This course will survey the institutions, actors and issues that make up the West European political scene. Rather than pick a few European countries and study them intensively, we will look at commonalities and exceptions across the region. We will use our knowledge of the American politics as a base from which to learn about Europe, and will reflect on the ways in which the different experiences of the European nations lead us to re-evaluate our understanding of American politics.

 The comparative nature of our study will allow us to focus on some central concepts in political science. Political scientists recognize that institutions matter; that the institutions and rules influence behavior and outcomes. As we see how parties and electoral systems in the various European countries are related to levels of participation and public policy outcomes, we will see evidence that institutions matter.

 Course Objectives:

 1.     To understand the basic institutions, actors and issues in contemporary West European politics.

2.     To understand how the growth of the European Union is changing politics in the region, and to be able to engage intelligently in the debates about the growing role of the EU.

3.     To know the basic geography of Europe.

4.     To understand, through study of the European region, the fundamental concepts of comparative politics.

5.     To demonstrate your ability to research and write a strong thesis-driven paper.