Not available in 2015/16
GV4H7      Half Unit
Subnational Politics in Comparative Perspective

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Catherine Boone


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies and MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

I. How do territorial institutions vary across countries?  (2 weeks)

  • institutional heterogeneity across space and scale: (empires, nation states, federations, nodes, networks, indirect rule, states within states, and decentralisation);
  • space and the challenge/risks of territorial integration;
  • scale and principal-agent dynamics, direct and indirect channels of access to the central state, competitive vs. complementary (functionally differentiated) links;
  • detecting and describing differences; testing theories re: institutional effects.

II. What explains cross-national variation in the territorial structure of the state?  (2 weeks)

  • state ambition theories (elite voluntarism/ideological theories);
  • endogenous state-formation theories (social conflict and social equilibrium theories);
  • factor prices, markets, technology, and transactions costs: endowment and geography;
  • historical legacies via path dependence or institutional stickiness (as per HI theory);
  • cultural or social cohesion theories.

III. Are there consequences of variation in territorial structure of the state for political order, economic development, policy implementation, and prospects for democracy? If so, what are they?  (6 weeks)

  • Territorial institutions and national citizenship;
  • differentiated citizenship regimes; electoral regimes and the structure of representation;
  • Decentralisation: subnational authoritarianism or local democracy;
  • Building national economies:  uneven development, regionalised regulatory regimes, property    rules, taxation and redistribution, labour markets, urban bias;
  • Spatially uneven character of state institutions: implications for policy interventions;
  • Territorial dimensions of state failure: Why do some states fall apart?;
  • Fragmentation (dissolution), secession and warlordism, displacement, abandonment of territory.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay, 2 presentations and 2 other pieces of coursework in the LT.

Indicative reading

Alberto Alesina and Enrique Spolaore, The Size of Nations (MIT Press, 2005)

Karen Barkey, Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (CUP 2008)

Daniele Caramani, The Nationalization of Politics:  The Formation of National Politics and Party Systems in Western Europe (Cambridge 2004)

Michael Hecter, Containing Nationalism (Oxford 2000).

Jeffrey Herbst, States and Power in Africa (Princeton 2000).

Yumin Sheng, Economic Openness and Territorial Politics in China (CUP)

Daniel Ziblatt.  Structuring the State:  The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism (Princeton, 2006).

David Delaney, Territory: A Short Introduction (Blackwell, 2008)

Robert Sack, Human Territoriality: Its theory and history (Cambridge, 2009)


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 1500 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2014/15: Unavailable

Average class size 2014/15: Unavailable

Controlled access 2014/15: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills