Government Courses


103.        Introduction to American Politics.

Who gets what and how? This course answers that question by introducing the major institutions and actors of the American political system, including the Constitution, parties, interest groups and the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. The course also examines the cultural, ideological and economic contexts in which American politics occurs, as well as the mechanisms and possibilities of political change.

105.        Introduction to Comparative Politics.

Comparative politics analyzes how demands emerge, power is exercised and benefits are distributed in different countries. It uses both historical and contemporary evidence to examine how societies respond to these challenges in order to appreciate and learn from the differences among them. Developing societies, communist and formerly communist regimes, as well as industrialized democracies, are analyzed and compared as a basis for evaluation and judgment.

108.      Introduction to International Politics.

An analysis of international relations as a political process with particular emphasis on patterns of conflict and cooperation. Major areas of study include theories concerning the nature of the international system, nationalism, balance of power, collective security, alliance systems, international law and organization, political economy, war, deterrence, arms control and disarmament, the emerging international order, human rights and the environment. Also offered through Peace Studies.

206.        Introduction to Political Theory.

A study of the answers that philosophers from Plato to Marx have given to the question, “How should political life be organized?” This question leads us to consider the related problems of justice, power, equality, freedom and human nature. The course includes discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of liberal democracy.

Research Seminars

290, 291, 292, 293. Research Seminars.

Research seminars cover topics related to American Politics (290), Comparative Politics (291), Political Theory (292), and International Politics (293). The specific topics of these seminars vary depending on the interests of faculty and students. Recent topics have included China’s Rise, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Presidential Elections, Comparative Environmental Politics, Corruption & Good Governance, and Foreign Aid. The seminars are designed to acquaint students with research problems, strategies and techniques relevant to the field. This course is required for all government majors and minors and should be completed in the sophomore or junior year. Students may take only one research seminar.

American Politics

302.        The American Legal System.

This course explores the workings of the courts at all levels of the U.S. legal system. The primary goal is to increase and broaden our understanding of what happens in courts, why it happens, and how courts fit into the larger political system. Much of our attention will focus on actors in the legal system (lawyers, juries, interest groups and especially judges) as we consider how their behavior is shaped by and in turn shapes our legal and political institutions and environments. Students will be asked to weigh in on contemporary debates surrounding the legal process and to grapple with some of the difficult normative questions associated with American courts. Recommended as preparation for GOVT 307. Prerequisite: GOVT 103.

303.        Political Parties, Interest Groups and Voting Behavior.

Two mechanisms try to organize ordinary citizens so that government may be responsive to people’s needs: parties and interest groups. One of their aims has been to organize citizens into rational, effective voting blocs. This course looks at how parties and interest groups work and at whether or not they are fulfilling their purpose. Prerequisite: GOVT 103; GOVT 302 is recommended.

307.        Constitutional Law.

This course examines the constitutional jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court and how its decisions have shaped the contours of the relationship among political institutions and between the individual and the state. Among the areas of law explored are presidential powers; the powers of Congress; freedom of speech, press and religion; equal protection; federalism; and the rights to privacy, to bear arms and to vote. While working toward a fuller understanding of Supreme Court jurisprudence, the course also aims to develop students’ capacity for logical and legal reasoning. Prerequisites: GOVT 302.

309.        Congress.

An institutional and behavioral examination of the legislative process in Congress, with attention to current policy issues. Prerequisite: GOVT 103.

310.        The U.S. Presidency.

An examination of the functions of the presidency, with stress on the development of the executive branch in response to political needs and opportunities. Prerequisite: GOVT 103.

316.        Business & Ethics.

This seminar looks at the relation between public policy and ethical dilemmas in the arenas of corporate life and professional service. The course asks students to examine the sorts of moral dilemmas they can expect to encounter in their chosen fields of work and takes a case-study approach to such topics as employee rights, information disclosure, Affirmative Action, sexual harassment and whistleblowing, and the roles that public policy should — or should not — play in relation to these issues.

Comparative Politics

221.                       Latin American Politics.

This course introduces students to the politics of Latin America. Tracing the roots of current political conflict to the colonial era, the primary focus of the course is on underdevelopment and political change in Latin America today. The course examines the roles of key political actors, including the military, indigenous peoples and the church. It explores patterns of development, introducing theories that seek to explain persistent poverty and inequality as well as the periodic swings between authoritarianism and democracy in the region. The course material emphasizes current pressures for political inclusion, tracking social movements and human rights. Themes are illustrated with case studies. Also offered as CLAS 221.

230.        African Politics.

This course explores the evolution of power and authority across Sub-Saharan Africa. The first part of the course traces the changing dynamics of African states through pre-colonial history, colonialism and conquest, the rise of nationalism and independence, and democratization and authoritarian backsliding in order to provide a foundation for understanding both region-wide and country-specific trends in politics and development. Building on this foundation, the second part of the course analyzes contemporary prospects and challenges facing today’s African states as they attempt to manage the interests of ethnically diverse societies, reform political institutions, spur development and decrease inequality, adapt to climate change, grapple with human rights, counteract political violence, and compete in the global economy. Especially recommended for students who plan to participate in the Kenya Semester Program or the Global Francophone Cultures Program and students returning from these programs.  Also offered as AFS 230.

322.        Chinese Politics.

An introductory survey of China from four perspectives: China as China, China as a Communist party state, China as a developing country, and China as a rising power. Through these lenses, the course examines the historical factors that have shaped contemporary Chinese institutions  and the Chinese Communist Party. It also examines China’s influence and security concerns within the international community. Especially recommended for students who plan to participate in an off-campus program in China and for students returning from the program. Also offered as ASIA 322 and through Peace Studies.

324.        Asia: Beyond the Great Wall.

Asia is currently one of the most dynamic and consequential regions in the world. This course seeks to answer the following questions to make sense of this vast and diverse area: How is the “West” (and especially the U.S.) to understand Asia’s rise in the global context? What political and economic factors explain developmental success and failure in the region? Will Asia decide the future of democracy in the global context? Does thinking about Asia as a region makes sense like a European Union? This course aims to provide students with a deeper historical, political, and economic understanding of Asia within the global context.

325.        Canadian Politics.

An introductory survey of the formal institutions and the processes of Canadian politics. Emphasis is on the federal government and on federal-provincial relations. Topics covered include the parliamentary process, parties and voting.

328.        Political Institutions in the Developing World.

Can the choice of certain political institutions promote better representation, political stability, more government accountability, less corruption, or improved economic performance in developing countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia?  This course tackles these questions by introducing students to the main approaches in comparative institutional analysis and exploring the design and consequences of a wide range of political institutions (or “rules of the political game”) such as state structures, electoral systems, executive powers, the legislature, the judiciary, and sub-national structures. Discussions center on debates about the trade-offs between representation and efficiency, whether political behavior can be shaped by incentives, the impact of historical legacies, and the unique challenge of implementing formal institutional rules in societies where informal practices shape much of the political life.  Prerequisite: Any 100-level Government course or permission of the instructor.

330.        European Politics.

This course focuses on West European governments, political parties and social movements. It seeks to provide students with essential information about West European politics, as well as contemporary theories about advanced capitalist democracies. Comparisons between European and American politics are frequent so that students may better see the distinctiveness of each. Issues examined include the European welfare state, the significance of the European Union, the changing contours of political conflict and the emergence of multiculturalism in Europe. Especially recommended for students who plan to participate in an off-campus program in Europe and for students returning from those programs. Prerequisite: GOVT 290–3 or permission of the instructor. Also offered through European Studies.

331.        Middle East Politics.

This course examines the political development of the Arab and non-Arab states in the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The course adopts both a thematic approach, comparing history, culture, religion and the role of foreign intervention, as well as a country-based approach, examining the politics and policies of specific Arab and Non-Arab countries. The objective of the course is to provide students with an understanding of the challenges facing the region and those studying it. Students participating in this course will be involved in an elaborate simulation game in which they represent regional state and non-state actors. Prerequisite: GOVT 105. Introduction to Comparative Politics. Also offered through Peace Studies.

337.        Torture, Truth and Memory

Authoritarian regimes have often committed massive human rights abuses that included murder, torture, disappearances, involuntary exile and forced adoptions. As a condition for transitioning to democratic governance outgoing military leaders insisted on amnesty for those crimes, but societies have sought to come to terms with their human rights history through other means such as truth commissions, forensic anthropology, investigative journalism, international prosecution, collective memory projects and popular culture. Drawing on memoirs, torturers’ confessions, declassified documents, films, literature and analytical texts this course explores the ongoing struggle over who will interpret the political past, and what roles justice and reconciliation may play in securing democracy for the future. Course readings will center on Latin American cases, and students can apply those lessons in other world regions through their research papers. Also offered as CLAS 337 and through Peace Studies.

Political Theory

315.        Feminist Political Theory

This course will introduce you to some of the ways by which feminists draw from and transform political theory, as well as how political theory may inform or help us to understand feminist claims and activism. We will read post-second wave feminist analysis. Through our readings, we will explore concepts, such as citizenship, freedom, agency, and rights, that are central to political theory, and explore how these new ways of thinking can help us to envision society in new ways. We will also explore the implications of theory for political activism. Prerequisite GOVT 206 or GNDR 290.

343.        Ecology and Political Thought.

Ecology reminds us that our activities are embedded within natural systems. What is the significance of this fact for politics? This course examines how various actors, such as citizens, consumers, social movements, scientific experts and governmental agencies, conceptualize the relationship between humanity and the natural world. We evaluate the merits and shortcomings of a variety of approaches to environmental politics, including survivalism, sustainable development, deep ecology, ecofeminism and the environmental justice movement. Does not satisfy the department’s major requirement in political theory. Prerequisite: ENVS 101, GOVT 206, or permission of instructor. Also offered as ENVS 343.

345.        Political Theories of Violence and Nonviolence.

Carl von Clausewitz famously remarked that “war is a continuation of politics by other means,” which suggests that politics is intimately connected with violence even as it seeks to avoid it. In this discussion-based seminar we will examine how key figures throughout the history of political thought have conceptualized the relationship between politics, violence, and non-violence. Topics covered in the course include just war theory, the role of violence in the state, non-violent civil disobedience, and revolutionary violence associated with working class and anti-colonial struggles. Also offered as PHIL 343 and through European Studies and Peace Studies.

349.        American Political Thought: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

An examination of the main currents of political thinking from the Colonial period to the end of the 19th century. The course begins with the Puritan Divines and continues through the start of the Progressive era. Thinkers considered might include Paine, the Federalists, Jefferson, Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Thoreau, Frederick Douglass and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

350.        American Political Thought: Twentieth Century.

An examination of the main currents of political thinking in the United States from the Progressive Era through the end of the 1960s. Thinkers considered include the Social Darwinists, Thorstein Veblen, W.E.B. DuBois, Jane Addams and John Dewey. We also look at both the resurgence of conservative thought in the 1950s and some of the sociological critiques of the post-war era out of which the New Left, civil rights, Black Power, feminist and ecological movements grew.

368.        Democracy and Its Critics.

Most countries in the world today are democratic, but there is no single model of democracy and no consensus on what the term means. This applied political theory course reviews models of democracy across the centuries, including classical democracy, competitive elitism, participatory democracy and deliberative democracy. The course focuses on the democratic principles behind the models, drawing on the work of major Western thinkers from ancient Greece, the Italian Renaissance city-states, 18th- and 19th-century France and England, as well as the United States. It centers discussion around themes such as representation, participation, majority rule and the transformative potential of modern technology for democratic practice. Also listed as PHIL 368.

