Students will gain an understanding of how to approach the business of comparing and contrasting states in the practical political world today. How do we account for the development of capitalist liberal democracies in some places and not others? Indeed, what factors do all liberal democracies have in common that permits us to refer to them meaningfully as liberal democracies at all? Why are some parts of the world saddled alternatively with authoritarian and autocratic states? What are the implications for the distribution of power and decision-making between democratic and non-democratic states? This course will seek to get to grips with such questions in a systematic way. We attempt for example to understand the ‘state’ or ‘regime’ or ‘system’ - since every country in the world exhibits one in some form or other – by virtue of the theoretical tools and concepts comparativists use to characterise and measure conformity and deviation. Importantly, we seek to establish the possible reasons for the occurrence of similarities and variations between regimes. This will take us well beyond the mere comparison of political institutions and constitutions sometimes referred to as ‘comparative government’. Indeed, the two terms ‘comparative politics’ and ‘comparative government’ are sometimes used interchangeably. However, we shall not confine ourselves to a descriptive analysis of instances of states and regimes, important though they are. Rather, we seek to penetrate the underlying historical, social, cultural, ideological, power-relational factors, etc., that allows us to identify similarities and differences between different state forms. In this sense, the course is intended to introduce students to the theoretical tools to enable comparison to be carried out. We will not be engaging in in-depth studies of the practical empirical instances themselves; rather we shall use these examples from the practical political world to test the validity of our concepts and classifications. It is intended that this will enrich our understanding of what terms such as ‘state’, ‘government’, ‘civil society’, ‘power and authority’, and so forth, actually mean.