Topics in Comparative Politics:The Political Systems of France and Great Britain

Faculty Instructor: 
Cycle / Level: 
Compulsory / Optional: 
Teaching Period: 
Course Content: 

This course is a continuation with in-depth analysis of the compulsory course of the second semester entitled “Introduction to Comparative Politics - the political systems of Western Europe.” It examines more profoundly the political systems of specific countries, which will vary from year to year. During this academic year the course will examine the political systems of Great Britain and France.

Regarding the political system of Great Britain, the course analyzes the history, institutions and political life of country, starting with the most important events on the British political scene after World War II. In particular, it examines the formation of British parliamentarianism, the way in which the country combines historical tradition and adaptation to modernity and analyzes the basic principles governing institutions, society, parties and the special characteristics as well as contradictions of its political system.

Britain, though the world's oldest parliamentary democracy with highly developed political institutions, has at the same time and until recently been a highly classified society. It is a modern, free and democratic country, but the head of state is a hereditary monarch, head of the state church. It has two legislative houses, but one of them is not elected by citizens. It protects individual freedoms based on customary law and only recently have human rights been codified as an integral part of British law. It has a constitution, but it is not formalized in a single text. It is one of the most centralized countries in Europe and at the same time experiencing secessionist claims – and absorbing their impact. Finally, the course shall look into the political and constitutional implications of the already three-year old Britain's withdrawal process from the EU and will analyse the huge changes in the political and institutional context of the country.

The course will attempt to clarify these contradictions and provide a critical and in-depth understanding of British politics and a full and clear understanding of the characteristics that determine the country's institutions and political system.


For France, the purpose of the course is to analyze the major issues in the French political system and society today, examining the foundations and evolution of the institutions and expressions in French political life. This section examines the progressive development of the French political system since the French Revolution, and in particular the emergence and evolution of the institutions of the Vth Republic as well as the transformation of this system from a personal choice by General De Gaulle into a widely accepted political system. In particular, we shall consider the institutional architecture of the Vth Republic - the role of the president, the government and the legislative bodies, the new party system that has been formed, the slow but important process of decentralization in the country and, as regards the role of France in international scene, the country's relationship with the European Union and its former colonies. With regard to today's reality, we shall look into the political and institutional consequences of the election of Emmanuel Macron and the creation of a new bipartisan system, as well as France's new relationship with Europe.

Course schedule

Lecture 1: The historical formation of the political system of Great Britain
•    The foundations of the political system
•    Political culture
•    The class division of British society

Lecture 2: The British Constitution
•    Sources
•    The importance of customary law
•    The sovereignty of Parliament
•    Devolution - to a federal United Kingdom?

Lecture 3: The political and party system after the 2nd World War
•    Parties - the history of the two-party system
•    Elections and electoral system
•    The regional parties
•    The electoral reform

Lecture 4: The legislative power
•    The House of Commons
•    The House of Lords – towards a chamber of the regions
•    The legislative process
•    The decentralized assemblies (Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland)

Lecture 5: Executive power
•    The role of the monarch
•    The government
•    The administration
•    The decentralized governments

Lecture 6: Judicial power
•    The common law
•    The gradual adaptation to the written law

Lecture 7: Britain in Europe and the world
•    Brexit and its implications
•    The relations with the US

Lecture 8: the historical formation of the political system in France and the creation of the Fifth Republic
•    The birth of the French State
•    The key features of the political systems before the 5th Republic
•    The French political culture
•    The creation and the basic characteristics of 5th Republic
o    a semi-presidential system
o    a majoritarian electoral system
•    The personality of the President
o    De Gaulle
o    The remaining Presidents of France

Lecture 9:  The President and the Government
•    The role of the President
•    The government
•    The Chairman relations - government
•    From "cohabitation" in "proedropoiisi"

Lecture 10: Legislative power and political parties
•    The submissive National Assembly
•    The secondary role of the Senate
•    The party system today

Lecture 11:  Judicial power
•    The Constitutional Court
•    The Council of State

Lecture 12: The administration and public policies
•    The administrative elite (ENA, Grandes Ecoles)
•    Decentralization
•    The role of the state in economic policy

Lecture 13: France in the world
•    The international role of France
•    The Francophonie
•    La Francafrique
•    France in the European Union


Learning Outcomes: 

Upon succesful completion of the course, student shall be able to: - have a complete view of how the political systems under examination function (both institutionally and in practice) - be able to understand and analyze better the political developments in the countries under examination and, on the basis of such analysis, handle better the information received about these countries - further develop their capacity to work on their own and analyze these political systems - move towards elaborating well-founded opinions on major issues linked to the countries under examination.

Due to the lack of Greek-language literature on the specific political systems, there will be no book offered as suggested reading. Students will be given articles and book chapters in other languages.However, students have the choice to use the following books: 1. DIPLOMACY AND INTERNATIONAL LAW IN GLOBALIZED RELATIONS (ELECTRONIC RESOURCE) (ΗΛΕΚΤΡΟΝΙΚΟ ΒΙΒΛΙΟ) BOLEWSKI WILFRIED (SPRINGER-VERLAG GMBH) HEAL-LINK ΣΥΝΔΕΣΜΟΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΩΝ ΑΚΑΔΗΜΑΪΚΩΝ ΒΙΒΛΙΟΘΗΚΩΝ, 2007. ΑΘΗΝΑ. 2. ΕNGLISH FOR POLITICAL SCIENTISTS ΜΑΡΙΝΑ ΧΕΙΛΑ ΕΚΔΌΣΕΙΣ ΔΑΡΔΑΝΟΣ 2003 ΑΘΗΝΑ