International Politics

281.        U.S Foreign Policy toward Latin America.

This course examines U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America from the issuance of the Monroe Doctrine to the present. We will track the development of the inter-American system in a context of U.S. hegemony and show how asymmetric power relations have influenced resolution of key problems in regional relations. The course will review changing U.S. policies toward the region, such as dollar diplomacy, the Good Neighbor policy, and the Alliance for Progress, as well as formative events such as U.S. military occupation of countries in the Caribbean Basin as well as Cold War covert operations. Students will consider how the United States and Latin America see shared policy problems differently, including the debt crisis, immigration, illicit drug flows, and environmental problems, and how states nonetheless sometimes cooperate in the resolution of them. Also offered as CLAS 281.

360.        International Relations Theory.

An advanced seminar on the theories of international relations. The principal contending theories of international relations are investigated and critiqued. Although the nation-state system remains the primary focus of scholars of international relations, other major non-state actors of the international system are examined. Prerequisite: GOVT 108 or permission of instructor. Also offered through Peace Studies.

361.        American Foreign Policy.

A study of the formulation, conduct and administration of United States foreign policy, particularly since 1945. The course examines the directions of U.S. foreign policy since 1989 and the goals and values that have guided foreign policy in the new environment. What directions should American policy take in contemporary foreign relations and what goals and values should guide that policy direction? Prerequisites: GOVT 108.

363.        International Organization and Global Governance.

This course introduces students to the structure, actors, and processes of global governance.  It begins with a broad overview of the characterization of the international system and incentives for states and nonstate actors to cooperate under anarchy.  Students will then develop a knowledge of various formal international organizations (IOs) such as the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, the International Monetary Fund.  Ultimately, they will apply their knowledge of IOs to think analytically and critically about global problems (such as interstate/intrastate conflicts, terrorism, financial crises, climate change, global poverty, etc.) and analyze the extent to which IOs can make a difference in the global arena.

364.        Terrorism and Human Rights.

This course examines the challenges facing democracies combating terrorism in the post-9/11 setting. States tend to become less democratic when combating terrorism; however, the goal of this course is to examine alternative strategies to the “war” on terror, strategies that lean even more towards human rights observance rather than democratic deficit. This course is interdisciplinary and interactive, largely based on class discussion rather than lectures. We tackle questions of law, policy, and the psychology of fear. Prerequisite: GOVT 108. Also offered through Peace Studies.

372.        Canada in World Affairs.

A broad survey of the Canadian experience in international politics. Ultimately it is an inquiry into the relationship among the international system, the elusive Canadian national interest and the limited set of foreign policy tools at the disposal of the Canadian government. Prerequisite: GOVT 108 or permission of instructor.

Special Topics Courses

3000 Series (200-Level Courses)

4000 Series (300-Level Courses)

In addition to the courses listed above, each semester the Government Department offers a number of courses covering special topics in the fields of American politics, comparative politics, international politics and political theory. Courses at the 200 level are given a course number in the 3000 series. Courses at the 300 level are given a designation in the 4000 series. The content of each course or section of these 200-level or 300-level special topics courses varies and will be announced each semester.

Advance Studies

479,480. SYE: Internships.

Kwame Nkrumah once said, “Thought without practice is empty; practice without thought is blind.” This course brings the two together. Students are required to spend at least eight hours per week in an internship at a local community service agency, dealing with such problems as poverty, crime, illiteracy, environmental degradation, domestic violence and so on. Students reflect on the field experience by writing a research paper related to the internship, keeping a journal that reflects on the field experience in a scholarly way and attending a series of workshops designed to help them conceptualize their experiences. Prerequisites: GOVT 103 and 290-3, an overall GPA of 2.8 or better and permission of instructor.

489, 490. SYE: Independent Projects.

Individual study of a topic approved by the department under the direction of a faculty member. Prerequisites: GOVT 103, 290-3, an upper-level course on a topic related to the project and an overall GPA of 2.8.

497, 498. SYE: Senior Thesis.

The senior thesis offers the qualified student an opportunity for more intensive work in the field. Minimum criteria for admission to the program are a 3.5 average in government courses, a satisfactory overall academic record, completion of Government 290-293 with a grade of 3.0 or better and the presentation of an acceptable research proposal. Interested students are required to submit a research proposal to the department near the end of the spring semester of the junior year.