Political Science


101 Political Identities

[CP, GP] The assertion of group identities, based on language, region, religion, race, gender, sexuality, and class, among other variables, has increasingly animated politics cross-nationally. However, the extent to which identities become politicized varies enormously across time and place. We will explore what it means to describe an identity as political. This exercise entails assessing the conditions under which states, civil societies, and political societies recognize certain identities while ignoring or repressing others. In other words, it entails analyzing the ways in which political processes make and remake identities. What do groups gain and lose from identity-based movements? And what are the broader implications of identity-based movements for democratic politics?

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester.  Professor Basu.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016

103 Secrets and Lies

[AP] Politics seems almost unimaginable without secrecy and lying. From the noble lie of Plato’s Republic to Oliver North’s claim that he lied to Congress in the name of a higher good, from the need to preserve secrets in the name of national security to the endless spinning of political campaigns, from President Kennedy’s behavior during the Cuban missile crisis to current controversies concerning lies by the tobacco industry, from Freud’s efforts to decode the secrets beneath civilized life to contemporary exposés of the private lives of politicians, politics and deception seem to go hand-in-hand. This course investigates how the practices of politics are informed by the keeping and telling of secrets, and the telling and exposing of lies. We will address such questions as: When, if ever, is it right to lie or to breach confidences? When is it right to expose secrets and lies? Is it necessary to be prepared to lie in order to advance the cause of justice? Or, must we do justice justly? When is secrecy really necessary and when is it merely a pretext for Machiavellian manipulation? Are secrecy and deceit more prevalent in some kinds of regimes than in others? As we explore those questions we will discuss the place of candor and civility in politics; the relationship between the claims of privacy (e.g., the closeting of sexual desire) and secrecy and deception in public arenas; conspiracy theories as they are applied to politics; and the importance of secrecy in resistance and revolutionary movements. We will examine the treatment of secrecy and lying in political theory as well as their appearance in literature and popular culture, for example, King Lear, Wag the Dog, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Year of Living Dangerously, and Quiz Show

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Dumm.

2024-25: Not offered

104 The State

[CP, IR] Most humans live in territories that are controlled by a state. Why do different nations have different types of states? Why are some states more repressive than others, more war-prone than others, better promoters of development than others, more inclusive than others? How can we make sense of the varied reactions to state domination, ranging from active support to negotiated limits to apathy to vigorous contestation? Does globalization make states more or less democratic, more or less efficient, more or less able to promote development?

This course goes to the heart of current debates on the “state of the state.” How significant is the state in an era in which its sovereignty is increasingly challenged both by global and domestic forces? What ought to be the proper role of the state in the twenty-first century? These questions are central to the current debates taking place--in the U.S. and abroad--on the extent to which countries should open up their economies, privatize social services, incorporate minorities and immigrants, recognize gay marriages, counterbalance U.S. pop culture, accommodate religious fundamentalism, etc. We will explore these questions by studying political theorists and empirical cases from around the world.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Corrales.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

110 An Introduction to Political Theory

[PT] This course is an introduction to political theory, examining the assumptions that allow the various forms of politics to operate as they do. It is divided into three parts: The first investigates the problems of foundations--what politics is and where we can find its limits; the second explores the politics in our ordinary lives--the politics that determine how we interact with our families and friends, and how we choose to live in our private lives; the third deals with the costs that may come from sharing our world. Throughout, we will use a variety of resources--philosophic, literary, cultural, cinematic, and historical--to develop ways of engaging our political world, unraveling those very assumptions we choose to live by.

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor Poe. 

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

200 Introduction to American National Politics

[AP] This course focuses on the study of American national institutions of governance, including the presidency, the Congress, the courts, as well as political parties, some of the key concepts of American federalism, and the politics of governance, including the study of legislative processes, campaigns, political media, socio-economic elites and their influence on policymaking, and populist movements.

Spring semester. Professor Dumm.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2022

203 From Petrograd to Petrostate: Power and Public in Post-Communist Russia

Russia emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union a budding democracy with aggressively contested elections on the federal and local level. Twenty years later, it is an authoritarian state in which opposition is persecuted and the electorate divorced from any policy-making. This course will examine the dynamics of Russian politics from the anti-Communist revolution of 1991 to the present, attempting to answer the question why this happened. First, we will revisit the legacy of the Soviet era pertinent to “new” Russia – centralism and political repression but also social welfare systems, feminism, and communality. Second, we will look at the socio-economic factors of Russia’s metamorphosis, the products of the Russian version of a free market economy (among others: the emergence of a new dominant minority, the “oligarchs,” and the gap between the rich and the poor). Third, we will examine the concepts of democracy and human rights prevalent in Russia over the past twenty years and ask how different they are from Western concepts of democracy and human rights. Fourth, we will try determining the role of individuals in Russian politics. How did Vladimir Putin dismantle the democratic institutions of Russia so quickly? What was the voters’ reaction to that? What made his victory over the “oligarchs” possible? Was this a case of a leader going against the grain or did he fit the profile of an ideal leader the majority of Russians wanted? Is it Putin’s Russia or Russia’s very own Putin?

