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Contemporary Themes in Comparative Politics (PO132)

This module will provide you with an introduction to the study of real-world politics through the eyes of comparative politics.

How can we account for the differences between autocracies and democracies? What different institutional forms does democratic government take? Are some institutions more likely than others to produce desirable social outcomes such as responsiveness and political stability? What are the driving forces behind secessionist movements around the world? Are there political issues that should not be decided by referendum? To what extent may the media shape public attitudes and behaviour? And why did the British public vote to leave the European Union?

During the lectures we will discuss the (competing) theoretical arguments linked to such questions. In the seminar group meetings, in turn, we will learn how to study them empirically by comparing cases in a systematic way.

The module provides theoretical and methodological tools to understand a wide array of political phenomena. On the top of that, it will challenge us not only to think, analyse, and write with creativity and rigor, but also learn how to study political processes and institutions in different ways. This module is an excellent choice for students with an interest in questions linked to democracy and democratization, including the break-down (and emergence) of authoritarian regimes, ethnic conflict, and globalisation.

This module explores a number of cutting-edge research topics and is supported by the on-going research work within the department, notably the Centre for Studies in Democratisation. Students will be challenged by the complexity of the questions under study that have no black-and-white answers. This module aims at giving students the tools to effectively interrogate the challenges associated with democracy and democratization through engaging and insightful lectures, high-quality readings, problem-oriented seminar meetings, and group tasks.