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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Comparative Politics

Comparative Politics

The research and teaching unit on the comparative analysis of political systems focuses on the impact of political institutions on political processes and outcomes from a comparative perspective. We investigate interactions amongst ideas, interests, and institutions, in order to explain why some interests are more effectively brought to bear on political decision-making than others; why some voter segments may achieve greater political recognition in some political systems than in others; and why the nature of political mobilization varies across space and time.

The impact of political institutions on politics and policy outcomes is not a one-way relationship, however. Actors’ perceptions, cognitive frames and patterns of electoral and political competition all affect the articulation of interests and their expression in politics.  Some of the political and policy phenomena that we have studied include:  health politics; pension politics; environmental policy; agricultural and fishing agreements of the European Union and World Trade Organization; attitudes toward the EU; the development of labor movements in comparative, historical perspective; the politics of bio-ethics; origins and change of electoral rules.

On a theoretical level, we focus on institutionalist theory, particularly veto points theory and historical institutionalism, but also on the nature of contentious politics, diffusion and cognitive framing, attitude formation, rational and non-rational decision-making, and the role of time in negotiation analysis.

Our teaching for BA, MA, and PhD students covers a variety of substantive and methodological issues in comparative politics. Course offerings include:

  • Lecture and seminar “introduction to comparative politics and international relations”
  • Substantive seminars (introductory and advanced) on political parties and party systems, political institutions in comparative perspective, comparative political behavior, comparative policy analysis, European integration, contentious politics
  • Theory seminars (introductory and advanced) on democratic theory, neo-institutionalism, state theories, theories of comparative public policy, theories of the welfare state, rationality in political decision-making, Classics of Comparative Politics, Classics of Political Economy
  • Methods classes (primarily for MA and PhD students) on research design, comparative case studies, experiments, network and fuzzy set analysis, simulations, qualitative and quantitative data analysis
  • Advanced research and project seminars on varieties of democracy, electoral rules, health policy and politics, social capital, the American civil rights movement , constitutional politics, pension politics, democratic public policy, international negotiations, and welfare state policies with a focus on health care and integration.

We supervise and teach PhD candidates in all these areas of expertise, either individually through the members of the research and teaching unit, or through the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences.