More ABCs for Comparative Politics

Happy New Year everyone. Today I’ve got some additional exploration of ABCs for my spring semester comparative politics course, as an update to posts on the subject from September.

I did in fact abandon the book Around the Bloc because of its age and length, and this freed up space in the syllabus for more more articles from the Journal of Democracy. The contents of Journal of Democracy are more concise, contain less jargon, and are overall much better written than what’s found in other journals, making it an excellent source of material on comparative democratization. I’ve inserted a few more questions into the syllabus quiz that require students to find these assigned articles at the beginning of the semester. If students don’t have this skill, they have plenty of time to acquire it by talking to a librarian.

I’m going to begin using Egypt as a small case study. Egypt complements my use of Russia as an example of failed democratization and authoritarian resilience, and it also makes a good contrast with Iran on the subject of revolutions.

I will continue to use the assignment that I created last spring in which students compare two nation-states using either a most similar systems or most different systems design. A year ago, I created a template for students to use for completion of these assignments; however, some students seemed confused about the relationships between variables because of the way I formatted the template. Also some of the completed assignments were awkward for me to read because students had stuffed multiple paragraphs or lots of bullet points into each table cell. So I have revised the templates and changed the assignment directions:

The purpose of this assignment is to identify cause and effect. Be careful to avoid spurious relationships between independent and dependent variables, such as “ice cream consumption causes murder.” Use either the MSSD or MDSD template to help you do this. Fill in the template as appropriate. Read the rubric for the assignment. Then write a concise analysis structured as follows:

State your hypothesis about cause and effect and identify which nation-states you are comparing. Discuss each independent variable in a separate paragraph. In each paragraph identify whether the variable has the same value or different values for the two cases.  Discuss the value(s) of the dependent variable in the final paragraph. Cite source readings from the syllabus as with reading responses, but include a list of sources with complete bibliographic citations at the end of the comparison.