Course Offerings

Comparative Politics

PSC 1001: Introduction to Comparative Politics

This class is an introduction to the study of comparative politics. Students will learn about politics in a select group of countries as well as some of the major concepts used in the study of comparative politics. The course covers a range of topics, including the formation of the nation-state, democratization, authoritarianism, the role of religion in politics, political institutions and economic development. The course will also discuss some issues in comparative politics that have been important in the policy-making community in recent years, such as state-building, the resource curse and income inequality.

PSC 2330: Comparative Politics of Western Europe

This course is meant to be both an introduction to political life in Western Europe and an introduction to the comparative method of political investigation. European societies demonstrate important similarities of political development as well as significant differences that help us understand the deeper processes at work in all advanced industrial societies. By examining the constellation of forces and experience which characterize political life in Britain, France and Germany, students should be led not only to the discovery of richly varied societies, but to a sensitivity to certain common problems in a troubled world.

PSC 2331: Comparative Politics of Central and Eastern Europe

This course will use a comparative perspective to examine the evolution and fall of communist systems and current political processes and policies in Central and Eastern Europe. Students will pay attention to the way in which different historical experiences, levels of economic development and social structures have been reflected in the political experiences of these countries. The course will not include most of the former Soviet Union or Russia.

Most of the course will focus on developments in the post-communist era. We will discuss the different responses political leaders have given to common problems as they have attempted to create or recreate democratic political systems and market economies and redefine their position in the international arena. Students are advised to organize their thinking about the readings around these questions. In addition to standard texts, the course will also use film and literature to gain insight into political developments in these societies.

PSC 2332: European Integration

The European Union (EU) is a unique international organization, a political project and a political experiment. The main goal of this class is to introduce students to the accomplishments of the EU and help them become critical participants in the vibrant debates over its future. Students will learn the history, structure and politics of the European Union, including the challenges it faces today. The first part of the course will cover the most prominent explanations of the emergence of the European Community; its historical evolution since the end of World War II; and the main institutions of the EU today. It will also focus on competing visions within the EU (e.g., intergovernmentalism vs. federalism). The second part of the course will focus on the most important policy areas of the EU—that is, economic and market integration, economic and monetary union (EMU), Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), including the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). Special attention will be given to the “EU Enlargement” debate. In the final part, the course focuses on transatlantic relations and the EU’s position in the world.

PSC 2334: Global Perspectives on Democracy

How and why has democracy spread across the globe and will this continue? Is democracy a good thing? How can international actors help to encourage the spread of democracy? This course will teach students about various aspects of democracy in a comparative and international context. Students will read about cases of democratization, the major theories on the modes of democratic transition and breakdown, the country-level and international factors that predict democracy and the impact democracy has on war, governance and economic growth.

PSC 2336: State-Society Relations in the Developing World

This course is an historically-informed exploration of enduring issues of state-society relations in the developing world. The course explores and questions concepts whose understanding is important to any consideration of state-society relations (e.g., state-building, nation-building, development, democracy, rights). The initial part of the course is organized chronologically, beginning with consideration of pre-colonial and colonial states, with empirical examples drawn largely from Southeast Asia. The main part of the course is organized by theme and is largely contemporary. The empirical content comes from: Latin America (e.g., Mexico); Africa (e.g., Mali, Cameroon); the Middle East (e.g., Iraq, Syria); South Asia (e.g., Afghanistan, Pakistan); and Southeast Asia (e.g., Burma/Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia). Topics chosen involve issues of state and society, including: what does it take to make a strong state? What roles have/should civil society and religious authority played in state-building and in nation-building? And what are the bases for trans-national and regional states (e.g., the Islamic caliphate)?

PSC 2337: Development Politics

This course examines key questions about the politics and economics of development: why some nations are effectively governed while others are not; why some countries are democratic while others are authoritarian; why the rule of law is respected in some contexts but not in others; why some nations are wealthy, while others remain poor; why poverty rates have declined rapidly in some places, while poverty is deep and pervasive in others. In short, the course seeks to answer fundamental questions about how “good” government arises and how politics shapes economic development, poverty alleviation and human well-being.

These are among the most important questions in the social sciences, and the central goal of this course is to introduce students to the variety of answers that researchers have put forth to answer them. An additional goal of this course is to help students better understand how social scientists try to answer these questions, why answering them can be so challenging, and why the answers we have can sometimes be unsatisfying.

PSC 2338: Nationalism

This is a class on the causes and the political effects of nationalism. The first half of the course is designed to provide students with an understanding of the most prominent explanations of the emergence of nationalism across the world, and the background knowledge and tools with which to evaluate them. The course will discuss the importance of conceptualization in understanding social phenomena and confront terms such as: state, nation, nationalism, patriotism, minorities, identity, ethnicity, religion, class and race. The second half of the course will focus on the effects of nationalism on political identities, patterns of political violence as well as voting and state policies. The class covers cases from around the world. Students will learn how to formulate research questions, develop arguments and evaluate hypotheses.

PSC 2366: Government and Politics of Russia

With thousands of nuclear warheads, some of the world’s largest oil and natural gas reserves, territory spanning 1/7 of the globe’s land mass (and growing?!), the world’s eighth largest economy, 140 million people and a UN Security Council veto, Russia is surely one of the states in which developments can most directly affect the lives, liberties and opportunities of Americans and others around the world. In this course, students will examine the driving forces behind Russian politics, in particular examining how Russia’s political system really works and how its experience relates to that of other countries. Students will have the chance to learn about Russian politics through not only lectures and readings, but also relevant films, in-class discussion and in-class exercises. They will read the works of leading experts (both Russian and non-Russian) and colorful autobiographical material.

PSC 2367: Human Rights

In this course, students will explore the international human rights regime. What are human rights? What is the international human rights regime? Why do states commit to human rights treaties? Do they comply? How are human rights norms enforced? How effective is the international human rights regime?

PSC 2369: Comparative Politics of South Asia

This course introduces the politics of South Asia, a region that is large, complex and full of contradictions. Nearly one out of every four people in the world resides in South Asia. The region is home to one of the most successful cases of democracy in the developing world, but historically has also included military dictatorships and absolute monarchies. Despite the region’s growing economic and political clout, riots, insurgencies, terrorism and the possibility of nuclear conflict persist. South Asia claims several dozen billionaires as well as more than 40% of the world’s poor. The region’s population is divided along linguistic, regional, caste, tribal and religious lines.

The course introduces the politics of this region by identifying what we mean by the term “South Asia” and describing the region’s colonial legacy and contemporary political institutions. It then proceeds to political overviews of the countries in South Asia. Next, the course considers the many ways in which the region’s diversity—whether through caste, religion, language, or gender—has influenced politics. Finally, it concludes by focusing on the many challenges facing South Asia, including corruption, poverty and violence. Although the course covers all South Asian countries, it places greater emphasis on the more populous countries in the region, paying greatest attention to India, followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh.

PSC 2370: Comparative Politics of China and Northeast Asia

This course examines the political institutions and processes of China (including Taiwan), Japan and Korea since World War II. Students will also explore the influence of indigenous traditions and foreign contacts.

PSC 2371: Politics and Foreign Policy of China

This course will serve as an introduction to Chinese politics in two ways: it will introduce the key individuals and events in the People's Republic of China; and it will introduce the main issues that have concerned China's leaders and citizens and the processes by which they have been resolved.

The course will concentrate on the post-1949 period of Chinese domestic and foreign policies, looking at issues of elite politics, policy making, political participation, political change and the causes and consequences of China’s increasing integration into the international community. It will consider changes and continuities between the Maoist era (1949-1976) and the post-Mao era of reform, but will emphasize the more recent period.

PSC 2373: Comparative Politics of Southeast Asia

This course will teach students empirically about the history and politics of Southeast Asia. Students will gain new perspectives on some of the enduring political questions of our time: Are you interested in the fate of constitutional monarchies in the modern era and of the political aspects of monarchal succession? Do you care about how societies that are communally divided can best be governed to avoid violence against ethnic and religious minorities? Are non-democratic political systems that are dominated by single, autocratic parties inherently unstable?

The study of contemporary politics in the countries of Southeast Asia offers answers to every one of these questions—and many more.

PSC 2374: Politics and Foreign Policy of Japan

This course examines issues relating to the development of Japan's foreign policy from the Meiji Period to today. It will examine how major political events, players, norms and institutions have shaped Japanese foreign policy in the modern era and how they continue to do so as the nation confronts a range of diplomatic and security challenges today. By contrast, this course will not delve deeply into Japanese political economy or electoral politics. With that foundation, the course will turn to an empirical analysis of the key foreign policy questions currently under debate in Japan, including the future of its alliance with the United States, its role in the international system, its growing strategic rivalry with China and its epic struggle to overcome its wartime legacy.

PSC 2377: Comparative Politics of the Middle East

The purpose of this course is to provide students with a deeper appreciation for the complexity as well as the importance of the study of the comparative politics Middle East. The course was designed to enable students to increase their domain expertise about the comparative politics of the Middle East and their analytic skills in explaining the underlying causal logic of important political phenomena in the region

PSC 2379: Politics and Foreign Policy of Israel

This class discusses the internal politics and foreign policy of the state of Israel, and the main ongoing debates in the Israeli politics. The first part of the class presents the political, ideological, social and economic foundations of the Israeli state from the very beginning of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century. The second part of the class discusses the main cleavages and political debates that dominate the Israeli politics – the relations between ethnic, national, religious and socio-economic groups in Israel, Israeli national identity, civil-military relations, foreign policy and the debate between Zionist and post-Zionist ideologies. Even though this class is not about the Arab-Israeli or Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, their influence on Israeli politics and society will be addressed.

PSC 2381: Comparative Politics of Middle and Southern Africa

What are the political sources of Africa’s poor economic performance? Why have African states historically been weak and poorly governed? Why have some African countries transitioned to democracy while others have not, and does democracy “matter” for the poor living in African countries? What is ethnic identity and why is it important to politics in many African countries? What explains conflict and political violence? Is the image of Africa as being conflict-ridden, poorly governed and economically backward outdated? That is, are things changing in Africa?

To address these and other questions, this course surveys the major themes, issues and theories in the politics of Africa. The class will discuss broad trends and issues across the continent. At the same time, it will be attuned to the diversity of political, social and economic life in Africa. Where possible, the course will also seek to place Africa’s political and economic trajectory in comparative perspective.

PSC 2383: Comparative Politics of Latin America

This course explores various questions related to the third "democratic wave" that began in Latin America in 1978. Why, overall, has Latin America democratized? Why has democracy fared well in some nations and poorly in others? We focus on four sets of explanations: political culture and history, economic development, international context and political institutions. With respect to economic development, special attention is given to "modernization theory," "dependency theory" and "the resources curse."

The course also examines the performance of Latin America's democracies. Are they incorporating groups that were previously excluded? Are they reducing poverty, inequality and corruption? Resolving violent conflicts? Coping with organized crime? Has it made a difference that a considerable number of women have been presidents?

PSC 2993: Special Topics in Comparative Politics

Special Topics


American Government and Politics

PSC 1002: Introduction to American Politics and Government

This course introduces American government, including its major political institutions and processes as well as the ideas, individuals, groups and events that have shaped them. It will also examine the drama and conflict in American political history, including topics like the Civil Rights Movement, polarization in Congress, the 2016 presidential election and contentious policy issues from gun control to abortion. Students can understand politics today by examining how the American political system developed. Lectures, readings and discussion will address the Constitution, federalism, Congress, the presidency, the judiciary, political parties, the media and public opinion, among other topics. The course will focus on how these features of American government illuminate stories in the news.

PSC 2211: State and Urban Politics

This course introduces undergraduates to politics and policy making in American states and localities. Subnational politics are less visible than national politics, but governments at the state and local levels engage in countless activities that affect our daily lives. Throughout the course, students will identify the commonalities among states and localities as well as the ways in which they vary. They will also consider the advantages and disadvantages of the American federalist system.

PSC 2212: State and Urban Policy Problems

Despite the lack of attention they receive from the media and even from their own constituents, state and local governments play a pivotal and crucial role in the daily lives of all Americans. State and local governments provide a lion's share of the services Americans have come to depend upon, from roads, education, law creation, law enforcement, fire protection, aid for the unemployed, insurance for those with low incomes, legal procedures and due process, electricity and water, to other basic public resources. This course examines how institutional and cultural variations in state and local governments influence how they interact with their constituents, with the federal government and with each other.

PSC 2213: Judicial Politics

This course examines the judicial system and its larger impact on United States political life. The course addresses the main actors, federal and state trial courts, appellate courts and supreme courts and their role in a representative democracy. The role of the judiciary in the American system of government will be analyzed through the ideas of constitutionalism and its relation to the legislative and executive branches. Judicial decision-making will be studied on both the federal and state levels.

PSC 2214: US Constitutional Law and Politics I

This course will cover the powers of federal and state governments under the United States Constitution. The course will primarily address the powers of the Judiciary, Congress and the president. The issues that it will cover include judicial review, justiciability (i.e., the appropriateness of a case for federal court determination), Congress’s enumerated and implied powers, presidential power, separation of powers disputes – with an emphasis on national security issues – and federal-state relations. The course will place significant U.S. Supreme Court cases in their political and historical contexts. When possible, students will study contemporary issues in constitutional law and policy (but this is not a class in current events). For instance, students will analyze the constitutional issues addressed by the various opinions from U.S. Supreme Court Justices in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013).

PSC 2215: US Constitutional Law and Politics II

The course is designed to introduce students to the study of civil liberties as protected by the Constitution of the United States. The emphasis will be upon those rights incorporated into the Bill of Rights and made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, the course will examine freedom of speech and freedom of the press – as well as freedom of freedom of thought, belief and association. In addition, the course will address the right to privacy, the rights of those accused of crimes and the rights and protections secured under the two clauses of the First Amendment relating to religious liberty – the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

PSC 2216: The American Presidency

This course examines the politics of presidential selection, the authority of the contemporary institution, the processes of formulating public policy and the influence of personality on performance in office. The course begins by examining the American Presidency's foundation in the U.S. Constitution, including its explicit and inherent constitutional powers. It then considers presidential selection as a means to understand the modern American Presidency. Particular attention is given to the 2016 presidential nomination campaign and general election campaign as case studies in this discussion. Additionally, presidential power and leadership is a theme that runs throughout the course. The future of these concepts, as well as contemporary challenges facing the Presidency and proposals for reforming the Presidency, are discussed during the course.

PSC 2217: Executive Branch Politics

The purpose of this course is to understand the interconnections between the enactment of a federal law and its implementation. The course provides a basic understanding of the role, structure and functions of the U.S. Executive Branch. Current events offer an opportunity to demonstrate a variety of roles the executive branch plays and its interaction with Congress and state and local governments. In order to provide a context for understanding these fundamental arrangements, the course will be examining the executive branch, including the bureaucracy, in three aspects of carrying out legislation: dealing with Congress, implementing federal policy and grant programs and rule making. The course will focus on implementing federal policies through presidential actions and congressional reactions, cooperation and coercion of states and the adoption of regulations.

Students will examine how the three branches interface when developing and implementing federal programs. They will also explore the interplay between the federal government and state governments in implementing federal policy.

PSC 2218: Legislative Politics

As registered by Gallup in recent opinion polls, fewer than one in five Americans approve of the performance of the U.S. Congress. Critics call recent Congresses dysfunctional, even in light of enactment of a major tax cut in December 2016. Entering the second year of unified Republican control and President Trump, our eyes this semester will be on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue (and sometimes the Supreme Court): How successful will Republicans be in advancing their agenda before the midterm elections in 2018 and what role will Democrats play in the opposition?

This course will explore and analyze electoral and institutional forces that shape congressional elections and that drive the capacity of Congress and the president to solve major public problems. The electoral context sets the stage for our study of Congress— the oldest popularly elected legislature in the world and the most powerful one.

PSC 2219: US Political Parties and Politics

This course provides a comprehensive look at the emergence and evolution of political parties in the United States. Students will explore the constitutional, legal and historical factors that contributed to the development of political parties as well as examine the functions they perform, such as coalition building, participating in elections, organizing government and setting policy. The course will also examine the internal operations of the parties, the importance of third party movements and the challenges and opportunities facing political parties in the modern era.

PSC 2220: Public Opinion

In a democracy, the views of citizens are expected to guide government activity and the creation of public policy. That makes public opinion a central concern in the study of democratic politics. This course will endeavor to answer a variety of questions related to U.S. public opinion: Where do political attitudes come from, and how much do people really know about politics anyway? Do people make political judgments on the basis of their material self-interest, or do more abstract values shape their attitudes? Do Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow and their media ilk influence public opinion? If so, how so? Is the American public polarized? What explains people’s views of war, climate change and other prominent issues? And finally, what is the connection between mass opinion, on one hand, and public policy outcomes, on the other? Does the government listen to the governed?

PSC 2221: US Political Participation

This course will examine the various forms of American political participation in electoral and government politics and their effects on the political process.

PSC 2222: Science, Technology and Politics

This course will explore the multiple impacts of scientific and technological developments on political systems. Students will discuss public policies for the support, use and control of science and technology.

PSC 2224: Issues in Domestic Public Policy

Topic varies. This course will examine the decision-making process and the substance of various issues in domestic public policy. Courses will focus on areas such as crime, economics, education, energy, the environment, poverty and health.

PSC 2225: Women and Politics

This course will examine the role and impact of women in politics, including women's interests and access to the political system. It will explore specific public policy issues with a particular focus on the role of women.

PSC 2228: Media, Politics and Government

This course focuses on the interaction between the news media and the policy and political process. Students will explore the workings of all the major players in this interaction, from the mainstream media and emerging web-based outlets to the White House, Congress, lobbyists, interest groups and political strategists. How do these institutions make decisions? How do they react to outside forces and events? How do they interact with each other? And how does that interaction impact public opinion, legislation and political campaigns? The course does this through a series of case studies that are happening right in front of us and unfolding during the semester.

PSC 2229: Media and Politics

The media are an essential part of American politics. News organizations are often considered the “fourth branch” of government, and political observers from the earliest days of the republic have noted the indispensable role of the mass media in a democratic society. Even before the signing of the Constitution, the seminal debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists took place in newspapers. News outlets, moreover, have a long tradition as agents of partisan warfare, promoting and perpetuating party loyalties and voter turnout in the 19th and early 20th centuries – and now again in the 21st. In 2016, the media were central to debates over the rise of Donald Trump. It is impossible to understand American politics without understanding the media.

This course provides an overview of the media’s role in American political life. It will focus on several broad themes: the relationship between the media and government; changes to the media environment in the last two decades (Twitter! Fake news!); the process of news-making and how it shapes the content of political news; and the effects of the media on public opinion and voting behavior. Many class discussions and readings will be devoted to scholarship in political science and communication. Special attention will also be paid to the news we encounter every day.

PSC 2992: Special Topics in American Politics

Special Topics


International Politics, Law and Organizations

PSC 1003 or IAFF 1005: Introduction to International Relations

This course is an introduction to the causes, character and consequences of conflict and cooperation among states in security and economic affairs. The course is not purely theoretical, historical, or about current events. Rather, the approach taken here is that theory is necessary to make sense of historical and contemporary events, but also that theory is not very useful in the absence of knowledge of the past and present. Therefore, the course begins with an introduction to international relations theory, but thereafter proceeds in a chronological fashion, providing the historical background necessary for understanding contemporary international problems and highlighting how different theories help explain the historical cases.

PSC 2439: International Political Economy

This course is designed to introduce you to the study of international political economy. By the end of the course, students should have a fundamental understanding of the major theoretical approaches and key conceptual and substantive issues (including the politics of trade, monetary relations, finance, economic development and globalization) in the field of international political economy.

With deepening globalization in recent years, the interplay between states and markets has become a central force in shaping international economic affairs. Faced with growing pressures from a global market, states are confronted with the challenge of providing social safeguards to their citizens. Globalization refers to a wide range of issues within trade, finance and development processes: including the growth and distribution of wealth, basic human security and cultural norms. While globalization can clearly be a force for social and economic development, it also presents several risks to human security and well being, ranging from national-level job losses and financial contagion to a terrorist resurgence and global emissions spikes. This course focuses heavily on both globalization’s opportunities and challenges by examining the complexities of governing in an interdependent world.

PSC 2440: Theories of International Politics

This course examines the intersection between international relations theory and public policy in the international domain. It also explores the conceptual premises of alternative theories for explaining international phenomena as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses as explanatory frameworks. 

PSC 2442: International Organizations

This course explores the role international organizations (IOs) play in world politics. The central questions the course will ask about these organizations are: why were they created and by whom? What is their mission today and how has that mission changed over time? What tools of influence do IOs have to accomplish their goals and, conversely, what are the limitations on their effectiveness? What are the major challenges facing these IOs today that will shape politics in consequential ways?

The course begins by reviewing several contending perspectives on the importance and utility of international organizations. Students discuss why states would want to set up these organizations in the first place and how, theoretically, we should expect them to behave. Students also investigate sources of dysfunction and pathology. The course then examines the historical development, activities and performance of specific institutions in the major policy areas of security, trade, finance, economic development, environmental protection and humanitarian assistance. The course will examine organizations of many types—big flagship intergovernmental IOs like the UN, but also non-governmental organizations, activist networks and multinational corporations—all of which are organized across borders and have big transnational effects.

PSC 2444: Public International Law

This course examines the essential principles and concepts of public international law through case analysis and with reference to political factors.

PSC 2446: US Foreign Policy

The goal of this course is to familiarize students with the process, key institutions and other actors that shape US foreign policy, as well as the tools used to implement this strategy and limitations on those tools. By the end of the course, students should be able to analyze key components of past, present and potential future U.S. foreign policy strategy. The course will focus on analysis of current foreign policy goals, the U.S. policy-making process and the policy-implementing tools available to the U.S. government. Students will apply their knowledge through participation in simulation exercises based on case studies and the writing of policy decision memos. Although the course discusses historical cases, it is not a chronological history of U.S. foreign policy. The primary focus is on current U.S. policy.

PSC 2449: International Security Politics

The goal of this course is to educate students about the relationship between defense policy and foreign policy. The course will focus on the nexus between national security and diplomacy in the context of the American experience. Students will learn about the definitions, concepts, organizations and procedures that impact on America’s regional and global strategy. They will understand the decision making process in defense and foreign policies. Students will analyze the different strategic options available for the United States in the post-Cold War era. The course will investigate the link between international security politics and America’s military-foreign policies. Students will explore how America strives for a strategy and the policy formulations that help materialize it.

PSC 2461: European-Atlantic Relations

This course explores the international politics of the North Atlantic area, the European Union and U.S.-European relations.

PSC 2468: Post-Soviet Foreign Policy

This course examines the external problems and policies of Russia and the other successor states of the former USSR. Special attention is paid to the Baltics, Ukraine and the southern rim of the former Soviet Union.

PSC 2475: International Relations of East Asia

The course briefly assesses the historical dynamics of the region and the evolution of salient relationships since World War II and then provides systematic review of developments since the Cold War. It treats how relations among regional countries have been affected by such pertinent recent issues as tension in the Korean peninsula, the rise of China, Japan’s future, Taiwan and territorial disputes along the rim of eastern and southeastern Asia, regional multilateralism, terrorism, economic globalization, energy security and climate change. The issues are assessed with a focus on relations among East Asian governments including relations involving the longstanding leading power in the region, the United States.

PSC 2476: The Arab-Israeli Conflict

This course focuses on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, its history and current state. The class begins with the history of the Jewish and Arab nationalism movements, surveys the situation in Palestine under the British Mandate and the after the establishment of the State of Israel up to the peace process, its collapse and recent political developments on the ground. The course will introduce and discuss the events, internal and external actors, concepts and theories that will help the students to better understand one of world’s most well-known, complicated and protracted conflicts.

PSC 2478: International Relations of the Middle East

This course examines the international relations of the Middle East, focusing on questions of how states developed, what drives conflict and how the regional order has shifted over time. The course draws on theories of International Relations and applies them to the politics of the Middle East. The course analyzes the interplay of levels of analyses, with specific attention to the roles of ideology, identity and the interaction between domestic and international politics, in the formulation of foreign policy. The course analyzes the development of the “nation-state” system in the Middle East and examines the nature of transnational identities and ideologies. Students will consider a number of frameworks for understanding the region’s international politics and Great Power involvement, roughly characterized as Realist, Liberal and Constructivist approaches, but the course will always focus on how these approaches can help us understand real-world decisions and outcomes.

PSC 2482: African International Politics

Most of sub-Saharan Africa only became independent in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The United States devoted little diplomatic attention to the continent until the mid-1950s. Only with African independence did the major diplomatic powers begin to focus on the region and it was at this time that political scientists first seriously began to study the continent.

Students will learn about Africa's emergence on the international political scene during and after World War II. The course will examine the ideas and politices of John F. Kennedy, the first American President to be interested in African affairs. It will also cover the continent's political and economic decline, Africa's role in the Cold War during the 1970s (particularly in reference to Angola, Zaire and Ethiopia), the policies of the World Bank and IMF in sponsoring structural adjustment and economic liberalization in the late 1980s and 1990s and the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

During the second half of the course, students will explore some of the topics and crises that political scientists and foreign policy analysts of Africa are discussing today.

PSC 2484: International Relations of Latin America

This course focuses on the trajectory of the relationships among the Latin American countries and the United States. First, it will explore the tensions between Latin American countries and the United States during the Cold War; we ask if similar tensions will erupt if the Trump administration seeks to implement its campaign positions towards the region. Second, the course considers the evolution of power in the hemisphere in the twenty-first century; we assess the roles of China and of possible “middle powers”—Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and (until recently) Venezuela. Third, students will discuss whether or not Latin American countries and the U.S. are achieving goals on key issues in the hemispheric agenda: border stability, economic development, the control of drugs and organized crime, democratization, climate change and immigration.

PSC 2994: Special Topics in International Politics

Special Topics. 


Research Methods

PSC 2101: Scope and Methods of Political Science

Why did Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election? Would stricter gun laws reduce the incidence and severity of mass shootings? Do economic sanctions against foreign governments, such as North Korea, work? You have undoubtedly debated questions such as these with your family, friends, colleagues and fellow students.

In this course, students will develop skills designed to answer such questions, thereby enhancing their understanding of the world of politics and public policy. The course does not focus on any one specific topic in political science, but rather on how to study these institutions and processes. The course cuts across the political science curriculum, providing students with an introduction to concepts and tools that are applicable in other courses, as well as at work and in everyday life. The course covers a variety of specific topics, from fundamental concepts such as hypotheses and variables to advanced tools such as multiple regression. It also provides students with opportunities to put these concepts and tools into practice, as well as exposure to contemporary examples of political science research and interpretations of research and current events.

PSC 2104: Methods of Public Policy Analysis

This course builds on Scope and Methods of Political Science, PSC 2101. Students will learn to work with data in order to examine political questions.


Political Thought

PSC 2105: Major Issues of Western Political Thought I

This course surveys leading figures and themes of Western political thought in the “ancient” world, i.e. the era of classical Greco-Roman civilization. It begins by introducing the historical setting of the Greek city-state (polis), and democratic Athens in particular, through works by Sophocles and Thucydides. The course then explores in closer detail the political theories that the two foundational figures of the Western philosophical canon—Plato and Aristotle—developed in this setting. The last part of the course moves forward, focusing on the age of empire that followed the decline of the polis and shift attention to Rome. Both political and religious transformations are considered in this new context. Students will use works by Polybius, Cicero and Seneca to study the transmission and refashioning of classical political philosophy as the Roman Republic gave way to the Roman Empire. Finally, students will study Saint Augustine’s City of God to explore the impact of Christianity’s rise on political philosophy. While giving a broad historical introduction to a varied set of figures and works, the course also highlights thematic questions that develop across the works students read, and continue to resonate today: questions of duty, power and justice as these relate to the public domain of political activity and obligations, and to the tensions that arise between this domain and the claims of family, philosophy and faith.

PSC 2106: Major Issues of Western Political Thought II

This course introduces modern Western political thought, from the early 16th to the mid-19th century. During the three and a half centuries the course covers, the concerns, claims and mode of argument of political theorists changed dramatically, evolving in interaction with sweeping cultural, economic and political changes. The course follows this evolution by concentrating on four historical periods, considering debates and disagreements as well as consensus. While offering a historical survey, the course also pursues continuous themes through the ages studied. In particular, students will consider the origins and development of distinct traditions of political thought including republicanism, liberalism, conservatism and socialism.

PSC 2107: 20th Century Political Thought

This class in the field of political theory (also called political philosophy) introduces students to a select number of themes and concerns in recent political thought. Students will be encouraged to investigate, analyze and evaluate the ideas and arguments they encounter to help them better understand current political conditions.

PSC 2108: Freedom and Equality

The history of Western political thought is full of attempts to explain, in different ways, the connection between freedom and equality. In this class, students will examine how these ideals have played out in the Anglo-American tradition and thereby come to a deeper understanding of their own thinking on freedom and equality. The course will also look at contemporary issues that seem to force the ideals of freedom and equality into conflict and ask how traditional political thinkers might resolve them.

PSC 2110: American Political Thought

The objective of this course is to introduce students to the varieties of American political thought from the inception of the Republic to the present time. Students will also analyze the consequences of these political points of view in terms of contemporary American issues.

PSC 2120: Freedom in US Pop Culture

America was founded on the premise of providing freedom to its people. But what, exactly, is “freedom”? Is it doing what you want or is it participation in politics? Is it about escaping domination or does it require sharing power? These questions have been debated in America since the founding and continue today; this class will examine varied answers to these questions provided by American thought and popular culture. Analyzing political theory, public speeches, news articles and Hollywood film, the course will explore how concepts of freedom and anxieties over freedom’s possibility take cultural form. While the course may not settle the question of what freedom is or how to produce it, students will learn both to appreciate the complexity of freedom and to critically engage its operations in American public life.

PSC 2991: Special Topics in Political Thought

Special Topics.


Pro-Seminar (3192W)

Examination of selected problems in political science. May be repeated once for credit. Includes a significant engagement in writing as a form of critical inquiry and scholarly expression to satisfy the WID requirement. Restricted to juniors and seniors in the political science program.

Fall 2024 offerings include:

Ethics and World Politics

What makes a war “just”? Are people entitled to their wealth? Are there moral duties to help people in other countries? Do we have obligations to future generations and if so why and what are they? These are old questions with new relevance in today’s politics. In this class we will use classic arguments about these issues to explore contemporary ethical challenges of war, poverty, genocide, immigration, human rights, gender issues, and climate justice. Our goal will be to learn from the past to think about politically possible routes to ethically better futures.

Power & Violence in America

Crime and violence represent major challenges in many countries across the Americas. Latin America remains the world’s most violent region, plagued by an unprecedented wave of organized criminal violence, while the United States stands out for its high levels of gun violence among high-income countries. This course provides an introduction to the political causes and consequences of crime and violence in the Americas. The substantive focus is on the historical roots, policy decisions, and political processes and institutions that shape contemporary patterns of crime and violence in the region. Through an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating insights from political science, economics, sociology, and criminology, students will engage with cutting-edge research to understand these issues. Students will become familiar with a variety of methodological approaches used in the systematic study of criminal violence and develop skills to think critically about relevant scholarly and policy work.

Local News & American Democracy

This class focuses on the ongoing local news crisis in the United States. Over the last 20 years, thousands of local newspapers have closed, and virtually every other remaining paper has cut its staff. We will consider the importance of local media to American democracy; how the internet has reshaped the market for local political news; the current difficulties facing local journalism; how the loss of local news affects civic engagement and political attitudes; and potential ways to revitalize local journalism.


In this class we are going to look at past and current examples of leadership in the hopes of learning some timeless lessons that will prove to be invaluable in whatever career you choose to pursue.

Because this course is offered by the Political Science Department our focus is on political leadership and primarily recent American political leadership.

Leaders do not operate in a vacuum. To learn from a leader’s actions you need to understand the context in which the leader operated. For that reason, we will be discussing leadership in relationship to a number of issues dealing with a range of subjects including health care, immigration, climate change, just and pre-emptive wars, drug policies, criminal justice and prison reform, race relations, education, the role of the media and especially social media, Islam, and American foreign policy with respect to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and both north and sub-Saharan Africa.

We will also examine leadership as it relates to the traditional American belief in a vibrant free enterprise system and how that squares with crony capitalism, income inequality, inadequate job creation, the role government has in fostering innovation and economic development, and in managing, regulating and taxing economic enterprise.

Criminal Violence, the State, and Society

Organized criminal groups often use violence and intimidation to enforce their dominance and settle disputes, exposing the inability of the state both to retain the monopoly of violence and to maximize social welfare. While their presence may be unsurprising in low-capacity states, such groups also affect industrialized countries with democratic institutions and institutionalized legal systems. This course offers an in-depth exploration into the complex world of criminal violence, its origins, dynamics, and the varied responses from state and societal actors across the globe. Through a comprehensive review of recent literature, we will examine the political, economic, and social roots of organized crime and the multifaceted consequences of their activities. We will cover cases from regions as diverse as Latin America, Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to presenting and discussing relevant literature, students will complete a short paper or research design addressing questions related to cooperative crime-state arrangements, the diversification of criminal activities, the role of protection networks, the militarization of policing strategies, and the political and economic impacts of organized crime, among other topics.

