Comparative Politics

Faculty of Social Sciences

Comparative Politics

Political scientists who specialize in comparative politics usually study aspects of political life in countries other than Canada, or they draw comparisons between Canada and other parts of the world.

There are several different reasons for studying politics in other places. The main scholarly reason for studying politics comparatively is that it can help us to identify patterns: economic development and democracy seem often to go together; or countries with ethnic cleavages often experience political instability. By comparing Canada with other countries, we may develop a better understanding of the options available to Canadians. By improving our knowledge of other countries, we may also become better qualified for careers that take us abroad. Some people start with personal experience or a family tie with a particular country that motivates them to study its political life. Many of us also find politics in other countries intrinsically interesting, just because they are different - there is the appeal of the exotic.

Students who take courses in comparative politics become more knowledgeable about the world around us, which can be an advantage in many careers. An extensive background in comparative politics is particularly useful for careers in foreign affairs, international organizations or agencies, international NGOs, and companies that do business in more than one country.

The core undergraduate course in comparative politics is POLI 2F30, Dictatorship to Democracy: Politics in the Contemporary World. It introduces students to the politics of several developed democracies, several former communist systems, and a number of developing countries, and to some of the main concepts, theories, and issues in the field. POLI 2F30 is strongly recommended as a prerequisite for 3rd and 4th year comparative politics courses.

Some of our comparative courses deal with specific states, such as China, Russia or the United States. Others deal with groups of countries, such as the advanced democratic states, the member states of the European Union, developing nations, and the Arab states. Finally, some courses focus on particular topics or issues, such as nationalism, human rights, political economy, media, judicial systems, political change, or political elites.

Comparative Politics Faculty
There are four faculty members whose research interests are primarily in comparative politics. Charles Burton studies issues of economic and social justice and human rights, primarily in the politics of China and other North Asian countries.  Juris Dreifelds studies the politics of the Baltic republics, and environmental policies in Russia and Canada. Paul Hamilton's main research interests are nationalism, identity, and environmentalism in North America and Western Europe.

Several additional faculty members whose primary areas of research are in Canadian or international politics, also sometimes do comparative research. They include Charles Conteh (economic development and governance in developing countries), Hevina Dashwood (politics in Africa), Tim Heinmiller (environmental governance in developed countries), Matt Hennigar (comparative law and judicial systems), Pierre Lizee (politics in Southeast Asia), and Livianna Tossutti (public opinion in Canada, the US, and other advanced democratic systems).