Course Syllabus

Fall 1999 Dr. Robert J. Beck
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Office hours: To be announced, and by appointment

Scope and Purpose
Course Objectives
Course Requirements and Grading
Required Texts
Class Schedule and Reading Assignments
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Since 1945 Europe has witnessed fundamental political, social, and economic changes.  The dramatic events of 1989 and thereafter illustrate well the dynamic nature of European politics. The movement of European states toward economic and political integration underscores the salience of the "new Europe."

This course will introduce students to the political systems of Western Europe without presupposing their prior knowledge of the region. It will provide a general survey of the politics of the Western European democracies, concentrating on three major European countries and the European Union (EU). The course's principal objective will be to enable students to analyze the political systems of Western Europe, to describe their main characteristics, and to make meaningful cross-national comparisons between the West European nations, the United States, and other states.

The course will commence with a brief introduction to European history and the development of the advanced industrial societies of Western Europe. It then will undertake case studies of Great Britain, France and Germany -- states representing a cross-section of the Western European political experience.  Each case study will begin with an overview of the political history and culture of that state, then turn to a comparative analysis of that state's political institutions, processes and public policies.  The course's final section will address the past, present, and future of the European Union (EU) and then will seek to assess the importance of European political integration for global politics.

Five major themes will frame the course:


This course seeks to enable its students to analyze, to understand, and objectively to evaluate the complex mixture of phenomena that comprise Western European politics. The course is designed to facilitate students' appreciation of current and future problems of the "New Europe."  Upon their successful completion of this course, students should be able to:


Attendance:  Students are expected to attend all class sessions and to participate in class discussion.  Students must take all examinations at scheduled times, except for reasons of documented illness and certain university-sponsored events (after prior consultation with the instructor and at the instructor's discretion).

Examinations:  The Midterm will constitute 25% of the total grade, the Final 35%.

Research/Writing Assignment:  Students will be required to complete a research-intensive writing assignment.  The assignment will constitute 30% of the final grade.

Participation:  Class attendance, preparation of readings, and participation in class discussions are integral parts of this course. As such, the student's grade will reflect attendance, preparation and participation.

Honesty:  Academic dishonesty in any form (e.g., cheating or plagiarism in any exam or assignment) will not be tolerated and wll be subject to appropriate sanction.

The relative weight assigned to each of the course requirements follows:

Mid-term Exam  25 %
Final Exam 35 %
Reseach/Writing Assignment 30 %
Participation 10 %


Curtis, Michael. (1997). Western European Government and Politics.  New York:  Longman.  ISBN#  0-673-98257-2
Western European Government and Politics covers traditional Western European countries as well as Spain, the Netherlands, and European Union. The book's tripartite organization -- designed to encourage comparative study -- is uniform for each country study and addresses the political, economic, and cultural aspects of each country. Providing comprehensive and up-to-date information about each country and Western Europe as a whole, Professor Curtis includes a unique chapter on the European Union that discusses the latest developments and studies the drive towards European Union.

Gallagher, Michael, Michael Laver, and Peter Mair. (1995). Representative Government in Modern Europe. 2nd ed.  New York:  McGraw-Hill.  ISBN#  0-07-036687-X

In its second edition, Representative Government in Modern Europe offers an accessible, modern guide to the politics of Europe. Unlike many rival texts in the field -- which depend on a country-by-country listing of dates, places and people -- this text continues to offer a richly truly comparative approach.


I. Week 1: Introduction
A.  Introduction to the Course and Review of Requirements and Assignments
Curtis, et al., Ch. 1
B.  The Development of Modern Europe
Curtis, et al., Ch. 1
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 1: Introduction

II. Weeks 2 - 4: Great Britain: Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy

A.  The Gradual Evolution of British Democracy
Curtis, et al., Ch. 2, part A
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 2: The Executive

B.  British Political Institutions: Parliamentary Supremacy and Cabinet Government
Curtis et al., Ch. 2, part B
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 3: Parliaments

C.  Political Processes and Public Policy in Britain: A Unitary System in Devolution
Curtis, et al., Ch. 2, part C
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 4: The Courts, Constitutions, and Politics

III. Week 5 - 8:  France: The Mixed Presidential-Parliamentary Republic

A.  The Birth of the French Fifth Republic: From Crisis to Stability
Curtis, et al., Ch. 3, part A
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 6: Central and Local Governance

B.  French Political Institutions and Processes: The Powers of the Double Executive
Curtis, et al., Ch. 3, part B
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 7: Patterns in Party Politics

C.  Public Policy in France: The Strong Administrative State and Decentralization
Curtis, et al., Ch. 3, part C
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 8: Party Families


IV. Week 10 - 13:  Germany: From Authoritarianism to Democracy

A.  Germany's "Special Path" in Modern History: From Division to Unification
Curtis, et al., Ch. 4, part A
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 9: Voting Patterns and Social Cleavages

B.  Political Institutions and Processes: Federalism and Chancellor Democracy
Curtis, et al., Ch. 4, part B
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 10: Inside European Political Parties

C.  Public Policy in Germany: Corporatism and Social Market Economy
Curtis, et al., Ch. 4, part C
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 11: Elections and Electoral Systems

V. Weeks 14 - 15: The European Union (EU): An Ever Closer Union?

A.  The History of European Integration: From ECSC to EU
Curtis, Ch.. 8, part A

B.  The Institutions and Policies of the European Union: A Democratic Deficit?
Curtis, Ch.. 8, part A
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 5: Toward One European Government

C.  Europe's Future: Conclusions and Review
Curtis, et al., Ch. 8, part B
Gallagher, et al., Ch. 15: Building Representative Government


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