Comparative European Politics

Course Description: 

The course is designed to start with the essentials of European politics – the understanding of democracy, of parliamentary systems, of elections, of parties and interest groups. Based on these essentials, specific political systems will be approached in form of cases studies, always based on a comparative understanding. The phenomenon of political transition and the analysis of the European Union as a political system will be studied at the end of the term. The basic literature is provided by the reader available at the beginning of the term.

The focus is:

  • giving a theoretically based introduction into political systems in general, into European political systems in particular;
  • emphasizing especially the role of political parties and interest groups in Europe;
  • developing an understanding of the changes the European political systems having to face.

Basic questions to be answered in different ways during the whole term will be:

  • Is there a specific European type of democracy?
  • What are the common characteristics of European parties, party families, party systems?
  • The consequences of transformation, especially in Central-Eastern Europe, beginning with 1989
  • What is the state of Europeanization – within the EU, and what is the impact of Europeanization especially for national politics and political parties?

Format:
Any week’s first session (on Tuesday) will be dedicated to the students’ presentations, the second session (on Thursday) to a summarizing lecture – both followed by seminar-style questions and answers. The classes in week 6 will be designated to reflect on the term after the first half and discuss the term papers.

Learning Outcomes: 

The course is specifically dedicated to enable the students to understand politics and policies of any particular European country in a comparative way. The students should be able to “de-nationalize” a political system as much as possible. The similarities and differences between the systems should become as clear as possible, beyond the traditions of explaining national politics out of “culture”, “nature”, “identity”, and “history”.

Assessment: 

Students are expected to

  • participate actively in all classes. For that purpose, it is necessary to prepare for each class by reading the specific texts designated to the different weeks.
  • give at least one special presentation in class. The presentations (person, topic, time) will be decided at the term’s second week.
  • write a term paper of approx. 3500 words. The paper should be delivered at the end of the term (deadline Dec 31)

Grading will be based on the quality of the paper (45%), participation in class (15%) and presentation (30%).

The students are asked to contact me whenever they need further information or special advice. Individual appointments have to made by sending me an e-mail.