GV467      Half Unit
Introduction to Comparative Politics

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Woodruff CON3.17


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Comparative Politics. This course is available on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Optional for MSc China in Comparative Perspective (space permitting). Optional for other students with the approval of Dr Woodruff.

Course content

This course serves as the 'core', compulsory course for the MSc in Comparative Politics and is intended to provide an overarching theoretical and methodological backdrop for all of the diverse course offerings available to students on this programme. The course introduces students to the field of Comparative Politics as represented in contemporary journals like Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, and Comparative Studies in Society and History, and among the various members of the Comparative Politics Group in the Government Department here at the LSE. Students examine the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of Comparative Politics, important critiques of these underpinnings, and diverse examples of 'best practice' in research and writing in this sub-field of the discipline of Politics or Political Science.

Lectures and seminar discussions focus both on important areas of research in comparative politics and methodological challenges involved. Readings treat such variegated topics of inquiry and debate in comparative politics as democracy,  ethnic conflict, civil society, and revolutions. 

The course does not follow a 'great books' approach nor rely on a textbook. Instead, the course treats examples of real existing Comparative Politics as practiced - and published - by leading scholars in the field in recent years. These examples are chosen to cover diverse forms of comparison, diverse modes of analysis, diverse topic areas, and diverse countries and regions of the world.

Cutting across these forms of diversity are a set of questions that will be addressed throughout the course. These questions concern the possibilities and limitations of various methods of comparative analysis for explaining observable patterns in politics.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Dr David Woodruff delivers the lectures for the course, whilst members of the Comparative Politics Group in the Department run the seminars. There will be a reading week in Week 6.


Week 11 will focus on revision.

Formative coursework

One unassessed essay of roughly 1,500 words.

Indicative reading

Alasdair MacIntyre, ‘Is a Science of Comparative Politics Possible?’Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions. Ashutosh Varshney, ‘Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: India and Beyond.. Hall, Peter A. ‘Adapting Methodology to Ontology in Comparative Politics’. Doner, Richard F., Bryan K. Ritchie, and Dan Slater ‘Systemic Vulnerability and the Origins of Developmental States: Northeast and Southeast Asia in Comparative Perspective’.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the LT week 0.

Student performance results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 12
Merit 58.4
Pass 26.6
Fail 3

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2015/16: 69

Average class size 2015/16: 14

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 74%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


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Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


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