POLITICS I - POS101/1 Spring 2021
Introduction to Politics I
Course code: POS 101/2
Semester and year: Fall 2020
Day and time: Thursdays, 11:30-14:15 (Prague time) + Fridays October 23 and November 27
Classroom: 2.06 (MS Teams: LINK)
Instructor: Ing. Zuzana Veselá
Instructor contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Consultation hours: Thursday 14:30 - 16:30 (please arrange via email)
The aim of this course is to introduce students to the main concepts of comparative politics - starting from the basic building block of a modern state and the main ideologies, through different types of democracy and its attributes to authoritarian regimes and failed states. We will address questions such as “what is the difference between the political influence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the National Rifle Association lobby” or “does capitalism lead to democracy”? Each concept is illustrated with a characteristic case study; these case studies also aim to be varied and provide the students with an insight into the key world powers of today.
The semester is divided into three logical parts - starting with the emergence of the state and legitimacy of power, then delving into detail of how democracies operate and finally dedicating the third section to autocratic regimes and threats. We will focus on transition between these two states of governance; on the three waves of democratisation but also democratic backsliding - addressing threats to democracy today such as populism or the rising number of autocratic countries. Last but not least we will delve into the non-traditional ideologies, some of which are gaining increasing traction today such as environmentalism and assess whether they can still be considered marginal. Throughout the semester, we will be closely watching the development of elections, protests and appointments of key figures on the international political stage.
Student Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, students should be able to:
- Understand the basic concepts, structures and theories used in comparative politics
- Be familiar with the ways governments operate, are elected and formed in democratic and autocratic systems
- Be familiar with the role of media and political movements and interest groups in the realm of politics, campaigns and policy formation
- Critically apply the theoretical concepts onto various data sets within case studies and present their views in an oral presentation or a written essay.
- Hague R. and Harrop M. (2010), Comparative Government and Politics: An
Introduction. Eighth Edition. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Sections of books available in the library or on the NEO system
- Albright, M. (2018) Fascism: A Warning. First Edition. Harper Collins
- Heywood, A. (2019) Politics. Fifth Edition. Palgrave MacMillan.
- Kissinger, H. (2015) World Order. Penguin Books
- Lijphart, A. (2012) Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms & Performance in Thirty-six
Countries. Second Edition. Yale University Press
- Rotberg, R. (2003). Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States: Causes and Indicators. In Rotberg R. (Ed.), State Failure and State Weakness in a Time of Terror. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
- List of required articles
- Arendt, H. (1953) “Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government.” The Review of Politics 15 (3): 303-327.
- Dekelbaum, Z. (1928) “Constitution of the United States Compared with the Constitutions of Mexico, Germany and Russia.” Notre Dame Law Review 4 (3): 178-191.
- Gorbach, J. (2018) Not Your Grandpa's Hoax: A Comparative History of Fake News, American Journalism, 35:2, 236-249
- Mudde, C. (2004) The Populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition 39 (4): 541-563.
- Olson, M. (1993) "Democracy, dictatorship and development", APSR, 87(3), 567-576
- Przeworski & Limongi, (1993) "Political regimes and economic growth", Journal of Economic Perspectives, 7(3), Summer 1993, pp. 51–69.
- Schmitter, P. and Karl T. (1991) “What Democracy is…and is Not.” Journal of Democracy 2 (3): 75-88.
- White, M. (2020) The Activist Manifesto I pitched at Davos, The Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/davos-world-economic-forum-activist-manifesto-climate-emergency-extinction-rebellion-a9301146.html
- World Economic Forum, Global Risk Report 2020, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risk_Report_2020.pdf
The course will be taught as a combination of lectures, presenting the main theoretical concepts and illustrating them with case studies, and seminars. The seminar part of the lesson will feature either a class discussion, where students divided into four groups of 5-6 students debate a given topic and present their opinion, or a student presentation on one of 6 available topics. Students will get a chance to choose a topic according to their area of interest at the beginning of the semester. Students that might be prevented from delivering their part of their presentation live due to time-difference may pre-record the commentary to their slides.
Students will be encouraged to interact and ask questions during both parts of the class and express their opinion in and out of discussions. Before the US presidential election, the students will hold a mock presidential debate. Students who will be watching the recorded lectures are strongly encouraged to use office hours to discuss the topics from classes with the lecturer.
