Comparative Politics

Carol MershonThe comparative politics faculty believes that advances in political analysis are best achieved through a simultaneous commitment to rigorous empirical research and extensive theoretical knowledge. All of us have devoted many years of our lives to studying politics as it is practiced in specific places in the world, but we also seek to connect this knowledge to the broader social scientific enterprise aimed at advancing our understanding of politics more generally. We encourage our students to ask big questions about the political impact of social structures, institutions, and culture, and we advocate using all of the tools available to us—quantitative and qualitative; area and cross-regional studies—to expand our understanding of politics. We embrace methodological pluralism, and we promote awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of different methodological approaches so that our students can evaluate and select the methods most suited to their research objectives. We have a number of faculty doing research on comparative economic and political development, public policy and administration, and democratization. Individual specialties include state formation, elections and parties, race and gender.


Our graduate curriculum builds on a broad overview of the field in the Comparative Politics Core (PLCP 700), a seminar that focuses on classic as well as contemporary works. We encourage students to complement their study of broad theoretical perspectives in this Core seminar and in our other Perspectives classes with concurrent coursework in Methods, Topics, and Areas (see diagram below). By the time a Ph.D. student concentrating in comparative politics has completed her coursework, she should have taken the CP core, quantitative or qualitative methods, at least two Perspectives courses, at least one Topics class and at least one Area class. We expect all students writing dissertations on specific regions of the world to acquire the linguistic skills needed to conduct research in one or more languages of the region. Those studying comparative politics as a minor field should be prepared for the required comprehensive exam if they take CP 700, two Perspectives classes, and either Qualitative Methods, an Area class, or a Topics class (four classes in total). Of course, CP majors and minors are also expected to familiarize themselves with the works listed in our CP Reading List, not all of which are covered in any combination of 4-7 classes.


Core Seminar 

  • PLCP 7000 (Comparative Core Seminar)

Methods Courses: at least one beyond the required PLAD7090

  • PLAD 7090 Research Methods
  • PLAD 7120 Qualitative Methods
  • PLAD 7100 Quantitative Methods

Perspectives Courses: at least two

  • PLCP 8140 Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship
  • PLCP 7030 Cultural Theory
  • PLCP 7070 Rational Choice in CP
  • PLCP 7050 Institutional Theory

Topics Courses: at least one

  • PLCP 8060 Political Development
  • PLCP 5200 Comparative Political Parties
  • PLCP 5250 Politics of Economic Reform
  • PLCP 8140 Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship

Area Courses: at least one

The Department regularly offers courses on the politics of Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Russia, South Asia, and East Asia.