Caribbean Political Systems

Thesis Topics

Course Outline
Class Schedule
Some Readings
Thesis Topics
Examination 2005
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Thesis topics for graduates

Very often students grope around for research topics for too long. An early decision gives them time to gestate, plan, discuss, and use their classes to build towards their final research. Here are some ideas.

1. Since 2005, the PNP and JLP have elected new party leaders, officers, and constituency representatives. This is an opportune time to study the process of internal party democracy to test the influence of delegates versus 'party bosses'.

2. The PNP has elected a woman as party president, surprising to some in a patriarchal, male-dominated society. Why did this happen and what difference is female leadership expected to make to leadership style, the feminist agenda, and 'populist' versus 'intellectual' leadership?

3. Commonwealth Caribbean countries are regarded as two-party democracies, but in some, the larger countries especially, patterns of one-party dominance have emerged. What does this say about opposition parties and their ability to adjust to new challenges?

4. Politics in Guyana occurs in the space between 'power sharing' and 'inclusive democracy'. How does the search for this space reflect politics in an ethnic democracy and what does it say about competive democracy generally in the Caribbean?

5. Jamaica and Barbados have both adopted social partnerships but these reflect different dynamics in these societies. What do their experience say about the tensions between social groups in the politics of partnership in these countries.

6. Effective governance depends on effective law-making. The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce complains in its study that Jamaica's legislature is too slow to pass vital legislation. This raises the question, how does a Bill become law and what does this tell us about the process of effective democratic governance?

7. "We want justice" is a cry often heard in Jamaica. Is community policing a model that can bring justice to citizen-police relations and is it an important building block for justice and community empowerment in the new community development paradigm?

8. On the one hand we hear that the Prime Minister in Westminster systems of government has too much power (prime ministerial dictatorship). On the other hand, we hear about consensual leadership (P.J. Patterson, Portia Simpson Miller). What is the true picture of prime ministerial leadership in anglo-governance?

9. What is the role of the Cabinet Office in public sector mdoernization and the Cabinet Secretary in administrative and executive government? Have they contributed to improved democratic governance?

10. The Jamaica Social Policy Evaluation Unit (JASPEV) seeks to complement good governance by measuring progress in both the quality of life and the quality of governance. How does it do so; what is the importance of tracking governance; and what results has it achieved?

11. Since 2003, Jamaica has had a rare opportunity for power sharing/shared governance with the JLP controlling local government and the PNP controlling central government. What degree of cooperation has existed and has this period changed the governing culture of representatives at both levels?

12. Since 2003, the Mayor of Portmore has been the first and only directly elected mayor in Jamaica. What has been the exprience of this form of more direct community-based democracy? 

13. The national or central executives of the PNP and JLP are their active executive authorities. They have never been studied. What might a survey of their values, attitudes, and beliefs about major issues relating to the state of the nation and national politics be?

14. The adversarial thesis of politics has probably obscured important structures of bipartisanship in Jamaican politics. What are these and what agreements have they succeeded in achieving that have pre-empted controversy and conflict?

15. Notions of 'representatives of the state' often ignore the role of state boards. Are they a power elite? What is their social background, power and influence, and how are they chosen? What do their characteristics, competence, and accountability tell us about democracy and governance?

16. Universities are often thought to be 'hotbeds of radicalism'. How 'radical' are the beliefs of students of the University of the West Indies?

17.  There are two images of globalization, that which is thought to impose programmes and disciplines on societies, and that which promises partnership. In Jamaica or any Caribbean country's case, what evidence is there that, at least on some important issues, self-governing ideas and initiatives prevail over external perspectives.

18. What national policies imply or demand a role for communities, and what new and practical roles can communities acquire in promised models of community development.

19. Study the roles of ministers and agencies most responsible for economic development in order to provide the basis for understanding the strengths and failures of a 'politics of development'. 

20. To what extent is the performance of parliamentarians a reflection of problems to do with the management of power and responsibility considering their multiple roles as legislators, constituency leaders, party functionaries, and often junior ministers or cabinet ministers, not to mention family responsibilities. What structural-functional differentiations and specializations might be needed to disentangle these overlapping roles? 

NB: Very often we study politics from the outside. We need to get inside the parties and government structure to understand the way the political and governmental systems work; and we need to do field studies that provide the perspectives of those people in the system as well.



Things to Start Thinking About

1. Read the M.SC Thesis Guidelines available at the Office of Graduate Studies.
2. Use your classes to:

(a) Develop a research problem
(b) Develop a theoretical framwework for that problem
(c) Understand the literature on that problem
(d) Plan a research methodology for studying the problem

3. Think about your research proposal, which should be about five pages covering (a) to (d) above.
4. Submit your proposal in good time for the Department to select your supervisor and for you to get started in the summer to complete by December.

The Department and Faculty wish to publish good theses and make them available for teaching, policy reforms, and information to the general public. Set your standards high. Get published. This will set up your reputation for a promising career.

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Department of Government
University of the West Indies