02492 - Comparative Politics

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Political, Social and International Sciences (cod. 8853)

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide essential conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools of the comparative method in the social sciences, and in particular in political analysis. Through in-depth thematic and areal studies, a further aim is to lead students to apply, and problematise, these tools of comparison not only in the European but also in non-European contexts. At the end of the course, the student: 1) will have acquired the basic theoretical and methodological knowledge of the discipline; 2) will have understood the main themes and issues debated in comparative politics today; 3) will have gained a greater awareness of the complex relationships between politics, society and institutions in the contemporary age in European and non-European areas; 4) will be able to collect data and apply, in a critical manner, the methods of analysis and the main theoretical knowledge learnt to understand, describe and interpret concrete cases; 5) will be able to identify differences and similarities in the functioning and transformation of several political-institutional systems, both democratic and non-democratic; 6) will have improved their communication skills through in-class expositions.

Course contents

The first part of the course defines the basic concepts on which the course is based (politics, political regimes, forms of political participation), recalls the long-term processes at the origin of democratic political regimes and their special features, in comparison with non-democratic regimes, and presents democratic actors, processes and institutions in a comparative perspective.
The second part provides a description of the political systems of the major democratic countries (European and non-European) and of some non-democratic countries (Russia, China, Iran), with a focus on the forms of political participation, electoral competition, the structure of parliament, the legislative process, the formation and stability of governments, territorial institutions, the main features of policy making and the country's role in the international arena.
The third part will cover the perspectives and challenges faced by democratic regimes at the beginning of the 21st century and the authoritarian regressions that have occurred in the same time frame, with special focus on the russian case.



Salvatore Vassallo (a cura di). 2016. Sistemi politici comparati. Il Mulino, except chapters on Spain and Poland.

Carolina de Stefano, Storia del potere in Russia, Morcelliana, 2022.

Adam Przeworski. 2019. Crises of Democracy. Cambridge University Press.

Teaching methods

The course will be organised in lectures and discussions where participants will be invited to actively participate, having read the reference texts in advance. The outlines and figures used by the lecturer will be made available to students in the days following the relevant lecture on the course materials webpage. All lectures will be held in presence.

Assessment methods

Attendance, although highly advisable, is not compulsory. There are no differences of any kind in the syllabus or in the examination format between attending and non-attending students.

There are two written tests to be taken in the classroom, the writing of a short paper and an oral test consisting of the paper's discussion. The time available for each written test is 30 minutes. Each test consists of 27 closed multiple-choice questions (1 point for each correct answer), plus one open-ended question (rated from 0 to 5 points). Therefore, the maximum final mark is 32. The final evaluation will be equal to the average of the two scores, corrected on the basis of the oral examination, which consists of the evaluation and discussion of a paper of up to 15,000 characters. Those who obtain a score of 30 or higher may obtain honours, based on the oral examination.

The paper, consisting of a maximum of 15,000 characters, should answer a specific and circumscribed question, relatable to the topics covered, comparing a few countries on a mainly narrative basis, many countries on a statistical basis or examining a single country case. It will have to meet the parameters given in a special Word file provided by the lecturer. This is an individual paper, so no collective work is allowed.

The paper must take its starting point from a topic covered in the mandatory reference texts and elaborate on it with regard to one or more cases through the relevant scientific literature. The bibliography should include at least three papers from academic journals of comparative politics in addition to any other qualified sources. It should deal with circumscribed issues that reflect more general features of the national political systems in question and that are not explored in depth in the mandatory reference texts. By way of example only, the paper could cover: The role of koenkai in Japanese politics, the implications for party cohesion, and the effects of the 1994 electoral reform; The process of "presidential coalition" formation in Brazil: the case of Lula's first term; The internal democracy of the African National Congress and its effects on the South African political system: the case of the 54th National Conference. Further guidance can be found in the file to be used as a template included among the course materials accessible through virtual. The topic should be agreed in advance with the lecturer by proposing a title, an introduction of 1000-1500 characters, and the minimum reference bibliography (including at least two papers from academic journals).

The two written tests to be taken in class can either be taken during the course of the course (as intermediate tests, one in the middle of part two, one at the end of part three) or, fifteen minutes apart, at each regular exam session. In order to take part in the written midterm tests, it is necessary to register for each of them via the Almaesami platform.

The written tests are conducted through the EOL platform. Therefore, it is necessary for each participant to have an appropriate electronic device (preferably a Pc).

Anyone who, for whatever reason (illness, injury, delays, strikes, inadequate preparation, overlapping of tests from more than one course or other), has not taken part in one of the two intermediate tests or has withdrawn during the test and has asked not to be assessed, may make up that individual test during the first ordinary exam session (the marks obtained in the test in which they took part and which was assessed, whatever the marks obtained, will therefore remain valid until the first ordinary exam session). In the event of absence or failure to participate in an intermediate test, no justification is required or examined. Those who took part in both written midterm tests may reject the mark obtained on a specific test and take it again at a later exam date.

In order to be admitted to the discussion of the paper, it is necessary to have successfully taken the two written tests in class with an average of at least 18. Who does not achieve a sufficient average or fails the grade must retake all the tests in a subsequent exam date, as usual. He/she may resubmit the same paper as previously prepared, a revised version of it or a completely different paper. The criteria set out in the course regulations apply for participation in examination sessions. If you have any questions regarding the course regulations, please consult the relevant website or contact the course management office.

Students who are guilty of plagiarism - that is, if parts of the paper are transcribed from other documents of any kind that were not correctly referenced - will be excluded from the course and will not be admitted to the examination.

Teaching tools

Video projector. Pc. Course materials and exercises on the "VIRTUALE" platform.

Office hours

See the website of Salvatore Vassallo