Fall semester.  Visiting Professor/Karl Loewenstein Fellow Pleshakov.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011

204 Kremlin Rising: Russian Foreign Policy from Yeltsin to Medvedev

This course will examine the foreign policy of the Russian Federation throughout the past twenty years, from the disintegration of the Soviet Union to the present. We will start with the Soviet legacy – tensions and conflicts coming from Stalin’s territorial expansion and the concepts of world revolution, superpower, and empire. Second, we will examine Russia as a successor state that has inherited both the Soviet Union’s clout (nuclear arms, permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council) and Soviet debts – monetary, psychological, and historical. Third, we will explore the foreign policy resources Russia has – economic, human, and political. Fourth, we will attempt to track the dynamics of Russia’s foreign policy from Yeltsin to Putin and Medvedev. What are the conceptual foundations of Russian diplomacy? Can we deconstruct Russian nationalism so as to examine its different trends and their impact on foreign policy? Do Russian exports of oil and gas define Russian diplomacy, as it is often claimed? Is there any pattern in the struggle over resources and their export routes in continental Eurasia? What is the foreign policy-making mechanism in Russia today, and do Russian oligarchs have any say in it? At the end of the semester, we will address several scenarios for the future of Russia’s relations with other post-Soviet countries, Europe, the United States, and, last but not least, China.

Spring semester. Visiting Professor/Karl Loewenstein Fellow Pleshakov.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012

207 The Home and the World: Women and Gender in South Asia

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2019

212 Political Obligations

[PT] The mark of the polity, or the political order, has always been the presence of “law”--the capacity to make decisions that are binding, or obligatory, for everyone within the territory. The roots of obligation and law are the same: “ligare,” to bind. When the law imposes a decision, it restricts personal freedom and displaces “private choice” in favor of a public obligation, an obligation applied uniformly or universally. The law may commit us then on matters that run counter even to our own convictions, strongly held, about the things that are right or wrong, and even on matters of our private lives. The law may forbid people to discriminate on grounds of race even in their private businesses; the law may forbid abortions or, on the other hand, the law may compel the funding of abortions even by people who find them abhorrent. This state of affairs, this logic of the law, has always called out for justification, and in facing that question, we are led back to the original understanding of the connection between morality and law. The law can justify itself only if it can establish, as its ground, propositions about the things that are in principle right or wrong, just or unjust-which is to say, right or wrong, just or unjust, for others as well as ourselves. The questions of law and obligation then must point to the questions at the root of moral philosophy: What is the nature of the good or the just, and the grounds on which we may claim to “know” moral truths?

The course will proceed through a series of cases after it returns to the beginning of political philosophy and lays the groundwork for the argument. We will begin with Aristotle on the polis, and the debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on “natural rights.” We will draw on Kant and Hume, on Thomas Reid and Bertrand Russell, as we seek to set the groundwork in place. The argument of the course will then be unfolded further, and tested, through a train of cases and problems: conscientious objection, the war in Vietnam, the obligation to rescue, the claims of privacy. And the culmination will come on the issues of abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide.

Fall semester. Professor Arkes.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016

213 World Politics

[IR] This is an introductory course which examines the interaction of military, political, economic, social and cultural forces in present-day world politics. Close attention is paid to the complex relationship between two central components of this system: great power relations and global capitalist dynamics. Among the topics covered are hegemonic stability and the rise and fall of the great powers, the changing role of state sovereignty, the strengths and weaknesses of international civil society, as well as the role of justice and international/transnational legal institutions in world politics. Other issues to be discussed include the relations of the world’s sole superpower (the United States) vis-à-vis the newly emerging geopolitical centers of power, namely the European Union, China, India and Russia, as well as such regions as the Middle East and Latin America. The course does not rely on a single theoretical framework; instead, we will follow in the path of such world classics as Kautylia, Sun Tzu, Thucydides, Clausewitz, Locke, Kant, and Karl Marx.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Machala.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2012, Spring 2014

217 Domestic Politics

This course will explore the domestic sphere as a site of politics. We will define the domestic sphere broadly, including politics in the home, private life, indigenous culture, and internal versus foreign affairs. The principle questions addressed will include: How does the boundary defining the private sphere shift over time and what are the forces driving these changes? How is the domestic sphere seen as a site of safety versus danger? What are the consequences of the intervention of state power and policing into private life? How are power relations within the private sphere interconnected with privilege and status in the public domain? Our attention will be focused on the social construction of gender, race and ethnic identities, and local/grassroots activities. A wide range of issues will be covered regarding the social organization of families, domestic violence, local/urban politics, the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, disadvantaged communities, policing, political activism, and domestic and “homeland” security. The course will examine these issues primarily in the context of American politics and society.

Fall semester.  Professor Bumiller.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

218 The Social Organization of Law

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2023

222 Political Rhetoric

(Offered as POSC 222 [PT] and CLAS 222) Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, of using language--both written and oral--to convince others of one’s point of view. Yet many perceive such convincing as dangerous, especially to democracies where individual voice matters so much to politics. The line between persuasion and manipulation is not always clear, and the effects of crossing it can be incredibly corrosive. This course investigates the history and theory of political rhetoric. How and when should we be rhetorically persuasive? Which rhetorical techniques are persuasive and how do they operate? To what extent do rhetoric and persuasion determine our understanding of politics? When might persuasion prove dangerous to politics? This course revisits classical debates on the use and function of rhetoric in politics, as well as modern reflections on this tradition. The first section of the course addresses the thought of the three central figures in this debate--Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. In close engagement with key texts of the rhetorical tradition, our task will be to uncover precisely how ancient conceptions of rhetoric developed, exploring how rhetoric was viewed as both dangerous and necessary to successful governance.  Building on these models, the course will then examine more recent theoretical discussions, reflecting on the development of attitudes and ideas about the rhetorical craft in modern and contemporary political thought. These investigations allow us to discover the risks and rewards of persuasion for our own political lives.

Fall semester. Visiting Professor Poe and Professor van den Berg.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2024

232 Political Economy of Development

[CP, IR] This course surveys some of the principal themes in the political economy of lower-income countries. Questions will cover a broad terrain. What are the key characteristics of poor economies? Why did these countries fail to catch up economically with the West in the 20th century? Who are the key political actors? What are their beliefs, ideologies and motivations? What are their political constraints, locally, nationally and globally? We will review definitions of development, explanations for the wealth and poverty of nations, the role of ideas, positive and dysfunctional links between the state and business groups, the role of non-state actors, the causes and consequences of poverty, inequality, disease and corruption, the impact of financial globalization and trade opening, the role of the IMF and the World Bank, and the arguments of anti-developmentalists. We will look at the connection between regime type and development. (Are democracies at a disadvantage in promoting development?) We will also devote a couple of weeks to education in developing countries. We know education is a human good, but is it also an economic good? Does education stimulate economic growth? What are the obstacles to education expansion? We will not focus on a given region, but rather on themes. Familiarity with the politics or economics of some developing country is helpful but not necessary.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Corrales.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2023

241 The American Constitution I: The Structure of Rights

[LP, AP] This course will focus on the questions arising from the relations of the three main institutions that define the structure of the national government under the Constitution. We will begin, at all times, with cases, but the cases will draw us back to the “first principles” of constitutional government, and to the logic that was built into the American Constitution. The topics will include: the standing of the President and Congress as interpreters of the Constitution; the authority of the Congress to counter the judgments--and alter the jurisdiction--of the federal courts on matters such as abortion and busing; the logic of “rights” and the regulation of “speech” (including such “symbolic expression” as the burning of crosses); and the original warning of the Federalists about the effect of the Bill of Rights in narrowing the range of our rights.

Omitted 2011-12. Professor Arkes.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2014

242 The American Constitution II: Federalism, Privacy, and the "Equal Protection of the Laws"

[LP, AP] In applying the Constitution to particular cases, it becomes necessary to appeal to certain “principles of law” that were antecedent to the Constitution--principles that existed before the Constitution, and which did not depend, for their authority, on the text of the Constitution. But in some cases it is necessary to appeal to principles that were peculiar to the government that was established in the “decision of 1787”; the decisions that framed a new government under a new Constitution. This course will try to illuminate that problem by considering the grounds on which the national government claims to vindicate certain rights by overriding the authority of the States and private institutions. Is the federal government obliged to act as a government of “second resort” after it becomes clear that the State and local governments will not act? Or may the federal government act in the first instance, for example, to bar discriminations based on race, and may it reach, with its authority, to private businesses, private clubs, even private households? The course will pursue these questions as it deals with a number of issues arising from the “equal protection of the laws”--most notably, with the problem of discriminations based on race and sex, with racial quotas and “reverse discrimination.” In addition, the course will deal with such topics as: self-incrimination, the exclusionary rule, the regulation of “vices,” and censorship over literature and the arts. (This course may be taken independently of POSC 241, The American Constitution I.)

Fall semester. Professor Arkes.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2013

248 Cuba: The Politics of Extremism

[CP, IR] The study of Cuba’s politics presents opportunities to address issues of universal concern to social scientists and humanists in general, not just Latin Americanists. When is it rational to be radical? Why has Cuban politics forced so many individuals to adopt extreme positions? What are the causes of radical revolutions? Is pre-revolutionary Cuba a case of too little development, uneven development or too rapid development? What is the role of leaders: Do they make history, are they the product of history, or are they the makers of unintended histories? Was the revolution inevitable? Was it necessary? How are new (radical) states constructed? What is the role of foreign actors, existing political institutions, ethnicity, nationalism, religion and sexuality in this process? How does a small nation manage to become influential in world affairs, even altering the behavior of superpowers? What are the conditions that account for the survival of authoritarianism? To what extent is the revolution capable of self-reform? Is the current intention of state leaders of pursuing closed politics with open economics viable? What are the most effective mechanisms to change the regime? Why does the embargo survive? Why did Cubans (at home and abroad) care about Elián González? Although the readings will be mostly from social scientists, the course also includes selections from primary sources, literary works and films (of Cuban and non-Cuban origin). As with almost everything in politics, there are more than just two sides to the issue of Cuba. One aim of the course is to expose the students to as many different sides as possible.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Corrales.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Spring 2023

300 Impact of War: A Case Study of Russia

Sometimes the object of aggression, sometimes itself the aggressor, Russia has been party to all the major military conflicts of the 19thand 20thcenturies – Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, World War I, and World War II. The Russian army also fought in numerous regional wars, notably in Afghanistan in 1979-1989 and recently in Chechnya and Georgia. We will study perceptions of war in modern Russian society. First, on the basis of primary sources (memoirs, interviews, speeches) we will address war-related nationalist stereotypes present in Russia today. Second, we will look at the origins of these myths; to do that we will study in depth the impacts of past wars, primarily World War II, Afghan War of 1979-1989, and the Chechnya War. What generated support for the government? How does the notion of "acceptable losses" change over time? How did wars of the past sixty years affect social structures and gender roles in Russia? What is the current Russian definition of “just wars”? The war in Chechnya occurred in post-Soviet, “capitalist” Russia with its new class divisions, rampant corruption and consumerism; did these changes cause society to perceive the war in a new way?  In the last section of the course we will discuss the “new” Russians’ willingness to support regional wars that the Kremlin will possibly choose to wage against other Soviet successor states and their likely attitude to another Cold War with the West.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester.  Visiting Professor/Karl Loewenstein Fellow Pleshakov.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016

301 Terrorism and Revolution: A Case Study of Russia

Russia was among the first nations in the world to face political terrorism when in the 1870s the leftist People's Will group launched the hunt for Tsar Alexander II. The terrorist trend continued into the twentieth century; in 1918, the Socialist Revolutionary Party attempted to assassinate Lenin. Eradicated by Stalin, terrorism resurfaced in the 1990s, when Russia found itself under attack of Chechen separatists. Legitimacy of political terrorism as the last refuge of the oppressed has been actively debated in Russia for more than a century, and the fact that terrorist groups in question ranged from proto-Marxists to the pseudo-Islamic has made Russian discourse on terrorism uncommonly rich. We will be using a variety of primary sources, such as terrorists’ manifestos and memoirs, as well as conceptual critiques of terror, starting with Dostoyevsky’s novel Demons. First, we will wrestle with the definition of “terrorism” as opposed to “terror.” Second, we will explore the place of terrorism in a revolutionary movement and war. Third, we will look at the counter-terrorism measures applied by the Russian government in the past and now. A case study of terrorism in Russia will hopefully help us to answer a number of questions that are highly relevant today.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester. Visiting Professor/Karl Loewenstein Fellow Pleshakov.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Spring 2024

303 Latin America in the World

[CP, IR] This course goes beyond the usual study of hemispheric affairs. Latin America is the focus. We begin by putting hemispheric relations into historical perspective to study the way in which the nations of Latin America deal with international affairs, particularly their relations with the United States, and how this has changed over time.  We will study how Latin American nations define their national interests and how those national interests mesh with or diverge from the national interests of the United States. 

We will concentrate on the last twenty years because of the transition to democracy throughout the region.  Democracy presumes an active citizenry who express their opinions on matters of concern to them. It also presumes institutions that provide structure and legitimacy for the process of formulating public policies. The underlying concept in the course is agency: how nations become conscious of their ability to play a role in world affairs; how they determine what that role will be; and how they understand their capacity for international action. 

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester. Professor Tulchin.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012

307 Gender and the Environment

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

311 Case Studies in American Diplomacy

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2012

312 Post-Cold War American Diplomacy

(Offered as POSC 312 and HIST 257 [US].)  A 1992 still-classified Pentagon Defense Policy Guidance draft asserts that America’s political and military mission in the post-cold war era will be to ensure that no rival superpower be allowed to emerge in world politics. This course will examine American foreign relations from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the present. We will study the similarities and differences in the styles of statecraft of all post-cold war U.S. administrations in producing, managing and sustaining America’s unrivaled international position, which emerged in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  While examining the debates between liberals and neoconservatives about America’s role in the world both preceding and following the 9-11 attack, we will also discuss the extent to which these debates not only have shaped American foreign policy but also how they have influenced our domestic politics and vice versa. Among the other main themes to be examined:  the strategic, tactical and humanitarian uses of military and other forms of power by each administration (e.g., towards Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan); U.S. policy towards NATO and towards the world economy; U.S. policy towards Russia, China, the Middle East and Latin America; human, economic and political costs and benefits of American leadership in this period.

Preference given to students who have taken one of the following courses: P0SC 213, 310, 311, 410; HIST 256.  Limited to 30 students. Not open to first-year students.  Omitted 2011-12. Professors G. Levin andMachala.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

320 Rethinking Post-Colonial Nationalism

[CP] Nationalist fervor seemed likely to diminish once so-called Third World nations achieved independence. However, the past few years have witnessed the resurgence and transformation of nationalism in the post-colonial world. Where anti-colonial nationalist movements appeared to be progressive forces of social change, many contemporary forms of nationalism appear to be reactionary. Did nationalist leaders and theoreticians fail to identify the exclusionary qualities of earlier incarnations of nationalism? Were they blind to its chauvinism? Or has nationalism become increasingly intolerant? Was the first wave of nationalist movements excessively marked by European liberal influences? Or was it insufficiently committed to universal principles? We will explore expressions of nationalism in democratic, revolutionary, religious nationalist, and ethnic separatist movements in the post-colonial world.

Spring semester. Professor Basu.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2019

334 American Political Thought

[AP, PT] This course is a study of aspects of the canon of American political thought. While examining the roots of American thought in Puritanism and Quakerism, the primary focus will be on American transcendentalism and its impact on subsequent thought. Among those whose works we are likely to consider are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, W.E.B. DuBois, William James, Jane Addams, John Dewey, Martin Luther King, Hannah Arendt, Richard Rorty, and Stanley Cavell.

Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Dumm.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2023

335 Modern Political Thought

[PT] This course surveys the development of key political concepts in modern Western thought. These include new conceptions of political rationality and affect (how we think and feel about our politics), as well as reconceptualizations of equality and liberty in a world of rapidly changing economic conditions and social mobility. The course begins with recent and contrasting views (Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss) on what constitutes the basis for political action in the modern world: whether tradition is the only legitimate measure of political action, or if there are preferable standards by which to justify politics. Then, as a means to explain this problematic, the course will examine critical philosophical engagements on the historical appearance of modern political concepts. We will trace these paradigmatic shifts as they begin to surface in late 18th- and 19th-century European thought (evidenced in the writings of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche amongst others), on through to the consequent political outcomes of such transformations in 20th-century politics. Through close textual readings and contextual analysis we will engage in a systematic comparison of our assumptions about politics with those expressed in these philosophical debates. And, in so doing, we will attempt to further our understanding of contemporary politics and the political problems requisite to our own political practices.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Poe.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019

345 Contemporary Europe

Offered as POSC 345 [CP, IR] and EUST 345.)  Decline and renewal of Europe. An analysis of Europe’s role in the world order and the European Union (EU). What are Europe’s strengths and weaknesses as an international power? Does Europe meet its responsibilities or is it content to be a free rider on the ambitions and policies of other countries? What is the European Union and what are its successes and failures? What is the relationship between various European countries and the EU, between national sovereignty and European integration? Is more European integration still the future of Europe or is there now “enough Europe”?

Limited to 25 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Tiersky.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011

354 The Political Theory of Home

Home is supposed to be a refuge, the place where they have to take you in, as Frost once put it, but as he also knew, it is a place of conflict and death as much as comfort and birth. We are hidden from the world in our homes, but we also take pride in our homes, however modest, or even in their modesty. Home is a place of personal remembrance where we do not fight the battles of immortality, but instead follow another way through life, a parallel imagining of where and how we may be in the world, and away from the world. It is the most private of places, and a site of privation because of that. It is the oikos, (the household, where economy began) not the polis (the public place of political argument). And yet home is of political significance paradoxically, because it is supposed to be a refuge from the storms of politics--hence, for instance, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security as a reassurance to the American people following the terrorist attack of 9/11. In this course, we will explore the idea of home and its political significance in Western thought. Among the authors we will study will be Homer, Virgil, Books of Genesis, Exodus, and Ruth, Fustel de Coulanges, Vico, Shakespeare, Heidegger, Said, Winthrop, Thoreau, Jefferson, Addams, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Pogue Harrison.  

Requisite: One introductory Political Science course or its equivalent. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12.  Professor Dumm.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2012

356 Regulating Citizenship

[AP, PT] This course considers a fundamental issue that faces all democratic societies: How do we decide when and whether to include or exclude individuals from the rights and privileges of citizenship? In the context of immigration policy, this is an issue of state power to control boundaries and preserve national identity. The state also exercises penal power that justifies segregating and/or denying privileges to individuals faced with criminal sanctions. Citizenship is regulated not only through the direct exercise of force by the state, but also by educational systems, social norms, and private organizations. Exclusion is also the result of poverty, disability, and discrimination based on gender, race, age, and ethnic identity. This course will describe and examine the many forms of exclusion and inclusion that occur in contemporary democracies and raise questions about the purpose and justice of these processes. We will also explore models of social change that would promote more inclusive societies. This course will be conducted inside a correctional facility and enroll an equal number of Amherst students and residents of the facility. Permission to enroll will be granted on the basis of a questionnaire and personal interview with the instructor.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 12 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Bumiller.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2017

359 The Politics of Moral Reasoning

[GP, PT] This course is an exploration of the connections between the experience of ordinary life and the judgments humans and citizens make concerning good and bad, and competing goods. We will use as the core text Stanley Cavell’s Cities of Words, which organizes themes concerning moral reasoning around a series of thinkers--Emerson, Aristotle, Plato, Rawls, Nietzsche, Locke, Mill and others--and couples each thinker with a movie from the classic age of American cinema. While we will be relying on Cavell’s study as a primary source, students will also be reading essays by the thinkers Cavell identifies. Each week we will discuss the reading in the first class exclusively, and then screen the film prior to the second class meeting, when we will broaden the discussion.

Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Dumm.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2014

360 Punishment, Politics, and Culture

[AP, LP] Other than war, punishment is the most dramatic manifestation of state power. Whom a society punishes and how it punishes are key political questions as well as indicators of its character and the character of the people in whose name it acts. This course will explore the connections between punishment and politics with particular reference to the contemporary American situation. We will consider the ways crime and punishment have been politicized in recent national elections as well as the racialization of punishment in the United States. We will ask whether we punish too much and too severely, or too little and too leniently. We will examine particular modalities of punishment, e.g., maximum security prisons, torture, the death penalty, and inquire about the character of those charged with imposing those punishments, e.g., prison guards, executioners, etc. Among the questions we will discuss are: Does punishment express our noblest aspirations for justice or our basest desires for vengeance? Can it ever be an adequate expression of, or response to, the pain of victims of crime? When is it appropriate to forgive rather than punish? We will consider these questions in the context of arguments about the right way to deal with juvenile offenders, drug offenders, sexual predators (“Megan’s Law”), rapists, and murderers. We will, in addition, discuss the meaning of punishment by examining its treatment in literature and popular culture. Readings may include selections from The Book of Job, Greek tragedy, Kafka, Nietzsche, Freud, George Herbert Mead, and contemporary treatments of punishment such as Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, Butterfield’s All God’s Children, Scarry’s Body in Pain, Garland’s Punishment in Modern Society, Hart’s Punishment and Reasonability, and Mailer’s Executioner’s Song. Films may include The Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking, Mrs. Soffel, Minority Report, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Sarat.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

372 Culture and Politics in 20th-Century Europe

(Offered as POSC 372 [CP, IR] and EUST 372.) This seminar discusses political ideas, ideologies and political culture in 20th-century Europe. Some themes are Nationalism; Marxism, Socialism and Communism; Fascism; anti-Semitism; Existentialism; the “Century of Total War”; the year 1968; Pope John Paul II; Soccer Hooliganism; “The Idea of Europe,” and the question of whether there is a “European identity.” Throughout the course, ideas are connected to historical context. The syllabus is a mix of books and films.

Preference to Political Science and European Studies majors, and juniors and seniors.  Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-2012. Professor Tiersky.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

410 International Relations and Foreign-Policy Theories

There is an extremely wide variety of ways to study a subject as diverse, complex and fascinating as the U.S. foreign policy. The scope of the subject is vast and the literature is enormous.   Although the current trend in the academy is towards the erosion of methodological boundaries both between subfields of political science and political science as a whole and other social science disciplines, the dominant foreign policy theories still tend to concentrate primarily on state-to-state relations and/or on the ability of statesmen and decision-making elites to understand the exigencies of international relations. The main objective of this course is to critically examine the strength and weakness of these dominant foreign policy theories by exposing them to the trends in the relevant areas of contemporary social science.

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Machala.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

413 The Political Theory of Globalization

[IR, PT] “Globalization” can mean many things. To some, it means equal integration of individual societies into worldwide political, economic and cultural processes. To others it means accentuated uneven economic development, accompanied by cultural imperialism, which merely exaggerates the political dependence of “peripheral” on “core” societies. For still others, globalization is shorthand for the social and cultural changes that follow when societies become linked with and, in an escalating way, dependent upon the world capitalist market. The idea that underlies these multiple meanings of globalization is the radical intensification of worldwide social relations and the lifting of social activities out of local and national conditions. The course will examine the major theoretical discourses raised by this idea, such as (1) the effect of globalizing material production on the formation of post-liberal democracy, (2) the nexus between globalizing cultural production and the politics of cosmopolitanism and “otherness,” (3) the impact of globalizing communication technologies and mass consumerism on the formation of transnational “gated class communities,” and (4) the relationship between the globalization of transnational class conflicts/interests/identities and transnational governance. We will also explore the connection between “late global capitalism” and liberal arts education in legitimizing the current global class dynamics. This course fulfills the requirement of an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: Two courses--one from each cluster or their equivalent: (a) POSC 213, 232, 244, 312, 320, 332, 345,  468, and 489.  Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Machala

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Spring 2013

415 Taking Marx Seriously

[PT] Should Marx be given yet another chance? Is there anything left to gain by returning to texts whose earnest exegesis has occupied countless interpreters, both friendly and hostile, for generations? Has Marx’s credibility survived the global debacle of those regimes and movements which drew inspiration from his work, however poorly they understood it? Or, conversely, have we entered a new era in which post-Marxism has joined a host of other “post-”phenomena? This seminar will deal with these and related questions in the context of a close and critical reading of Marx’s texts. The main themes we will discuss include Marx’s conception of capitalist modernity, material and intellectual production, power, class conflicts and social consciousness, and his critique of alienation, bourgeois freedom and representative democracy. We will also examine Marx’s theories of historical progress, capitalist exploitation, globalization and human emancipation. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: Two of POSC 213, 413, 480. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Machala.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2021

474 Norms, Rights, and Social Justice: Feminists, Disability Rights Activists and the Poor at the Boundaries of the Law

(Offered as POSC 474 [GP, LP] and LJST 374.) This seminar explores how the civil rights movement began a process of social change and identity-based activism. We evaluate the successes and failures of “excluded” groups’ efforts to use the law. We primarily focus on the recent scholarship of theorists, legal professionals, and activists to define “post-identity politics” strategies and to counteract the social processes that “normalize” persons on the basis of gender, sexuality, disability, and class. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: One introductory Political Science course or its equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Bumiller.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018

475 Problems of International Politics

[CP, IR] The topic until further notice will be “Gorbachev, the End of the Cold War and the Collapse of the Soviet Union.” When Mikhail Gorbachev became its leader in 1985, the Soviet Union, while plagued by internal and external troubles, was still one of the world’s two superpowers. By 1991, the cold war was over, and on the day he left the Kremlin for the last time, December 25, 1991, the USSR ceased to exist. Of course, Gorbachev was not solely responsible for this upheaval. Developments in the USSR and the world prepared the way. But he set decisive change in motion, and no one else in the Soviet leadership would have done so. This course is therefore a case study of the impact of personality on politics, but also of the limits of that impact, and of the importance of other causes (economic, political, social, ideological, international) of events that changed the world. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Taubman.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

480 Contemporary Political Theory

[PT] A consideration of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Western political theory. Topics to be considered include the fate of modernity, identity and difference, power, representation, freedom, and the state. This year’s readings may include works by the following authors: Freud, Weber, Benjamin, Heidegger, Arendt, Derrida, Foucault, Berlin, Butler, Connolly, and Agamben. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Dumm.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

482 United States Foreign Policy: Democracy and Human Rights

[IR, AP] Is the United States committed to promoting democracy and human rights abroad or just advancing its own strategic and domestic corporate interests? What influence does the United States have on the development of democracy around the world and the emergence of--and compliance with--international human rights conventions, protocols and laws? This seminar begins with an historical overview of American democracy and human rights rhetoric and policies and seeks to uncover the range of political, economic, cultural and geostrategic motivations underlying U.S. behavior. We will then examine American foreign policy responses to a broad range of contemporary human rights and democracy issues with special attention given to analyzing and comparing the post-Cold War state-building efforts in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Previous course work relating to international relations, American politics or foreign policy, or political theory required. This course fulfills the requirement for advanced seminar in Political Science.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2011-12.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015

484 Seminar on International Politics: Global Resource Politics

[IR] An intensive investigation of new and emerging problems in international peace and security affairs. We will examine such issues as: international terrorism; global resource competition; the security implications of globalization; international migrations; transboundary environmental problems; illegal trafficking in guns, drugs, and people. Participants in the seminar will be required to choose a particular problem for in-depth investigation, entailing a study of the nature and evolution of the problem, the existing international response to it, and proposals for its solution. Students will prepare a major paper on the topic and give an oral presentation to the class on their findings. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2011-12.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2016

486 U.S.-Latin American Relations

[CP, IR] Can small and non-powerful nations ever profit from a relationship with a more powerful hegemon? Who gains and who loses in this type of asymmetrical relationship? This seminar attempts to answer these questions by looking at the relations between the U.S. and Latin American nations. The seminar begins by presenting different ways in which intellectuals have tried to conceptualize and analyze the relations between the U.S. and Latin America. These approaches are then applied to different dimensions of the relationship: (1) intra-hemispheric relations prior to World War II (the sources of U.S. interventionism and the response of Latin America); (2) political and security issues after World War II (the role of the Cold War in the hemisphere and U.S. reaction to instability in the region, with special emphasis on Cuba in the early 1960s, Peru in the late 1960s, Chile in the early 1970s, The Falklands War and Nicaragua in the 1980s); and (3) economic and business issues (the politics of foreign direct investment and trade, and the debt crisis in the 1980s). Finally, we examine contemporary trends: the emerging hemispheric convergence, economic integration, drug trade, immigration, the defense of democracy regime, and the re-emergence of multilateral interventionism. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in political science.

Requisite: POSC 213 or its equivalent. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Corrales.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2024

489 Markets and Democracy in Latin America

[CP, IR] In the 1980s an unprecedented process of change began in Latin America: nations turned toward democracy and the market. This seminar explores the literature on regime and economic change and, at the same time, encourages students to think about ways to study the post-reform period. The seminar begins by looking at the situation prior to the transition: the sources of Latin America’s over expanded state, economic decay, political instability, and democratic deficit. The seminar then focuses directly on the processes of transition, paying particular attention to the challenges encountered. It explores, theoretically and empirically, the extent to which democracy and markets are compatible. The seminar then places Latin America’s process of change in a global context: comparisons will be drawn with Asian and post-Socialist European cases. The seminar concludes with an overview of current shortcomings of the transition: Latin America’s remaining international vulnerability (the Tequila Crisis of 1995 and the Asian Flu of 1997), the rise of crime, drug trade, and neopopulism, the cleavage between nationalists and internationalists, the prospects for further deepening of reforms and the political backlash against reforms in the 2000s. This course fulfills the requirements of an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: Some background in the economics and politics of developing areas. Limited to 15 students. Not open to first- and second-year students. Omitted 2011-12. Professor Corrales.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Spring 2014

490 Special Topics

Fall and spring semesters.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

498D, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Totaling three full courses, usually a double course in the fall and one regular course in the spring.

Open to seniors who have satisfied the necessary requirements. Fall semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

Departmental Courses

106 The State and Violence

This course explores two concepts that conventional political thought conceives as polar and co-constituted limit conditions: state and violence.  We will take up two core issues about the state-violence nexus.  First, we will engage normative debates over the state as defeating or overcoming violence (liberalism) versus the state as normalizing and deepening violence (anarchism, Marxism, post-structuralism).  Second, we will take up empirical trajectories of state practices, especially current discussions about a transition from sovereign to post-sovereign modes of identity, power, and subjectivity.  The course combines the comparative and political theory subfields, emphasizing short readings read and discussed closely and critically.  This class is introductory but challenging, working generally from nineteenth-century to twenty-first-century authors, including Marx, Mill, Weber, Nietzsche, Elias, Foucault, Habermas, Deleuze, Balibar, Zizek, Mbembe, and others. Requirements include class presence and three critical essays, with an option for one long essay with instructor permission. 

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Rudy.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2017

401 Fanaticism

[PT] Many perceive a dangerous rise in radically Utopian politics, often described as "fanaticism." Against the backdrop of increased ethnic and nationalist violence, authoritarianism, and declining safeguards for human rights, fanaticism is considered a fundamental impediment to well-functioning democratic politics. Yet, if such a concept is to have the theoretical force policy makers and theorists would like, more clarity is needed regarding what fanaticism is and how it operates. This course examines the history of fanaticism as a political concept. In particular, we will explore theoretical critiques of fanaticism, especially as the concept developed in relation to the history of liberal democracy. The first half of the course explores the emergence of fanaticism as a political--not merely as a  religious--idea. Engaging Enlightenment debates on civil society, toleration, and public passions, this section of the course should highlight how fanaticism came to be re-conceived in modern political thought. Here we will explore the traditionally perceived dangers of fanaticism to democratic politics. The second half of the course questions the conceptual costs of this redefinition. Who are political fanatics? What are the political (and psychological) consequences to us in labeling others as fanatics? How might we distinguish between fundamentalism and fanaticism? Is fanaticism necessary to define the extant parameters of toleration or civil society? Is fanaticism always dangerous to democratic politics? Ultimately, this inquiry into the genealogy of fanaticism is designed to test our assumptions about what fanaticism is as a political idea and how it operates in contemporary political thought.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Poe.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015

Related Courses

- (Course not offered this year.)