Money & Influence in Politics around the World

In a recent work, Francis Fukuyama, the author of The End of History who heralded liberal democracy as the final form of government, argued that if large ideological struggles were the defining issues of the 20th century, then corruption will be that of the 21st century. Seemingly every country in the world is grappling with the challenge of curbing influence of money on governance. Citizens in both developed and developing countries alike are growing increasingly concerned that political decisions are not reflecting the public will but rather the private interests of the powerful. Over the semester, this class will investigate the role of money and private influence in policymaking from a variety of theoretical and empirical perspectives. First, we will look at the concept of pluralism and sources of power and formation of preferences of different actors, such as business and other interest groups, in the policymaking environment. Next, we will review strategies of influence, discussing not only the mechanisms by which actors exert power but also the challenges they face in achieving their aims. Finally, the course will address more normative issues, such as problems concerning representation, political participation, corruption, and potential reform options. Although the readings will partly draw from the vast body of work on the United States, this course will also examine questions of collective action, political access, and elite behavior in countries around the world.

Past examples have included:


  • Advanced Arab Israeli Conflict
  • American Political Campaigns
  • Authoritarianism and Ethnic Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Biology and Politics
  • British Politics
  • China's Transformations
  • Chinese Foreign Policy
  • Constitution: History & Ideas
  • Development Challenges in Africa
  • Ethnic Conflict and Peacebuilding
  • Fantasy and International Relations
  • Health Care Policy
  • Identity: Political Conflict and Change
  • Immigration, Integration and Identity
  • Intergenerational Policy
  • Israeli Politics and Society
  • Israeli Relations
  • Korean Politics
  • Leadership
  • Legislative Politics
  • Liberalism, Democracy and Empire


  • Madison and the Constitution
  • Mobilization & Protest: Comparative Perspectives Numbers and Experiments
  • Money & Influence in Politics Around the World
  • Political Conflict and Change
  • Political Violence
  • Politics and History of the Holocaust
  • Politics of Immigration
  • Politics of Inequality
  • Politics of Justice
  • Politics of Regulation
  • Protest and Participation in East Asia
  • Religion and Politics
  • Role of Congressional Leadership
  • State Society Relations in East Asia
  • Supreme Course Decision-Making
  • Theories of Identity and Difference
  • Thinking about Thinking and Politics
  • US-Israeli Relations
  • Value Conflict in Politics
  • Women, Politics and the Media

3500 Advanced Topics in Political Science

Topics vary by semester. May be repeated for credit provided the topic differs. Students must have completed four PSC courses at the 2000 level in addition to the prerequisite courses prior to enrollment. Prerequisites: (PSC 1001 and PSC 1002; and PSC 1003 or IAFF 1005) or (PSC 1011 and PSC 1012W); and (PSC 2101 or PSC 2102).

Fear and Politics

Modern America is often plagued by anxiety, panic, and fear. Political scares, education, religion, or international crises quickly grow, absorb public attention, and then fade. This course examines the causes of political panics, the political agents who profit from them, and their consequences for modern American society and politics.

Constitutional Interpretation

What does the U.S. Constitution mean? What is the correct way to derive its meaning? Who has the final say, over time, on what it means? The course will delve into compelling debates and theories of constitutional interpretation (e.g., originalism v. living constitutionalism), judicial review, judicial supremacy, popular constitutionalism, precedent and legal doctrine, and unitary executive theory. Importantly, we will apply these theories, insights, and arguments to constitutional issues, cases, and controversies that form the basis of important debates in American politics. Students will engage in simulations of oral arguments arguing their favored theory as applied to a legal issue. To see last year's syllabus, click here:

Emerging Technologies, AI, and International Politics

Rapid developments in new technologies have the potential to transform the international landscape. At the same time, the international environment also shapes the development of new technologies. This course examines the interactions between emerging technologies and global politics. It first introduces students to broad debates about the effects of technology on politics. Then it surveys the intersection between technological change and various outcomes in international politics, including economic statecraft, the rise and fall of great powers, social movements, and war. Throughout the course, we focus on the global implications of artificial intelligence.

Politics of Crime & Violence in the Americas

Crime and violence represent major challenges in many countries across the Americas. Latin America remains the world’s most violent region, plagued by an unprecedented wave of organized criminal violence, while the United States stands out for its high levels of gun violence among high-income countries. This course provides an introduction to the political causes and consequences of crime and violence in the Americas. The substantive focus is on the historical roots, policy decisions, and political processes and institutions that shape contemporary patterns of crime and violence in the region. Through an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating insights from political science, economics, sociology, and criminology, students will engage with cutting-edge research to understand these issues. Students will become familiar with a variety of methodological approaches used in the systematic study of criminal violence and develop skills to think critically about relevant scholarly and policy work.