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Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Comparing Government And Politics

Abstract
Comparative politics is one of the main sub-fields of the discipline of political science. Its goal is to better understand how government and politics work in different societies by comparing among them. There are many benefits to the process of comparison: among other things, it helps us better describe the features of individual systems, it provides us with the context that helps us better understand our own political system, and it helps us better understand others. It is easy and tempting to define government and politics by the qualities of our home political system, but we can never really know how it works, or how it performs, unless we compare it with other systems.
John McCormick

Chapter 2. Political systems

Abstract
This chapter provides the foundation for the comparisons we will be making among our twelve cases, off ering an overview of the major constituent parts of the world’s national political systems. In each case, we will be looking at political development and political culture, at constitutions, at the key institutions of government (executives, legislatures, judiciaries, and sub-national government), and at elections and political parties. Before going to that level of analysis, this chapter off ers a comparative survey of each of these topics, showing the variety of options available and the many diff erent forms in which the key elements of political systems exist, whether in democracies or in authoritarian states. It soon becomes clear that there is nothing approaching a common template for government and politics, and that the rules adopted for the design of political systems have a variety of origins and eff ects, and continue to evolve ceaselessly.
John McCormick

Chapter 3. United kingdom

Abstract
The value of the United Kingdom as a case lies in the age and continuity of its political system, and its signifi cance as the birthplace of the parliamentary system and of many of the philosophies underlying democratic government. Britain – as it is usually known – has also undergone many changes since 1945 that add to its value as a case: the end of empire, the creation and decay of a welfare state, Britain’s changing global role, and deep internal divisions that have shaken the foundations of the British state, even raising questions along the way about what it means to be British. A divisive and controversial decision in a 2016 national referendum to leave the European Union broke open many of the fault lines in British politics and society. A country with a long history now faces many troubling challenges, and a deeply uncertain future.
John McCormick

Chapter 4. Germany

Abstract
Germany has long been one of the most powerful and influential countries in Europe, the trend continuing with the way that it has reinvented itself in recent decades as the leading actor in the European Union, and a key player in the global economy. It remains something of a reluctant power, however, with many Germans unwilling to see their country assert itself too obviously, preferring instead to focus on domestic matters. It has been successful in building a stable and workable political system whose achievements stand in contrast to the tumult of its earlier experience with democracy under the Weimar Republic. At the same time, it has seen troubling changes in recent years with the combined effects of falling voter turnout at elections, a move away from the once predictable dominance of two major political parties, widespread dismay arising from the arrival of new waves of immigrants, and concerns about falling population numbers.
John McCormick

Chapter 5. United states

Abstract
As the world’s biggest economic and military power, the United States is hard to ignore as a case in comparative politics. Its global reach means that its domestic decisions are of interest far outside its borders; the outcome of American elections and the policies of its presidents matter to friends and foes alike. And yet the United States can sometimes puzzle foreign observers, just as it sometimes puzzles its own citizens. Many claims are made for the democratic qualities of the American political model, and for the opportunities inherent in the American Dream, with Americans and their leaders routinely describing their country as the greatest in the world. The American system of government, though, is rife with structural problems, and the faith of citizens in their elected offi cials (and sometimes in each other) has been tested by deepening political, economic, and social divisions that government seems unwilling or unable to address.
John McCormick

Chapter 6. Japan

Abstract
Japan has most of the typical features of a parliamentary system, including a symbolic head of state, and a prime minister and cabinet that come out of the legislature. As a case, though, it has many distinctive and unique political features that make it quite diff erent from other parliamentary systems. These include dominance by a single political party (made possible in part by a divided opposition), a relatively weak offi ce of the prime minister, a strong role for political factions over political parties, and an infl uential political role for the bureaucracy. Recent reforms to the electoral system have brought changes to the distribution of power, and there are indications that the executive may be growing stronger on the back of new stability within the governing Liberal Democratic Party. Even so, Japan still has much to do if its government is to be able to address economic decline and political dissatisfaction.
John McCormick

Chapter 7. France

Abstract
Japan has most of the typical features of a parliamentary system, including a symbolic head of state, and a prime minister and cabinet that come out of the legislature. As a case, though, it has many distinctive and unique political features that make it quite diff erent from other parliamentary systems. These include dominance by a single political party (made possible in part by a divided opposition), a relatively weak offi ce of the prime minister, a strong role for political factions over political parties, and an infl uential political role for the bureaucracy. Recent reforms to the electoral system have brought changes to the distribution of power, and there are indications that the executive may be growing stronger on the back of new stability within the governing Liberal Democratic Party. Even so, Japan still has much to do if its government is to be able to address economic decline and political dissatisfaction.
John McCormick

