Power and Politics in the Modern World: Comparative Perspectives

This information is for the 2020/21 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 the political impact of natural resources in developing countries, social movements and revolution, political and bureaucratic corruption, the political economy of distribution, and political ideologies. With respect to each theme, students will receive a grounding in theories of the topic and samples of application to empirical cases drawn from throughout the developed, developing, and post-Communist world.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across the Michaelmas Term, Lent Term and Summer Term. This year, some or all of the teaching will be delivered through a combination of online and on-campus lectures and classes; online classes, if required, will involve a mix of virtual meetings and other forms of online engagement.

Classes are expected to run from Weeks 2-5 and 7-11 in MT and Weeks 1-5 and 7-11 in LT, but alternative forms of online engagement may replace class sessions. 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.

The highest-marked formative essay will count for assessment; see below.

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

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.

Brierley, Sarah. "Unprincipled Principals: Co-opted Bureaucrats and Corruption in Ghana." American Journal of Political Science 64, no. 2 (2020): 209-222. Doi:10.1111/ajps.12495

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

Fourcade-Gourinchas, Marion, and Sarah L. Babb. “The Rebirth of the Liberal Creed: Paths to Neoliberalism in Four Countries.” American Journal of Sociology 108, no. 3 (November 2002): 533–79. https://doi.org/10.1086/367922


Essay (25%, 1500 words) in the MT and LT.
Online assessment (75%) in the ST.

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 exam will be an online assessment in 2020/21.


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

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 18.1
2:1 63.3
2:2 16.1
Third 1.5
Fail 1

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 88

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication