The Political Geography of the New Europe

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Course Information
Political Science
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 



After the recent enlargements of the EU, Austria and her capital, Vienna, are a central vantage point from which the political geography of Europe and its variations of national political cultures can be profitably studied (and visited): The course will be conducted in front of a large map of contemporary Europe and will be moving from closer to farther areas, both providing special orientation as well as comparative political information about the new political Europe and its component elements. It deals with new and old member states (or nonmember states) and contrasts the different attitudes states hold towards the Union. The European Union is a complex but internationally very relevant organization. Students will learn to better understand how it has developed and how it might develop in the future. Vienna is a particularly well-suited site for the course not only because of its central geographical location but also because of its continuing status of neutrality, its special political and economic relationship with Eastern European countries and its specific position within the EU.

The focus is on the conditions of political change and development, an overview of constitutional and party systems, a comparative perspective on policy making and an attempt to evaluate system performance. Included are site visits and group work with Austrian students.


Attendance policy: 

See IES Abroad Vienna handbook.

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Differentiate between the political systems of Europe
  • Effectively analyze and compare the differences between the governmental systems of the European Union and the United States
  • Orientate themselves within the European geographical context
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Class discussions
  • Group work and project with Austrian students


Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class participation and oral presentation on project - 10%
  • Written project report - 10%
  • Midterm - 40%
  • Final exam - 40%

N.B. Group work and project: small groups of IES and Austrian Students select a course-related topic, research it, and present it to the group orally as part of class discussion during the semester. Each student them submits a written report of the group project work.


The presentation of the content is cumulative; the introduction establishes the context within which the discussion of each system progresses, with comparisons and contrasts building on the cumulative basis of previously presented material. Each system is analyzed and compared on the basis of history, political culture, political institutions and forces, and system performance. Countries were selected for different reasons, they include both the most important early member states of the EU as well as a selection of more recent member states. Not all 27 member states are included but examples are provided for bigger and smaller members of the EU as well as "northern" and "southern" states and for states which joined this union at earlier or later dates.


Week Topics Readings
  • From the Old to the New Europe
  • Comparing Politics
  • Piper, ch 1 and 2, pp 1-39
  • Gerlich, Four Functions of Comparison, pp. 217-226 (in Reader)
  • Austria
  • Piper, ch 15 and 16, pp. 320-379
  • Gerlich, Politics in a New Key, pp. 265-274 (in Reader)
  • Hunt/ Falkner, Austria, ch. 12, in: Zeff and Pirro, pp. 237-252
  • Switzerland
  • Hungary
  • Kriesi/ Trechsel, ch 1, 5, 11, pp 1-17, 69-83, 172-190
  • Piper, ch 15, pp 320-350
  • Piper, ch 16, pp 351-379
  • Ellison, Hungary, ch. 16 in: Zeff/ Pirro, pp 315-342
  • Sweden
  • Hancock, part V, pp. 347-401
  • Elliasson, Sweden ch. 13 in: Zeff/ Piro, pp 253-269
  • United Kingdom
  • Piper, chs 11 and 12, pp 233-254, 255-280
  • Nugent/ Mather, United Kingdom, ch 7, in: Zeff/ Pirro, pp 129-150
  • France
  • Piper, chs 11 and 12, pp 235-254, 255-280
  • Deubner, France, ch. 4 in Zeff/ Pirro, pp 61-84
  • Germany
  • Piper, ch 7 and 8, pp 139-162, 163-186
  • Lankowski, Germany, ch 3, in: Zeff and Pirro, pp 35-59
  • Italy
  • Piper, ch 9 and 10, pp 187-211, 212-232
  • Giuliani/ Piattoni, Italy, ch 5, in: Zeff and Pirro, pp 85-106
  • The European Union
  • Piper, chs 2-4, pp 12-87
  • Gerlich, European Policy Paradoxes and Pitfalls, pp 11-21 (in Reader)
  • The Union Expereince
  • Gerlich, Unions in Comparison, pp 67-79 (in Reader)


Required readings: 
  • Piper, The Major Nation-States in the European Union, New York: Pearson 2005.
  • Gerlich, Reader (to be distributed)


Other Resources: 


  • Bulmer/ Lequesne, The Member States of the European Union, Oxford: OUP 2005.
  • Checkel/ Katzenstein (eds.), European Identity, Cambridge: UP 2009.
  • Colomer (ed.), Political Institutions in Europe, London: Routledge 2002.
  • Curtis et al., Western European Government and Politics, New York: Longman 2003.
  • Davies, Europe: East and West, London: Pimlico 2007.
  • Duff, Saving the European Union, London: Shoehorn 2009.
  • Hix, What’s Wrong with the European Union and How to Fix it, Cambridge: Polity 2008.
  • Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945, New York: Penguin 2005.
  • Majone, Dilemmas of European Integration, Oxford: UP 2009.
  • Menon, Europe – The State of the Union, London: Atlantic 2008.
  • Meny/ Knapp, Government and Politics in Western Europe, Oxford: OUP 1998.
  • Rosamond, Theories of European Integration, New York: St. Martin’s Press 2000.