Public Policy and Party Politics

Course Description: 

Elective course

The aim of this course is to link public policies and policy-making processes to (party) politics. The course takes a comparative angle and will look at how party politics interferes with public-policymaking and how diverging political ideologies influence and shape public policies. During the seminar, we will discuss why governments often respond quite differently to essentially similar policy problems and current (economic) challenges (e.g. unemployment, financial crisis, globalization, immigration, etc.). In addition to familiarize yourself with the academic literature on public policy and party politics, the seminar requires you to examine a specific legislative change or reform of a policy and trace it back to its origins using a variety of sources (from newspapers, to parliamentary debates, public opinion polls, party statements, statements by influential vested interest groups etc.). The collected material on this specific policy should serve as the basis for the final paper.

In the final paper, you are asked to examine the policy-making process in the light of a specific argument/theoretical approach, by i.e. highlighting how and at what stages of the policy process party ideology has a significant impact or how public discourse may affect the design and outcome of a legislative project. This exercise will illustrate how political institutions, third party actors (such as interest and lobbying groups) affect public policies. By doing this, you will also get familiar with primary sources such as policy proposals, parliamentary minutes and other sources of information that can be used to analyze public policies.  By the end of the course students you will be familiar with the core literature on party politics and public policy and have an understanding of how to analyze and trace public policymaking in empirical research. 

Learning Outcomes: 

Students will:

- Have a critical understanding of core political science theories relating to partisanship and median voter

- Have a well developed knowledge of the empirical literature that has applied and tested these theories

- Know sources of information on policy-making processes and legislative decision-making. 


The course will meet for 6 double seminars during the winter term.  This is a Master level reading and discussion seminar. You are expected to attend each seminar and actively participate in class discussions. For each session you are required to come prepared with a critical understanding of the mandatory reading. This course is about party politics and public policies and it is highly encouraged that you closely follow the news and try to relate ongoing discussions to the topics we discuss during this term. The recommended readings indicate useful literature for response papers and for your introductory statement and the preparation of the discussion that you should mediate and facilitate. 

The final grade is based on the following components:

- Preparation of in-class discussion based on core readings and questions submitted by peers (20\%)

- One position paper  (30\%)

- Final paper: (50\%)