Comparative politics PS2082

This course encompasses how we form or develop concepts of democratic political institutions and some of the different ways in which democracies can be organised.


If taken as part of a BSc degree, courses which must be passed before this course may be attempted:

PS1172 Introduction to political science or PS1114 Democratic politics and the state or PS1130 Introduction to modern political thought.

Topics covered

  • Presidential and parliamentary systems
  • Legitimacy and political culture
  • The nature and role of the state; bureaucracy; the judicial power, the role of the military
  • Forms of political organisation; parties and interest groups
  • Electoral systems and party competition
  • Federal and unitary states.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Why institutional analysis is a key aspect of comparative politics
  • How institutional stability and political legitimation interact
  • What is meant by political culture and how it influences institutional behaviour
  • How presidential systems differ in key respects from parliamentary ones
  • The relationship between elective and non-elective dimensions of the democratic state
  • The concept of federalism and how it differs from local government.


Unseen written exam (3 hrs).

Essential reading

  • Ackerman, B. ‘The Rise of World Constitutionalism’ Virginia Law Review, 83/4 (May 1997), pp.771-797
  • Booth J and Seligson M. The Legitimacy Puzzle in Latin America; Political Support and Democracy in Eight Nations. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Bowen, J. Why the French Don't like Headscarves; Islam, the State and the Public Sphere. Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2006.
  • Connolly, W. (ed.) Legitimacy and the State. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984. Especially the chapter by Weber, ‘Politics as a Vocation’ and the chapter by Lipset entitled ‘Social Conflict, Legitimacy and Democracy’ in the same volume
  • Dahl, R.A. Democracy and its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
  • Dahl R.A. On Democracy. New Haven; Yale U.P 1998.
  • R. Elgie, ‘The perils of semi-presidentialism: Are they exaggerated?’ Democratization 15/1 (2008), pp.49-66)
  • P Lassman and R Speers. Weber’s Political Writings (Cambridge texts in the History of Political thought, 1994) (to be used as an alternative to Connolly 1984)
  • Linz, J. ‘The Perils of Presidentialism’, Journal of Democracy 1: 51–69 (1990).
  • March, J.G. and J.P. Olson ‘The New Institutionalism’, American Political Science Review (September 1984) 73(3): 734–50
  • Roberts A. The Quality of Democracy in Eastern Europe; Public Preference and Policy Reforms. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Course information sheets

Download the course information sheets from the LSE website.