rapid economic transformation and establish electoral democracies (e.g. South Korea) Some poor countries are democratic (e.g. Ghana) Some nondemocratic countries achieve great economic change (e.g. Vietnam)

31 Regime Type and Regime Change
What types of regimes are there and how do they differ? Examples: Democratic, authoritarian, semi- authoritarian Under what conditions do regimes change from one type to another?

32 Regime Type and Regime Change
Democracy: A regime in which citizens have basic rights of open association and expression and the ability to change the government through some sort of electoral process Authoritarian regime: A regime lacking democratic characteristics, ruled by a single leader or small group of leaders

33 Participation and Representation
Why and how do people participate in the political process? How do strong “identity politics” affect the stability of democracy? What is the role of civil society, interest groups, and political parties?

34 Participation and Representation
Civil Society: The sphere of organizes, nongovernmental, nonviolent activity by groups larger than individual families or firms

35 Policymaking How do different regimes decide on which policies to pursue? What role do political institutions play? Who is most influential in the policy-making process? Do decisions reflect the will of the people?

36 Political Economy Do some types of regimes produce better economic outcomes than others Some authoritarian systems provide strong economic growth (e.g., China) and others do not (e.g., Nigeria) Some democracies are capable of achieving beneficial economic outcomes, while others do not

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