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Young Americans who visit abroad as tourists or as students are always surprised at how much their counterparts in other parts of the world know about the United States and its government and politics; international youth are amazed at how little we Americans know about their countries and politics. In a world that is shrinking in size as a result of the electronic and communications revolutions and that is increasingly interdependent economically, politically, and socially, knowledge about other countries around our world is essential for contemporary students from all disciplines. Yet American students are among the least well informed about what is going on in other countries. Introductory courses in comparative politics are designed to help overcome that weakness and to provide the basis for a lifetime of learning about the world around us.
The introduction to comparative politics is a challenging course for both the student and instructor. The challenges come from the dual nature of the course: to introduce beginning students to the comparative method of analysis and to provide background on politics in several different countries. Both these goals are necessary. Comparison is an important approach to gaining insight into social science, but information about a number of "cases" or countries is necessary in order to draw such comparisons. Students in courses that deal only with a series of country studies, one after another, usually fail to learn to make the comparisons; students in courses that focus more on a thematic approach and comparison tend to end up feeling that they have been hit by a flood of unconnected facts.
The task of giving students enough information to engage in comparative analysis without overwhelming them with too many isolated facts about many countries they have barely heard of is a real challenge for those teaching introductory comparative politics. This short textbook is designed to assist in that task by focusing on the challenge of comparison. It can be used with traditional textbooks that deal with several countries in a single volume; it can also provide a comparative framework for instructors who wish to use a series of single-country textbooks. It can be used alone in conjunction with readers on issues in comparative politics or intensive use of international news sources.
The book addresses a series of issues and themes in comparative politics by making comparisons from a limited set of countries. I hope to introduce a number of basic features of politics around the world that are important for students to understand as they become interested and informed citizens: the nature of sovereignty, parliamentary systems, proportional representation, political culture, political party systems, and so on. Such information will assist citizens in understanding the nature of their own country's political system and in finding other ways of remedying problems they may find in that system. Another goal is providing introductions to the conceptual and theoretical issues that are likely to be important as preparation for more advanced courses in comparative politics: democratization, economics and politics, military intervention, and so on. Students will thereby acquire the vocabulary and rudimentary theoretical basis for discussing these issues in depth in future course work in comparative politics.
In order to limit the flood of facts for introductory students, I have drawn most of the comparisons from a set of ten countries: Britain, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia. These countries are sufficiently prominent that they appear regularly in our newspapers. They are also the countries that are most often used in introductory courses in comparative politics because of their international stature or the particular political features that they illustrate. The countries offer a range of political experience that allows comparisons of issues such as historical impact on contemporary politics, development, change, legitimacy, democratization, and political performance.
I acknowledge first of all my debt to over thirty years of students in courses in comparative politics who have helped me to learn how to make politics abroad interesting and important. Their eagerness to learn about the world and to see how foreign experience can better enable them to understand their own political system is impressive and makes the task of preparing a textbook such as this a daunting challenge. I hope that those who read this book will appreciate how much their predecessors have taught me about comparative politics.
I have also benefited from the suggestions and corrections of those who reviewed this text in manuscript form. For the first edition, Harvey Fireside, Arthur B. Gunlicks, Richard L. Merritt, Andrew Milnor, and Thomas Nichols provided useful guidance. For the second edition, I received helpful suggestions from Kathryn Hochstetler, Colorado State University; Alice B. Hashim, University of Louisville; and Rodger M. Govea, Cleveland State University. The staff at Prentice Hall and Barbara Reilly did an outstanding job of production. Above all, I appreciate the love and patient support of my wife, Carol W Wilson, on this and many other projects. I dedicate this volume to her.
Frank L. Wilson
Wilson, Frank L. : Purdue University
I. BACKGROUND TO COMPARATIVE POLITICS.
1. The Study of Comparative Politics.
2. The Background to Politics.
3. Society and Politics.
II. POLITICAL ACTORS.
4. The Citizen in Politics.
5. Political Parties.
6. Groups and Politics.
7. Political Elites.
8. The Military and Politics.
III. GOVERNMENT DECISION MAKING.
9. Political Frameworks.
10. Policy Implementation and Adjudication.
IV. EVALUATING POLITICAL PERFORMANCE.
11. Political Performance.
12. The Politics of Change.
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