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PSC 302: Comparative Government

Students' Outlines

Compiled and revised 4 Sep '04 by Jeremy Lewis.
Thanks to Sierra Turner (individual study) and the 302 course's student presenters.

Thomas Magstadt, "Comparative Politics & Regional Perspective"
Sierra R. Turner, 2004
Why compare? Comparison is an excellent antidote to ethnocentrism (a narrow view of the world based on one’s own culture, religion, nationality, and so on). There is perhaps no better way to gain perspective on one’s own society than to view it from afar, through the eyes of others.

Reasons to compare:

1) Comparison is a useful way to evaluate what we see and hear about the world beyond our shores, as well as about our won society.
2) What the public believes can have a significant impact on what government does, especially in democratic countries,
3) Political myths, to the detriment of the nation (and possibly the world), may be used to prop up policies, that have outlived their usefulness.
4) An attempt to identify and explain the fundamental patterns of political behavior across different societies and cultures may help us arrive at useful theoretical generalizations.
5) Finally, by comparing out own political institutions, processes, ideas, and traditions with those of others, we can learn more about ourselves.
Comparative politics is as old as political science itself. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, a pioneer in the science of politics, set standards for the discipline that have survived to the present. Aristotle compared existing political systems in order to theorize about the possible regime.

Domestic political patterns and political development do not necessarily stay within a single country’s borders. They often reflect transnational or regional traits and circumstances. (Transnational= transcending national boundaries)

World is divided into 6 major regions:

1) Western Europe,
2) Russia and Slavic Europe,
3) Asia,
4) Latin America,
5) The Middle East, and
6) Sub-Saharan Africa,
These regions do not correspond precisely to continents, although continental boundaries provide a partial basis for six fold division.

Regions can be views as subsystems, or subordinate systems, in which regional powers regularly interact with one another.

Climate and ecology distinguish nations of the northern latitudes from nations of the southern ones in politically significant ways. Differences in soil and latitude influence dietary preferences, nutritional standards, and what economists call “comparative advantage” in agriculture.

There are four important elements of the political setting in every country that were created not by nature but by the ancestors of those living now and they are:history, language, religion, culture.
Levels of economic and political development vary from one nation or region to the next but problems such as national integration (or disintegration) are not confined to any one nation or region.

Important questions:

1) Political Setting: How do unique factors such as environment, culture, and history influence politics in different countries and regions?
2) Patterns of Rule: How and why do political institutions, patterns, and trends vary from one region of the world to another and what forces drive change?
3) Problems and Perspectives: How effectively do the political systems under examination actually perform the functions of government?

      Charles Hauss, “Seeking New Lands, Seeing with New Eyes.”
by Sierra R. Turner, 2004

The attacks on the two towers of the world trade center on September 11, 2001 changed the world forever.

The attacks were the work of Osama bin laden and his Al Qaeda network which had its headquarters in Afghanistan thanks to its relationship with the government there, led by the radical Muslim Taliban. These attacks illustrate many of the key themes of comparative politics in general.

Chapter focuses on how comparative politics can help us understand political life around the world.

3 important national leaders (achieved power in recent years):

1) Japanese prime minister Koizumi Junichiro
2) Russian president Vladimir Putin
3) Mexican president Vincente Fox
Koizumi came from nowhere to win the presidency of the LDP and became Japan’s tenth prime minister in 11 years. Koizumi inherited a difficult situation.  The economy had been faltering for a decade, and most analysts expected conditions to deteriorate for ate least another year. There was also widespread dissatisfaction with the politicians, civil servants, and business elite who had ruled the country for a half-century.

Vladimir Putin has been in power the longest of the 3 leaders but may end up having less of an impact on his country. …Before the summer 0f 1999 Putin was virtually unknown having spent most of his career working in the KGB, the Soviet spy agency, before joining the city government of St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s. A year and a half into his presidency he had made little progress in solving the country’s most pressing problem- an economic decline in which overall production dropped by a half in a decade. He had also moved to centralize power in the hands of the presidency and other Moscow-based institutions in ways that led many to question his commitment to democracy.

On December 1, 2001 a new political era began in México, After over 70 years in power, the institutional revolutionary party (PRI) had lost an election and handed over power to the conservative, business oriented National Action Party (PAN) and the new president Vicente fox. As the 2000 election campaign began , 2 major opposition candidates, Fox and Cuatemoc Cardenas of the leftist party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) faced off against the PRI’s Francisco Labastida. In the end fox won an overwhelming victory for the presidency, and his party won plurality, but not a majority, in both houses of Congress.

Government refers to a particular set of institutions and people authorized by formal documents such as a constitution to pass laws, issue regulations, control the police, and so on.

State is a broader concept that includes all the institutions and individuals that exercise power.

Nation is a psychological rather than an institutional concept. Refers to the cultural, linguistic, and other identities that can tie people together.

Regime refers to the institutions and practices that typically endure from government to government or, in American terms, administration to administration.

There is no single type of state.

Ways to classify states:

1) industrialized democracies
2) Current and former communist regimes
3) The third world
The chapters on individual countries are organized around a model known as systems theory. System theory revolves around five concepts:
1) inputs,
2) decision making
3) outputs,
4) feedback, and
5) the environment
5 overarching themes:
1) political life is filled with conflict,
2) there has been a significant shift toward more democratic governments in the past decade or so,
3) resurgence of capitalism and market economies as the preferred system for most of the world’s political and business leaders (within the last 20 years),
4) globalization has become the most hyped concept in recent years, and
5) lack of ability for many leaders to find answers to the problems, domestic or international, they are faced with .


Charles Hauss, Chapter 3, “The Industrialized Democracies”
Amanda Blessing, 2004
Topics discussed in this chapter are:
-The origins of the Democratic State
- Political Participation & Culture
-Public Policy

There have been many scandals in the past, such as the Dumas-Elf Scandal, where a political power and his mistress were arrested in charges of corruption. These scandals have greatly injured the reputations of the individuals, yet have not harmed the democracy.

The word democracy is Greek in origin, meaning rule by the people. However, in a democracy, the people don’t rule, instead they are governed by representatives chosen by the people whom they trust to govern in their name.

Democracies guarantee basic rights and freedoms such as press, religion, and speech.

The rules provided by the Democracy are defined in constitutions and laws. They are defined clear and fair.

Democracies guarantee the government will be chosen free and fair, during regular elections with 2 or more candidates. However, the industrialized democracies use different electoral and party systems. The U.S. is unique in only having 2 major parties. France for example, has 5 or more.

The civic culture of a democracy includes people accepting the rules and the representatives who lead them. Civic culture and civil society attach a person to their states, which makes a democracy resistant to change.

Industrialized democracies are the wealthiest countries in the world. However, they are not equally wealthy. Great Britain has two thirds of the Gross National Product that the U.S. does.

There are more than 20 democracies, most are European or were colonized by Europeans. “Contenders” are countries that are affluent, yet not democracies. Examples are Jamaica and Hungary.

Domestic concerns of the democratic state (state and nation building) are more important than international ones (imperialism and globalization).

Modern democracy only dates back to the late 18th century.

Thomas Hobbes, a theorist who claimed that people left to their own devices would boil over with competition and wage “the war of all against all”

During the 1700s, views changed to Laissez-Faire, calling on government to stay out of the economy so the market could fare better.

The Laissez-Faire capitalists also added that the state should be limited, and that the state shouldn’t control all aspects of its citizen’s lives. It should just be more of a referee.

In the early 19th century, the U.S. was not democratic. Example: Women and African-Americans could not vote.

Over the past several centuries, all Europeans had to deal with 4 domestic transformations:
1) Creation of nation and state itself.
2) Role of religion in society and government
3) Development of pressures for democracy
4) Industrial revolution

Realignment: When a voter supports another party.

The most important part of any democracy is how the link between the representation and the government is handled.

Presidential Systems: (U.S.) Members of Congress can alter a bill proposed by the President

Parliamentary Systems: Proposals pass intact, unaltered by committees and votes.

Bureaucracy: civil servants and interest groups actually work for whatever party is in control, making important policies.

Although democracies have accomplished a lot and have a lot of followers, they also have their fair share of problems, and most people are tuning out to politics altogether.

However, democracies achieve great balance between citizens and government, personal freedoms and maintaining order.

Charles Hauss, Comparative Gov't, Chap. 3, “The Industrialized Democracies”
Sierra R. Turner, 2004

Criteria for democracy:
1) basic freedoms,
2) the rule of law,
3) competitive, fair elections,
4) a strong civil society, and
5) Capitalism and affluence.

