Blog Assignment PLSC240 Introduction to Comparative Politics

The function of your blog will be to select, research, analyze, and contribute knowledge and information on a topic of interest to you (the group will select one topic only) in comparative politics. As we address the theories and principles of comparative politics over the course of the semester, you will post to your blog analyzing how these theories, principles, and ideas apply to your chosen topic. In addition, since this course is called “comparative” politics, I would like you to analyze at least two (and up to four) different countries, one of which should be a developing country. The goal is for the members of your group to learn more about that topic than we could ever hope to cover in class over the course of a single semester. You will have to post your topic of choice (with potential countries), and a brief description, by midnight, Wednesday, January 30th.

My goal is to allow you to be as resourceful, self-initiated and creative as possible. These are your blogs and you will ultimately be responsible for the nature of the posts. I will guide you, but will allow much latitude in what you decide to post and how you use this assignment to express yourself and demonstrate to me how much you are learning about a particular topic. I want us to build a learning environment and community together, which means that we will all be involved in this enterprise. To make an analogy, it would be as if I were to instruct you to build an apartment building with X number of units on a particular plot of land, and pretty much let you loose to create your vision. I will guide you along the way, for certain, but will let you be the ultimate owner of the finished product. So your first step is to select a topic.

As you may have noticed we have already addressed some topics in comparative politics that may be of interest to you. To help you begin to narrow down your choice of topic, use some of the resources that you already have available to you. First, go to my blog and search for PLSC240, and you’ll see a series of posts with potential topics/ideas. Another immediate source is the textbook. For example, browse the entries in the index of O’Neil’s Essentials.

Having now just followed my own instructions, I find that I may want to choose as my topic:

  • The impact of colonialism/imperialism on the developin world
  • The link between religion and democracy
  • The link between natural resources and political stability
  • The effect of globalization–economic, cultural, and/or political-on countries around the world
  • Differences in immigration laws, regimes amongst countries
  • The “Digital Divide”: how are different countries dealing with this phenomenon?
  • Differences in social welfare states amongst countries
  • The link between ethnicity and violence
  • Are women more likely to participate in politics in some countries than others? What accounts for this?
  • Democratization and/or economic liberalization in the post-communist world
  • Cross-national comparison of terrorism (the Middle East versus South America, for example)
  • Electoral systems and their impact on democracy
  • A comparative analysis of “failed states”
  • Comparison of health care regimes around the world
  • The link between environmental degradation and economic growth in some countries
  • A comparative analysis of non-democratic regimes–sultanistic versus theocratic

This is just a small sample of potential topics.

Another good resource is professional journals dedicated to topics in comparative politics. Here is a sample of some titles from recent issues of the journal Comparative Political Studies (available to you through the library’s journal locater):

  • Jennifer Gandhi and Adam Przeworski. “Authoritarian Institutions and the Survival of Autocrats.”
  • Daniel N. Posner. “Regime Change and Ethnic Cleavages in Africa.”
  • Amaney Jamal. “When Is Social Trust a Desirable Outcome?: Examining Levels of Trust in the Arab World.”
  • Benjamin Reilly. “Democratization and Electoral Reform in the Asia-Pacific Region: Is There an “Asian Model” of Democracy?”
  • Brian F. Crisp. “Incentives in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: General Election Laws, Candidate Selection Procedures, and Cameral Rules.”
  • David H. Bradley and John D. Stephens. “Employment Performance in OECD Countries: A Test of Neoliberal and Institutionalist Hypotheses.”
  • Sarah Birch. “Electoral Systems and Electoral Misconduct.”
  • Lorenzo De Sio. “Are Less-Involved Voters the Key to Win Elections?” (We mentioned less-involved voters in class today)
  • Richard Snyder. “Does Lootable Wealth Breed Disorder?: A Political Economy of Extraction Framework.”
  • Jonathan Fox. “World Separation of Religion and State Into the 21st Century.”
  • Lyle Scruggs and James P. Allan. “The Material Consequences of Welfare States: Benefit Generosity and Absolute Poverty in 16 OECD Countries.”
  • Caroline Beer and Neil J. Mitchell. “Comparing Nations and States: Human Rights and Democracy in India.”

Good luck and come and speak with me if you’re unsure about your topic.

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