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Module Code: POU44231

Module Name: Topics in German Politics: Party Competition and Government Formation in Germany and in European Comparison 2020-21

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester 1
  • Contact Hours: One 90-minute seminar per week
  • Module Personnel: Dr Jan Berz
  • Office Hours: TBA
  • View a video summary of the module

Learning Aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with an enhanced knowledge and understanding of theories of party competition and government formation – using empirical research on cases in the Federal Republic of Germany and other European cases.


Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • understand different theories of party competition, government formation and governing in coalition governments
  • discuss and explain the changing nature of party competition in Germany and other European countries
  • assess the consequences of party system changes on government formation and examine the influence of coalition agreements on policy-making in cabinets
  • examine the underlying causes of the success of radical right parties and decline of social democratic parties in Germany and other European countries.

Module Content

This seminar will provide students with an enhanced knowledge of theories of party competition (e.g. spatial competition, issue competition) and government formation and with the ability to critically assess and devise empirical studies on these two subjects. We will discuss the changing nature of party competition in Germany and other European cases, and analyse the consequences for the formation of governments. The first part of the module focuses on the German case and examines the behaviour of established political parties in response to the entrance of new competitors: the radical right 'Alternative for Germany' (AfD), the German 'Greens' and the left-wing party 'Die Linke'. Furthermore, this seminar focuses on the attitudinal changes among German voters after the European refugee crisis and subsequent realignment of the German electorate. We will compare these developments to trends in party competition and conflict dimensions in other European countries, like the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and the UK. Apart form that, the module analyses the electoral decline of the German Social Democratic party and success of the radical right AfD in comparison to parties of the same type across Europe.

The second part of the module will focus on theories of government formation (e.g. policy- and office-seeking strategies, minimum-winning and dominant player theories) and empirical studies thereof, as well as, on coalition bargaining processes and the allocation of ministerial portfolios in German cabinets. We will also focus on variation in government formation among the German states. Furthermore, we will focus on coalition agreements and the consequences of such agreements on policy-making and the stability of coalition cabinets in Germany and Europe. Lastly, we will deal with delegation issues and intra-party conflict in coalition governments.

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Visiting Students

This module is open to one-term and full-year visiting students. Incoming Socrates / Erasmus / visiting students are required to fulfil the same module requirements, in terms of coursework and exams, as TCD students. Registering for the module implies acceptance of this.


Recommended Reading List

Detailed readings will be given in the module handout.

Key readings are:

  • Langenbacher, E. and Conradt, D. P. 2017. The German Polity. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Chapters 5 & 6
  • Padgett, S., Paterson, W. E. and Zohlnhöfer, R (Eds). 2014. Developments in German Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Chapters 2, 4 & 5

Students who have not received a basic introduction to German politics are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the German political system and its processes using additional chapters from the two monographs listed above.

  • Green-Pedersen, Christoffer. 2019. The Reshaping of West European Party Politics: Agenda-Setting and Party Competition in Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198842897.001.0001
  • Benoit, Kenneth and Michael Laver. 2006. Party Policy in Modern Democracies. London, New York: Routledge.
  • Strøm, Kaare and Wolfgang C. Müller (Eds). 2008. Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Assessment Details

Essay - weighted 40%

Exam - weighted 60%

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