Courses

PSCI 110(F, S) LEC Introduction to American Politics: Power, Politics, and Democracy in America

Begun as an experiment over 200 years ago, the United States has grown into a polity that is simultaneously praised and condemned, critiqued and mythologized, modeled by others and remodeled itself. This course introduces students to the dynamics and tensions that have animated the American political order and that have nurtured these conflicting assessments. Topics include the founding of the American system and the primary documents (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers), the primary institutions of national government then and now (Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court), and the politics of policy-making in the United States. We study structures, processes, key events, and primary actors that have shaped American political development. In investigating these topics, we explore questions such as these: How is power allocated? What produces political change? Is there is a trade-off between democratic accountability and effective governance? How are tensions between liberty and equality resolved? Do the institutions produce good policies, and how do we define what is good? [ more ]

PSCI 120(F, S) LEC Introduction to International Relations: World Politics

This course provides an overview of the central theories, concepts and debates in international relations. Students evaluate competing answers to central questions in the field: What are the implications of an anarchic political structure for order and justice in world politics? What are the primary causes of international war and conflict? Are there necessary conditions for peace and stability? What role do moral and legal considerations play in world politics? How has globalization changed the way that the international system operates? [ more ]

PSCI 130(F, S) SEM Introduction to Political Theory

Is politics war by other means? Is it merely a practical way to meet our needs? Or is it, rather, the activity through which citizens pursue justice and the good life? And what is justice? How can it be established and secured? Where does it apply? To whom? What are the powers and obligations of citizenship? Who decides? On what basis? Political theory addresses questions such as these as it investigates the fundamental problems of how people can, do, and ought to live together. The questions have sparked controversy since the origins of political thinking; the answers remain controversial now. This course addresses the controversies, drawing examples from struggles over such matters as racism, colonialism, revolution, political founding, economic order, and the politics of sex and gender, while focusing on major works of ancient, modern, and contemporary theory by such authors as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, Beauvoir, Arendt, Fanon, Rawls, Foucault, and Young. Themes may include power, authority, freedom, justice, equality, democracy, neoliberalism, feminism, and violence, though the emphases will vary from semester to semester. [ more ]

PSCI 140(F) LEC Introduction to Comparative Politics

The comparative study of politics looks mainly at what goes on inside countries, the domestic dynamics of power, institutions, and identities. This class considers analytic concepts central to the study of politics generally--the state, legitimacy, democracy, authoritarianism, clientelism, nationalism--to comprehend political processes and transformations in various parts of the world. Themes include: Where does political power come from? Does economic development drive political change, or the other way around? What is democracy, how does it arise, and how might it fail? How does international war leave its mark on domestic politics? How do religion and politics interact? Materials include classic texts, recent theoretical works, journalism, commentary, fiction, and a variety of sources related to current events around the world. [ more ]

PSCI 146(S) LEC The world of wealth and work: An introduction to the politics of capitalism

From the Googleplex to derelict factories in Ohio, from our personal lives to the halls of high politics, from the sugar fields of Brazil to the corner offices of Wall Street, we are all navigating the same system: capitalism. This course will give students a map. Drawing on political science and political economy, we will ask fundamental questions about capitalism: Why are some parts of the world so much richer than others? Is sustainable economic growth possible? Why do some jobs pay more than others? Why do some things cost money but other things are free? What is the relationship between economic exploitation and race, gender, and other identities? Why are we working all the time? Can a democratic society have a capitalist economy? Students will explore these questions and engage themes central to the study of capitalism, including financialization, intersectionality, racial order, neoliberalism, class, contradiction, and accumulation. The course is designed for first-year students, especially those who have taken one or fewer political science courses. [ more ]

PSCI 155(F) SEM Visionaries, Pragmatists, and Demagogues: An Introduction to Leadership Studies

This course introduces students to the major issues in the study of leadership, a central concept in the study of politics. The first part of the course will examine key theoretical problems that have occupied political thinkers from Plato and Confucius to Machiavelli and the American framers: What makes a leader successful? What kinds of regimes best serve to encourage good leaders and to constrain bad ones? What is the relationship between leadership and morality-can the ends justify the means? What functions does leadership fill, and what challenges do leaders face, in modern democratic states? The second half of the course will look at leaders in action, charting the efforts of politicians, intellectuals, and grassroots activists to shape the worlds in which they live. Case studies will include antislavery politics and the American Civil War; the global crises of the 1930s and 1940s; and the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to active class participation, students will be expected to write a 5-page proposal for a research paper on a leader of their choice, a 10-page research paper, an in-class midterm exam, and a cumulative, in-class final exam. [ more ]

PSCI 158 SEM Power to the People?

Last offered Fall 2022

Popular unrest. The resurgence of authoritarian styles and practices in politics. Democratic collapse. Political tumult around the globe in recent decades has put elites, and others, on edge as young democracies have collapsed and longer standing ones appear to be stumbling. In the United States, basic stability and democratic expansion have been accompanied by increasing citizen distrust of institutions, growing social divisions, contestation over basic citizenship rights, and political violence. The pandemic, related economic distress, social protests and insurrection have only sharpened the precarious state of U.S. democracy. Acute observers have long seen the U.S. as a harbinger of the promise and peril of modern democracies. What is the fate of democracy in the U.S.? What does that portend, if anything, for other democracies, or for the general principle of popular sovereignty--the idea that the people govern themselves? We investigate these and related questions, primarily through active, project-based group research activities, guided by political theory and empirical research in the social sciences. Our investigation will include substantial class-time collaboration with a similarly structured undergraduate course taught by a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University and may include an optional weekend research trip. [ more ]

PSCI 160(F) TUT Refugees in International Politics

Globally, refugees seem to create, and be caught up in, chronic crisis. This course evaluates how this can be--how a crisis can be chronic, and for whom this chronic crisis is a solution. We investigate who refugees are, in international law and popular understanding; read refugee stories; examine international and national laws distinguishing refugees from other categories of migrants; evaluate international organizations' roles in managing population displacement; look at the way that images convey stereotypes and direct a type of aid; consider refugee camps in theory and example; and reflect on what exclusion, integration, and assimilation mean to newcomers and host populations. In whose interest is the prevailing system? Who might change it, and how? [ more ]

PSCI 161 LEC America and the World

Last offered Spring 2021

This course will help students understand the US role in the world. US wealth and military power force its leaders to make choices that no other leaders in the world confront. Students will learn to evaluate the decisions that US leaders have made on a wide range of difficult foreign policy issues, including: rising Chinese power; Russian moves in Ukraine; nuclear proliferation to Iran; terrorist threats; humanitarian disasters in Syria and Libya; and long-term challenges like climate change. We will not only describe American involvement in various international issues but also seek to understand the reasons why the US perhaps should or should not be involved, and we will see why such careful reasoning only sometimes gains traction in actual US foreign policy debates. Finally, we will assess whether US foreign policy decisions are coherent - that is, whether the US can be said to follow a "grand strategy." By the end of the course, students will develop their ability to think about foreign policy issues, improving their ability to participate in public life as engaged citizens. [ more ]

PSCI 162 LEC America First? The Trump Era and the Future of World Politics

Last offered Spring 2020

"America First" was a slogan and a perspective on foreign policy adopted by isolationists like Charles Lindberg in the 1930's. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the Second World War, a strong bipartisan consensus emerged around the principles of liberal international internationalism and "America First" perspectives were marginalized in American politics. However, with the election of Donald Trump, the American presidency is now in the hands of someone who proudly claims the America first mantle. This course provides a historical and theoretical context for understanding what is unique about President Trump's approach to American foreign policy in the 21st century. Particular attention will be devoted to the contrast between the views of Trump and those of the American foreign policy establishment over issues such as NATO, nuclear proliferation, Russia, immigration, terrorism, free trade, and conflicts in the Middle East. [ more ]

PSCI 171 SEM Contemporary Africana Social and Political Philosophy

Last offered Spring 2022

This introductory seminar investigates the relationship between three major schools of thought in contemporary Africana social and political philosophy: the African, Afro-North American, and Afro-Caribbean intellectual traditions. We will discuss a range of thinkers including Dionne Brand, Aimé Césaire, Angela Davis, Édouard Glissant, Kwame Gyekye, Paget Henry, bell hooks, Katherine McKittrick, Charles Mills, Nkiru Nzegwu, Oyèrónke Oyewùmí, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Cornel West, and Sylvia Wynter. A primary goal of the course is to provide students with the intellectual resources to decipher problems central to philosophical discourse and to allow students an opportunity to apply what they learn to critical issues in current geopolitics. [ more ]

PSCI 172 SEM Politics after the Apocalypse

Last offered Fall 2020

What shape will politics take after the apocalypse? Even before the coronavirus pandemic gave us reason to wonder if we are, in fact, living through an apocalypse, speculation about the end of the world and its aftermath pervaded recent television, movies, literature, philosophy, and critical theory. In this class we draw these works into conversation with political theories of the "state of nature" and "state of exception" to better understand what political possibilities are opened and foreclosed in times of crisis. What aspects of politics will endure the ravages of fire or pestilence? What new political realities might emerge on ground cleared by disaster? What does it say about pre-pandemic politics that we were so eager to consume stories of states falling and bands of survivors scraping together a nasty, brutish and short existence? And how will the unfolding pandemic change how we respond to these stories? Class will be driven primarily by discussion, typically introduced by a brief lecture. [ more ]

PSCI 206 TUT Dangerous Leadership in American Politics

Last offered Fall 2018

"Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders. What do Americans want from their political leaders?". A common assumption is that those who do it well--whether in the presidency, the parties, social movements, organizations, or local communities--are just and legitimate agents of democratic change, and those most celebrated are those who have helped the country make progress toward its ideals. Yet to rest on this is too simple as it is, in part, an artifact of historical construction. Assessing leadership in the moment is complicated because leaders press against the bounds of political convention--as do ideologues, malcontents, and lunatics. Indeed, a central concern of the founders was that democracy would invite demagogues who would bring the nation to ruin. Complicating things further, the nature of democratic competition is such that those vying for power have incentive to portray the opposition's leadership as dangerous. How do we distinguish desirable leadership from dangerous leadership? Can they be the same thing? Many who today are recognized as great leaders were, in their historical moment, branded dangerous. Others, whose ambitions and initiatives arguably undermined progress toward American ideals, were not recognized as dangerous at the time. In this tutorial, we will explore the concept of dangerous leadership in American history, from inside as well as outside of government. What constitutes dangerous leadership, and what makes a leader dangerous? Is it the person or the context? Who decides? How do we distinguish truly dangerous leadership from the perception of dangerous leadership? Does dangerous describe the means or the ends of leadership? Does it matter? Is leadership that privileges desirable ends, such as justice or security, at the expense of democratic means acceptable? Is democratic leadership in service of "dangerous" goals acceptable, and what are these goals? [ more ]

PSCI 208(F) SEM Wealth in America

The pursuit of wealth is an important feature of American political identity, captured by the ideas of the American dream and the Protestant work ethic. The accumulation of wealth has been lauded as both a worthy individual activity and a vital component of the nation's public interest. Yet inequality in wealth may conflict with the political equality necessary for democratic governance and public trust, leading to concerns that we are sacrificing community, fairness, and opportunity for the benefit of a small portion of the population. This course focuses on questions about the public value of wealth and its accumulation, which have become more pressing now that the richest one percent of Americans own about 40 percent of privately held wealth. Some readings will be historical, particularly those focusing on American political thought and the politics of the Gilded Age. Most readings will focus on contemporary political debates about the accumulation, concentration, and redistribution of wealth. [ more ]

PSCI 209 SEM Poverty in America

Last offered Fall 2022

Although some protest that the U.S. is heading toward European-style socialism, social welfare programs in the U.S. differ in important ways from those in other wealthy and democratic nations. This course focuses on the adoption and development of policies to address poverty and inequality in the U.S. The issues we will explore include: What is poverty, and how do Americans perceive its dangers to individuals as well as the political community? What economic, historical, and sociological theories have been advanced to explain poverty? Why has the U.S. adopted some approaches to reduce poverty but not others? What enduring political conflicts have shaped the U.S. welfare state? [ more ]

PSCI 210 SEM Culture and Incarceration

Last offered Fall 2011

This seminar examines incarceration, immigration detention centers, and the death penalty from historical and contemporary perspectives. Students will study and examine interdisciplinary texts as well primary sources (legislature and criminal codes and writings by the incarcerated). The emphasis will be on the study of social attitudes concerning ethnic groups, gender/sexuality and class as they pertain to a "penal culture" in the United States. [ more ]

PSCI 211(S) LEC Do the People Govern? U.S. Public Opinion and Mass Political Behavior

America's founding documents explicitly state that the will of the people is the authority upon which our government rests. But do the people actually govern, and should they? Pessimists point out that most Americans know very little about politics and lack coherent political views, are easily manipulated by media and campaigns, and are frequently ignored by public officials anyway. Optimists counter that, even if individuals are often ignorant and/or confused about politics, in the aggregate, the public sends a coherent signal to public officials, who usually carry out the public's general wishes. In addition to engaging this debate about what the public thinks about politics, we will also explore how people behave in the political realm. What are the forces that shape whether citizens pay attention to politics, vote, work on campaigns, protest, or engage in other types of political action? How do resource gaps tied to inequalities in society (such as race, class, and gender) influence political behavior? And how do institutions such as the media and campaigns encourage or discourage it? [ more ]

PSCI 212 LEC From Tocqueville to Trump: Leadership and the Making of American Democracy

Last offered Spring 2024

America's founders didn't mean to create a democracy as we would now understand the term. But since the Revolution, leaders have been fighting to make real for all Americans the promise of government of, by, and for the people. In this course, we will look at how leaders have marshaled ideas, social movements, and technological changes to expand the scope of American democracy--and the reasons they have sometimes failed. We will examine how founders such as Benjamin Franklin and James Madison envisioned the relation between the people and the government; how workers, African Americans, and women fought to participate in American politics; and how globalization, polarization, and inequality are straining American democracy and political leadership in the 21st century. We will examine leadership to better understand American democracy--and vice versa. We will ask: What explains why some leaders have succeeded where others have failed? Have some periods of American democratic politics been more amenable to particular kinds of leadership than others? What makes American political leadership distinctive in international comparison? Who, exactly, has been permitted to participate in American politics, and on what terms? How has the relation between the governors and the governed changed over time, and what factors and events have shaped those relations? How has America's democratic experiment compared with (and interacted with) democracy elsewhere in the world? Is America really a democracy at all? [ more ]

PSCI 213 SEM Mass Media and American Politics

Last offered Fall 2023

According to recent estimates, the average American spends 11 hours per day consuming media--that is, watching television and movies, reading print sources, listening to music, radio, and podcasts, and scrolling social media. How does all of that media consumption influence the American political system? Scholars, practitioners, and observers of American politics have debated whether the net effect is positive or negative. Critics argue that today's media is shallow and uninformative, a vector of misinformation, and a promoter of extremism and violence. Some defenders argue that the media is a convenient scapegoat for problems that are endemic to human societies, while others claim that it actually facilitates political action aimed at addressing long-ignored injustices. In addition to addressing this important question about the health of American democracy, students will learn how the traditional media and social media influences Americans' political attitudes and behaviors. Among the topics we will discuss are the incentives, norms, and practices of news-making organizations; how politicians try to sway the public during campaigns; how the media covers campaigns; and how the media influences Americans' racial attitudes. [ more ]

PSCI 214 SEM Racial and Ethnic Politics in America

Last offered Spring 2024

Arguably, the dominant discourse in American politics today is about race. Race is connected to salient issues like immigration and police conduct; to politicians across the political spectrum; and (some argue) to virtually everything in American politics, including fundamental concepts that have no manifest racial content, like partisanship and the size and scope of government. We will evaluate the role of race as it relates to public opinion, political behavior, campaigns, political institutions, and public policy debates, with special attention devoted to the nature of racial attitudes. Most of the course will focus on the historical and contemporary relations between whites and African Americans, but we will also explore topics involving other pan-ethnic communities, particularly Latinos and Asian Americans. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 215(S) SEM Race and Inequality in the American City

In the past half-century, American cities have gotten both much richer and much poorer. The making of "luxury cities" has gone hand-in-hand with persistent, concentrated poverty, extreme racial segregation, mass incarceration, and failing public services-social problems borne primarily by people of color. This course will examine the political underpinnings of inequality in American cities, with particular attention to the racialization of inequality. Among the topics we will cover are: the structures of urban political power; housing and employment discrimination; the War on Crime and the War on Drugs (and their consequence, mass incarceration); education; and gentrification. We will ask: How have city leaders and social movements engaged with urban problems? How have they tried to make cities more decent, just, and sustainable? Under what circumstances has positive leadership produced beneficial outcomes, and in what circumstances has it produced perverse outcomes? We will engage primarily with political science, but also with scholarship in other disciplines, including sociology, history, geography, and legal studies, all of which share an interest in the questions we will be exploring. Students will leave this course with a deeper understanding of contemporary urban problems, a knowledge of the political structures within which those problems are embedded, and a better sense of the challenges and opportunities leaders face in contemporary urban America. [ more ]

PSCI 216 LEC American Constitutionalism I: Structures of Power

Last offered Spring 2024

How has the American Constitution been debated and understood over time? What is the relationship between constitutional and political change? This course examines the historical development of American constitutional law and politics from the Founding to the present. Our focus is on structures of power -- the limits on congressional lawmaking, growth of presidential authority, establishment of judicial review, conflicts among the three branches of the federal government, and boundaries between the federal and state and local governments. The specific disputes under these rubrics range from secession to impeachment, gun control to child labor, waging war to spurring commerce; the historical periods to be covered include the Marshall and Taney Court years, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Warren Court, and the contemporary conservative ascendancy. Readings are drawn from Supreme Court opinions, presidential addresses, congressional debates and statutes, political party platforms, key tracts of American political thought, and secondary scholarship on constitutional development. Throughout the semester, our goal will be less to remember elaborate doctrinal rules and multi-part constitutional "tests" than to understand the changing nature of, and changing relationship between, constitutional power and constitutional meaning in American history. [ more ]

PSCI 217(S) LEC American Constitutionalism II: Rights and Liberties

How has the American Constitution been debated and understood over time? What is the relationship between constitutional and political change? This course examines the historical development of American constitutional law and politics from the Founding to the present. Our focus is on rights and liberties -- freedom of speech and religion, property, criminal process, autonomy and privacy, and equality. The specific disputes under these rubrics range from abortion to affirmative action, hate speech to capital punishment, school prayer to same-sex marriage; the historical periods to be covered include the early republic, the ante-bellum era, the Civil War and Reconstruction, World Wars I and II, the Warren Court, and contemporary America. Readings are drawn from Supreme Court opinions, presidential addresses, congressional debates and statutes, political party platforms, key tracts of American political thought, and secondary scholarship on constitutional development. Throughout the semester, our goal will be less to remember elaborate doctrinal rules and multi-part constitutional "tests" than to understand the changing nature of, and changing relationship between, constitutional rights and constitutional meaning in American history. [ more ]

PSCI 218 SEM The American Presidency

Last offered Spring 2024

Impeachments. Investigations. Polarization. Did Donald Trump's tenure fundamentally alter the institution of the presidency? Or are its most significant features enduring? To study the presidency is to study human nature and individual personality, but also constitution and institution, rules and norms, bureaucracy and administration, strategy and contingency. This course examines the problems and paradoxes that attend the exercise of the most powerful political office in the world's oldest democracy: Can an executive office be constructed with sufficient energy to govern and also be democratically accountable? What are the limits on presidential power and what are the expectations of presidential performance? How much do we attribute the shaping of politics and policy outcomes to the agency of the individual in the office and to what extent are they the result of underlying structural, cultural, and institutional factors? How is the office and purpose of the presidency affected by an economic order predicated on private capital? By the character of the occupant? To answer these questions, we examine topics such as presidential selection; the bases of presidential power; character and leadership; inter-branch interactions; party, social movement, and interest group relations; and media interactions. Attention will focus largely on the modern, twentieth and twenty-first century, presidency, though older historical examples will also be used to help us gain perspective on how the presidency has changed over time and what the implications are for democratic governance. [ more ]

PSCI 219 TUT Women and Girls in (Inter)National Politics

Last offered Fall 2021

This tutorial focuses on the writings and autobiographies of women who have shaped national politics through social justice movements in the 20th-21st centuries. Women and girls studied include: Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisholm, Safiya Bukhari, Erica Garner, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Marielle Franco, Winnie Mandela. [ more ]

PSCI 221 TUT Cold War Intellectuals: Civil Rights, Writers and the CIA

Last offered Fall 2022

This weekly tutorial has alternating primary and secondary writers (5pages/2pages). In weekly one-hour sessions, students read their work aloud followed by dialogue and critique. Primary papers are due to respondent/professor 48hrs before the tutorial meets; response papers are emailed to the professor 2hours before the weekly tutorial meets. Readings include: We Charge Genocide; Williams J. Maxwell, F. B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature; Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire; Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America; "Part III Supervision and Control of the CIA," Rockefeller Commission Report; Malcolm X Speaks; Sam Greenlee, The Spook Who Sat By the Door; and, The Murder of Fred Hampton. The tutorial is open to all students. [ more ]

PSCI 222 LEC International Relations in the Cyber Age

Last offered Fall 2023

This is a class about international politics in the age of cyberweapons. At a general level, it focuses on a set of core conceptual questions: How has the advent of cyberweapons changed how international politics works? Are cyberweapons that target critical infrastructure similar to nuclear weapons, or is that comparison fundamentally flawed? Do concerns about information security alter states' most basic political calculations? How can we expect cyberweapons to shape the future of warfare, intelligence, and security competition? How effective are strategies like cross-domain deterrence? Should the world try to regulate the use of these technologies and, if so, how exactly? The course begins with several sessions that provide a technical overview of key information security concepts and an examination of some prominent hacks. In addition, the beginning of the course will include several classes on the theoretical implications of the advent of the cyber age, as well as a brief historical overview of information security in the post-World War II period. From there, the course will cover a number of important topics and case studies, such as Stuxnet, NotPetya, cyber espionage, intellectual property theft, threats to critical infrastructure, misinformation, propaganda, election interference, the potential implications of quantum computing, and the prospects for the establishment of an international cyber arms control regime. In general, the course will focus on competition between some the world's premier cyber powers, such as China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia, and the United States. [ more ]

PSCI 223(F) LEC International Law

International law embodies the rules that govern the society of states. It spells out who can be a sovereign state and how to become one, what states can do, what they cannot do, and who can punish transgressions. It also creates status for other actors, such as international organizations, soldiers, national liberation movements, refugees, terrorists, transnational air and sea shipping companies, and multinational corporations. International law is similar to domestic law, with one very crucial difference: it is not enforced by a centralized, sovereign state. There is no world government. In most other respects, it is the same: it protects the status quo, maintaining the unequal distribution of power among its members; it spells out legitimate and illegitimate ways of resolving conflicts of interest; it is biased toward the powerful and legitimates their interests; it tells its members how to act to coordinate their interests and minimize direct conflict; some of it is purely aspirational, some of it necessary for survival. Like domestic law, it is enforced only some of the time, and then against the weak more than the strong. Yet, law is still where we look for justice and, perhaps, for power to be tamed. [ more ]

PSCI 224(F) SEM Neo-liberalism: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

We live in the era of neo-liberalism. But what does this mean? This course will focus on neo-liberalism in comparative perspective, looking mainly at the US and Europe. It will consider how neo-liberalism is defined, the role of states in making and maintaining neo-liberalism, the centrality of markets to neo-liberal conceptions, and the kinds of politics that produced and are produced by neo-liberalism. Economically, the course will look at the institutional configuration of neo-liberalism, changes in economies, growing inequality, the financial crises, and prevalence of debt. Politically, the course will address changes in the role of government, what governments do and do not do, the growing influence of financial interests, the role of identities in mobilizing support for and legitimating governments, and the impact of these developments on the status of citizenship and democracy. [ more ]

PSCI 225 LEC International Security

Last offered Spring 2024

This is a course about war and peace. It deals with some of the most foundational questions that concern scholars of security studies: What accounts for great power conflict and cooperation? Is intense security competition between major states inevitable, or can they get along, provided their main interests are protected? Does the structure of the international system necessarily cause conflict? Do particularly aggressive states? Can wars occur "by accident"? When and why do states choose to use military force? What role does statecraft play in matters of war and peace? How do nuclear weapons affect great power politics? The course will consider these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective that combines political science concepts with an historical approach to the evidence. The bulk of the course deals with the major events in the history of great power politics, such as the causes and conduct of World War I and World War II; the origins and course of the Cold War; the nuclear revolution; and the post-Cold War period. The course concludes with an examination of a number of major contemporary policy debates in security studies. [ more ]

PSCI 226(S) LEC Nuclear Weapons and World Politics

This is a course about international politics in the nuclear age. The class will address a combination of conceptual, empirical, and policy questions, such as: Have nuclear weapons had a "revolutionary" effect on world politics, such that, fundamentally, international relations no longer works in more or less the same way that it did before the advent of nuclear weapons in 1945? Do nuclear weapons have an essentially stabilizing or destabilizing effect? How, if at all, do nuclear weapons affect how political disputes run their course? How significant of a threat are concerns like nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and nuclear accidents? How does a state's nuclear posture affect basic political outcomes? Is it possible to return to a world without nuclear weapons? The course will focus on these questions using an interdisciplinary perspective that leverages political science concepts, historical case studies, and contemporary policy debates to generate core insights. It will not only survey the history of the nuclear age--and of individual countries' nuclear development--but also grapple with important contemporary policy dilemmas in the nuclear realm. [ more ]

PSCI 227(F) LEC International Relations of the Middle East

This is a course about the Middle East in international politics. The structure of the course combines political science concepts with a detailed survey of the region's diplomatic history. The basic format of the course will be to combine brief lectures--either posted on the class website beforehand or given at the start of each class--with an in-depth discussion of each class session's topic. The goal of these discussions is to generate debates over the conceptual, historical, and policy significance of the subjects that we cover. Specifically, the first section of the course will cover the emergence of the Persian Gulf as an area of strategic importance in international politics; U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia and Iran after World War II; the origins of the Arab-Israeli dispute; the June 1967 and October 1973 Middle East conflicts; Egyptian-Israeli peace; the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War; the 1991 Persian Gulf War and its consequences; and the rise of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas. The second part of the course focuses on the Iraq War and its consequences; the rise of ISIS; the Arab Spring; Turkey's changing foreign relations; and the war in Syria. The last section of the course covers contemporary policy challenges confronting the Middle East. [ more ]

PSCI 228 LEC International Organization

Last offered Spring 2024

Tens of thousands of international organizations populate our world. IGOs, whose members are sovereign states, range from the Nordic Association for Reindeer Research to NATO and the UN; INGOs, whose members are private groups and individuals, include the International Seaweed Association as well as Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch. We will investigate theories about where they come from, what they do, and to whom they matter, and explore controversies surrounding their agency, legitimacy, efficiency, and accountability. We cover the history, structures and functions of international organizations using case studies. [ more ]

PSCI 229 LEC Global Political Economy

Last offered Spring 2023

This course offers a broad introduction to the contemporary global political economy, emphasizing the inherent and inseparable intertwining of politics and economics, power and wealth, the state and the market. The core of the course is made up of analyses of global trade, global finance, natural resources, and migration, with special attention to subjects such as free trade, currency wars, and border walls. Four class debates will focus general concepts on a specific topic: the global implications of the Russo-Ukrainian War. We conclude the course with a look toward the future of global capitalism and of the liberal world order. [ more ]

PSCI 231(F) LEC Ancient Political Thought

The core activity of this seminar is the careful reading and sustained discussion of selected works by Plato and Aristotle, but we will also engage such other thinkers as Epictetus and Augustine, and, from a political and theoretical point of view, selections from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Among the questions that we will address: What is justice? How can it be known and pursued? How is political power generated and exercised? What are the social and ethical prerequisites--and consequences--of democracy? Must the freedom or fulfillment of some people require the subordination of others? Does freedom require leading (or avoiding) a political life? What distinguishes that kind of life from others? What does it mean to be "philosophical" or to think "theoretically" about politics? Although we will attempt to engage the readings on their own terms, we will also ask how the vast differences between the ancient world and our own undercut or enhance the texts' ability to illuminate the dilemmas of political life for us. [ more ]

PSCI 232 SEM Modern Political Thought

Last offered Spring 2024

This course is a chronological survey of major works of political theory from the 16th to the 20th century. In discussions and writing, we will explore the diverse visions of modernity and of politics offered by such thinkers as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Mill, and Freud. They help us ask: What is freedom? Who is equal? Who should rule? With what limits and justifications? What form of government best serves the people? Who are the people, anyway? And on what grounds can we justify confidence in our provisional answers to such questions? Class will be primarily driven by discussion, often preceded by brief lectures. Attention to the writing process and developing an authorial voice will be a recurrent focus of our work inside and outside the classroom. [ more ]

PSCI 234 SEM Freedom

Last offered Spring 2023

We all want to be free--at least most of us say we do. The desire for political freedom is as old as the ancient world and as new as today's movements and liberation struggles. But what do we mean when we claim to want freedom? What institutions and social conditions make political freedom possible? For instance, do the claims of individual freedom conflict with those of community? With equality? With authority? Does freedom make us happy? Is it what we really want? And if it is, will we find it by engaging or turning away from politics? This course confronts these questions through readings drawn from a variety of classic and contemporary sources, including works of fiction, autobiography, journalism, law, philosophy and political theory, and social science. Our discussions will address such topics as activism and stoicism; equality and economic freedom; sexual freedom and gender politics; freedom of speech and religion; citizenship, migration, and cosmopolitanism; racism and colonialism; mass incarceration; and the uses and limits of state power. This course is part of a joint program between Williams' Center for Learning in Action and the Berkshire County Jail in Pittsfield, MA. The class will be composed equally of nine Williams students and nine inmates and will be held at the jail. An important goal of the course is to encourage students from different backgrounds to think together about issues of common human concern. Transportation will be provided by the college. *Please note the atypical class hours, T. 4:45-8:30 pm* [ more ]

PSCI 235 SEM Survival and Resistance: Environmental Political Theory

Last offered Spring 2022

Contemporary struggles to reverse environmental destruction and establish sustainable communities have prompted some political theorists to rethink longstanding assumptions about politics and its relationship to nature. Does the environment have "rights"? What, if anything, is the difference between an ecosystem and a political community? Is democracy dangerous to the planet's health? Are environmental protections compatible with political freedom? How is the domination or conquest of nature connected with domination and conquest within human societies? What does justice demand in an age of climate change? In this class, we will consider the promise and limits of political theory to illuminate present day environmental crises and foster movements to overcome them. We will engage classic texts that helped to establish political theory's traditional view of nature as a resource, as well as contemporary texts that offer alternative, ecological understandings of nature and its entwinements with politics. Class will be driven primarily by discussion. Students will have significant responsibility for setting the agenda for discussions through informal writing submitted prior to class. As a writing intensive course, attention to the writing process and developing an authorial voice will be a recurrent focus of our work inside and outside the classroom. [ more ]

PSCI 236 SEM Feminist Legal Theory

Last offered Spring 2024

What can a critical analysis of gender and sexuality bring to the study of law, constitutions, legal interpretation, and the task of judging? Well-known contributions by feminist theorists include the conceptualization and critique of anti-discrimination frameworks, the legal analysis of intersecting systems of social subordination (particularly gender, race, class, sexuality, disability), and the theorization of "new" categories of rights (e.g. sexuate rights). Accompanying these interventions in the legal field is a deep and sustained inquiry into the subject of law: Who can appear before the law as the proper bearer of civil and human rights? What kinds of violations and deprivations can be recognized as harms in need of redress? Who gets to make these judgments, and according to what rules? While our examples will be drawn mainly from family law, the regulation of sex/reproduction, and workplace discrimination, the main task of this course will be to deepen our understanding of how the subject of law is constituted. Illustrative cases to aid our inquiry will be drawn primarily from the USA and Canada, with additional examples from India, South Africa, and possibly European law. Theorists we read will represent many kinds of feminist work that intersect with the legal field, including academic studies in political theory, philosophy, and cultural theory, along with contributions from community organizers engaged in anti-violence work and social justice advocacy. [ more ]

PSCI 237 SEM Religion and Capitalism

Last offered Spring 2016

Up through the 1960s it was popular to claim that the world was becoming increasingly and inevitably secular, with the development of modern capitalist social relations as a signature cause. Today the 'secularization thesis' is largely defunct. Instead one sees the vibrant return of religion to social, economic, and political prominence in most parts of the world--at the very same time we are experiencing through globalization and the information revolution the most dramatic economic advances in a century. This course investigates the historical and contemporary relationship between culture and economics, religion and capitalism, in their most encompassing forms. In investigating this theme, our cornerstone will be Max Weber's famous argument from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Along the way we will discuss both the origins of capitalist society as well as its more recent transformations through the rise of the welfare state, consumerism, and globalization. We will also discuss changes in religion under the influence of capitalism including romanticism, Pentecostalism, moralistic therapeutic Deism, and the 'God gap' between largely theist Africa, South and West Asia, and the Americas on the one hand and largely atheist Europe and East Asia on the other. The focus of the course is on Christianity in Western countries both historically and in the present, but we will spend time discussing religion (particularly Pentecostalism) and capitalism in the contemporary Global South as well. [ more ]

PSCI 238(F) SEM Economic Liberalism and Its Critics

Economic liberalism holds that society is better off if people enjoy economic freedom. Its critics point to what they believe this position ignores or what it wrongly assumes, and hence, how it would make bad policy. This course explores the relationship between politics and economics by surveying influential works of political economy. Its first part examines major thinkers in relation to the historical development of capitalism in Western Europe and the United States: the classical liberalism of Adam Smith, Karl Marx's revolutionary socialism, and the reformist ideas of John Maynard Keynes. The second part considers mid-20th-century writers who revise and critique economic liberalism from a variety of perspectives, including Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, Arthur Okun, and Albert O. Hirschman. The third part surveys significant topics relevant to the themes of the course, with applications to current public policy issues, such as: power relations and autonomy in the workplace; asymmetric information and social insurance; economic inequality and distributive justice; equality of opportunity; the economics of health care; positional goods and the moral foundations of capitalism; social media and addiction; economic nationalism; behavioral economics; climate change and intergenerational equity; finance and financial crises; and rent-seeking. The combination of the historical focus of the early part of the course with discussion of modern policy issues and debates in the latter part of the course permits you to appreciate the ongoing dialogue between classical and contemporary views of political economy. [ more ]

PSCI 239 SEM Science, Gender and Power

Last offered Spring 2013

This course considers debates in feminism about the relationship between science, gender and power in politics. On the one hand, shifting ideas about gender have influenced the development of the sciences through history: for example, some feminists argue that science has historically been premised upon a view of women as objects, not subjects, of knowledge. On the other hand, shifting ideas about science have strongly influenced the development of feminist theory and practice: for example, debates about reproductive rights are often couched in terms of a conflict between reliable scientific knowledge of embryos, STDs, etc. and an unscientific, patriarchal worldview. Do science and technology serve to transform or reinforce power imbalances based on gender, race, and sexuality? Should feminist theory embrace objectivity and model itself upon scientific procedures of knowledge production? Or should feminists reject objectivity as a myth told by the powerful about their own knowledge-claims and develop an alternative approach to knowledge? What is "objectivity" anyway, and how has this norm changed through history? What kinds of alternatives to objectivity exist, and should they, too, count as "science"? Rather than treating science as a monolith, we will endeavor to understand the implications of various sciences--as practiced and envisioned in various, historically specific situations--for gender and politics. Readings may include texts by Rene Descartes, Andreas Vesalius, Londa Schiebinger, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Helen Longino, Nancy Harstock, Sandra Harding, bell hooks, Donna Haraway, Mary Hawkesworth, and Octavia Butler. [ more ]

PSCI 240 SEM Political Theory and Comparative Politics

Last offered Spring 2024

We live in a society that takes liberalism and capitalism for granted, as the norm that naturally centers collective life. This course draws on foundational thinkers in political theory and comparative politics to explore that premise. To that end, the course will discuss the origins, logic, and meaning of liberalism and capitalism and the relationships between them. Asking whether liberal thought, to borrow the famous joke about economists, assumes the can openers of liberalism and capitalism, taking as given that which is constructed historically, the course will look at leading theories about the role states play in constituting and maintaining capitalist economies, the definition and nature of power in liberal societies, and, more recently, the connection between identities, politics, classes, and states. The readings include Alexis de Tocqueville, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Karl Polanyi, Barrington Moore, Robert Putnam, Michel Foucault, and Edward Said. [ more ]

PSCI 241 SEM Meritocracy

Last offered Spring 2024

Although fewer than 1% of Americans have a degree from the country's top 30 colleges and universities, 39% of Fortune 500 CEOs, 41% of federal judges, 44% of the writing and editorial staff at the New York Times, 64% of Davos attendees, and 100% of Supreme Court justices do. Is this a positive sign that the United States is governed by its most talented and capable members who have risen through hard work and equal opportunity? Or a negative one pointing to the power of a corrupt and self-selecting elite? This course explores the theme of meritocracy--rule by the intelligent--in comparative perspective. We will look at both old and new arguments regarding the proper role and definition of merit in political society as well as take the measure of meritocracy in present-day Singapore, France, and the United States. The course concludes with a focus on the current debate over American meritocracy and inequality. [ more ]

PSCI 243 LEC Politics of Africa

Last offered Spring 2017

This course provides an introduction to the politics of contemporary Africa, emphasizing the diversity of African politics. It seeks to challenge the widespread image of African politics as universally and inexplicably lawless, violent, and anarchic. We begin by examining the colonization of Africa, nationalist movements, and patterns of rule in the first 30 years of independence. From there, we analyze the causes, achievements and limitations of the recent wave of political liberalization across Africa. We then consider patterns of economic development in Africa. Finally, we examine China's growing expansion into Africa and ask whether this is a new colonialism. [ more ]

PSCI 245 SEM South African Politics

Last offered Spring 2024

The course deals with South African politics since the end of apartheid. The readings will address the politics, policies, and composition of the African National Congress (ANC), the growth of black economic elites and the black middle class, the persistence of poverty and extreme inequality, expanding corruption, and why the ANC continues to prevail politically and electorally in spite of on-going poverty and worsening inequality, governmental failures, and corruption. It will pay particular attention to the ANC and corruption, and it will address why, thus far, the ANC has won national elections handily amidst growing dissatisfaction with overt and pervasive official corruption and misgovernment and the role racial solidarities and memories play in sustaining the ANC in office. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 246 SEM Introduction to Capitalism

Last offered Fall 2022

Must we choose between "socialism or barbarism?" A century after Rosa Luxemburg's challenge, it is clear that socialism did not win. Does this mean that we have descended to barbarism? Tracing the path of capitalist development in the rich democracies suggests a range of responses. Some states have developed robust institutions that provide for citizens' basic needs and check the power of business; others leave the poor threatened by starvation and workers exposed to exploitation. How and why has capitalism evolved in different forms in different countries? This course introduces students to capitalism by examining the struggles between social groups that lead to variation in distributional outcomes and economic performance. Students will develop a conceptual toolkit to study the politics of capitalism based in the economic history of the rich democracies (Europe, United States) in the twentieth century. The second half of the course challenges students to apply this toolkit to the twenty-first century, focusing on attempts to transition from industrial manufacturing to services. We engage pressing questions around technological innovation, populism, financialization, and globalization. [ more ]

PSCI 247 LEC Political Power in Contemporary China

Last offered Spring 2024

The People's Republic of China has experienced rapid and extensive economic, social and cultural transformation over the past forty years. Its political system, however, is little changed. The Communist Party still monopolizes power and works hard to suppress organized opposition. Political dissent has taken various forms since 1979 but the regime has found ways to repress and divert it. Yet, in spite of the state's efforts, opposition and dissent continue to bubble to the surface. The course will review the political development of the PRC since 1949 and, then, focus on the dynamics of political contention and regime persistence since the Tiananmen Crisis of 1989. [ more ]

PSCI 248 TUT The USA in Comparative Perspective

Last offered Fall 2023

Politics in the USA is often considered unique and incomparable, and US political science separates the study of American politics from comparative politics. This course overcomes this divide, considering politics and society in the United States comparatively, from a variety of viewpoints and by authors foreign and American, historical and contemporary. Important topics include: the colonial experience and independence; race relations and the African diaspora; national identity and authoritarian populist nationalism; war and state-building; American exceptionalism, religion, and foreign policy; criminal justice; and the origins and shape of the welfare state. (As the list suggests, the most common comparisons are with Latin America and Western Europe, but several of our authors look beyond these regions.) [ more ]

PSCI 250 LEC Political Psychology

Last offered Fall 2023

This course will examine the role of psychology in politics. The goal is to develop a rich understanding of the foundations of public opinion and political behavior. We will examine the role of social identities, partisan affiliation, concrete interests, values, issues, and ideology in shaping opinion and behavior, as well as the role of external forces such as campaigns, the media, and political elites. Along the way, we will consider a number of longstanding questions in the study of politics, such as: is the public rational? What are the root causes of racism? How does racism influence political choices? Why do people identify with political parties? Why do people vote or engage in other types of political action? How does the mass media and campaigns influence public opinion? [ more ]

PSCI 251(S) SEM Thinking and Acting Politically in the Long Civil Rights Movement

In this course, students will explore the various theories of political action that animated the Long Civil Rights Movement. Students will examine how these theories helped frame the political ideals, ideologies, and behaviors of multiple sects of the Black Freedom struggle. By analyzing the political thought of thinkers like Ella Baker, Amzie Moore, Pauli Murray, Florynce Kennedy, Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert F. Williams, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--among others, students will appreciate how their experiences influenced their approach to politics in diverse ways. Subsequently, students will evaluate the theories' arguments and political actions while determining which frameworks should motivate contemporary political organizing. By challenging the charismatic leader model of teaching and learning Civil Rights politics, students will understand the Civil Rights Movement as a grassroots movement buoyed by the political activities and energies of ordinary Black citizens. Moreover, they will develop a broader understanding of the mechanics of grassroots organizing and mobilize their studies appropriately to argue persuasively how ordinary people should contest injustice by considering tactics, mobilization strategies, political visions and ideologies, and strategic dilemmas. Consequently, they will not view Civil Rights history and theory as an episode of the past but as a force that continues to shape our political imaginations. [ more ]

PSCI 252 LEC Campaigns and Elections

Last offered Fall 2022

The 2022 midterm elections are happening in November. Though midterm elections historically generate less involvement than presidential elections, much is at stake in the upcoming midterms, as control of Congress and statehouses will likely determine what, if anything, President Biden achieves in the remainder of his term. This course will examine how we conduct the most fundamental of democratic processes in the United States: the people's choice of their representatives. We will examine factors that shape election outcomes such as the state of the economy, issues, partisanship, ideology, social identities with a special focus on race, interest groups, media, and the candidates themselves. A central question we will consider throughout the course if how "democratic" the conduct of campaigns actually is. For instance, does the citizenry have the motivation and capacity to hold public officials accountable? How do resource gaps tied to inequality in society (such as race and class) influence who votes and for whom? Do the mass media and political elites inform or manipulate the public? How closely do candidates resemble the constituencies they represent, and does it matter? We will apply our learning on many of these topics to the ongoing 2022 midterm elections. [ more ]

PSCI 253 LEC The Tragedy of Venezuela

Last offered Spring 2023

The recent history of Venezuela offers a window into many of the most important political and economic issues faced by people in developing countries. Why does an abundance of oil seem to solve some problems while often leading to perverse economic and political outcomes? How can democracy be made to work better for ordinary people? What does it mean for a government to be truly sovereign? How does corruption grow and what can we do about it? When should we leave important decisions to technocratic experts? What does it mean today to be progressive? The course first briefly reviews Venezuelan post-Independence history, with an emphasis on the post-1958 democratic settlement. It then explores more deeply the reasons for the breakdown of this settlement, the rise of Hugo Chavez, and the decay of the "21st Century Socialist" regime under Chavez and Maduro. Materials include biographies, documentary films, short videos, economic data, and news reports. [ more ]

PSCI 254 SEM Democracy in Comparative and Theoretical Perspective

Last offered Fall 2014

This course deals with what democracy means and how it is achieved. It begins by weighing competing definitions of democracy focusing on two kinds of questions. Is "democracy" a procedure or a substance and what is the relationship between democratic government and market economies? After addressing general theoretical issues, the course will consider what is meant by democracy in the United States, Latin America, South Africa, and the Arab world. [ more ]

PSCI 255 LEC Comparative Politics of South Asia

Last offered Fall 2023

South Asia is home to around 2 billion people (over 24% of the world), making it the most populous and densely populated region in the world. The region is also one of the poorest in the world and lags in human development. Ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity is offset by common cultural traditions and practices that serve to unite the people of the Indian Subcontinent. The course introduces students to the comparative politics of South Asia, highlighting the complexities and potential of the region. Every week we explore a different component of South Asian politics. The course covers the creation of the states of modern South Asia, partition and independence, democratization, electoral politics and political parties, economic and social development, ethnic identity and conflict, and the contemporary regional challenges of democratic backsliding and climate change. [ more ]

PSCI 256 LEC Electoral Politics in the Developing World

Last offered Spring 2024

Electoral politics in the developing world often differs from democratic politics in Western Europe and the U.S. Electoral volatility, decrepit state institutions, weak parties, clientelism, and electoral violence in developing democracies complicate foundational theories on representation and accountability. The course surveys the electoral politics of low and middle-income democracies in the developing world, investigating its similarities and differences with the historical and contemporary politics of developed democracies. It examines work on electoral systems, formal and informal institutions, bureaucratic politics, political parties, party systems, clientelism, ethnic politics, and political violence. We will draw on case studies from Latin America, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East to analyze the effectiveness of these theories. Assignments focus on crafting solutions to contemporary political challenges in the developing world. [ more ]

PSCI 259(S) TUT George Orwell: Capitalism, Socialism and Totalitarianism

It is hard to overstate the enduring influence of George Orwell on political discourse in the 20th century and beyond. Before his death in 1950 at the young age of forty six, Orwell produced a stunningly large and diverse body of work in the fields of journalism, literature, and political commentary. Much of this work was inspired by his own experiences as a police officer in Burma, several years working and traveling with destitute workers in England and France, as well as his experiences fighting against fascism during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. While a fairly obscure and struggling author for much of his life, Orwell achieved worldwide fame after the Second World War with the publication of Animal Farm (1945) and 1984 (1949). This tutorial has two main objectives. First, it will introduce students to Orwell's most important books and essays in the context of a turbulent political era marked by the Great Depression, the rise of totalitarianism, world war, and the emerging Cold War. Second, the tutorial will examine the past and ongoing uses and abuses of Orwell's legacy by scholars and analysts on both the political left and the right. As Louis Menand argues, "almost everything in the popular understanding of Orwell is a distortion of what he really thought and the kind of writer he was." The course will conclude by examining what Orwell's thought contributes to a consideration of current issues ranging from the emergence of cancel culture to the possibilities of democratic socialism in the 21st century. [ more ]

PSCI 261 TUT The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Last offered Fall 2023

This tutorial will cover the Arab-Israeli dispute--from both historical and political science perspectives--from the rise of the Zionist movement in the late nineteenth century to the present day. It will examine the various explanations that scholars have offered for why the conflict has persisted for so long, how it has evolved over time, the role that outside powers have played in shaping it, and how its perpetuation (or settlement) is likely to impact Middle East politics in the future. More specifically, the class will examine the origins of the Zionist movement; the role that the First World War played in shaping the dispute; the period of the British mandate; the rise of Palestinian nationalism; the Second World War and the creation of the state of Israel; the 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars; Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and its consequences; the promise and ultimate collapse of the Oslo peace process during the 1990s and early 2000s; the rise of groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad; the rightward shift in Israeli politics since 2000; the intensification of Israeli-Iranian antagonism and its implications; the shift in Israel's relations with the Sunni Arab world that has occurred in recent years; and the future of the conflict. [ more ]

PSCI 262 LEC America and the Cold War

Last offered Spring 2022

This course examines the rise and fall of the Cold War, focusing on four central issues. First, why did America and the Soviet Union become bitter rivals shortly after the defeat of Nazi Germany? Second, was one side primarily responsible for the length and intensity of the Cold War in Europe? Third, how did the Cold War in Europe lead to events in other areas of the world, such as Cuba and Vietnam? Finally, could the Cold War have been ended long before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989? Political scientists and historians continue to argue vigorously about the answers to all these questions. We examine both traditional and revisionist explanations of the Cold War, as well as the new findings that have emerged from the partial opening of Soviet and Eastern European archives. The final section of the course examines how scholarly interpretations of the Cold War continue to influence how policymakers approach contemporary issues in American foreign policy. [ more ]

PSCI 263 SEM America and the Vietnam War

Last offered Fall 2011

Every American president from Franklin Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy sought to avoid a commitment of ground forces to Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson also feared the consequences of a massive American commitment, but he eventually sent over half a million men to Vietnam. Richard Nixon hoped to conclude a peace with honor when he assumed the presidency, but the war lasted for another four years with many additional casualties. This course examines the complex political processes that led successive American presidents to get involved in a conflict that all of them desperately wanted to avoid. We will examine both the international and domestic context of the war, as well as pay close attention to both South and North Vietnamese perspectives on the war. In addition, we will examine the long-standing arguments among both historians and political scientists over how to explain and interpret the longest and most controversial war in American history. [ more ]

PSCI 265 LEC The International Politics of East Asia

Last offered Spring 2020

This course examines the political, economic, and cultural determinants of conflict and cooperation in East Asia. Throughout the semester, we will examine three distinct but inter-related aspects of international relations in East Asia: Security, economy, and culture by using some core concepts and theoretical arguments widely accepted in the study of international relations. We will engage some of the central questions and issues in the current debate on East Asia. Do East Asian countries seek security and prosperity in a way fundamentally different from the Western system? Is there a single best way to maintain regional order and cooperation across regions? Will a strong China inevitably claim its traditional place under the sun? Will Japan continue to live as a nation with enormous economic power but limited military means? What is the choice for South Korea between security alliance with the United States and national reconciliation with the North? What should be done to dissuade the authoritarian regime in North Korea from acquiring nuclear capabilities and lead it to different paths toward national survival? By the end of the semester, you will gain both a general perspective and substantive knowledge on East Asian international politics. [ more ]

PSCI 266 LEC The United States and Latin America

Last offered Spring 2022

This course examines the most important political and diplomatic divide in the Western Hemisphere. The first half is a historical survey of U.S.-Latin American foreign relations from the early Spanish American independence movements through the end of the Cold War and recent developments. We consider how this history confirms or undermines influential views about U.S. foreign relations and about international relations generally. We also compare historical U.S. foreign policy toward the hemisphere to U.S. policy toward the entire world after the Cold War. The second half covers the most important current issues in hemispheric relations: the rise of leftist governments in Latin America; the war on drugs; immigration and border security; and competition with China for influence. At the end we briefly reconsider current U.S. policies in historical perspective. [ more ]

PSCI 267 International Relations of the Middle East

Last offered NA

This course provides an overview of the international relations of the Middle East, with a special focus on the period from the late nineteenth century to the present. Students will learn about the region's geopolitical significance from both an historical and political science perspective. The first part of the course focuses primarily on the Middle East's impact on the international system throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, while the second part of the course examines contemporary issues. In substantive terms, the class covers the rise of the Zionist movement; the effects of the First World War on the Middle East; the international politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict; the geopolitics of the area's energy resources; the Cold War in the Middle East; the causes and consequences of the Iranian Revolution; the rise of Islamist movements; the Arab Spring; terrorism; the specter of nuclear proliferation in the area; the Syrian conflict; and the role of the United States in the Middle East. By the end of the term, students should have an enhanced understanding of the major dilemmas related to the region's place in the international system. [ more ]

PSCI 268(S) SEM The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This is an introductory course on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Approaching the issue historically, the course begins by addressing the development of Zionism as a movement, the arrival of Zionists in Mandate Palestine, the pursuit by Zionists of statehood and the in-gathering of Jews, and the responses of neighboring Arab states and local Palestinians to these processes. Drawing on the writings of both Zionists and Palestinians, the course will examine debates among both, how Palestinians responded to the growing presence of Zionists, and how Zionists conceived of Palestinians and Palestinian nationalism (both secular and religious) before, during, and after the foundation of the state of Israel. After dealing with the pre-history of the state and the nakba, the course will address recent Israeli settlement policies on the West Bank, the controversies surrounding the Oslo Agreement, and the contemporary situations in the West Bank and Gaza. Finally, the course will address contemporary controversies about the prospects and feasibility of the "one-state" and "two-state" "solutions" to the Palestinian issue, and the implications of resolving, or not resolving, the Palestinian issue to the mutual satisfaction of Israelis and Palestinians. [ more ]

PSCI 270 SEM The Politics of Waste

Last offered Spring 2020

Waste is not just a fact of life, it is a political practice. To create and maintain political order requires devising collective means to pile up, bury, burn, or otherwise dispose of stuff deemed dirty or disorderly: waste management is regime management. In turn, our feelings of disgust for anything deemed waste shape political deliberation and action on environmental policy, immigration, food production, economic distribution, and much more. The very effort to define "waste" raises thorny political questions: What (or who) is disposable? Why do we find the visible presence of certain kinds of things or persons to be unbearably noxious? How should we respond to the fact that these unbearable beings persist in existing, despite our best efforts to eliminate them? What is our individual and collective responsibility for creating and disposing of waste? Serious inquiry into waste is rare in political theory and political science--perhaps understandably, given that the study of politics is shaped by the same taboos that shape politics. In this seminar we will openly discuss unmentionable topics and get our hands dirty (sometimes literally) examining the politics of waste. We will take notice of the erasure of waste in traditional political theory and work together to fill these gaps. To do so, we will draw on work in anthropology, critical theory, history, urban studies, and waste management science; representations of waste in popular culture; and experiences with waste in our lives. This course is part of a joint program between Williams' Center for Learning in Action and the Berkshire County Jail in Pittsfield, MA. The class will be composed equally of nine Williams students and nine inmates and will be held at the jail. An important goal of the course is to encourage students from different backgrounds to think together about issues of common human concern. Transportation will be provided by the college. *Please note the atypical class hours, Wed 4:45-8:30 pm* [ more ]

PSCI 273 SEM Politics without Humans?

Last offered Fall 2019

Are human beings the only beings who belong in politics? And is political involvement a unique or defining aspect of what it means to be human? Such questions are increasingly complex as the boundaries of "the human" become blurred by the rise of artificial intelligence, robotics, and brain implants: shifting attitudes towards both animal and human bodies; and the automation of economic and military decisions (buy! sell! attack! retreat!) that used to be the prerogative of human actors. How do visions of politics without humans and humans without politics impact our thinking about longstanding questions of freedom, power, and right? Can and should the link between humans and politics survive in an age in which "posthuman" or "transhuman" entities become central characters in the drama of politics? This class will consider these questions through readings, films and artifacts that bring political theory into conversation with science fiction, popular literature on the so-called "singularity" (the merger of humans with computers), science and technology studies, evolutionary anthropology, "new materialist" philosophy, and feminist theory. [ more ]

PSCI 280 TUT Silicon Valley: Digital Transformation and Democracy

Last offered Spring 2023

Nearly every country in the world seeks to drive economic growth by promoting digital technologies. The universal model is Silicon Valley. In this tutorial, students will examine the origins of the Silicon Valley model and other countries' attempts to emulate it. Departing from "just so" stories of technological determinism, we take up the lens of comparative political economy to investigate the politics that allowed US tech firms to shape economic policy to meet their interests. It is no accident that tech became a symbol for economic growth in the 1970s, precisely when it also began to build powerful alliances in Washington. After investigating the origins of the Silicon Valley model, we trace attempts to adopt it in Europe and Asia, which highlight the model's political contingencies and some of the more salient conflicts over the tech sector. We focus on the ways in which the Silicon Valley model can threaten social welfare through economic inequality and precarious employment, and engage a variety of perspectives, including workplace ethnography, to examine these threats, as well as potential regulatory responses. The course concludes by considering what policies could be appropriate for supporting, while also regulating, the tech sector in the twenty-first century. [ more ]

PSCI 284 SEM The Politics of Economic Crises

Last offered Fall 2020

The dominant world economies -- the USA, China, and the European Union -- are responding to the economic risks that might arise from the coronavirus with what have become the standard responses to economic crises. They are using debt to create liquidity, demand, and uphold credit markets. As a background to understanding the reasons for and histories of these policies, this course will read several important books that deal with the Great Depression, the financial crisis a decade ago, and the risks of debt. [ more ]

PSCI 286 SEM Conservative Political Thought

Last offered Fall 2021

Conservative thinkers claim to be leading an intellectual transformation away from the tired nostrums of liberalism. They see themselves as original, dynamic, serious. This course will read leading conservative political thinkers with a view to identifying their central tenets, both negative and positive. What is it that they oppose and support? What, if anything, defines contemporary conservative thinking? Is it a coherent body of thought, a doctrine, or a collection of disparate and conflicting thinkers? What is the relationship of thinkers who emphasize the market, order, and traditional values? And what are their views on diversity, citizenship, and race, and how do heterodox leftists fit with conservative critiques of managerial liberalism? [ more ]

PSCI 289 SEM The welfare state in comparative perspective

Last offered Spring 2022

Modern life has, in some ways, become less risky. You are unlikely to be trampled by a mammoth. But social risk has not disappeared--you could lose your job, get into an accident, or find yourself plunged somehow into poverty. Most countries around the world have built elaborate institutions to ensure citizens' welfare by protecting some people from some risks, but not all people and not all risks. Moreover, these institutions vary considerably both over time and between countries. This course examines those institutions. Our goal is to explain how and why welfare states vary and why there is so much inequality in the distribution of risk. We will do so by investigating the different kinds of institutions that mediate risks throughout the lifecycle, from parental leave to old age pensions, and by comparing these institutions between different countries. While focusing primarily on the welfare states of Western Europe, we will also examine how the politics of social risk unfold around the world, extending our investigation to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We will conclude by reflecting on what lessons the welfare state offers for managing this century's biggest social risk: climate change. [ more ]

PSCI 290(F) TUT How Change Happens in American Politics

An unprecedented assault on the U.S. Capitol, the rise of white nationalism, a pandemic, economic volatility, racial reckoning, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and rapidly evolving environmental crises -- American politics in the last four years has been tumultuous. What might we expect to come next? From the Founding to the present, the American political order has undergone cataclysmic and thoroughgoing transformations, yet it has also proven to be remarkably stable and enduring. How can this be? Where do we find continuities and where upheavals? Who or what has been responsible for the continuities, and who or what for the changes? What sorts of transformations have been possible, and why -- what marriage of individual action and contextual factors have created political change in the past and in the present? Finally, what are the costs of change (and of continuity) -- and who pays them? In this tutorial, we assess American political change, or lack of, to gain a sense of the role that political leaders have played in driving change. We examine when and how individuals and leadership have mattered vis-à-vis broader historical and contextual factors, including war, economic developments, demographic change, and constitutional and institutional practices. We consider general models of change, as well as specific case studies, including civil rights and social justice for racial and ethnic groups, gender equality and family relations, and reactionary or traditionalist politics. Finally, we will look at arguments that America has been "exceptional" -- or, unlike other countries -- as well as critiques of these arguments to help us gain an understanding of future prospects for political transformation. [ more ]

PSCI 291 TUT American Political Events

Last offered Spring 2023

Scandals. Wars and assassinations. Contested elections, Supreme Court decisions, and constitutional amendments. As large as they loom in our daily experience and our historical memory, these sorts of events--concrete, discrete things that happen in and around the political world--are often underestimated as catalysts of political change. Indeed, in the study of American political development, we often look to complex processes and underlying causes as explanations for how and why ideas, institutions, and policies both emerge and evolve. Yet for all our focus on long-term and subtle causal mechanisms, events often serve as political turning points in ways that vary over time, last for extended periods of time, and are not always entirely predictable at the time. Beginning from the presumption that change often has proximate as well as latent causes, this tutorial focuses on events as critical junctures in American politics. Our concern with these events is not with why they happened as or when they did but, rather, with how they altered the American political order once they did--with how they caused shifts in political alignments, created demands for political action, or resulted in a reordering of political values. Over the course of the semester, we will look at ten different types of events, ranging from those that seem bigger than government and politics (economic collapse) to those that are the daily grist of government and politics (speeches), in each instance juxtaposing two different occurrences of a particular category of event. In so doing, we will seek to use controversial and consequential moments in American politics as a window into deeper questions about political change and the narratives we tell about it. [ more ]

PSCI 292 LEC Threats to the Republic: Politics in Post-Obama America

Last offered Spring 2017

When Barack Obama's successor assumes office in January 2017, they will be asked to govern an America that is out of sorts. Economic inequality on a level not seen in over a century. Terrorist attacks at home and abroad. Escalating racial violence in cities. Protests against cultural insensitivity on campuses. Social unrest over the definition of American morality and over who counts as an American. Ideological polarization that regularly brings the government to a standstill and periodically threatens financial ruin. Looming environmental catastrophes capable of provoking humanitarian crises. To what extent do these calamities pose new, existential threats to the republic? And is there anything that can be done to stop or slow them? This course interrogates the many perils that pundits and activists tell us we should worry about in 21st century America. In examining these issues, we will seek not only to understand the contours of the potentially dramatic political changes that some say await us but also to put these issues into historical context so that we may draw lessons from the crises of the past. Ultimately, our goal is to determine how worried we should be---and what, precisely, we should be worried about---as a new era of American leadership begins. [ more ]

PSCI 305(F) SEM Environmental Political Thought

In the face of planetary crisis, it is as difficult as it is crucial to find the time and calm "to think what we are doing" (Hannah Arendt's famous line). This course aims to hold space for that thinking; to collaboratively find the presence of mind to take the measure of the doings that caused, and that may redress, the awful reality of earth's degradation. To do so, we will read, discuss, and write about some of the most significant book-length works of environmental political thought published in the last five years. These books conceptualize and intervene into the politics of phenomena such as climate change, species depletion, toxic pollution and (a special interest of the instructor) waste by applying--and sometimes reinventing--approaches from political theory, political economy, science & technology studies, philosophy, and critical theory. They consider the enmeshment of environmental problems with racism, colonialism, economic inequality, and speciesism, among other modalities of power, and weigh the promise of political action and organization to reconstitute relationships among earth's human and more-than-human elements. By interpreting, evaluating, applying and extending the arguments of these books in discussion and writing, students will be challenged to scrutinize their preconceptions and develop, support and articulate original arguments about politics and the environment. [ more ]

PSCI 307 TUT American National Identity and State Power

Last offered Fall 2023

Debates over American national identity, or what it means to be an American, have intensified in recent years, with a resurgent white Christian nationalism challenging progressive aspirations for a multiracial, environmentally sustainable, liberal democracy. At the same time, Republicans and Democrats fight over the scope and limits of government power on policies ranging from taxation and spending, to abortion, immigration, healthcare, policing, gun ownership, and voting rights. Are these conflicts related, and if so, how? Does how Americans define themselves as a nation inform the shape of the American state and the types of policies it creates? Or is it the reverse? Does the state and its policies make the nation, as many scholars claim? This tutorial investigates the relationship between state and nation over time in the United States. We will explore conflicts over how "the people" are defined in different moments, and we will examine how these conflicts connect to the exercise of state power in areas including territorial expansion, census taking, public health, immigration, social welfare, and policing. [ more ]

PSCI 308 SEM In Search of the American State

Last offered Fall 2020

When Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 to "drain the swamp," he built on the idea held by Republicans since Ronald Reagan's 1981 pronouncement that "government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem." Skepticism of government has deep roots and strong resonance throughout American political history. Despite this, national government has grown in scope and size for much of this history, including under both Democratic and Republican administrations. This tension over what government is doing and what it should be doing is only heightened in times of crisis, such as the moment the country is in now. This course explores the relationship between citizens and their government by examining the growth of the American state in various arenas over time, as well as the assaults on government legitimacy in recent years. We will assess traditional theories about the weakness of the American state in light of arguments about the state as: regulator of family and "private" life, adjudicator of relations between racial and ethnic groups, manager of economic inequalities, insurer of security, and arbiter of the acceptable uses of violence and surveillance. [ more ]

PSCI 309 LEC Problems and Progress in American Democracy

Last offered Fall 2015

"I confess," French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in the introduction to his Democracy in America, "that in America I saw more than America. I sought the image of democracy itself, with its inclinations, its character, its prejudices, and its passions, in order to learn what we have to fear or hope from its progress." What would Tocqueville see if he returned to America today, almost 200 years later? What types of institutions, dynamics, and processes animate American political life in the twenty-first century? With Tocqueville as a guide to thinking about political ethnography, this course investigates four central elements of political life--religion, education, difference, and crime and punishment--that simultaneously pose problems for and represent sites of progress in American democracy. For each subject, we will ask several key questions. How has that particular aspect of political life changed in the recent past? How might it change in the near future? Does it conform to how American politics is designed to work? To how we want American politics to work? Using a diverse set of readings drawn from empirical political science, contemporary democratic theory, American political thought, historical documents, political punditry (from the left and the right), and current events, our focus, like Tocqueville before us, is on teasing out both the lived experience--the character and challenges--of American democracy and examining any disconnect between that experience and the ideals that undergird it. Among the many specific questions we will consider are whether particular religious traditions might be incompatible with democratic values, the extent to which recent changes in higher education have affected the health of democratic politics, the effects of ideological polarization on democratic discourse, and the place of the jury system in securing democratic justice. Throughout the semester, we will not only approach these questions from the joint perspectives of theory and practice but also seek to enrich our understanding by exploring American democracy as it happens all around us with several exercises in the community at large. [ more ]

PSCI 310 SEM New York City Politics: The Urban Crisis to the Pandemic

Last offered Fall 2023

This course examines New York City's political history from the 1970s to the present-a period during which the city underwent staggering economic and social changes. In the mid-1970s, New York was a poster child of urban crisis, plagued by arson and housing abandonment, crime, the loss of residents and jobs, and failing public services. By the early 21st century, the city had largely met these challenges and was once again one of the most diverse and economically vital places on earth-but also one marked by profound inequality. This course will examine how New Yorkers have contested core issues of capitalism and democracy-how those contests have played out as the city itself has changed and how they have shaped contemporary New York. Broad themes will include the city's role as a showcase for neoliberalism, neoconservatism, technocratic centrism, and progressivism; the politics of race, immigration, and belonging; the relation of city, state, and national governments; and the sources of contemporary forms of inequality. Specific topics will include policing, school reform, and gentrification. As the primary assignment in the course, students will design, research, and write a 20-page paper on a topic of their choice. [ more ]

PSCI 311 SEM Congress

Last offered Fall 2022

Even before the pandemic, scholars, pundits, and the public thought Congress was in a state of crisis. Riven by polarized partisanship and gridlock, the most powerful assembly in the world seemed incapable of representing citizens and addressing problems. This seminar focuses on how Congress organizes itself to act as a collective body. In an organization comprised of equals, how and why do some senators and representatives acquire more power and authority than others? How does Congress act as an institution and not just a platform for 535 individuals? Why does Congress not act, especially when the U.S. confronts so many pressing problems, and how do legislators justify inaction? In what ways does this institution promote or hinder the legitimacy, responsiveness, and responsibility expected of a democratic governing institution? [ more ]

PSCI 312 TUT American Political Thought

Last offered Spring 2021

From democracy to liberty, equality to community, foundational ideas -- about what makes for good government, about what constitutes the good society, about what is necessary to lead a good life -- define the American political tradition and consume the American political imagination. Designed not only to uncover these (sometimes melodious, sometimes cacophonous) values but also to place current ideological debates about them in a broader developmental context, this tutorial will offer a topical tour of American political thinking from the birth of nationalism in the colonial period to the remaking of conservatism and liberalism in the early twenty-first century. Utilizing primary source material ranging from presidential speeches to party platforms, newspaper editorials to novels, we will seek to interrogate -- reconciling where possible, distinguishing where necessary, interpreting in all instances -- the disparate visions and assessments of the American political experience offered by politicians, artists, intellectuals, activists, and ordinary citizens over the course of more than two centuries. Our focus, then, is nothing less than the story of America -- as told by those who lived it. [ more ]

PSCI 315(S) SEM Parties in American Politics

Is the American party system what's wrong with American politics? It has been said that parties are essential to democracy, and in the U.S., political parties have played a central role in extending democracy, protecting rights, and organizing power. But their worth is a continuing subject of debate. Although parties have been celebrated for linking citizens to their government and providing the unity needed to govern in a political system of separated powers, they have also been disparaged for inflaming divisions among people and grid-locking the government. Other critics take aim at the two-party system with the claim that the major parties fail to offer meaningful choices to citizens. This course will investigate this debate over parties by examining their nature and role in American political life, both past and present. Throughout the course, we will explore such questions as: What constitutes a party? For whom do they function? How and why have they changed over time? Why a two-party system, and what role do third parties play? Is partisanship good or bad for democracy? For governance? What is the relationship between parties and presidents? How does partisanship become tribalism or polarization, and can this be prevented? We will explore answers to these questions through seminar discussion, analytic essays, and independent research culminating in the writing of a longer (15 to 20 page) research paper. [ more ]

PSCI 316(F) SEM Policy Making Process

Politics as usual. It's a phenomenon we all love to hate. But what does it mean? When government policy is decided by politics, does that mean the policy is necessarily bad? Can we get rid of politics in policy making or improve on it somehow? What would "politics as unusual" look like anyway? This class examines the policy making process with particular emphasis on the United States: How do issues get defined as problems worthy of government attention? What kinds of alternatives are considered as solutions to these problems? Why do we end up with some policies but not others? Do certain kinds of processes yield better policies than others? How should we decide what constitutes a good policy? [ more ]

PSCI 318 SEM Race, Public Opinion, and Campaigns

Last offered Spring 2017

What is the role of race in American public opinion and voting? This question is at the center of American politics today, particularly during the presidency of Barack Obama and the 2016 presidential election. Some commentators argue that racial attitudes were at the center of opposition to Obama's candidacy and legislative agenda and are foremost on voters' minds in 2016. Others suggest that most Americans have moved "beyond race" and that racism explains little of modern-day partisan and electoral politics. We will explore what the empirical literature on race in political science says about this debate and others. Among other issues, we will consider the points of conflict and consensus among different racial groups, how Americans of different racial backgrounds think about other groups, and the implications of demographic change (including the growth of the Latino and Asian-American populations and the shrinking white share of the electorate) for future elections. [ more ]

PSCI 319(F, S) SEM Marine Policy

Coastal communities are home to nearly 40% of the U.S. population, but occupy only a small percentage of our country's total land area. Intense population density, critical transportation infrastructure, significant economic productivity, and rich cultural and historic value mark our coastal regions as nationally significant. But, coastal and ocean-based climate-induced impacts such as sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification pose extraordinary challenges to our coastal communities, and are not borne equally by all communities. This seminar considers our relationship with our ocean and coastal environments and the foundational role our oceans and coasts play in our Nation's environmental and economic sustainability as well as ocean and coastal climate resiliency. Through the lens of coastal and ocean governance and policy-making, we critically examine conflict of use issues relative to climate change, climate justice, coastal zone management, fisheries, ocean and coastal pollution and marine biodiversity. [ more ]

PSCI 320(F) SEM Heroes and Villains: Iconic Leadership and the Politics of Memory

Americans have been arguing intensely in recent years about how we should remember the leaders from our nation's past. Does Thomas Jefferson's statue belong on a university campus? Should college dorms be named for John C. Calhoun and Woodrow Wilson? Should Harriet Tubman's portrait replace Andrew Jackson's on the $20 bill? In this course we will look at how people in the United States and elsewhere have used their leaders' images to hash out larger political issues of national identity, purpose, and membership. Why has historical commemoration gotten so contentious--or has it always been contentious? What's really at stake when we depict our leaders? How (if at all) should we reconcile contemporary morality with historical context in assessing the leaders from our past? To address these questions, we will study portrayals of some of the most famous leaders in American history--including Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Our sources will include political speeches, literature, film, and journalism as well as monuments and museum exhibits; though our examples will be drawn mostly from the United States, our conceptual framework will be transnational. As a final assignment, students will write an 18-20 page research paper on a topic of their choice related to the core themes of the course. [ more ]

PSCI 321 SEM Immigration Politics in the U.S.

Last offered Fall 2022

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that non-Hispanic whites will no longer be the majority racial group in the U.S. by 2044. This demographic change is fueled by past and current immigration, and the politics surrounding American immigration policy have intensified as a result. Donald Trump's rise to the presidency was fueled in part by his pledge to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Meanwhile, efforts to reform the nation's immigration laws have been stuck in gridlock for years. How did we get to this point and what does the future hold? Why is immigration policy so contentious? What is at stake, and what do different groups believe to be at stake? To answer these questions, we will examine immigration from a multidisciplinary lens, but with special attention to immigration politics and policy. We will examine the history of immigration to the U.S. and the policies that have shaped it; recent developments in electoral and protest politics; the policy initiatives of recent presidential administrations, Congress, and state and local governments; and the incorporation of immigrants into U.S. society and politics, past and present. [ more ]

PSCI 323(S) SEM Law and Politics of the Sea

Can international law save the seas? That is one current bet. The sea law regime centers on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which gathers into one place what most countries consider to be scattered ancient laws about piracy, transit through other countries' territorial waters, fishing, jurisdiction over ships, and so forth. It also creates ocean zones, with rules for each, and a system for taxing firms that it licensed to exploit minerals on the high seas, and sharing the proceeds with developing countries. It seeks to mitigate conflicts among countries and companies as they energetically compete to exploit the seas. In 2023, UNCLOS launched a follow-on treaty, the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), which adds areas in the high seas that all nations commit to protect. This course explores the politics and practices that arise from UNCLOS and BBNJ. We engage with the agreements' history, content, and exclusions, examine the incentives they provides states and criminals, and assess the way that geopolitical and climate collapse create new opportunities and constraints for states, firms, international organizations, and activists. Topics include piracy, naval officers' guidelines, conflict in the South China Sea, bonded labor, refugee quarantine on islands, marine genetic resources, Arctic transit, and ocean pollution. This is a way to understand major deals regarding the oceans; it is also a way to understand what it means to consider an international legal agreement a solution to something. [ more ]

PSCI 324 SEM International Legitimation

Last offered Fall 2014

In theory, self-determination means that it is those who are ruled who decide who rules them and how. In practice, not only do pervasive international, foreign and universal standards influence what type of government people believe to be acceptable and desirable, but international actors also rule directly on the legitimacy of a regime's policy or on the regime itself. Individual countries have always sought to change others, and following wars, countries have often collectively enforced peace terms. It is multilateral institutions ruling in peacetime that is relatively new. This research seminar investigates organized international, multilateral attempts to mold a delinquent country's domestic politics by enforcing extranational standards. We investigate three types of cases: UN Security Council threats and condemnations, international criminal prosecutions, and international election monitoring. All students read common secondary materials and engage in research design workshops; each will write (and rewrite) an independent research paper grounded in primary sources. [ more ]

PSCI 325 SEM International and Transitional Justice

Last offered Spring 2017

Before the 1990s, the world saw only occasional, discrete war crimes trials after major-power cataclysms. In the last two decades, trials expanded dramatically in number, scope, and philosophy. Separate Ad Hoc Tribunals for crimes in Yugoslavia and those in Rwanda, in Sierra Leone and in Cambodia are giving way to a permanent International Criminal Court, which has begun to hand down indictments and refine its jurisdiction. The UN Security Council, alongside national governments, decides on legitimacy and punishment. At the same time, worries about residual impunity or the effect that punishment might have on societies' futures has led to the development of national and social courts, as well as national military tribunals, to complement those at the international level. Meanwhile, national activists look to international apologies and reparations for models of what to demand. Examples of internationalized transitional justice abound. This research seminar examines the intent, process, meaning and consequence of these new practices, particularly in terms of national constitutions, international law, and principles of justice. [ more ]

PSCI 326(S) TUT The Cyber Revolution

This is a course about how the advent of digital technologies, and especially those related to cybersecurity, have reshaped international politics, as well as how they might affect the world order in the future. At its most basic level, it addresses a question that is of fundamental importance to both scholars and policymakers alike: Have cyberweapons and digital technologies revolutionized the way that international politics works, in a manner similar to the impact that nuclear weapons have had on the international system since 1945? Specifically, the course will focus on what is known as the "theory of the cyber revolution"; threats to critical infrastructure; the most significant cyberattacks that have occurred to date, namely, the US-Israeli Stuxnet attack on Iran's nuclear facilities in 2006-2010 and Russia's NotPetya attack on Ukraine in 2017; zero-day markets; information warfare and its effects on, respectively, authoritarian and democratic political systems; and the role that critical information technologies--such as advanced semiconductors, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence systems--might play in the evolution of international security competition in future decades. [ more ]

PSCI 327 SEM Leadership and Strategy

Last offered Spring 2017

This class is about the role of leaders and statecraft in international relations. In particular, this course examines the relationship between political and military objectives. The aim is to identify and analyze the principal structural and situational constraints--both foreign and domestic--that limit leaders' freedom of action, and which they must manage effectively to achieve their diplomatic and military goals. The course integrates theoretical perspectives related to a range of international security issues--including the causes of war, alliance politics, nuclear strategy, deterrence, coercion, reassurance, misperception, and credibility concerns--with illustrative case studies of decision-makers in action. The basic structure of the class is interdisciplinary; the goal of this approach is to utilize key conceptual arguments to gain greater leverage for the examination of major historical decisions in national security policy. Students will be asked to analyze and evaluate the strategic choices we examine, as well as the process by which they were reached. The primary objective of the course is for students to improve dramatically their understanding of the role of leaders and strategic choice in international relations. [ more ]

PSCI 328 SEM Human Rights Claims in International Politics

Last offered Fall 2021

For decades, people and countries have used "human rights" to advance their position, delegitimize their opposition, and lodge their interests in an unassailable political category. This research seminar investigates who uses this category, to what ends, and with what success. How people ground this concept--what they think its origin is--does matter, but evaluating those foundations is not our focus. Politics is our focus. Who gains and loses from the idea that people have human rights? Does the concept fit well with, and reinforce, some institutions and configurations of power, and make others difficult to sustain (or even to conceive)? Why not simply claim that something is an interest rather than also a right? How has "human rights" been deployed in international politics, and by whom? The class is divided into four sections. The first concentrates on common readings on these questions, and prioritizes discussion, explication, and hypothesis brainstorming. The second introduces social science methodology, covering hypotheses, literature reviews, and evidence while continuing half time with materials about human rights. The third emphasizes research design, allowing students to finalize their own project while bringing in primary sources such as original documents, debates, and data. The last quarter of class focuses on student projects, on integrating and revising research to produce a set of findings and an evaluation of their meaning. The course is designed to teach political science majors the nuts, and maybe also the bolts, of social science research. [ more ]

PSCI 329 Politics of the Powerless

Last offered NA

American politics is often unequal, and well-organized advantaged interests tend to triumph. What do disadvantaged interests do in light of these power dynamics? Give up? Compromise? Struggle on? Why do relatively powerless interests sometimes win in American politics? Is it because they have an exceptional leader? A phenomenal strategy? Fortuitous events? This course examines the political dynamics of disputes in which disadvantaged interests push for major change. We will study past campaigns and then research and discuss contemporary reform efforts. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 331 SEM The Politics of Algorithms

Last offered Fall 2021

Every day, you interact with or through computer algorithms. In ways often obscure to users, they structure communication or conduct in social media, education, healthcare, shopping, entertainment, dating, urban planning, policing, criminal sentencing, political campaigns, government regulation, and war. Moving from the emergence of cybernetics during World War II through such contemporary examples as facial recognition software, this seminar approaches algorithms as complex technological artifacts that have social histories and political effects. Asking how algorithms are political and what that tells us about politics today (particularly in the U.S.), we will consider how their design expresses forms of power and their deployment shapes ways of living. What behaviors do different algorithms solicit, reward, discourage, or stigmatize? What kinds of selfhood and relationships do they promote or thwart? How do various algorithms influence political partisanship and beliefs and intersect with existing hierarchies of race, class, gender, and sexuality? When inequities are built into a design, can that be addressed by rooting out "bias," or do such efforts miss something more inherent in the kinds of artifacts algorithms are or what they can be in a capitalist economy? Might developments in artificial intelligence transform our sense of the human or even threaten the species? Many of the seminar's themes, including democracy, power, inequality, judgment, deliberation, publicity, subjectivity, and agency, are central to political theory, but readings and course materials will also be drawn from such fields as media theory, surveillance studies, sociology, American studies, critical data science, film, and contemporary art. The course neither requires nor teaches any computer science skills. [ more ]

PSCI 332 TUT The Body as Property

Last offered Spring 2024

From an ethical standpoint, human bodies are fundamentally different from objects that can be owned, acquired, and exchanged. Yet history furnishes us with countless examples of laws, administrative rules, and social conventions that treat the human body as a form of property. The institution of slavery is a particularly egregious example. But there are other examples of treating the body as property that seem more ambiguous, or even benign: the employment contract in which bodily services are offered in exchange for payment; the feminist slogan "my body, my choice"; or even the every-day transfer of bodily properties into creative projects that then become part of the things people own --- chairs, tables, houses, music, art, and intellectual property. If it is not itself a form of property, how can we explain the use of the human body to acquire possessions, create wealth, and mediate the exchange of other kinds of property? These and other tensions between the concept of property and that of humanity will be the focus of this course. How is property defined, and how far should law go to erode or reinforce distinctions between property and humanity? Course readings focus on Locke, Hegel, Marx, and critical perspectives from feminist theory, critical theory, and critical legal studies (Cheryl Harris, Alexander Kluge, Oskar Negt, Carole Pateman, Rosalind Petchesky, and Dorothy Roberts, among others). [ more ]

PSCI 333 SEM Asian/African American Cultural and Political Theory

Last offered Fall 2021

Contrasted as "model minorities" or "incorrigible minorities" Asian Americans and African Americans have been pitted against one another in social standing and political objectives. However, throughout the twentieth century, African/Asian solidarity and alliances existed in political movements and literary and cultural productions. From Ho Chi Minh's anti-lynching writing, the founding conference of the WIDF (Women's International Democratic Federation) in China in 1945, through the Bandung Conference, coalitions against U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, and alignments with Chinese anti-imperialist endeavors, black and Asian peoples have joined in international political formations. Contributions to theory include the writings and activism of Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Robert Williams, Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, Ishmael Reed, and Amiri Baraka; films of Bruce Lee; music of Fred Ho; revolutionary praxis of Mao Tse Tung's Little Red Book and his writings on art and society; the Marxism of the Black Panther Party; the Afro-futurism of Sun Ra and Samuel Delany; and contemporary "Afro-pessimism." Such cultural works depict futurities and possibilities for Black and Asian diasporas. This seminar examines theory, politics, literature, film, and music produced from and linked to twentieth-century movements against capitalism, racism, colonialism, and imperial wars to think through how Black and Yellow Power have shaped solidarity to challenge white supremacy and racial capitalism. Requirements: One midterm paper (5-6 pp.) = 30%; final paper/project (10-12 pp.) with a creative option = 50%; short response paper and GLOW posts = 10%; participation (attendance and class discussion) = 10% Course cap: 19 Priority given to AMST majors, Africana concentrators [ more ]

PSCI 334(S) SEM Theorizing Global Justice

While economic exchanges, cultural convergence, and technological innovations have brought people in different parts of the world closer together than ever before, globalization has also amplified differences in material wealth and social inequalities. Ill health, inadequate sanitation, and lack of access to safe drinking water are increasingly common. Yet, more than ever before, the means exist in affluent regions of the world to alleviate the worst forms of suffering and enhance the well-being of the poorest people. How are we to understand this contradiction as a matter of justice? What is the relationship between justice and equality, and what do we owe one another in a deeply divided world? Course readings will engage your thinking on the central debates in moral philosophy, normative approaches to international political economy, and grassroots efforts to secure justice for women and other severely disadvantaged groups. Key theorists include Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, John Rawls, Thomas Pogge, Nancy Fraser, Paul Farmer, Vandana Shiva, Majid Rahnema, and Enrique Dussel. [ more ]

PSCI 335 SEM Racial Equity, Liberal Democracy, and Democratic Theory

Last offered Fall 2018

In Ta-Nehisi Coates' best-selling book Between the World and Me, he says that in the wake of the non-indictment of former police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown "I did not tell [my son] that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay." With admissions like this, Coates stoked a long-standing debate about the prospects for racial equity in liberal democracies like the United States. In this course, we look at this debate, examining what black thinkers in particular have said about whether racial equity can be achieved in a liberal democracy founded on racial domination and why they come to the conclusions they do. Then, we examine what contemporary democratic theorists have had to say about how racial equity might be achieved and how they have sought to advance this goal through their writing. Can the strategies theorists propose and employ really aid in the advancement of racial equity? Which are more and less promising? We end by asking: Do anti-democratic means have to be employed to fully realize democracy? What anti-democratic means? Authors we will engage include Coates, bell hooks, Charles Mills, Melvin Rogers, Chris Lebron, Lawrie Balfour, and Danielle Allen. [ more ]

PSCI 337 SEM Visual Politics

Last offered Spring 2023

Even casual observers know that appearances matter politically and that the saturation of politics by visual technologies, media, and images has reached unprecedented levels. Yet the visual dimensions of political life are at best peripheral topics in contemporary political science and political theory. This seminar explores how our understanding of politics and political theory might change if visuality were made central to our inquiries. Treating the visual as a site of power and struggle, order and change, we will examine not only how political institutions and conflicts shape what images people see and how they make sense of them but also how the political field itself is visually constructed. Through these explorations, which will consider a wide variety of visual artifacts and practices (from 17th century paintings to the optical systems of military drones and contemporary forms of surveillance), we will also take up fundamental theoretical questions about the place of the senses in political life. Readings may include excerpts from ancient and modern theorists, but our primary focus will be contemporary and will bring political theory into conversation with other fields, particularly art history and visual studies but also film and media studies, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, and STS. Possible authors include Arendt, Bal, Belting, Benjamin, Browne, Buck-Morss, Butler, Campt, Clark, Crary, Debord, Deleuze, Fanon, Foucault, Freedberg, Hobbes, Kittler, Mercer, Mitchell, Mulvey, Plato, Rancière, Scott, Sexton, Starr, Virilio, Warburg, and Zeki. [ more ]

PSCI 338 TUT Garveyism

Last offered Fall 2014

This course explores the life, work, political thought, and activism associated with the Jamaican Pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the transnational movement--Garveyism--that Garvey ushered into the modern world. We will investigate the founding of Garveyism on the island of Jamaica, the evolution of Garveyism during the early twentieth century across the Americas and in Africa, Garveyism in Europe in the mid-twentieth century, and the contemporary branches of the Garvey movement in our own late modern times. The implications of Garvey's conflict with W. E. B. Du Bois and the subsequent cleavages in political thought and allegiances among their respective adherents will be addressed, along with various other core issues including: the relationship between race, nation, and empire; transnationalism; the meaning of power; notions of leadership; the limitations of understanding Garveyism by the phrase "Back-to-Africa"; the moral philosophy of respect, reparation, and redemption; prophetic political theory; Pan-Africanism; the impact of Garveyism on political theological movements such as the Nation of Islam and Rastafari; women in the Garvey movement; and Garveyite strategies for forging models of political solidarity in dark times. [ more ]

PSCI 339 TUT Politics in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt

Last offered Spring 2022

Hannah Arendt (1906-75) bore witness to some of the darkest moments in the history of politics. Born a Jew in Germany, Arendt lived through--and reflected deeply on--two world wars, the rise of totalitarianism, and the detonation of the first atomic bomb. She narrowly escaped imprisonment by the Gestapo and internment in a refugee camp in Vichy France before fleeing to New York. Yet, in the face of these horrors, Arendt never lost her faith in political action as a way to express and renew what she called "love of the world." She wrote luminously about the darkness that comes when terror extinguishes politics and the shining, almost miraculous events of freedom through which politics is sometimes renewed. In this tutorial, we will investigate what Arendt's vision of politics stands to offer to those struggling to comprehend and transform the darkest aspects of the contemporary political world. Our time and Arendt's are similarly darkened by the shadows of racism, xenophobia, inequality, terror, the mass displacement of refugees, and the mass dissemination of lies. It may be tempting to conclude from these similarities--as some recent commentators have--that we are witnessing the return of "totalitarianism" as Arendt understood it. She would be the first to refuse to use inherited concepts as if they were keys to unlock the present. Her words and her example should impel us to reject shortcuts to authentic understanding, the "unending activity by which...we come to terms with and reconcile ourselves to reality." We will turn to Arendt as an interlocutor, not a guide, as we seek to reconcile ourselves to the contingency and specificity of past and present political realities. And we will search her works and our world for embers of hope that even seemingly inexorable political tragedies may yet be interrupted by assertions of freedom in political action. [ more ]

PSCI 34 Jedi Training - Ethical Martial Arts for Scholar Athletes

Last offered NA

Most martial arts in the public consciousness - in movies and on TV - cater to our most violent instincts, and while cinematic carnage may offer a useful catharsis for many viewers, it does not offer much one could copy in real life without getting, justifiably, arrested. While many of the victorious protagonists in such movies and tv shows portray fighting as a last resort, there is typically no more noble alternative offered by way of a character in the narrative who prevails without violence. A notable exception, of course, are the peaceful warrior archetypes known as Jedi - a mystical knightly order in the fictional Star Wars universe trained to guard peace and justice and specially attuned to the energy that unites all things. This course contends that the actual martial art of Aikido, "the Way of Peace", is as close as we can get to the training that would have been given to the Jedi a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Aikido is, like George Lucas's fictional Jedi, derived directly from the ways of the Japanese Samurai. Aikido blends Jujitsu body techniques with Kenjutsu sword work, and weaves them together with the ethical premise that resolving conflict works better when you don't hurt the other person. In practical terms, there are no kicks and no punches, and it looks rather like dancing with someone who doesn't know they want to dance with you. Two hours of Aikido training each day will improve each student's strength, balance, posture, flexibility, and confidence. Training will also include exercises to address mind-body integration, leadership presence, authenticity, and relaxation techniques. Everyone will also learn how to throw their friends across the room. 25% of training time will be devoted to wooden sword, staff, and dagger techniques. Students will also meet with the instructor once or twice a week to cover philosophical elements central to aikido practice and to discuss their individual projects. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 341 SEM Modern Midas? Resource Abundance and Development

Last offered Spring 2015

Many academics, international nongovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, and the media assert that natural resource endowments--oil, gas, and diamonds--are like the touch of Midas. Yet consider that while mineral abundance promises to give countries a platform for prosperity, equity, and political stability, it often produces poor economic performance, poor populations, weak authoritarian states, and widespread conflict. Is there a resource curse, or is it possible for mineral rich countries to escape the modern counterparts of Midas? In this research seminar we revisit the debate on the relationship between mineral wealth and development, focusing on the factors and conditions that lead some resource rich countries to fail and others to succeed. [ more ]

PSCI 342 SEM Beyond the welfare state

Last offered Spring 2021

"Not me. Us" became a rallying cry of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign in late 2019. Sanders' slogan reflects a vision of a robust welfare state, defined by a widespread commitment to solidarity, where citizens share social risks as well as economic rewards. But what role can the welfare state play in the twenty-first century? How have its constitutive institutions, from pensions to unemployment insurance, evolved since the post-war "Golden Age"? Is solidarity possible only in utopia, or can we realize it in the world as well? This course identifies the political conditions under which welfare states developed in the twentieth century, and examines how they have responded to globalization, immigration, digital transformation, and other contemporary challenges. If the welfare state has a future, it will look different from the past, but how? Taking up a handful of alternative paradigms, from social investment to mutual aid, we will assess different trajectories of solidarity in the twenty-first century. [ more ]

PSCI 344 TUT Palestinian Nationalism

Last offered Spring 2023

Palestinian Nationalism: This tutorial will cover the history, bases of support, objectives, and accomplishments and failures of Palestinian nationalism over the past century. It will address how the Palestinian nation has been defined, who has defined it, what factions and classes have controlled its organizations, and the reasons why it has failed to achieve its goals. The tutorial will address the evolution of Palestinian nationalism historically and thematically, employing both primary and secondary sources. The readings will consist mostly of Palestinian authors, with an emphasis on documents, histories, and political analyses. Two questions will anchor the tutorial: how is the nation defined and what, if any, class interests are folded into various definitions? [ more ]

PSCI 345 SEM The Meaning of Life and Politics in Ancient Chinese Thought

Last offered Fall 2023

How can we live a good life? What standards should we use to judge how political power is constituted and used? This class will involve students in close reading of, and exegetical writing about, core texts of ancient Chinese philosophy in English translation. The purpose is to gain an understanding of a number of different perspectives on life and politics, especially Confucianism, Legalism and Daoism. While the primary focus will be on the meaning of the texts in the context of their own times, contemporary applications of core concepts will also be considered. The class will begin with background readings, since no prior work in Chinese philosophy or history is assumed. Then the class will read significant portions of the following canonical works: Yijing, Analects, Mencius, Daodejing, Zhuangzi, and Han Feizi. [ more ]

PSCI 349 TUT Cuba and the United States

Last offered Spring 2024

We examine the long and deeply felt history of dependence and conflict between Cuba and its colossal neighbor to the north. The course begins with the political economy of the colony, then covers the Cuba- US relationship from José Martí and 1898 through the Cold War to the present, emphasizing the revolutionary period. Tutorial topics include: sovereignty and the Platt Amendment; culture and politics; race and national identity; policies on gender and sexual identity; the institutions of "popular power"; the post-Soviet "Special Period"; the evolution of the Cuban exile community in the US; and the fraught agenda of reform and generational transition. Materials include journalism, official publications, biographies, travel accounts, polemics, policy statements of the US government, and a wide range of academic works. [ more ]

PSCI 350 TUT Comparative Political Economy

Last offered Spring 2012

This tutorial provides an introduction to comparative political economy by focusing on an enduring puzzle: the spread of capitalism led to both transitions to democracy and dictatorship/authoritarianism. How is it that the expansion of markets led to the birth of democracy in some countries, but dictatorships in others? What, if any, is the relationship between economic development and the organization of power (regime type)? Does economic development lead to the spread of democracy? Or is economic crisis the key to understanding the conditions under which dictatorships fall? To answer these questions we read works by Moore, Lipset, Schumpeter, Przeworski, Rueschemeyer et al., Haggard & Kaufman, among others. [ more ]

PSCI 351 LEC The New Left and Neoliberalism in Latin America

Last offered Spring 2022

Recent years have seen a resurgence of the political left in Latin America. This course seeks to understand the origins of this new left, the ideas and character of its protagonists, the neoliberal philosophy it opposes, and the arena of democratic politics it inhabits today. We first read polemics from both sides, before stepping back to consider Latin American political economy, including the twentieth-century left, from a more historical and analytical perspective. With this preparation, we then look more closely at major contemporary figures and movements in Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, and other countries. After considering explanations of the rise of the left and assessments of its performance in power, we end our common readings by asking what it might mean today to be on the left in Latin America--or anywhere--both in policy and political terms. [ more ]

PSCI 352 LEC Politics in Mexico

Last offered Fall 2020

Geography has decreed that the futures of Mexico and the United States will be tightly bound. Yet Mexico enters this future with a very different past, a distinctive political system, important cultural differences, and mixed feelings about its neighbor to the north. This course has four parts differing in content and format. The first is historical and mostly lecture. It considers several themes, including the slow emergence of a stable national state and the interplay between politics and economic change. In the second section, following a modified tutorial format, we consider politics and cultural policies around Mexican national identity in the twentieth century, looking at films, journalism, popular music, and cultural criticism. Topics include the politics of race; rapid urbanization, especially in the valley of Mexico; and the cultural impact of the turn toward the north, after 1990, in economic policy. Then, after a few discussion classes on migration, organized crime, political corruption, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues facing the current government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, we turn to a seminar-style discussion of student research projects. [ more ]

PSCI 353(S) SEM What is Democracy?

This is a research course that will investigate the meaning of democracy through readings and a research paper. The readings will begin with claims that democracy consists of government by elites, that the democratic component consists of elections that amount to choosing between rival slates of elites, and that agreements among elites set the boundaries for permissible democratic decision making. To examine this claim, the readings will address two fundamental issues. First, it will consider the the terms of American foreign policy after the Cold War, how it sets these, and continuities and discontinuities between the Clinton and Bush administrations. Where did Democratic and Republican foreign policy elites agree and disagree and what happened to proposals that were outside the elite consensus? Second, the course will consider the prelude and official responses to the 2008-11 financial crisis. What policies paved the way for and resolved the crisis, how were they reached, and who participated in formulating them? In other words, to what extent and in what respects were these fundamental turning points made "democratically"? Having done preliminary reading on these two issues, students will conduct in-depth research into aspects of one of these questions and write a research paper. [ more ]

PSCI 354 LEC Nationalism in East Asia

Last offered Fall 2022

Nationalism is a major political issue in contemporary East Asia. From anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, to tensions on the Korea peninsula, to competitive elections in Taiwan, to controversies in Japan about how history is portrayed in high school textbooks, national identity is hotly debated and politically mobilized all across the region. This course begins with an examination of the general phenomena of nationalism and national identity and their historical development in East Asia. It then considers how nationalism is manifest in the contemporary politics and foreign relations of China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Taiwan. [ more ]

PSCI 355 TUT American Realism: Kennan, Kissinger and the American Style of Foreign Policy

Last offered Spring 2017

George Kennan is widely considered to be the author of the containment strategy that ultimately won the Cold War. Henry Kissinger served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. In addition to their distinguished careers in government, both men have published well regarded and popular scholarship on various aspects of American foreign policy, international relations, and nuclear weapons. This tutorial will first examine the nature of their relationship to both Realist and Wilsonian perspectives on American foreign relations. We will then examine their experiences as strategists and policymakers during the most crucial moments of the Cold War. One of the key questions we will seek to answer is why Kennan and Kissinger disagreed on so many important issues, ranging from the Vietnam War to the role of nuclear weapons, despite their shared intellectual commitment to Realism. Finally, we will also examine some of the more recent biographies of both men, including John Lewis Gaddis's Pulitzer prize-winning George F. Kennan: An American Life and Niall Ferguson's Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist. [ more ]

PSCI 356 SEM Democratization in India and Pakistan

Last offered Spring 2024

Democratization has had both successes and failures in postcolonial South Asia. The region is home to the world's largest democracy in India, often cited as an unlikely and puzzling success story. At the same time, periods of democratic rule in Pakistan and Bangladesh are broken up by military interference, Sri Lanka's democracy is plagued by ethnic conflict, and Afghanistan has been unable to sustain democracy due to weak state institutions. What explains this diverse and uneven pattern of democracy in South Asia? The course delves into theories on political parties, ethnic politics, electoral institutions, civil-military relations, political violence, state-building, inter-state conflict, and civil wars to understand the variation in regime type in the region. It covers domestic and international factors that lead to democratization and democratic backsliding. We will focus on the role of political parties in democratization; the emergence of political dynasties; changes in the characteristics of the political elite; investigate claims of democratic deepening; and examine the effect of inter-state wars, land disputes, and insurgencies on democratic stability in the region. [ more ]

PSCI 357(S) SEM Senior Seminar: Leadership and the Anxieties of Democracy

This course, the senior capstone for Leadership Studies, examines the challenges and opportunities facing political leaders in contemporary liberal democracies. We will begin by seeking to place our current moment in the longer arc of history, examining the distinctive institutional and structural constraints facing contemporary political leaders and examining in detail previous eras in which the American political system has come under great pressure. Then, we will look at some important factors that shape how followers approach would-be leaders: inequality and economic precarity; identity and group consciousness; notions of membership, community, and hierarchy; and fraying institutions. While the course will focus primarily on the United States, our conceptual framework will be global. Our primary questions will be these: Why does transformative leadership seem so difficult today? How does political leadership in the 21st century differ from leadership in earlier eras? What conditions are necessary to sustain effective leadership in the contemporary world? As a final assignment, students will craft an 18-20-page research paper on a topic of their choice related to the themes of the course. [ more ]

PSCI 360(F) SEM Right-Wing Populism

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously declared "the end of history". From now on only liberal democracy, free market capitalism, and global integration had a future. Everything else -- including political ideology, nationalism, conservative religion, and sovereignty -- was consigned to the ash heap. Thirty years later the future looks seriously derailed. A right-wing populism marked by Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, and a host of 'far-right' political movements in the very heartland of democratic globalizing capitalism has shaken liberal certainties. This course is an investigation into contemporary right-wing populism in Europe and North America in its social, economic, and political context. We will discuss theories of right-wing populism's appeal from both left and right perspectives. We will also investigate specific cases of right-wing populism including France's National Rally and Eric Zemmour, the Netherlands' Geert Wilders, Sweden's Sweden Democrats, Hungary's Fidesz, Poland's Law and Justice Party, and America's Trumpism and QAnon. We will also reflect on important electoral tests of right-wing populism in 2024, especially the US presidential election and (perhaps) the UK general election. [ more ]

PSCI 361 SEM Black Political Thought

Last offered Spring 2024

This seminar will introduce students to the study of Black Political Thought as a set of critical normative and diagnostic gestures that help theorize the Black experience. By thrusting students into the "problem space" of Black Political Thought, students will examine the historical and structural conditions, normative arguments, theories of action, ideological conflicts, and conceptual evolutions that help define African American political imagination. Students will take up the central philosophical questions that shaped the tradition from the early nineteenth century to the present by engaging historical thinkers like Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B. DuBois, Frantz Fanon, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Ella Baker and contemporary theorists like Saidiya Hartman, Charles Mills, bell hooks, and Frank Wilderson--among others. Guided by a Black diasporic consciousness, students will explore the canon's structural and ideological accounts of slavery, colonialism, patriarchy, racial capitalism, Jim Crow, and state violence and, subsequently, critique and imagine visions of Black liberation. With a theoretical grounding in the "Black radical tradition," students will leave this course with the conceptual resources and philosophical tools needed to realize political theory's potential as an instrument they can employ in their daily lives to normatively and diagnostically evaluate political, economic, cultural, and social institutions. [ more ]

PSCI 362 TUT The Wilsonian Tradition in American Foreign Policy

Last offered Fall 2015

During and after the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson developed an approach to international relations that challenged the dominant assumptions of Realism. Instead of a world order marked by alliances, arms races, and wars, Wilson offered a vision of a peaceful world and the rule of international law. While America ultimately rejected the League of Nations, the Wilsonian tradition has continued to exert a powerful influence on scholars and policymakers. This tutorial will intensively examine Wilson's efforts to recast the nature of the international system, the American rejection of his vision after the First World War, and the reshaping of Wilsonianism after the Second World War. We will spend equal time in the tutorial on both the theoretical and historical dimensions of Wilsonianism. [ more ]

PSCI 364 TUT Noam Chomsky and the Radical Critique of American Foreign Policy

Last offered Fall 2021

Noam Chomsky emerged as one of the most influential figures in the development of modern linguistics during the 1950's. However, since the Vietnam War, Chomsky has also established himself as perhaps the most influential critic of American foreign policy and the Washington national security establishment. This tutorial will examine his wide-ranging critique of American foreign policy over the last half century, focusing on his analysis of the role that he believes the media and academics have played in legitimizing imperialism and human rights abuses around the world. We will also explore the controversies and criticisms of his work from both the right and the left because of his political stance on issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to humanitarian intervention to free speech. Finally, we will also examine how Chomsky's views, largely considered to be radical for much of his life, have become far more mainstream over time. [ more ]

PSCI 365 SEM U.S. Grand Strategy

Last offered Spring 2015

This course examines how U.S. leaders have conceived of their nation's place in the world and sought to use power to achieve national objectives. We will consider military affairs, economics, and diplomacy, but the class is mostly concerned with ideas. How have leaders from James Madison to George W. Bush thought about U.S. vulnerabilities, resources, and goals, and how have those ideas influenced foreign policy decisions? How did key leaders balance competing objectives and navigate difficult international circumstances? Which leaders were successful in managing U.S. statecraft, and which were not? Which leaders developed coherent grand strategies? What lessons might we derive for our own times from studying this history? The course will sweep across American history but will not attempt to be exhaustive in any way. Rather, it will focus on certain moments that highlight changing grand strategic thought. We will carefully consider, for example, the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, continental expansion in the Manifest Destiny period, the Civil War, overseas expansion in the late nineteenth century, the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, the Second World War, the Cold War, and the "War on Terror." Possible texts include Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, The Federalist Papers; Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History; George Kennan, American Diplomacy; Richard Immerman, Empire for Liberty; Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy; James McPherson, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief; and a collection of primary sources. [ more ]

PSCI 369 SEM The Crisis of Leadership

Last offered Spring 2018

It is now a commonplace that the liberal democracies of Europe and North America (and beyond) are facing a "crisis of leadership." In country after country, champions of cosmopolitan values and moderate reform are struggling to build sufficient popular support for their programs. These failures have created space for a politics of populism, ethno-nationalism, and resentment--an "anti-leadership insurgency" which, paradoxically, has catapulted charismatic (their critics would say demagogic) leaders to the highest offices of some of the largest nations on earth. In this course, we will seek to understand the challenges liberal, cosmopolitan leadership has encountered in the 21st century and the reasons why populist, nationalist leadership has proven resurgent. We will begin by examining institutional constraints facing political leaders: globalization, sclerotic institutions, polarization, endemic racism, and a changing media environment. Then we will look at some important factors which shape how followers approach would-be leaders: inequality and economic precarity; identity and group consciousness; notions of membership, community, and hierarchy; and declining local institutions. Our primary questions will be these: Why is transformative leadership so difficult today? How does political leadership in the 21st century differ from leadership in earlier eras? What conditions are necessary to sustain effective leadership in the contemporary world? [ more ]

PSCI 370 SEM The Political Thought of Frantz Fanon

Last offered Fall 2019

Martinican psychiatrist, philosopher, and revolutionary Frantz Fanon was among the leading critical theorists and Africana thinkers of the twentieth century. Fanon ushered in the decolonial turn in critical theory, a move calling on those both within and outside of Europe to challenge the coloniality of the age and to forge a new vision of politics in the postcolonial period. This course is an advanced seminar devoted to a comprehensive examination of Fanon's political thought. We will begin with an analysis of primary texts by Fanon and end by considering how Fanon has been interpreted by his contemporaries as well as activists and critical theorists writing today. [ more ]

PSCI 372 SEM CAPSTONE: Sylvia Wynter, Black Lives, and Struggle for the Human

Last offered Spring 2021

How do we judge the value of life? What is the significance of death and arbitrary threats to our existence? Why probe modern notions of black and blackness? What defines optimism, pessimism, enslavement, freedom, creativity, and being human? Do black lives matter? This capstone seminar will explore these and related questions through an examination of the life and work of Jamaican novelist, playwright, cultural critic, and philosopher Sylvia Wynter. Methodologically interdisciplinary, the course shall examine written and audiovisual texts that explore Wynter's inquiries into the central seminar queries. We will study figures and movements for black lives whose geopolitics frame the milieu of Wynter's work. Our examination of intellectuals and activists, with their explicit and implicit engagements with Wynter, shall facilitate assessing the possibilities, challenges, and visions of black living. We will also explore the current implications of Wynter's thought for Africana political theory, Afro-futurism, social justice, human rights, and critiques of liberal humanism. In the latter half of the course, students will have the opportunity to design, conduct, and present their own final research projects. [ more ]

PSCI 373 SEM Black Marxism: Political Theory and Anti-Colonialism

Last offered Spring 2021

The seminar involves a critical engagement with key Africana political leaders, theorists and liberationists. We will examine the Pan-African writings of: Cedric Robinson (Black Marxism); Walter Rodney (How Capitalism Underdeveloped Africa), Eric Williams (Capitalism and Slavery; From Columbus to Castro); Frantz Fanon (The Wretched of the Earth); Malcolm X (Malcolm X Speaks); Amilcar Cabral (Resistance and Decolonization; Unity and Struggle); C. L. R. James (The Black Jacobins). [ more ]

PSCI 374 SEM Shadows of Plato's Cave: Image, Screen, and Spectacle

Last offered Fall 2015

In Book VII of the Republic, Socrates famously asks his interlocutors to picture people living in a cave, bound in chains and able to see only shadows on the wall. Thus begins the presentation of perhaps the most influential metaphor in the history of philosophy. One might even claim that when Plato deployed the metaphor in an extended allegory, he constituted the fields of both philosophy and political theory. In repeatedly examining the allegory over the centuries, later thinkers have elaborated their approaches not only to Plato but also to the nature of politics and the tasks of thinking. This class begins with the Republic's cave and other key Platonic discussions of appearances, visual representation, and (literal and metaphoric) seeing, asking how Plato's approaches to image, politics, and theory/philosophy shape each other. Building on those inquiries, we next take up important twentieth and twenty-first century returns to the cave, engaging such figures as Heidegger, Strauss, Arendt, Derrida, Irigaray, Rancière, and Badiou. Finally, we examine recent theories of screen and spectacle--read both for their resonances with and departures from debates over the Platonic legacy--and case studies in the politics of both military and racial spectacles in the U.S. The question of what is an image and what images do will run from the beginning of course to the end. Beyond the authors mentioned, readings may include such authors as Allen, Bruno, Clark, Debord, Friedberg, Goldsby, Joselit, Mitchell, Nightingale, Rodowick, Rogin, Silverman, and Virilio. Insofar as it fits student interest, we will also explore the cave's considerable presence in visual culture, ranging from Renaissance painting through such recent and contemporary artists as Kelley, Demand, Hirschhorn, Kapoor, Sugimoto, and Walker, to films such as The Matrix. [ more ]

PSCI 375 SEM Modern Jewish Political Theory

Last offered Spring 2023

By the late 19th century, Jews across Europe were faced with an urgent political problem. Amidst bourgeoning national self-consciousness throughout the continent, despite the liberatory promises of the Enlightenment, Jews remained a vulnerable, segregated, and stigmatized minority population. Jews had to decide where to pin their hopes. Should they ally themselves with the liberals or the communists? Should they embrace nationalism or cosmopolitanism? Should they, perhaps, abandon Europe altogether and re-constitute themselves elsewhere? If so, should they focus their efforts on relocation to the historical land of Israel? Or could they go anywhere? Wherever they might go, should they aspire to build a modern Jewish nation-state, a semi-autonomous Jewish community, or some other arrangement? Should this coincide with the cultivation of a distinctively Jewish modern language? If so, should it be Hebrew or Yiddish? In this course we will assess various answers to these questions proffered by Jewish political thinkers in the modern period. We will pay particular attention to the construction of "Jews" and "Judaism" in these arguments. And we will ask persistently: what constitutes a "Jewish justification" for a political claim in modern Jewish political theory? Coverage will include: Jewish liberalism, political Zionism, Yiddishist autonomism, messianic quietism, and other views. We will read mostly primary sources, including texts by: Hermann Cohen, Theodore Herzl, Chaim Zhitlowsky, Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, and many others. [ more ]

PSCI 376 SEM The Impact of Black Panther Party Intellectuals on Political Theory

Last offered Spring 2023

This seminar examines the historical and contemporary impact of the Black Panther Party--and key allies such as Angela Davis--on political theory. Texts include: narratives from 1966-2016; memoirs; political critiques; theoretical analyses; interviews; speeches; government documents. The seminar will examine: original source materials; academic/popular interpretations and representations of the BPP; hagiography; iconography; political rebellion, political theory. Readings: Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party; Soledad Brother: The Prison Writings of George Jackson; Mao's Little Red Book; The Communist Manifesto; Still Black, Still Strong; Imprisoned Intellectuals; Comrade Sisters: Women in the Black Panther Party. [ more ]

PSCI 377 TUT The Black Radical Tradition

Last offered Spring 2019

The black radical tradition is a modern tradition of thought and action begun after transatlantic slavery's advent. Contemporary social science and the humanities overwhelmingly portray it as a critique of black politics in the latter's liberal, libertarian, and conservative forms. This tutorial unsettles that framing, first by situating the black radical tradition as a species of black politics, and second through expanding the boundaries of black politics beyond the United States. Central to the black radical tradition's architecture are inquiries into the concepts of freedom, race, equality, rights, and humanism; meaning of "radical"; the national-transnational relationship; notions of leadership; status of global capitalism; the nexus of theory and praxis; and revolutionary politics. We begin with examinations of these central notions and debates, and then move to investigations of the political thought of four key late modern Afro-Caribbean and African-American thinkers within the tradition: Walter Rodney, Sylvia Wynter, Cedric Robinson, and Angela Davis. [ more ]

PSCI 378(F) SEM Origins of the State

When and how did the state come into existence as a form of political organization? This course explores theories of state origins that refer back to an invented past or are simply located in "once upon a time." We will ask how political myths and philosophical speculation on human "prehistory" draw boundaries between past and present, as well as between self and other. Paying attention to common oppositions such as nature/civilization, primitive/advanced, anarchy/social order, feminine/masculine, ruler/ruled and stasis/progress, we will investigate how these antagonisms work together to create the idea of the state that still dominates political imagination today. Course readings touch briefly on social contract theories (Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant) before turning to the core material for our exploration: alternative narratives of the origins of the state based on ancient Greek and Roman mythology and the political projects of modern-day socialists (Marx, Engels, Bebel, and more recent writers). How did it come to be that the socialist imagination comingled ancient myths with modern ethnological studies of non-European peoples--studies written largely from a colonialist standpoint? Must the figures of "woman" and "native" be continually pressed into the service of state theory, even in a supposedly alternative account? More broadly, how do socialist theories relate to other well-known theories of the state, e.g. as a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence (Weber), a form of colonization of lands and peoples (postcolonial studies and Critical Indigenous Theory), and a patriarchal institution controlling productive and reproductive labor (feminist theory)? (Please note that this is not a history course. It is a study of political myth-making and the concept of the state in political theory.) [ more ]

PSCI 379 SEM Cuba, US, Africa, and Resistance to Black Enslavement, 1791-1991

Last offered Fall 2022

This seminar focuses on the entwined histories of liberation movements against racism, enslavement, and imperialism in the US, Cuba and Africa. Readings include: Hugh Thomas, Cuba: A History; Che Guevara: The Motorcycle Diaries; Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa; Laird Bergad, The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States; Thomas Sankara, Women's Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle; Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, How Far We Slaves Have Come! Students will read and analyze texts, screen documentaries, collectively compile a comprehensive bibliography, and present group analyses. The seminar is open to all students; however, priority is given to seniors majoring in American Studies. [ more ]

PSCI 380(S) SEM Sex Marriage Family

Something has happened to America over the past fifteen years. Large minorities of young adults, especially young men, are now celibate. Cohabitation has skyrocketed but marriage is disappearing, and the country's birth rate is at an all-time low. Not surprisingly, loneliness has become epidemic. A similar story can be told for most other developed countries. The implications for political polarization, economic growth, social insurance programs, public health, military defence, even national survival are grim. What is the cause of this loss of faith in the future? Can public policy reverse these trends? This course is an investigation into relations between the sexes in the developed world, the fate of children and the family, and government attempts to shape them. The course investigates family models in historical and comparative context; the family and the welfare state; the economics of sex, gender, marriage, and class inequality; the dramatic value and behavioral changes of Gen Z around sex, cohabitation, and parenthood; and state policies to encourage partnership/marriage and childbearing. [ more ]

PSCI 381 SEM The Conservative Welfare State

Last offered Spring 2024

Conservatives in the United States are traditionally hostile to state power in general and the welfare state in particular. In much of the rest of the world, however, conservatives harbor no hatred of the state and, when in power, have constructed robust systems of social welfare to support conservative values. This course offers an analysis of the conservative welfare state with particular interest in public policies around social insurance, employment, the family, and immigration. The course traces the conservative welfare state's development from its origins in late nineteenth and early twentieth century corporatism, through the rise of Christian Democracy and the consolidation of conservative welfare regimes in continental Europe after World War Two, to its contemporary challenges from secularism, feminism, and neoliberalism. The course also investigates divergent conservative models in East Asia and Latin America as well as new 'illiberal' welfare states in contemporary Hungary and Poland. It concludes with a discussion of the prospects of right-populist politics in the United States. [ more ]

PSCI 386 SEM Identity Politics: Conflicts in Bosnia, Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, & South Africa

Last offered Fall 2020

Identities have been either the stakes, or the guise taken by other kinds of conflicts, in Bosnia, Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa for centuries. They have led to, or expressed, political divisions, clashing loyalties, and persistent and sometimes consuming violence. They also have produced attempts by both internal and external actors to resolve the issues. This research seminar will engage the origins of the conflicts and the role of identities in them, the role of disputes about sovereign power in creating and intensifying them, the strategies for reconciling them that are adopted domestically and internationally, the deals that have been struck or have not been struck to bring peace in these societies, and the outcomes of the various efforts in their contemporary politics. The course will begin by reading about both the general theoretical issues raised by conflicts in these "divided societies" and various responses to them. After familiarizing ourselves with what academic and policy literatures have to say about them, we then will read about the histories and contemporary politics in each society. With that as background, students will choose an aspect or aspects of these conflicts as a subject for their individual research. [ more ]

PSCI 387 SEM The Firm

Last offered Spring 2023

The rise of gigantic tech firms--Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon--has sparked widespread worries about the role of business power in capitalist democracy. Are these firms monopolies? How can they be better regulated? Should they be? This course studies the politics of business by centering analysis on the firm. From the perspective of the workplace, we investigate the firm as an arena of power, where workers and managers meet each other in continuous contests for control. From the perspective of the public sphere, we investigate the firm as an actor whose power maps uneasily onto the channels of democratic representation. Approaching the firm as both arena and actor in a number of capitalist democracies, we will compare the politics of business across different sectors, but will focus especially on tech and finance. [ more ]

PSCI 388 TUT Comparative Political Economy

Last offered Spring 2022

This course examines the relationships between broad economic structures and political institutions. We consider why and how the spread of capitalism led to the birth of democracy in some countries, but dictatorships in others? Here we look closely at whether it is economic development which leads to the spread of democracy. Or whether it is economic crises which make the movement to democracy possible. Finally, we examine whether the emergence of a neoliberal economic order has affected the organization of political society? [ more ]

PSCI 397 IND Independent Study: Political Science

Last offered Fall 2021

Political Science independent study. [ more ]

PSCI 398 IND Independent Study: Political Science

Last offered Spring 2023

Political Science independent study. [ more ]

