Upon succesful completion of the course, student shall be able to:
- have a complete view of how the political systems under examination function (both institutionally and in practice)
- be able to understand and analyze better the political developments in the countries under examination and, on the basis of such analysis, handle better the information received about these countries
- further develop their capacity to work on their own and analyze these political systems
- move towards elaborating well-founded opinions on major issues linked to the countries under examination.
Course Content (Syllabus)
The course follows the compulsory course of the second semester “Introduction to Comparative Policy. The political systems of Western Europe” with a more extensive analysis of specific political systems. It seeks to deepen the study of political systems that will alternate from year to year. In the academic year 2020-21 the course will examine the political system of the United States and of Russia countries as follows:
As far as the U.S. is concerned, the course introduces students to the American political life, political institutions and the international role of the country today, looking at the historical shaping and current structure and functioning of the political system.
The first part examines the U.S. institutions. The analysis emphasizes the elements (in history, politics and the environment) which laid the foundations of the American system and the reasons that led to the establishment of the state’s institutions with an emphasis on its federal characteristics and the content of the separation of powers. In this part we examine:
1. What particular characteristics contributed to the formation of the political system?
2. How and why have federal institutions been formed and how (and why) have they evolved to date?
3. Are checks and balance currently operative?
It then penetrates into individual issues relating to the dynamics and (dys)functions of the current system:
1. What is the cause of the growing division within the American society and what can it lead to?
2. What does the increasing divergence between the Coast and the Middle America signal?
3. What are the consequences of the growing presence of ethnic minorities, especially Latinos?
4. What will be the domestic impact of the gradual weakening of the US leadership role.
The course emphasizes the role and evolution of federal institutions of government, the impact of political culture in this context and the importance and role of parties, interest groups and the economy in shaping policy. Specific reference is made to the U.S. foreign policy and international role and its domestic consequences, while other parameters such as the role of the state in politics, social and racial inequalities, the integration of minorities and the procedures for formulating and implementing public policies are also examined.
The course follows the current political developments in the country's political system ahead of the upcoming elections and the ongoing internal rift in the country.
As far as Russia is concerned, the course looks into the main characteristics of the Russian political system, its political institutions, both formal and informal, and the international role of the country. Initially it draws the historical context which influenced the formation of the Russian state and shaped the country’s political culture (such as the authoritarian tradition, the fear of external aggression and the importance of religion for national identity) as well as the impact of the transition from the Soviet Union into Russia. It then analyses the institutional/constitutional framework:
• What are the basic characteristics of the Russian federal system?
• Which is the role of the president and the government?
• How did the system gradually move towards a presidential system?
At the same time it will compare the constitutional arrangements with the political reality.
The course follows the course of the country's particular federal model and the role of ethnic minorities in the political system. It also examines the country's foreign policy and its international role, looking into the aspects that show a continuity or a break in relation to the Soviet Union times, again through a comparative lens with the USA and examines the country's current relations both vis-à-vis its neighbouring countries and towards the EU.
Plan of lectures for the academic year 2020-21
Lesson 1: The historical development of the US government
• The foundations of the American political system
• The American political culture
• The US Constitution
Lesson 2: the US federal system
• The federal government
• The relations between the federal level and the states
• Checks and balances
Lesson 3: the party system
• Political Parties - the history of the two-party system
• Elections and electoral system
• Participation in elections
• The role of lobbies
Lesson 4: The federal government
• The President
• The federal administration
• The Federal Reserve
• The Trump President and its impact
Lesson 5: The legislative power
• The Congress
• The process of adopting the laws
Lesson 6: The Judiciary
• The independence of the judiciary and the role of judges
• The Supreme Court
• The judicial impact on the political system
Lesson 7: US Foreign Policy
• Fundamentals of US foreign policy (isolationism - interventionism)
• The US as a global superpower in the 20th century.
• The role of the US in the 21st century
Lesson 8: The historical formation of Russia's political system
• The birth of the Russian state
• The Tsarist period
• The Soviet Union
Lesson 9:The creation of the modern Russian state
• The reforms of Gorbachev and the dissolution of the Soviet Union
• Remodeling of the Russian state - the Yeltsin period
• The consolidation of the Russian political system - the Putin-Medvedev period
• The Putin domination
Lesson 10: The Russian political system
• The federal level: is Russia a federation or a centralized state?
• The political situation: from a democracy to an authoritarian system
Lesson 11: The Russian institutions
• Executive, legislative and judicial power
• The role of the President
• Elections and political parties
Lesson 12: The Russian society
• Public policies
• The ethnic groups and the role of minorities in the political context
Lesson 13: The Russian foreign policy
• The international role of Russia and its place in the world
• The near Abroad
• The Russian economy
Since the course has a seminar character,, regular attendance by students during the courses is necessary – this refers to participants with both a physical presence and those who attend it remotely.
All participants will be asked to make at least one brief presentation on a topic and coordinate the classroom discussion in at least one case. In the run-up to the US elections, the presentations will include the following activities:
For the USA
• Toss-up states for the presidential elections: participants will set up small groups that will deal with specific states (Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan) and examine/present the political, social and economic situation of these states (five presentations before the date of the elections) referring to the possible election results for the presidential election.
• Senate: At the same time, the Senate elections will be considered with a brief presentation of the crucial states (Arizona, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia Special election).
• Political parties: two groups will study the evolution of the two major parties by looking into the impact of the growing division within Democrats between progressives and centrists and the transformation of the Republican party into a party of the reactionary right.
• Russia's relations with its neighbours: participants will set up small groups to look into with the country's current relations with its neighbours, in particular the so-called "Near Abroad" (Belarus, Armenia, Ukraine, Georgia) presenting the key issues in today's relations.
• Russia after Putin: the participants will explore the country's course after Vladimir Putin's departure: will it remain a centralised authoritarian regime, will it develop into an oligarchy or will it acquire democratic characteristics?
Evaluation and grading
Evaluation of students takes place throughout the semester and through the final examination. The grading results from the short papers that will be submitted by students during the semester, their presence and participation in class and the presentations made by each student during the lectures and a final examination. Final examination includes either the preparation of paper (of a maximum 3000 words excluding bibliography and references) on a subject agreed with the teaching in November or the preparation of a dossier within 24 hours.
The final grading is calculated as follows:
40% papers in class
30% participation and presentations
30% final exam (f the exam includes the preparation of a paper it also includes its presentation).