Chapter 8. India

Abstract
India is a land of dramatic contrasts. It has one of the world’s oldest cultures, yet it has been an independent state only since 1947. It is the world’s largest democracy, yet it has so many social divisions that it seems constantly to hover on the brink of disintegration. It is poor (with a per capita GDP of just under $2,000 and many of its people living in abject poverty) and crowded (with more than 1.3 billion people living in an area one-third the size of the United States), and yet it is a nuclear power with a bigger consumer market than that of any European country. It has a large and growing middle class, it not only feeds itself but is a net food exporter, and economic liberalization has led to accelerating industrial growth. Like China, India has the potential to become one of the economic superpowers of the 21st century.
John McCormick

Chapter 9. Mexico

Abstract
Mexico’s value as a case lies in what it can tell us about the circumstances of politics and government in Latin America, where many countries have experienced stops and starts in their recent experiments with democracy. After a long history of political instability, followed by decades of dominance by a single political party, Mexico has evolved since the 1990s into a multi-party system, but one in which some of the traditions of the past – including corruption – continue to cause problems. Mexico has also long continued to struggle with the infl uence of the neighbouring United States, and has been shaken since 2006 by a violent drug war that has interfered with its ability to reform itself. It off ers a good example of a fl awed democracy, giving us insight into the problems that a country can face as its tries to build a more democratic and transparent system of government.
John McCormick

Chapter 10. Nigeria

Abstract
With a population of nearly 190 million and considerable oil wealth, Nigeria should also be a key actor in the international system. However, it has failed to overcome major ethnic and religious divisions, or to eliminate the role of the military in government. As a case, its main value lies in what it can tell us about the struggles that sub-Saharan African countries have faced in building united and workable political systems out of a heritage of colonialism. Nigeria is currently enjoying its longest spell of civilian government since independence in 1960, off ering hope for its long-term political stability. However, its economy remains dominated by oil, corruption is rife at every level of society, security concerns and poor infrastructure discourage foreign investment, and Nigeria has failed to build the kind of political system needed to bring its large and diverse population together on a strong foundation of national unity.
John McCormick

Chapter 11. Turkey

Abstract
In few countries has government and politics off ered such a mobile target as Turkey. Whether considering its transformation from an empire to a modern republic, its evolution from a parliamentary system to a presidential system, its ever-changing community of political parties, the competing infl uences of Islamism and secularism, or the opposing pull of nationalism and Westernization, Turkey has rarely sat still for long. It off ers us a case study of a society that has found it diffi cult to build a stable democratic system, undermined as it has been by the infl uences of elitism, the periodic intervention of the military, and a heritage of nationalism. For now, at least, it remains a hybrid regime, but this seems unlikely to last; as a case, it off ers a valuable example of a state whose halting eff orts to build democracy have failed to prevent it from falling back into the grip of authoritarianism.
John McCormick

Chapter 12. Russia

Abstract
As a case, Russia off ers valuable insights into the dynamics of an authoritarian system. Its political system has changed dramatically since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, but initial hopes that it would become a democracy have been dashed as President Vladimir Putin has strengthened his grip. The Soviet heritage is still clear in Russian political culture, the rules of the political system have been changed, and understanding that system is often less a matter of appreciating constitutional formalities than it is of grasping the political psychology of Putin. Russia may have moved away from a one-party communist system to a multi-party capitalist system, but the offi ce of the presidency is powerful, both the legislature and regional governments have been reduced to supporting institutions, and the Russian model of federalism is one that is dominated by the centre. More and signifi cant changes are undoubtedly yet to come.
John McCormick

Chapter 13. China

Abstract
China off ers another case of a political system that has undergone enormous change, with the critical diff erence that those changes have global implications. As the biggest country in the world by population, and one that will soon have the world’s biggest economy as well, China is an important case in comparative politics. It is clearly authoritarian, with a political system in which much of China’s communist heritage persists: government revolves around the dominance of a single party – the Chinese Communist Party – and a complex network of government institutions. Since a revolution in 1949, China has undergone many changes, most recently based on eff orts by new generations of leaders to change the direction of domestic and foreign policy. The free market continues to take a fi rmer hold in China, but political choice remains restricted, creating many political features that, while unique, off er important insights into the nature of authoritarianism.
John McCormick

Chapter 14. Iran

Abstract
Iran’s main value as a case study lies in what it can tell us about the nature of politics and government in Islamic societies. It has long played a critical role in the Middle East, dating back to its origins at the heart of the Persian Empire, its vast oil reserves having more recently been of interest to external powers, notably during the Cold War. Hostility to foreign infl uence was one of the sparks behind the 1979 Iranian revolution that led to the creation of an Islamic republic in which power is shared by mainly elected political institutions and by non-elected Islamic clerics holding positions that allow them to wield considerable power and infl uence. Iran is an authoritarian state in which politics is highly factionalized, religion lies at the heart of government, oil wealth and political centralization breed corruption, political rights are limited, women are marginalized, and the future remains uncertain.
John McCormick
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