Comparative Political Institutions (CPI)

Course Description: 

Mandatory for One-year MA students, Elective for Mundus Mapp students, The course will continue in the Winter term.

The course is aimed at analysing the policy process as embedded in a comprehensive legal and institutional framework and providing students with the necessary knowledge and analytical skills to conduct independent research in this field. The course highlights the dual nature of the institutional framework in which politics and policies are made. On the one hand, institutions structure the policy process. Decision-making does not take place within a vacuum but is based on rules and procedures. Some of them even have the character of constitutional rules and principles reflecting the core political and normative values and principles upon which a society is based. On the other hand, the experience of day-to-day decision-making becomes in itself a source of permanent adjustments and refinements of this framework. The practice of decisionmaking alters the use and meaning of core constitutional concepts. Effective decision-making requires awareness of this inter-relationship between politics, law and public policy. This course takes a comparative perspective and reviews political institutions across countries and different levels of governance. It studies core political institutions and the challenges related to their functioning in an increasingly independent environment at the national and global level. Moreover, a set of short case studies will enable students to see the different institutional dynamics playing out in the context of specific policy episodes.

Learning Outcomes: 

By completing the course students will

- be able to apply key concepts in the field of political analysis to political systems other
than their home country and across different dimensions of contemporary governance
systems (nationally, regionally, globally);

- have a systematic and critical understanding of core concepts and approaches in the field and including their potential conceptual and empirical limitations;

- have the skills necessary to engage and learn through discussion and team work in the
field of political analysis;

- be able to engage in independent research in the field using multiple sources including
scholarly contributions and empirical information also in areas which are new to them.


Requirements and assessment

Participation: 20%

Presentation: 30%

Final Paper (one at the end of each term, 2,000 words): 50%

You will receive a course grade after each term. Active participation in the seminar discussions is a precondition for the success of the course. Students are expected to attend all seminars, to prepare the required readings for each session and to participate actively in the discussion. In addition, each student is encouraged to demonstrate a deeper knowledge of the course topics through consulting the further readings as well as through independent research activity. Missing more than two classes without presenting a written note to the instructor may result in a failing grade.

All students are required to offer one 15 min. seminar presentation. Presentation topics will be allocated during the first session. In this class, CPI Part 1, there is a presentation reading specified for each session of this class (except for Week 1 and 12). Presentations must not reproduce the ‘required reading’ for the relevant session. Instead the presenter or the team of presenters introduces an alternative perspective or a particular research to the group which is addressed by the presentation reading. The main aim of the presentation is to critically assess that perspective and to introduce to class discussion. Each presentation should conclude with clearly identifying points for further discussion in the class. Students are encouraged to make use of presentation techniques such as overhead projectors, Power Point 4 or the flip chart. You should indicate which type of ‘technology’ you want to use for your presentation at least one week before the relevant session.

You also have to submit a presentation note three days before your presentation to the instructor and teaching assistant. You are required to complete a final research paper at the end of each part of the course, i.e. a Fall Term Paper and a Winter Term Paper in this course. Your work will be judged on the basis of the quality of your presentation of the relevant theoretical literature, as well as on the critical understanding and the intellectual creativity which you demonstrate in using this. Each paper should be approximately 2000 words in length including references and footnotes. Please respect the word target. Papers which deviate from it by more than 10% may downgraded. All papers should be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced. Please leave broad margins on both sides! Essays must be properly referenced, with a standard form of citation used (see the Student Handbook for further details). You must also include a bibliography of all works consulted. All written contributions need to be original, i.e. produced exclusively by the student who submits the work. References to all other sources must be clearly indicated following accepted academic standards. Any text reproduction, which is not clearly identified will have to be considered as plagiarism and, consequently, the submitted work will be acknowledged with no more than 0% of the mark. For further information, please do not hesitate to consult with the instructor of this course.