Pro-Seminar in Comparative Politics – Spring 2011

Called a field seminar in many departments of the country, this is a survey course. Its purpose is to introduce the key theoretical and conceptual materials in comparative politics since the birth of the field. The course proceeds thematically. Readings cover the classics as well as major works of a more recent vintage. Each week participants discuss a subset of the relevant scholarly literature. Two further points ought to be noted.

Although this course stresses empirical political analysis, normative concerns do inform the questions to which we seek answers. For example, although we usually normatively privilege democratic participation, representation, and accountability over political order, in many parts of the world lack of personal security effectively debars well-being and expansion of choice unless order is established. We do not engage in primarily normative debates in this class, but normative concerns, wherever necessary, will be kept in mind.

Key methodological issues will be addressed in context. Careful attention to research design and method is important for ensuring that our normative predilections do not bias the answers we offer to questions. A number of methodological issues will arise throughout the course, even though research design is not a principal focus of our inquiry in this class. Appropriate research designs and theoretical and empirical methods can vary across substantive applications, and we will address these considerations, whenever required.