Power and Politics in the Modern World: Comparative Perspectives

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Woodruff


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students must have completed Introduction to Political Science (GV101).

Other background in political science will be considered as a substitute for GV101 for students outside of Government.

Course content

This course will acquaint students with the contemporary study of comparative politics, focusing on theories susceptible to testing with narrative historical evidence. Students will learn to address the methodological challenges of developing and testing such theories. The course will treat a wide variety of themes, including ethnic and political violence, the political impact of natural resources in developing countries, social movements and revolution, the political economy of distribution, and political ideologies. With respect to each theme, students will receive a grounding in theories of the topic and and samples of application to empirical cases drawn from throughout the developed, developing, and post-Communist world.


15 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of classes in the ST.


Classes will run from Weeks 2-5 and 7-11 in MT and Weeks 1-5 and 7-11 in LT. There will be a reading week in Week 6 of both terms. 

The Week 11 lecture in LT will be a revision lecture and there will be one revision class per group in Week 1 of ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 essays in the MT and 1 essay in the LT.

In addition to the three formative essays students will also produce one final exam essay plan in the LT.

Indicative reading

Skocpol, Theda. States and Social Revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979

Cederman, Lars-Erik, Nils B. Weidmann, and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch. 2011. Horizontal inequalities and ethnonationalist civil war: A global comparison. American Political Science Review 105 (03): 478-495

Hertog, Steffen. "Shaping the Saudi State: Human Agency's Shifting Role in Rentier-State Formation." International Journal of Middle East Studies 39, no. 4 (2007): doi:10.2307/30069487. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30069487.

Weyland, Kurt. "The Rise of Latin America's Two Lefts: Insights From Rentier State Theory." Comparative Politics 41, no. 2 (2009): 145-164. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40599207

Hacker, Jacob S, and Paul Pierson. "Winner-Take-All Politics: Public Policy, Political Organization, and the Precipitous Rise of Top Incomes in the United States." Politics & Society 38, no. 2 (2010): doi:10.1177/0032329210365042

Orloff, Ann Shola. "Gender and the Social Rights of Citizenship: The Comparative Analysis of Gender Relations and Welfare States." American Sociological Review 58, no. 3 (1993): doi:10.2307/2095903


Exam (75%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (25%, 1500 words) in the MT and LT.

Students’ summative essay mark will be the highest mark of those given for the three formative essays. Students who attempt all three (3 out of 3) will receive the highest mark achieved. Students who attempt two essays (2 out of 3) will receive the highest mark out of the two essays attempted. However, students who submit fewer than two essays (1 out of 3 or 0 out of 3) will be awarded a Zero Incomplete for the whole course and cannot be awarded the degree until they submit the work at resit (either the second of two essays if only 1 out of 3 was completed, or two essays if 0 out of 3 were completed). In such circumstances the student’s resit course mark will be capped at the pass rate of 40%.


The Class Summary Grade for General Course students will be based on the average of the three formative essays (75%) and attendance (25%).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2018/19: 66

Average class size 2018/19: 13

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
First 16.6
2:1 64.2
2:2 17.6
Third 1.1
Fail 0.5