Comparative Presidential Behavior (graduate and undergraduate). Fall 2019. CMU, Pittsburgh.

Presidents receive universal attention for good reasons. As the most powerful politicians in the 49 countries that they govern, their behavior and decisions have enormous consequences. Given the vast amounts of energy dedicated to understanding presidents, one would expect that many questions about presidential behavior and performance have been answered. However, there is still limited understanding of how presidents matter. In this course, we address the pressing question of how presidents matter from a multidisciplinary and comparative perspective. We will mainly incorporate insights from political science and psychology, but also from other disciplines that study leadership (e.g., management and history). In the first section, we will discuss theories that have addressed leadership from different disciplines and methodological approaches. In the second section, we will immerse in the comparative characteristics of the presidency, and examine the findings of classical and novel research on presidential behavior. Throughout the course, a permanent question will be up to what point the events under discussion are a result of the unique characteristics of political leaders, or the broader social, political, and economic context in which they perform.

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