Course: PLSC 485A/663A Professor Leonard Ray
Classroom: FA 247 Office: LNG 96
Class Time: T,Th 1:15 - 2:40 Telephone: 777-6603
Office Hours: T,Th 3:00 - 4:30 Email:

Comparative Political Parties

Course Description:

This seminar will focus on the emergence, role, and influence of political parties in advanced capitalist democracies. Political parties are one of the central institutions of modern representative democracies. Parties recruit candidates for public office, formulate programs for governmental action, compete for votes, and if lucky, exercise executive power until ejected from office. For Americans who are used to thinking of party competition as a duopoly between Republicans and Democrats, one of the more interesting aspects of comparative party politics is the complexity of multiparty competition. Most of the course readings will focus on party politics in Europe, where multiparty systems are the rule, not the exception.


This is a seminar course, which means that students are expected to participate actively through class presentations and discussion. This course provides an opportunity to practice the essential skill of oral presentation of ideas. The course will require a substantial amount of reading, which must be completed prior to the class period so that you may participate actively and intelligently.

There is also a substantial writing component for this course. Students will write two short papers analyzing the readings assigned for two weeks of their choosing. One of these summaries will be presented in class. There will also be a research paper due at the end of the term. This research paper will be presented to the class at the end of the semester. The final exam will be a take home essay exam.

Relative weights of course requirements:


Readings will be drawn from books and journal articles on reserve in the main library, or for sale at the BU bookstore. Students would be wise to make copies of the required reading over the course of the semester, as they will be expected to discuss some of these readings on their final exam. Because that exam will be an open book exam, students will probably want to refer to the original works rather than relying entirely on memory.

The following books are available at the BU bookstore.


Peter Mair (ed.) The West European Party System Oxford University Press, 1990.
Anthony Downs, Economic Theory of Democracy 1957
Wiliam Riordan Plunkitt of Tammany Hall Dutton New York 1963
Laver, Michael and Norman Schofield. Multiparty Government: The Politics of Coalition in Europe. 1990
Adam Przeworski and John Sprague Paper Stones: A History of Electoral Socialism. University of Chicago Press,1986.

Michael Gallagher, Michael Laver, and Peter Mair Representative Government in Western Europe McGraw Hill 1992

Reserve reading schedule

Tentative Reading Schedule:

Week I. 1/25 - 1/28. Introduction.

Week II. 2/1 - 2/3. What are political parties?

Week III. 2/8 - 2/10. Where do parties come from?


Week IV. 2/15 - 2/17. How are parties organized?


Week V. 2/22 - 2/24 Politics within parties.

Week VI. 2/28 - 3/2. Party Systems and Social Cleavages


Week VII. 3/7 - 3/9. Party Systems and Electoral Competition


Week VIII. 3/14 - 3/16. Party System Change

3/21 - 3/23. Spring Break

Week IX. 3/28 - 3/30. Coalition Theory

Week X. 4/4 - 4/6. Delivering the (Public) Goods

Week XI. 4/11 - 4/13. Delivering the (Private) Goods


Week XII. 4/18. Parties in Quasi or Non Democratic systems

4/20 Easter/ Passover Break

Week XIII. 4/25 - 4/27. Party Finance
Pollock, James, Money and Politics Abroad New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1932. Chapters 1, and 20
Rosa MulŠ Financial Uncertainties of Party Formation and Consolidation in Britain, Germany, and Italy: the early years in theoretical perspective. in Burnell and Ware eds. Funding Democratization. Manchester University Press: 1998.
Karl Heinz Nassmacher Structure and Impact of Public Subsidies to Political Parties in Europe: The Examples of Austria, Italy, Sweden, and West Germany. in Herbert Alexander ed. Comparative Political Finance in the 1980's. Cambridge University Press 1989.

Week XIV. 5/2 - 5/4. and XV. 5/8 - 5/11. Presentations. Class canceled May 2