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ASPO 23A10 - Comparative Politics

Type d'enseignement : Lecture and tutorials

Semester : Autumn 2018-2019

Number of hours : 48

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

This comparative politics course aims to familiarize students with the methods and objectives of comparison in the field of political science in order to help them grasp the contemporary world of politics in all its diversity. It builds on the introduction to the first-year political science course with an in-depth analysis of a region (Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, etc.) and its comparison with a selection of extra-regional cases. Through a regional approach, this course facilitates a reflection on common dynamics and on the singularity of political experiences in a global perspective. This course intends to stimulate a reflection on the terms of comparison, whether they are states, regimes, institutions, electoral systems, political divisions, social movements, political personnel, political profession, behaviors or votes. These terms imply asking questions of scale, since the comparison, far from being solely reserved for the stato-national level, can also be applied to organizations for regional integration or to local ways of doing politics. Similarly, the term-to-term comparison should also be tied to a reflection on the circulation of concepts, institutional forms, public problems and political practices. In order to break with a static view of comparative socio-political contexts, the course will be open to analyzing political change and breaks, whether they take the form of revolutions, crises or renewal of the political order. The contexts that are compared and not predefined, but can be adapted to the offer proposed by each campus. The choice of terms responds to epistemological and methodological questions that the course will develop. Comparative politics is above all an approach that necessitates clarification. The objective consists in highlighting the heuristic qualities of historicization, by demonstrating how one compares different socio-political contexts, based on what data and by posing what questions. The importance of the collection and processing of empirical data will be emphasized in order to specify the conditions for the possibility of a convincing comparison. Far from being limited to political science work, the inspiration in this field will be drawn from sociological, historical, and anthropological texts, depending on the prerogatives of the instructor.


WEALE, Albert (Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy / Programme Director of Executive MPA in Global Public Policy and Management, University College London (UCL))

Pedagogical format

The course aims to transmit factual and analytical knowlege about comparative contexts, to encourage a reflection on the status of comparison and on the various methods used in the field, and to familiarize the students with the classic bibliographical references in comparative politics. The focus will be on the pertinence and the limits of the universal, on ethnocentrism, and the qualities of the decentering of the gaze, on the importance of the empirical and of historicity of studied phenomena, on the relative applicability of concepts forged in the Western world, as well as on the permanent circulation and translation of concepts, norms and practices that characterize contemporary political activity. The following themes and questions will be developed in the course: Which objects and methods for the comparison? Does the categorization of the political order resist the empirical (democracy, authoritarianism, empire)? Do models of political change exist (crisis, revolution, transition)? Does the left-right axis have a comparative value? Is the secularization of political orders regressing? Do political elites resemble one another? Does the political profession follow fundamental rules? Does the comparative evolution of forms of political participation reflect a crisis of elections as a procedure of the selection of the elites? Does the comparative approach confirm the diagnosis of a malaise in political representation? How are the uses of violence defined, depending on the political, historical, and social contexts? Does corruption constitute an invariable of political life? What is universal in the discourses and practices of nationalism?

Course validation

to be defined

Required reading

  • Badie, Bertrand, Hermet, Guy, La politique comparée, Armand Colin, 2001.
  • Caramani, Daniele (dir.), Comparative Politics, Oxford University Press, 3ème éd., 2014.
  • Ciavolella Riccardo, Wittersheim Eric, Anthropologie politique, Bruxelles, De Boeck, 2016
  • Gazibo, Mamoudou, Jenson Jane, La politique comparée. Fondements enjeux et approches théoriques, Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 2nde éd., 2015.
  • Gazibo, Mamoudou, Introduction à la politique africaine, Montréal, Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 2010.

Additional required reading

Heurtaux, Jérôme et Zalewski, Frédéric, Introduction à l'Europe post-communiste, Bruxelles, de Boeck, 2012.