Comparative politics is the study of political processes and structures within countries. Students in this class will examine country characteristics such as the formation of nation states, governmental institutions, democracy and authoritarianism, patterns of development, political economy, culture, and society. In the process, students will develop analytical skills enabling them to find patterns across state contexts. Students will not only learn to think critically about the politics of the world around them, but they will develop a deep knowledge of individual countries and learn how general political processes and structures might transcend individual country circumstances.
This course takes a general as well as a detailed approach. The first few weeks of the course address major themes and concepts in comparative politics and the subsequent time will be spent on regime type and the methods for comparing country examples of each. Throughout, we will study brief country examples to better master the material and the process of comparison.
At the end of the Cold War, political scientists like Francis Fukuyama were ready to declare the “end of history,” with democracy remaining as the sole legitimate form of government. Yet, democracy has been on a global decline since the mid-2000s, most commonly being replaced by semi-authoritarian regimes that trade liberal rights for a sense of economic and political security, and stronger national pride. What are the defining features of this authoritarian shift, and what are its underlying causes? How do we explain the startling popularity of strongman autocrats in so many different countries?
In this seminar, we answer these questions by examining the complex interaction between several factors: the pressures of globalization, political polarization, class competition, failing institutions, eroding values, and the role both of political elites and ordinary folks. After looking at the global trends that define democratic backsliding, we zoom in on several country cases, including Turkey, Hungary, India, Venezuela, and the United States, to understand the common economic and social causes that are driving democracy’s decline.
Politics of Development [download syllabus]
PSCI 230, Upper-level Undergrad, Queens College, CUNY, Fall 2019, Fall 2022
Why are some countries rich, and others poor? Why do some achieve rapid rates of economic growth, while others stagnate? These questions are central to the study of development, which, however, remains a contested concept. Our ideas of development have changed significantly since the field’s early focus on infrastructure, wealth, and industry, to more contemporary concerns with human well-being and happiness, and the eradication of poverty and inequality. The activity of international organizations, national states, and local NGOs have indeed reduced overall levels of extreme poverty, but almost a billion people still live on less than $1.90 per day. The incentives that motivate actors – both international, national, and local – are crucial to understanding the variation in successful and unsuccessful cases.
Contemporary Middle East [download syllabus]
PSCI 240, Upper-level Undergrad, Queens College, CUNY, Spring 2019
The Middle East is a profoundly important region in contemporary politics. Not only is it constantly in the news and relatively close to Europe geographically, it also shares deep cultural, political and economic ties with the West. The aim of this course is to provide some history on why the Middle East is politically so important, as well as to gain proficiency with key political science concepts. As we move through the course we will analyze the region through an analysis of state formation, political economy, regime change/development, democratization, authoritarianism, nationalism & identity politics, political Islam, gender & sexuality, political dissent, and migration.
Introduction to Political Science [download syllabus]
PSCI 101, Survey Course, Queens College, CUNY, 4 Semesters, 2017-2019
Almost every aspect of our lives is affected by decisions made by local, state, and national governments. These decisions and the processes by which they are made are the subject matter of political science. What do these policies and processes look like? Who benefits? Who is left out? Are there better alternatives? How can things be changed? This course will introduce students to the way in which political scientists approach these questions.