STV2370 – Chaos politics? Theory Meets Reality in Comparative Politics

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Why do people waste their vote across the world? Why do ethnic groups kill each other in some places and not others? Why does the same policy seem great in one place and fail miserably in another? Comparative politics offers a rich tradition of empirical and theoretical insights that can help us make sense of the political world. But many of the political developments taking place seem to contradict expectations in existing literature. In much of the world, politics seem chaotic and unpredictable. If most places are exceptions to existing theory, what use do we have for this theory? And how can theories be modified to be more useful? In this course, we will look at real-world examples that seem to contradict established theories in comparative politics. We will then read recent research that tries to explain or resolve these seeming contradictions. The goal is to understand more about when and why theories are useful, discuss which assumptions (often implicit ones) that theories rely on to make sense, and reflect on how these insights can enrich our understanding of political patterns even in places where the theories generally do seem to apply. The course is about theory development in comparative politics, focusing on voting behavior, protests and violence, and the effects of institutions and policies. It also has a strong empirical focus. Examples are taken from across the world, though most of the examples are from developing democracies.

Learning outcome


You will:  

  • be familiar with central theories in comparative politics
  • know empirical examples that both support and contradict these theories
  • understand concepts related to theory development such a deterministic and probabilistic theories, assumptions, and scope conditions


You will:

  • be able to think critically about theoretical explanations
  • recognize assumptions in theoretical explanations
  • understand empirical implications of theoretical explanations 
  • know how to apply theories to new contexts
  • be more confident in thinking about how theories can be modified


You will:

  • improve your systematic and critical thinking
  • gain experience in writing academic texts


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

This course is not available for single course students.


Recommended previous knowledge

STV1300 – Komparativ politikk or other introductory courses in comparative politics.


Lectures and seminars.

Compulsory activities

  • Write and present term paper
  • Comment on other students' papers

The seminars are taught in English, and the papers handed in must be written in English.

See the seminar guidelines for more information about the seminars.

See the rules for reassignment of seminar groups and the guidelines for compulsory activities.

Absence from compulsory activities

If you are ill or have another valid reason for being absent from compulsory activities, your absence may be approved or the compulsory activity may be postponed.


  • 3-hour written exam
  • term paper

You must pass the compulsory activities in order to sit the exam

The term paper must

One overall grade is given, and both parts of the exam most be completed the same semester.

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Autumn 2020


Autumn 2020

Teaching language