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Department of Social Sciences : Comparative Politics

Comparative Politics Program

Cadets pursuing the study of Comparative Politics have the opportunity to analyze the sources of stability or instability in political regimes, and to examine the conditions that promote either democratic or authoritarian rule in a number of diverse settings, ranging from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, to Africa, as well as the United States. Not only do students examine political institutions and policies, but they also explore the meanings and sources of change that may spring from the ballot box or the barrel of a rifle.


The West Point Comparative Politics Program provides cadets with the intellectual tools and knowledge of core theories and concepts to better understand why some states fail and others remain stable.  Cadets have the opportunity to view critical comparative politics issues in a multi-perspective manner by taking related courses both in and out of the department.  After mastering the core concepts, cadets can tailor their program towards a regional (e.g., Africa, Middle East, etc.) or functional (e.g., negotiation, democratization, post-conflict stabilization, etc.) focus. The comparative politics courses and related electives provide cadets with the knowledge and framework to apply the core concepts and theories to relevant case studies and issues.  


The capstone integrative experience provides an in-depth study of the non-US perspective towards the security environment by examining the security predicaments of developing states. To help understand and anticipate the behaviors of weak states and non-state actors, cadets study the effects of non-traditional security issues, appreciate a non-western view of the world, understand the limitations of these actors’ elements of power, and understand how they might assess risk.  Students examine questions such as:


·          What is the nature of security in weak or failing states?

·          How do such states plan for their security?

·          What factors influence their choices?


Cadets address these questions by integrating the literature of comparative politics and other relevant disciplines into their analyses to better understand and anticipate state and non-state behaviors in the changing security environment.


The CP major is designed to develop graduates who are able to critically analyze diverse political systems.  Much of this learning occurs outside of the classroom, through extracurricular activities or Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD) experiences.  Cadets are strongly encourage to pursue opportunities to travel abroad, and the Department of Social Sciences sponsors many international AIADs that offer the chance to work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries such as Thailand, China, Ghana, Tanzania, Morocco, and Costa Rica.


Cadets who wish to write a thesis will take the capstone course, SS486 International Security Strategy, in the fall of their Firstie year as part of a two-course thesis sequence. They will continue work on their theses in the spring of the first class year by taking SS498 Senior Thesis in the Social Sciences during which they will finish writing and defend their theses.