For remote students who cannot attend classes live, they should submit via email their point of view on a discussion in class or a student presentation and raise one question by Monday following each class session at the latest. This question will be discussed in the next session or during office hours.
The students' opinion formation and critical thinking are further encouraged through think-pieces on the set reading. Each week, students will be asked to submit a short (2 paragraphs) think-piece summarising in a few sentences the main thought of the reading and their opinion. On a larger scale, they will hone their analytical and research skills on an essay of 2000 words on their chosen topic. They will be asked to present a proposal for their essay along with at least 5 academic sources and one expert opinion from an AAU lecturer. There will be a take-home final exam at the end of the semester to be completed within 48 hours.
Course Requirements and Assessment (with estimated workloads)
*1 = Critical Thinking; 2 = Effective Communication; 3 = Effective and Responsible Action
Detailed description of the assignments
Think-pieces: Short weekly assignments, in which students react to the set reading (preferably reading outside of the textbook if set). The think-piece should be about 2 paragraphs in which the student will summarise in their own words the basic thoughts of the author and then will express their own opinion on the topic. The student is welcome to disagree with the author but should support his or hers opinion with valid argumentation.
A student presentation: Students will choose one of 6 given topics and form groups of 4. They will cooperate to put together a powerpoint presentation (any other software is welcome), which they will deliver to the class. Students that might be prevented from delivering their part of their presentation live due to time-difference may pre-record the commentary to their slides. The group will be graded collectively.
Proposal + Final Essay: Students will present a proposal for their essay along with at least 5 academic sources and one expert opinion from an AAU lecturer. The topic of the essay, which is entirely up to the student (although suggestions will be made by the lecturer) should be analytical and demonstrate the student's ability to apply the studied concepts onto specific case studies. The length of the essay should be 2000 words (10% +/-). Only the content will be graded, grammatical mistakes will not result in any point deductions.
General Requirements and School Policies
All coursework is governed by AAU’s academic rules. Students are expected to be familiar with the academic rules available in the Codex and Student Handbook and to maintain the highest standards of honesty and academic integrity in their work.
Electronic communication and submission
The university and instructors shall only use students’ university email address for communication. It is strongly recommended that any email communication between students and instructors take place in NEO LMS.
Each e-mail sent to an instructor that is about a new topic (meaning not a reply to an original email) shall have a new and clearly stated subject and shall have the course code in the subject, for example: “COM101-1 Mid-term Exam. Question”.
All electronic submissions are carried out through NEO LMS. No substantial pieces of writing (especially take home exams and essays) can be submitted outside of NEO LMS.
Attendance is required. Students who are absent 35 percent of classes (more than 4 classes) will be failed (or administratively withdrawn from the course if most absences are excused). Students might also be marked absent if they miss a significant part of a class (by arriving late or leaving early) as specified in the syllabus.
For remote students who cannot attend classes live, they should submit via email their point of view on a discussion in class or a student presentation and raise one question by Monday following the class at the latest. This question will be discussed in the next session or during office hours.
Absence excuse and make-up options
Should a student be absent from classes for relevant reasons (illness, serious family matters), s/he must submit to the Dean of Students an Absence Excuse Request Form supplemented with documents providing reasons for the absence. The form and documents must be submitted within one week of the absence. If possible, it is recommended the instructor be informed of the absence in advance. Should a student be absent during the add/drop period due to a change in registration this will be an excused absence if s/he submits an Absence Excuse Request Form along with the finalized add/drop form.
Assignments missed due to unexcused absences cannot be made up which may result in a decreased or failing grade as specified in the syllabus.
Students whose absence has been excused by the Dean of Students are entitled to make up assignments and exams provided their nature allows for a make-up. Students are responsible for contacting their instructor within one week of the date the absence was excused to arrange for make-up options.
Late work: No late submissions will be accepted – please follow the deadlines.
Electronic devices (phones, tablets, laptops…) may be used only for class-related activities (taking notes, looking up related information, etc.). Any other use will result in the student being marked absent and/or being expelled from the class. No electronic devices may be used during tests or exams.
Eating is not allowed during classes.
Cheating and disruptive behavior
If a student engages in disruptive or other conduct unsuitable for a classroom environment of an institution of learning, the instructor may require the student to withdraw from the room for the duration of the activity or for the day and shall report the behavior to the Dean.
Students engaging in behavior which is suggestive of cheating (e.g. whispering or passing notes) will, at a minimum, be warned. In the case of continued misbehavior the student will be expelled from the exam and the exam will be marked as failed.
Plagiarism and Academic Tutoring Center
Plagiarism is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Random House, New York, 1993)
Turnitin’s White Paper ‘The Plagiarism Spectrum’ (available at http://go.turnitin.com/paper/plagiarism-spectrum) identifies 10 types of plagiarism ordered from most to least severe:
- CLONE: An act of submitting another’s work, word-for-word, as one’s own.
- CTRL-C: A written piece that contains significant portions of text from a single source without alterations.
- FIND–REPLACE: The act of changing key words and phrases but retaining the essential content of the source in a paper.
- REMIX: An act of paraphrasing from other sources and making the content fit together seamlessly.
- RECYCLE: The act of borrowing generously from one’s own previous work without citation; To self-plagiarize.
- HYBRID: The act of combining perfectly cited sources with copied passages—without citation—in one paper.
- MASHUP: A paper that represents a mix of copied material from several different sources without proper citation.
- 404 ERROR: A written piece that includes citations to non-existent or inaccurate information about sources
- AGGREGATOR: The “Aggregator” includes proper citation, but the paper contains almost no original work.
- RE-TWEET: This paper includes proper citation, but relies too closely on the text’s original wording and/or structure.
As the minimum policy the types of plagiarism from 1 through 8 results in the failing grade from the assignment and must be reported to the Dean. The Dean may initiate a disciplinary procedure pursuant to the Academic Codex. Allegations of bought papers and intentional or consistent plagiarism always entail disciplinary hearing and may result in expulsion from AAU.
If unsure about technical aspects of writing, students are encouraged to consult their papers with the tutors of the AAU Academic Tutoring Center. For more information and/or to book a tutor, please contact the ATC at: http://atc.simplybook.me/sheduler/manage/event/1/.
Students with disabilities
Students with disabilities are asked to contact their instructor as soon as possible to discuss reasonable accommodation.
* Decimals should be rounded to the nearest whole number.
Prepared by and when: Zuzana Veselá, September 15th, 2020
Approved by and when:
Here is the course outline:
1. Lesson 1 - World Order + What is a State?
We will start with brief introductions of the lecturer and the students. Then we will ask some basic questions - what are the current world powers? What is the current world order? How did different civilisations historically understand world order and how does that influence their worldview today? We will talk about the rapid changes in world order in the last 30 years. In the second half of the lecture we will focus on what is the basic concept of the state, legitimacy and power. Finally we will go through the assignments and assessment breakdown.
2. Lesson 2 - Political Systems and Regimes
We will draw on the notions of legitimacy and power to make the basic division between democratic and authoritarian regimes. We will review the development from historical political systems such as absolutism, monarchy and aristocratic rule to modern systems of political rule from democracies (liberal and illiberal) to authoritarian regimes - dictatorships, military regimes or totalitarian states. This will set up the basic structure for the rest of the semester. The case study for this session will be Czechoslovakia and the regimes it experiences in the first half of the 20th century.
3. Lesson 3 - What is Democracy? Types of Democracy
We will go over the roots of democracy and its development from Greece to the form we know today. We will draw the distinctions between consensual and majoritarian democracies as defined by Lijphart. We will have our first student presentation, followed by a discussion on the topic of “What are the limits to democracy in the West? (historically and now)”.
4. Lesson 4 - Constitution and the Role of the Judiciary
What is a constitution? What is the purpose of a constitution? Does a modern democracy have to have a constitution? How do contemporary justices influence the readings of constitutions written centuries ago? We will look at examples of what happens to democracies when fundamental changes are made to constitutions, with examples from Turkey and Russia. A presentation will be held on the topic of “Which steps of president Trump were ruled unconstitutional?” We will then analyse the purpose and the importance of a judiciary independent from the executive and legislative branches of power in democratic systems.
5. Lesson 5 - Presidential, Semi-Presidential and Parliamentary Systems and Media
In the first half of the lesson, we will focus on the distribution of executive and legislative power in different democratic systems with examples. We will investigate the way voters elect the executive and how the different systems affect campaign strategies. We will see how different systems deal with removing the executive before the end of term. In the second half of the lesson we will discuss the role of the media in politics. Is it an extended voice of the executive? Is it the “fourth pillar of democracy”? We will analyse the impact of media on polarisation and the public opinion and discuss examples of reporting on sensitive issues and their political impact.
