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About this book

This revised and updated edition of a core textbook – one of the most well-established texts in the field of comparative politics – offers a comprehensive introduction to the comparison of governments and political systems, helping students to understand not just the institutions and political cultures of their own countries but also those of a wide range of democracies and authoritarian regimes from around the world.

The book opens with an overview of key theories and methods for studying comparative politics and moves on to a study of major institutions and themes, such as the state, constitutions and courts, elections, voters, interest groups and political economy. In addition, two common threads run throughout the chapters in this edition – the reversal of democracy and declining trust in government – ensuring that the book fully accounts for the rapid developments in politics that have taken place across the world in recent times.

Written by a team of experienced textbook authors and featuring a range of engaging learning features, this book is an essential text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses on Comparative Politics, Comparative Government, Introduction to Politics and Introduction to Political Science.

Table of Contents

1. Key Concepts

Abstract
The best place to begin the study of any topic is with an exploration of key concepts. Most of the political terms which interest us are embedded in ordinary language; government, politics, power, and authority are all familiar terms. But – as we will see – this does not mean that they are easily defi ned, or that political scientists are agreed on how best to understand or apply them.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

2. Theoretical Approaches

Abstract
In the opening chapter, we looked at comparative government and politics in broad terms, and it is probably already clear that it is a field of study that is both deep and complex. This is true enough at the level of the individual state, and the complexities grow when we add multiple political systems to the equation. Theory comes to the rescue by pulling together a cluster of otherwise unstructured observations and facts into a framework that we can use to guide ourselves as we seek to answer political questions such as why some countries are democratic and others are not, or why democracy seems to be backsliding in some countries. Theory is a simplifying device or a conceptual fi lter that can help us sift through a body of facts, decide which are primary and which are secondary, enable us to organize and interpret the information, and develop complete arguments and explanations about the objects of our study.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

3. Comparative Methods

Abstract
So far we have looked at the conceptual and theoretical aspects of comparative politics. These provide us with critical context and guidance, helping provide direction to the practice of comparison: the kinds of questions that need to be asked, the methods that can be used project, and the pitfalls to be avoided. This chapter is partly a survey of methods and partly a practical How To guide to the comparative process, giving more insight into the dynamics of that process. The goal is not to cover the details of specific techniques such as interviewing or statistical analysis so much as to provide an outline of strategies that will help students working on comparative projects of their own.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

4. The State

Abstract
The most popular unit of analysis in comparative politics is the state. It is far from the only such option, because comparison can be made at any level from the local to the multinational, and can involve any political institution, process, problem, or phenomenon. Even so, the use of states in comparison means that we need to understand what they are, how they work, how they evolved, the varieties in which they are found, and the current dynamic of the state system.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

5. Democratic Rule

Abstract
Democracy is both one of the easiest and one of the most difficult of concepts to understand. It is easy because democracies are abundant and familiar, and most of the readers of this book will probably live in one, while others will live in countries that aspire to become democracies. Democracy is also one of the most closely studied of all political concepts, the ease of that study made stronger by the openness of democracies and the availability of information regarding how they work. But our understanding of democracy is made more diffi cult by the extent to which the concept is misunderstood and misused, by the numerous and highly nuanced interpretations of what democracy means in practice, and by the many claims that are made for democracy that do not stand up to closer examination.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

6. Authoritarian Rule

Abstract
While democracy has spread to many parts of the world since 1945, and many people now live in democracies, about as many still live under authoritarian rule. This means centralized government, power for the elite, and limits on the rights and freedoms of citizens. These conditions are not only widespread today, but have been the norm for most of human history. The last century will be remembered at least as much for the dictatorships it spawned – including Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Mao’s China – as for the democratic transitions at its close. And in spite of the spread of democracy, the most prominent authoritarian states remain globally signifi cant, whether judged by their economic reach (China), as incubators of terrorism (Afghanistan), by their natural resources (Russia), or by their actual or seemingly intended possession of nuclear weapons (Pakistan and Iran).
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

7. Constitutions and Courts

Abstract
So far we have looked mainly at broad concepts and ideas in comparative politics, including theoretical approaches and research methods. We now focus on political institutions, opening in this chapter with a review of constitutions and the courts that lie at their foundation. Constitutions outline the rules of political systems, and tell us much about the structure and aspirations of government, as well as the rights of citizens. For their part, courts strive to make sure that the rules are respected and equally applied. Just as humans are imperfect, however, so are the political institutions they create and manage; there are significant gaps between constitutional ideals and practice
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

8. Key Concepts

Abstract
The focus of this chapter is the most visible tier in any system of government: the top level of leadership. Whether we are talking about presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, dictators, or despots, those who sit at the peak of the pyramid of governmental power typically excite the most public interest, whether opinions are positive or negative. To be sure, executives – in democracies, at least – consist not just of individual leaders but of large networks of people and institutions, including the ministers and secretaries who form the cabinet or the council of ministers. But a single fi gure usually becomes the best-known face of government, representing its successes and failures and acting as a focus of popular attention.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

9. Legislatures

Abstract
Legislatures lie at the foundation of democratic politics, the words used to name them refl ecting their original purpose: assemblies gather, congresses congregate, diets meet, dumas deliberate, legislatures pass laws, and parliaments talk. Even if they do not always attract as much public attention as executives, they are the institutions of government that are closest to the citizens, since they are typically directly elected and are usually responsible for representing individual districts, rather than – as is the case with executives – the entire country. They also carry out multiple tasks that are essential to government, including the approval of legislation, the authorization of expenditure, the making of governments, deliberating over matters of public importance, and oversight of the executive.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

10. Bureaucracies

Abstract
As the institutions responsible for implementing public policy, bureaucracies are a key part of the structure of government. Bureaucrats are the only employees of the government with whom most of us have much direct contact, whether we are applying for a driving licence or a passport, paying our taxes, or buying property. In spite of this familiarity, bureaucracies are routinely misunderstood, and just as routinely criticized for their failings as praised for their achievements.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

11. Sub-national Governments

Abstract
Comparative politics tends to focus mostly on activities at the national level, but it can just as easily compare government and politics at the regional, city, and local levels. The functional equivalents of national executives, legislatures, and courts can all be found at some or all of these levels, particularly in federal systems, meaning that no study of politics and government in a given state can aff ord to ignore them. Ironically, most voters tend to overlook the work of sub-national government: many of the services that most immediately impact their lives come from regional and local government, and local offi cials are usually more accessible than their national counterparts, and yet turnout at regional and local elections is much lower than at national elections.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

12. Political Culture

Abstract
Political culture describes the beliefs, values, attitudes, and norms that characterize political systems. What do people expect of government, how much do they trust (or distrust) it, how do values vary in space and time, and how do attitudes compare in democratic and authoritarian systems? The answers to these questions are all essential to an understanding of government and politics in its many varieties. Reviewing the structure, rules, and dynamics of institutions – as we have done in the preceding chapters – is important, but in order to compare eff ectively, we need also to understand the ‘personalities’ of different political systems.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

13. Political Participation

Abstract
The quality of democracy depends to a high degree on the extent to which citizens are willing or able to take part in the process of governing. There are many diff erent channels available for participation, ranging from the conventional to the unconventional, but no guarantees that people will want to use them. Two points will become clear in this chapter. First, the quantity and the quality of participation vary not only between regime types but also within individual countries over time and among diff erent social groups. Even in democracies, rates of participation are far from equal. Second, even as the variety of forms of participation expands, many people still choose not to express themselves, or are poorly informed about the issues at stake. In authoritarian systems, of course, their views and opinions are not usually entertained to begin with.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

14. Political Communication

Abstract
Mass communication lies at the heart of political discourse. It informs governments and citizens, it defi nes the limits of expression, and it provides us with ‘mental maps’ of the political world outside our direct experience. The technology of mass political communication has changed dramatically over the past century, taking us from a time when newspapers dominated to the era of broadcasting (first radio and then television), and bringing us to the current age of the internet, with instant information in unparalleled quantities from numerous sources. As that technology has changed, so have the dynamics of political communication: consumers now play a critical role in defi ning what constitutes ‘the news’, changing the relationship between the governed and the government, and the nature of political communication.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

15. Elections

Abstract
Elections lie at the heart of representative democracy. They are the primary means by which most voters connect with government, they provide the brief moment during which politicians and parties are supplicants rather than supervisors, and they serve as a competition for office and a means of holding the government to account. But election campaigns also provide an opportunity for a dialogue between voters and parties, and between society and state: ‘no part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fi ghting of elections’, claimed Winston Churchill. Competitive elections endow offi ce-holders with authority (contributing to the eff ectiveness with which leaders can perform their duties), and facilitate choice, accountability, dialogue, and legitimacy.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

16. Political Parties

Abstract
For most residents of democracies, political parties are the channel through which they most often relate to government and politics. Parties off er them competing sets of policies, encourage them to take part in the political process, and are the key determinant of who governs, and who does not. It is all the more ironic, then, that while parties are so central to the political process, they are not always well regarded by citizens. They are often seen less as a means for engaging citizens than as self-serving channels for the promotion of the interests of politicians; as a result, support for parties is declining as people seek other channels for political expression. In authoritarian regimes the story is even unhappier: parties have routinely been the means through which elites manipulate public opinion, and have been both the shields and the instruments of power.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

17. Voters

Abstract
How do voters make choices at elections? How do they decide even whether or not it is worth taking part in those elections? These are among the most intensively studied questions in political science, and yet there are no agreed answers. Media coverage of election results tends to focus on often small and short-term shifts in party support, while academic studies are focused on broader sociological and psychological questions such as social class, economic change, and party allegiance.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

18. Interest Groups

Abstract
Where most of the institutions of government are listed in a national constitution, interest groups (like political parties) are mainly founded and operate outside these formal structures. They have evolved separately, their core purpose being to infl uence the shaping of policy without becoming part of government; another example of governance at work. They come in several types, and use diff erent methods – both direct and indirect – to achieve their goals. A vibrant interest group community is generally a sign of a healthy civil society, but where the influence of diff erent interests and the groups that support those interests is unbalanced, it can also become a barrier to the implementation of the popular will as expressed in elections.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

19. Public Policy

Abstract
Public policy is concerned with the outcomes of the political process: if the core purpose of government is to manage and address the needs of society, then the approaches that it adopts and the actions it takes (or avoids) collectively constitute its policies. Policies are the product of the political interactions we have reviewed throughout the preceding chapters: policy is shaped by ideology, institutions, political culture, participation by citizens, and the infl uence of the media, political parties, and interest groups. This chapter looks in more detail at how policy is formed and implemented, the actors involved in the process, and the infl uences on that process. In order to provide more focus, it uses the cases of education, health care, and environmental policy to illustrate the possibilities and limitations of policy.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop

20. Political Economy

Abstract
This chapter focuses on the links between politics and economics, showing how important they are to each other. After decades during which they were studied in isolation, they have been reconnected since the 1960s as political scientists and economists have worked to better understand the intersection between politics and economics. Just as it is important to understand how political systems work, and how democracy and authoritarianism differ, so it is important to understand how economic systems work, as well as how and why governments take diff erent approaches to the economy.
John McCormick, Rod Hague, Martin Harrop
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