• Unit 4: Comparing Political Structures and Institutions

    A constitution provides a road map for a political system. Although constitutions vary from state to state, they are similar in many ways. Constitutions define political leadership, modes of representation, a legal framework, and the limits of a government's power. A constitution expresses the collective values and supports the security and stability of developing institutions.

    In this unit, we explore how constitutions serve common needs. We consider how their differences reflect the values and interests of diverse constituencies. For example, legislatures may be divided into different types of houses and have different rules for choosing their members, but they typically have the same lawmaking purpose. We we often can trace these similarities and differences to specific reasons that allow us to better understand the culture or society. For example, the way a government is organized often reflects the social stratification of the political community in question.

    We will examine different characteristics of government as factors in our study of comparative politics. We derive these factors from the written constitution, the political leadership, and the bureaucracy that emerged over time. In each case, we discuss political factors with an eye toward comparison. For example, we identify the degree of bureaucratic privatization in each system, how a community's geography influences government interaction, how governments gravitate toward immobilization in their policy-making, and how each of these factors leads to patterns in the political process over time.

    Completing this unit should take you approximately 13 hours to complete.