6. Lesson 6 - Party Politics
What is the origin of political parties? What are the main functions of different kinds of parties? What are party systems (esp. one-party system, two-party system and multi-party system)? What is the definition of “the right” and “the left”? We will compare the advantages and disadvantages of these systems in democratic setting with examples of the UK, US and Germany. In the second half of the lesson we will conduct a Mock US Presidential Debate.
7. Lesson 7 - Electoral Systems
What main different electoral systems are there (focus on majoritarian and proportional) and what is their influence on the representation of the voters? What are the advantages and disadvantages of different systems? How does the system affect the number of parties? Is any system more democratic than the others and how is it linked to ideologies? Case study: UK vs Germany. A presentation will be held on the topic of “Electoral College system in the USA: Historical reasons & current legitimacy - should it be cancelled?”
8. Lesson 8 - Social Movements + Interest Groups
In this class we will focus on entities (economic, religious, single issue, professional etc.) that lie outside of the government and the state, however which still impact the political sphere. These include NGOs, political movements but also lobbies. What different interest groups are there and what are their main objectives? How do we classify them? We will analyse what qualifies as a social movement and what happens when violence is introduced into the equation. We will discuss if there is a distinct line between a guerilla group and a terrorist group. A presentation will be held on the topic of “Black Lives Matter vs. National Rifle Association - Influence on the US politics”.
9. Lesson 9 - Challenges to Democracy
In this class we will analyse what causes democratic backsliding, that is decline in the quality of democracy. What are the current challenges to democracy in the western liberal democracies (populism, nationalism, polarisation)? What are common challenges in new democracies? Can any country be “democratic for good”? We will also focus on external challenges to democracy - the increase in the number of authoritarian states in the world. As a case study, we will use Poland and Hungary today and will analyse their historical experiences with both nationalism and authoritarianism and compare it to their current political climate. We will hold a discussion on “what is the biggest threat to democracy today?”.
10. Lesson 10 - Authoritarian Regimes
What kinds of authoritarian regimes are there? What is a difference between an authoritarian and totalitarian state? Why do authoritarian regimes hold elections? What is their claim to legitimacy? What si their source of stability? Is autocracy more efficient than democracy? We will analyse the authoritarian regimes in Nazi Germany, former USSR and Iran and draw comparisons. A presentation will be held on the topic “In what ways is China an authoritarian regime and what are its unique characteristics?”
11. Lesson 11 - Political Economy
Where does the economy come in? What should be the relationship between the economy and the state? Does capitalism lead to democracy? Does communism still exist today? What kinds of capitalism are there? How involved can and should the government be in the market for it to still be considered a capitalist market? In this lecture we will introduce the basic concepts of political economy and focus especially on the long held “modernisation theory”. We will test this theory on the case study of present China and contrast it with the rise of the far-right movement in post-89 democracies. Discussion will be held at the end on the topic of “does capitalism lead to democracy?”.
12. Lesson 12 - Failed States
In this lesson we will focus on what happens when the state is no longer capable of providing the basic functions that define it. What are the internal and external causes of states failing? What role does legitimacy play in this situation? Can terrorist organisations take over the state role and how does that affect their legitimacy and international standing? With this topic, we will focus on different states in the Middle East as our case study - where non-state actors often operate outside of the delineation of state borders. In the final student presentation we will look at the topic of “Hezbollah - a terrorist organisation or a social care provider”.
13. Lesson 13 - Other Ideological Traditions
In this lecture we will go through some (but definitely not all) other ideological traditions. These include fascism, anarchism, feminism or environmentalism. We will analyse the context in which they arose and whether they are still relevant. A discussion will be held on the topic of “Environmentalism - an ideological tradition or a global threat?”.
14. Lesson 14 - Global Security Threats
In the final lesson we will review the course via the prism of the main current global security threats. We will hold a big discussion on the topic “what are the biggest global security threats at the moment?” Are they political (democratic vs. authoritarian regimes, polarisation, populism, democratic backsliding)? Are they economic (rising income inequality)? Cyber (cyber warfare, disappearing protection of privacy)? Ecological (changing climate)? Health (pandemics?). We will them in order of danger and impact and then compare the current situation to historical figures to gain perspective and maintain some level of optimism where possible.