PSCI 410 SEM Senior Seminar in American Politics: The Politics of Belonging

Last offered Spring 2019

Although many people have described America as inclusive, political debates about belonging have often been contentious and hard-fought. This seminar will focus on the politics of belonging in America. What does it mean to be an American? If the U.S. is a nation of immigrants, why is immigration reform so difficult to achieve? Are legal citizenship and formal political rights sufficient for belonging? Or does full inclusion rest on the ability to exercise civil and social rights as well? Does income inequality threaten the political equality necessary for a strong democracy? As we examine the debates over inclusion, we will consider different views about the relationship among political, civil, and social rights as well as different interpretations of American identity, politics, and democracy. [ more ]

PSCI 411 IND Advanced Study in American Politics

Last offered Fall 2018

A full year of independent study (481-482) under the direction of the Political Science faculty, to be awarded to the most distinguished candidate based upon competitive admissions. The candidate, designated the Sentinels of the Republic Scholar, receives a research stipend to cover costs associated with the proposed project. The Sentinels Scholar may submit her/his essay for consideration for honors in Political Science. Admission is awarded on the basis of demonstrated capacity for distinguished work and on the proposal's promise for creative contributions to the understanding of topics on the federal system of government. Anyone with a prospective proposal should contact the department chair for guidance. [ more ]

PSCI 412 SEM Senior Seminar: Interpretations of American Politics

Last offered Fall 2021

American politics are in upheaval, and most Americans believe the country to be headed down "the wrong track." Yet assessments of what is at the heart of the country's problems vary. Many worry that the United States is threatened by anti-democratic actors intent on consolidating white nationalist power and corporate rule. Yet at the same time, others worry that the U.S. has abandoned the Anglo-Protestant traditions that made it strong and has entered a period of moral decay and decline. What are we to make of these different assessments? What do left and right see when they survey the nation, and why is what they see so different? Any diagnosis of contemporary maladies is premised on a vision of what a healthy functioning republic looks like. Our task in the seminar is to uncover and interrogate those visions. We will do this by exploring different interpretations of the American political order, each with its own story of narrative tensions and possible resolutions. We will then use our investigation of how different authors, and different traditions, understand the nation to help us assess contemporary politics and come to our own conclusions about what animates conflicts. [ more ]

PSCI 413 SEM Senior Seminar in American Politics: Polarized America

Last offered Spring 2023

With red states and blue states, partisan divisions in Congress, and even disputes about wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus, few question the fact of a polarized America. But what is the polarization about and what caused it? Is it manufactured by a political elite using the rules of the game to maintain power while ignoring the concerns of the people? Is it a capitalist strategy to divide the public in order to advance the interests of the wealthy corporate elite? Does it reflect a polity divided by racial and ethnic tensions with different visions of the nation's past and future? Does it reflect increased inequality in a fast-changing global economy? How can a government of separated institutions operate and come to collective decisions given this discord? Can the framers' vision of deliberative, representative government meet the challenges of a polarized polity? [ more ]

PSCI 415(S) SEM Senior Seminar: The Rites of American Politics

Custom and tradition abound in American politics. As adherents of a political creed, we recite the Pledge of Allegiance before school and sing the Star-Spangled Banner before football. As wielders of political agency, we fashion signs to convey maxims with wit and devise chants to imbue marches with force. As skeptics of political officeholders, we observe the familiar patterns of grandstanding when legislators interrogate witnesses at committee hearings and the distinctive cadence of interruption when judges question advocates at oral arguments. As members of a political community, we fill out forms to pay into the coffers of governmental programs and wait in lines to secure the documents that confer governmental benefits. From the patriotic to the participatory, the performative to the pedestrian, our political acts -- shared with and repeated by others across our great national expanse each and every day -- are always more textured, more illuminating, and more consequential than we could possibly realize in the moment. But what, exactly, do they mean? And how, precisely, do they matter? Proceeding from the idea that these sorts of ubiquitous cultural practices are fundamentally and constitutively relevant for our politics, that they both reflect and instigate fissures and junctions in the political order, this course focuses, quasi-anthropologically, on the choreography of American politics -- the narrative mythology, visual symbolism, ceremonial rituals, linguistic tropes, and behavioral habits that sustain America as a polity and shape Americans as a people. Our interest is in the rites that attend not only to our own citizenship but also to our very consciousness as political beings; our purpose is equally to identify, to interpret, and to investigate them. [ more ]

PSCI 420(F) SEM Senior Seminar: The Nuclear Revolution

This is a course about international politics in the nuclear age. In broad terms, it focuses on a very basic question: Does international politics still work essentially the same way as it did in the prenuclear era, or has it undergone a "revolution," in the most fundamental sense of the word? The structure of the course combines political science concepts and historical case studies, with the goal of generating in-depth classroom debates over key conceptual, historical, and policy questions. The basic format of the course will be to combine very brief lectures with detailed class discussions of each session's topic. The course will begin--by focusing on the Manhattan Project--with a brief technical overview of nuclear physics, nuclear technologies, and the design and effects of nuclear weapons. The course will then examine the following subjects: the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan; theories of the nuclear revolution; the early Cold War period; the development and implications of thermonuclear weapons; the Berlin and Cuban missile crises; nuclear accidents; nuclear terrorism and illicit nuclear networks; the future of nuclear energy; regional nuclear programs; preventive strikes on nuclear facilities; nuclear proliferation; and contemporary policy debates. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 421 SEM Senior Seminar: The Liberal Project in International Relations

Last offered Fall 2022

The most powerful actors in global politics are liberal ones, and a liberal project around democratic states, international law and organizations, and free trade dominates the global agenda. This course is an investigation into this global liberal project, engaging both theory and practice. We will discuss signature liberal theorists both classic and current as well as some of their most notable critics. We will also attend to empirical evaluations of signature liberal efforts around democratization, development, and human rights. The course ends with a discussion of the successes and failures of the European Union as the principal embodiment of the liberal project today. [ more ]

PSCI 422 SEM Senior Seminar in Human Rights in International Politics and Law

Last offered Spring 2018

The idea that all humans have rights simply because they are human-independent of anything they might do or achieve-has transformed local and international politics, probably permanently. This concept's place in international politics, its strengths and limitations, depend on how people use it. Beginning with the 18th-century's transatlantic movement to abolish slavery, we will examine international movements and institutions that have affected what human rights mean, to whom, and where. Readings draw on philosophy, history, sociology, and international relations, but as a political science class we emphasize politics. Who benefits from the idea of universal human rights? Who loses? How does this idea about individual value liberate and entrap? Does this idea ultimately reinforce American hegemony, or plant the seeds of a non-American order? [ more ]

PSCI 423 SEM Senior Seminar: Humanitarianism

Last offered Spring 2024

Since the mid-1980s, humanitarianism has been one dominant attitude that powerful and privileged countries, organizations and people have adopted with regard to poverty or disaster elsewhere. Humanitarianism aims at rescue, striving to keep marginal people alive until some solution can be found. It aims not to address crises' causes nor to assist with solutions--which it considers political--just to keep human bodies alive. Critics contend that humanitarianism produces harm, provides structural incentives for people to do more or less than they need to, and deepens inequality between actors and targets. They contend that it legitimates a view of the status quo, in which such terrible things are bound to happen without real cause. This course confronts humanitarianism as an ideology through reading its defenders and critics, and as a political strategy assessing its usefulness, to whom. [ more ]

PSCI 426(F) SEM The Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Arab-Israeli dispute receives more attention than arguably any other ongoing conflict in international politics, and for very good reason. The fact that it has lasted as long as it has--well over a century--been characterized by a remarkable (and depressing) degree of intensity; involved competing nationalisms, as well as different religions, cultures, and ethnicities; centered on territorial claims over land that is of special significance; and been connected to a number of important geopolitical questions, including ones involving great power competition, has made it a major focus of scholars of the Middle East, international relations analysts, and, of course, the general public. The issue is also of special interest, for a variety of reasons, in American political discourse. This seminar will examine the conflict in depth, beginning with its origins in the late nineteenth century, and ending with how it might run its course in the future. Specifically, the course will begin with an overview of the dispute's history and most salient aspects. Thereafter, it will cover Zionism and the Palestinian nationalist cause; the creation of the state of Israel and the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war; the June 1967 war; the debate, and controversy, over the "Israel lobby" in the United States; the October 1973 war and its aftermath; the road to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; the arguably underappreciated role that nuclear weapons have played in the conflict; the rise and collapse of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, as well as the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000; and the future of the dispute. [ more ]

PSCI 430 SEM What Should Political Theory Be Now?

Last offered Spring 2017

How can theorists best engage politics today? What political problems most demand or resist theorization---and is "theory" even the right genre for critical intellectual work on politics now? This course takes up such questions by considering how key recent or contemporary theorists have sketched the defining features of their political worlds. With each reading, our dual aim will be to confront pressing issues or controversies and to ask whether the works in question offer ways of thinking and writing that we should pursue ourselves. Topics may include neoliberalism and democracy; sovereignty and biopower; pluralism, individuality, and justice; technology and the specter of ecological catastrophe; the problem of evil in politics; white supremacy; and contemporary struggles over gender and sexuality. Readings will be drawn from such authors as Adorno, Allen, Arendt, Berlant, Brown, Butler, Connolly, Dean, Foucault, Galli, Honig, Latour, Moten, Rancière, Rawls, Sen, and Sexton. [ more ]

PSCI 431 Senior Seminar in Political Theory: Rethinking the Political

Last offered NA

What is politics? The question, an important part of political theory at least since Socrates, has taken on renewed significance in recent years, as theorists have sought to rethink the political in response to twentieth century dictatorships and world wars; feminist, queer, anti-racist, post- and decolonial struggles; the transformations wrought by neoliberal globalization; the emergence of "algorithmic governance"; the recent resurgence of populist nationalism; and deepening recognition of climate crises. This seminar engages some of the major attempts at rethinking produced in the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly at those that, characterizing liberalism as masking structures of subordination and elements of conflict in political life, undervaluing the importance of citizen action and public space, or being ill-suited to altered technological and ecological conditions, seek to rework or move beyond it. In addition to those who argue for an expanded and emancipatory conception of politics, we will consider arguments against politics as primary path to improvement or focus of commitment. Authors read may include Schmitt, Strauss, Rawls, Arendt, Wolin, Rancière, Brown, Connolly, Hartman, Sharpe, Moten, Wynter, Sexton, Edelman, Muñoz, Coulthard, Simpson, Lazzarato, Haraway, Latour. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 432 SEM Senior Seminar: Critical Theory

Last offered Spring 2024

This seminar focuses on the political thought of Herbert Marcuse, investigating the influences of leftist social movements of the 1960s on his critical theory. Marcuse famously supported the aims of student activism, feminism, black liberation movements and Third World anti-colonialism during that period, publicly affirming their efforts to integrate ethical idealism with concrete concerns for the economic wellbeing and political freedom of oppressed groups. Drawing on Freud, and challenged by his philosophical exchanges with Angela Davis, Marcuse came to the view that these movements were addressing not only material deprivations such as poverty and structural oppression, but also the effects of social alienation and a damaged psychic life. He saw these movements as successfully bridging the longstanding tension between the ideal elements of our humanity and the physical conditions for human existence (a tension represented in philosophy by the contrast between Kant and Marx). Yet he stopped short of identifying new social movements with the Marxist notion of a revolutionary class. Why this hesitation? Was his caution warranted? To provide a broader context for Marcuse's critical theory, we will read a selection of his writings alongside related texts by Kant, Marx, Freud, and Davis. Looking at but also beyond his political solidarity with the emancipatory movements of the 1960s, we will then consider how Marcuse's work can be placed in conversation with more recent critical theory, including ideas emerging from the Occupy Wall Street movement and feminist approaches to aesthetics and psychoanalytic theory. [ more ]

Taught by: TBA

Catalog details

PSCI 433(S) SEM Senior Seminar: Dignity

Discredited over the centuries by skeptics of many ideological persuasions, dignity has nevertheless remained central to the vocabulary of political protest movements from the left and the right. In the post-WWII period, dignity has also served as the grounding principle for international human rights conventions and national constitutions. But what is the meaning of dignity? Does dignity belong specifically to the human species, or is it equally the property of all living beings? If everybody, or perhaps everything, has its own dignity, what could the concept possibly add to our understanding of social relations, political processes, and legal judgments? Course readings will be as wide-ranging as the concept is broad. Some of our touchstones will be: Kant's moral philosophy, writings from the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement, Marxist theories of the dignity of labor, international human rights conventions, and court cases from Germany, Namibia, South Africa and the United States. [ more ]

PSCI 440(F) SEM Settler Colonialism: What is it and what does it do?

What is "settler colonialism" and what does it do? We hear the term often, and it carries connotations -- usually of illegitimacy. But knowing that something is, or is supposed to be, bad does not tell us what it is. It does not tell us either whether or when a society that originated in what is called settler colonialism can outgrow its origins or whether it is forever defined by them. This course will consist of two parts. First, it will read several theoretical works on settler colonialism, identifying several key issues, and then will read a long account of the rise and fall of settler colonialism in Algeria. We will consider what settler colonialism is, what forms it comes in, and how it differs from other forms of colonialism, what prompts it, whether settlers, who usually are meant to be loyal to their colonial patrons remain loyal and when they shift to rebellion, and the nature of the colonial power (which is not always a state). We will also will consider the impact and responses of the prior populations. Do they choose to co-exist, co-operate, resist? And what does the imposition of settler colonialism do to their loyalties and collective identities? Do they retain their old identities or form new ones, and do the distinct groups that are amalgamated into the 'colonized' by natives become united or maintain earlier differences? Does their resistance build on their experiences with colonialism or does it revert to previous ways? And why does resistance almost always take the form of nationalism? The second part of the course will consist of a 25-page research paper on one aspect or another of the issue of settler colonialism. We will work together on how to define and refine a topic and how to pursue it. Students also will present the core of their paper to the class. [ more ]

PSCI 442 SEM Senior Seminar: Authoritarian Regimes

Last offered Fall 2023

Authoritarian regimes are plentiful in the world today. Some appear durable and resilient; they are not simply transient political failures awaiting a breakthrough to democracy. This course will consider the history and contemporary experience of authoritarianian regimes, beginning with political philsophical analyses of classcal theorists such as Montesquieu, Moore, and Arendt. Attention then turns to how post-World War II authoritariansm has been understood from a variety of perspectives, including: the "transitions to democracy" approach; analysis of problems of authoritarian control and authoritarian power-sharing; and examination of "authoritarian relience," among others. [ more ]

PSCI 493(F) HON Senior Thesis Research Design Seminar

Reserved for and required of those students accepted into the honors program during the second semester of their junior year, the fall semester Senior Thesis Research Design Seminar is intended to serve three purposes for aspiring senior thesis writers. First, through a variety of readings and discussions (including, perhaps, with the assigned scholars themselves), it aims to introduce students to the challenges of original scholarly research and expose them to the range of ways political scientists approach those challenges. Second, through a series of regular exercises and assignments, it seeks to stimulate critical thinking about fundamental questions of research design (crafting a question, performing a literature review, selecting appropriate methodological tools, evaluating data sources) and hone an array of practical skills -- whether quantitative, archival, interpretive, or ethnographic -- involved in political science research. Third, through ongoing, self-guided reading on students' individual topics as well as feedback from both the seminar leader and other seminar participants on their written work about that topic, it endeavors to guide students to frame a viable and meaningful research project. At the conclusion of the seminar, each student will submit a substantial and rigorous 12 page research proposal, with an annotated bibliography, for a roughly 35 page "article-length" thesis to be completed during Winter Study and the spring semester. Those whose proposals are accepted by a committee of faculty chosen by the department will continue on as thesis students, under the supervision of an advisor to be assigned by the department, for the remainder of the academic year; those whose proposals are not accepted may complete an abridged version of their project as an independent study in Winter Study but will not continue in the honors program in the spring semester. [ more ]

PSCI 494(S) HON Senior Thesis Research and Writing Workshop

Reserved for and required of those students invited to continue in the honors program following the department's approval of their research proposal at the end of the fall semester seminar, the spring semester Senior Thesis Research and Writing Workshop provides a focused forum for the exchange of ideas among thesis writers, who will regularly circulate excerpts of their work-in-progress for peer review and critique. During this time, students will work primarily with their assigned faculty advisor, with the workshop leader's primary role becoming one of coordination, troubleshooting, and general guidance. Near the end of the semester, students will receive feedback on their complete draft from their advisor and two additional faculty readers selected by the workshop leader; following revisions, the final work--a roughly 35 page piece of original scholarship--will be submitted to and evaluated by a committee of faculty chosen by the department for the awarding of honors as well as presented publicly to the departmental community at an end-of-year collective symposium. [ more ]

PSCI 495(F) IND Individual Project: Political Science

With the permission of the department, open to senior Political Science majors. This research course extends over one semester and the winter study period. The research results must be presented to the faculty supervisor for evaluation in the form of an extended essay. [ more ]

PSCI 496(S) IND Individual Project: Political Science

With the permission of the department, open to senior Political Science majors. This research course extends over one semester and the winter study period. The research results must be presented to the faculty supervisor for evaluation in the form of an extended essay. [ more ]