Comparative politics

Fall 2019

Pippa Norris


  • Class time: Mondays and Wednesdays 2:45-4.00pm

  • Class place: Belfer L1 Weil, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

  • Shopping: Monday 2nd Sept 2019

  • First class: Monday 9th September 2019

  • Last class: Wednesday 4th December 2019

  • Download the syllabus

Hungary tanks.jpeg

Aims and objectives:

This course provides the analytical knowledge and practical skills to understand comparative politics worldwide.

It addresses a wide range of theoretical debates and policy-relevant issues:  What are the key features of democracies and autocracies, and how can regimes best be classified, such as those in South Africa, Nigeria and Iran? How can backsliding on human rights be prevented in states like Hungary, Poland, and Russia? What are the challenges for building stable and peaceful multi-ethnic states and democratic governance in countries such as Myanmar, Mali, and Afghanistan? What fuels populism in Western democracies such as the U.S., UK, and France? What is the appropriate constitutional balance of powers between the president and the legislature in states such as Venezuela, Russia, and Mexico? How does governance shape the delivery of economic and welfare policies in developing societies such as India and China?

The course covers these questions and many others by utilizing the methods and techniques of comparative politics.  You will learn about states and regimes worldwide – as well as deepening your understanding of your own society. The orientation is problem and reform focused. DPI-415 analyzes (i) the nature of comparative politics (ii) processes of state formation and the classification of regimes types, (iii) the structure of political institutions, (iv) the role of political actors, and (v) processes of governance performance. DPI-415 reviews the leading research literature to understand the theoretical concepts and empirical literature on each topic.  Some hands-on class workshops will develop practical skills and familiarity with some essential online resources. Assessment involves classroom participation and two written reports.

The course will provide invaluable skills and knowledge for anyone seeking to develop familiarity with the major issues in comparative politics and the practical skills in analyzing countries around the globe.   In the age of globalization, cross-national insights into politics are invaluable for a wide range of potential careers, whether working for international agencies, multilateral organizations, non-profit NGOs, international corporations, or national governments.