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Comparative Politics is one of the oldest fields of political analysis, forming the basis for much of the writings of political philosophers throughout the ages. It was only in the nineteenth century, however, that the comparative method was first formally proposed as a means for elevating political thought to the level of a science. But like any field of intellectual endeavor, there is no consensus among those who study comparative politics concerning what the field is about. In particular, comparativists have found themselves pulled between two poles: that of the area-specialist and that of the social scientist. In some ways this tension is paralleled by two equally pervasive tensions: between those who are primarily inductive in their approach and those preferring a more deductive orientation; as well as a tension between those who are primarily oriented toward qualitative rather than quantitative methods. To be sure, some specialized knowledge is necessary to penetrate the politics of any society. That society-specific knowledge is all the more important when examining the politics of a foreign country. If one of the purposes of comparing politics is to escape ethnocentrisms, then area-specific knowledge is that body of knowledge which allows one to transcend the boundaries of one's own culture. It is sometimes tempting in an American university setting to define comparative politics as the study of foreign (i.e., non-American) political systems. Indeed, many comparativists (particularly those subscribing wholly to an area-studies understanding of the field) view their roles as interpreters of the politics of foreign cultures. But interesting and significant work has been conducted studying American politics within a comparative perspective, and given the culture-transcending purposes of comparison, it seems proper to include American politics within the boundaries of the field as well. Moreover, the theoretical concerns of comparativists are in no way confined to the boundaries of any one culture, and even those who are inspired primarily by a desire to better understand other places and cultures often find that to do so most effectively they need to orient their primarily inductive empirical work along broadly comparative and deductive theoretical axes.

Research Groups and Projects


Faculty in Comparative Politics

  John Ahlquist Yoshiko Herrera Nadav Shelef
  Rikhil Bhavnani Noam Lupu Erica Simmons
  Christina Ewig Melanie Manion Scott Straus
  Scott Gehlbach Nils Ringe Aili Tripp
  Kathryn Hendley Michael Schatzberg

Dissertation and Paper Awards for Comparative Politics Graduate Students

Student Dissertation and Paper Award
Adam Auerbach Best Fieldwork Award, APSA Organized Section on Comparative Democratization (2013)
Evgeny Finkel Gabriel Almond Award, APSA prize for best dissertation in the field of comparative politics (2013)
Lauren McCarthy
Edward S. Corwin Award, APSA prize for best dissertation in the field of public law (2012)
Brendon Kendhammer
Aaron Wildavsky Dissertation Award, APSA Religion and Politics Section (2011)
Timo Weishaupt
Ernst B. Haas Award, APSA European Politics and Society section (2009)
Jennifer Brick
Best Student Paper, American Institute for Afghanistan Studies (2008)


Comparative Graduate Resources


Courses in Comparative Politics - Fall 2014-2015

106 - Introduction to Comparative Politics

Faculty: Nils Ringe      Field: Comparative Politics

186 - Introduction to Comparative Politics (Honors)

Faculty: Yoshiko Herrera      Field: Comparative Politics

338 - European Union: Politics & Political Economy

Faculty: Nils Ringe      Field: International Relations, Comparative Politics

401 - Selected Topics-Poli Sci: Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict

Faculty: Nadav Shelef      Field: Comparative Politics

630 - Latin-American Politics

Faculty: Christina Ewig      Field: Comparative Politics

642 - Political Power - Contemporary China

Faculty: Melanie Manion      Field: Comparative Politics

643 - Women and Politics-Global Context

Faculty: Aili Tripp      Field: Comparative Politics

656 - Electoral Systems and Representation

Instructors: Jennifer Brookhart      Field: Comparative Politics

657 - Comparative Political Culture

Faculty: Michael Schatzberg      Field: Comparative Politics

665 - Israeli Politics and Society

Faculty: Nadav Shelef      Field: Comparative Politics

814 - Social Identities: Definition and Measurement

Faculty: Yoshiko Herrera      Field: Comparative Politics

948 - Smr: Topics in Comp Politics: Political Violence

Faculty: Scott Straus      Field: Comparative Politics

964 - Smr: Latin-American Politics

Faculty: Christina Ewig      Field: Comparative Politics