Democracies guarantee basic individual freedoms of press, religion, association, and speech. Most observers believe that people cannot participate effectively in making the decisions that shape their lives unless those rights are guaranteed.

Related to civil liberties is a reliance on the rule of law, which means that people are governed by clear and fair rules rather than by the arbitrary, personal exercise of power,

At least as important as the basic right to civil liberties and the reliance on the rule of law is the requirement that the government be chosen through regular, free, and fair elections in which people can choose between two or more candidates/ or political parties.

There is far more uncertainty and controversy about the last two criteria that define a democracy. Neither is included in every basic definition of democracy.

Stable democracies must also have a civic culture in which people accept not just the rules of the game but the elites who lead them.

Most political scientist assume that democracy can only exist alongside an industrialized capitalist economy based in large part on private ownership.

Modern democracy dates back only to the late 18th century. There were democracies in the ancient Greek city states and in medieval Poland and Switzerland….not important here.

All Europeans have come to grip with 4 domestic transformations over the past several centuries;

1) The creation of the nation and state itself,
2) The role of religion in society and government,
3) The development of pressures for democracy, and
4) The industrial revolution.

Pick up on page 47!!!!!

Charles Hauss, Comparative Gov't, Chap. 12, "The Third World"
-Ryan Rice, Fall 2004
Coltan and Politics
 Weak States

Thinking About the Third World
 Poverty is the term that ties all third world countries together
 High infant mortality, short life expectancy, poor health care, widespread disease,
       Illiteracy and suffering economies

Environmental Threats
 Exponential growth in population

 Powerful countries affect less developed ones

 Colonizers from Europe and N. America used foreign resources as they pleased
 Undermined advanced societies such as the Aztec and Incas

 Three waves of decolonization
 Began with U.S. in 1770s
 By mid 1970s decolonization was almost complete

Post Colonial Problems
 Authoritarian style rule
Lack of identity and division of ethnic groups resulted in unstable countries
 Leads to war over control of resources
Rapid change destabilizes third world countries
 Many such ideas are Western and thus against traditional values

Political Participation – two types
 Activities that provide for the authorities
 Those that place demands on them

Types of States
 Single-Party Regimes
 Military Regimes
 Personal Dictatorships
 Failed States – Gov’t has lost the ability to exercise the most basic functions

States and Power
 Problems maintaining law and order

Import Substitution
 Structural Adjustment

Foreign Aid

 Grameen Bank - Bangladesh

Charles Hauss, Comparative Gov't, Chap 12, “The Third World”
Sierra R. Turner, 2004

Five issues facing the third world today are as follows:
1) poverty,
2) globalization,
3) weak states,
4) ethnicity, and
5) the environment.

The third world is one of the most controversial subjects studied by political scientists today.
The third world includes the world’s poorest countries and three-fifths of its population- three-fourths if we include China.

The difficulties facing the third world are magnified by its rapidly growing population. The population in the poorest countries is increasing at three-and-a-half times the rate as in the richest ones.

The problems in third world countries have also been compounded by racial, linguistic, ethnic, and religious conflict. This is especially true in Africa and Asia.

Three questions that will help us understand why so many third world countries face such serious difficulties:
1) Why are global forces so much more influential in the third world?
2) Why are third world societies so divided?
3) Why are most states in the third world so weak?

The lack of common national identity is a major cause of the divisions that have wracked most third world countries.

We can divide political participation into two main types: activities that provide support for the authorities and those that place demands on them.

Political participation is much different in the third world….even in countries with reasonably open political systems, there is less of a balance between supporting and demanding participation than we would find in the industrialized democracies.

Five main types of states found in third world democracies:
1) democracies,
2) single-party regimes,
3) military regimes,
4) personal dictatorships, and
5) failed states.

Six preliminary conclusions that offer hope for third world countries;
1) much will depend on the attitudes and behavior of average citizens,
2) state has to be reasonably effective,
3) timing is important- the first 5 years in the life of any regime is important because it is new and fragile.
4) There is probably a link between democracy and capitalism,
5) International factors will become more and more important as the world continues to “shrink,” and
6) We should not expect the democracies that might emerge in the third world to resemble those in the West.