[ PT] [PT - starting with the class of 2015] This seminar course is designed to introduce students to the study of politics through the close textual analysis and shared discussion of Thomas Hobbes’ famous 1651 treatise Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth, Ecclesiasticall and Civil. For Hobbes, human life was fundamentally unstable and dangerous. Without a common political power, he believed that cooperation was impossible and that human sociability would inevitably result in the most savage of wars. In response, Hobbes set out to develop a science by which a potent political authority could be established, and from which a lasting peace might endure. Hobbes named this authority the "Leviathan," and his account has become one of the most important for Western conceptions of sovereignty. What is political authority? What should government be for? What is a commonwealth? Can there really be a science of politics? How do reason and emotions and our imagination condition our experience of politics? What is sovereignty? What is power? What is justice? Hobbes struggled with these questions, and they will form the basis of our investigations in this course. In addition to Hobbes’ Leviathan, readings will include analysis of the political, social, and literary contexts that inform Hobbes’ thinking, as well as some contemporary theory literature on the significance of the Leviathan for modern political life.
Limited to 15 students. Limited to first- and second-year students. Spring semester. Professor Poe.2021-22: Not offered
This course explores a series of ideas from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have substantially changed the way people think about humanity in the Western world. Each idea is closely associated with an author. While from year to year the ideas will change, for 2013 we will closely read and write about, Karl Marx and Frederic Engels The Communist Manifesto, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, Sigmund Freud’s The Ego and the Id, selections from Franz Kafka, The Complete Stories, Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jersualem and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Students are also required to purchase a copy of Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.
This course will emphasize the development of several skills, including close reading, interpretation, and expository writing. You will be required to pose critical questions concerning the readings, posted to the course blog, the night prior to each meeting. Each week you will also be required to write a brief essay in response to a prompt provided by me commenting on a passage in the week’s reading. These essays will be evaluated for grammar, style, logical coherence, and clarity.
This is a discussion-based course with the expectation of active participation by students. You are required to have the reading for each class meeting completed prior to class. You will be evaluated for their ability to engage thoughtfully with the texts and with each other. Evaluation of participation will constitute the remaining 10% of the final grade for the course.
Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Dumm.2021-22: Not offered
[CP, GP] [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Spring semester. Professor Basu.2021-22: Not offered
[CP, IR] [G - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Omitted 2013-14 Professor Corrales.2021-22: Not offered
[AP, IR, PT] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] In the teaching of the classic philosophers, the central questions of politics are questions of justice: What are the grounds of our judgment on the things that are just or unjust, right or wrong? What is the nature of the just, or the best, political order? What measures would we be “justified” in imposing with the force of “law”? What is the nature of that regime we would seek to preserve in this country--or, on the other hand, what are the regimes that we would be justified in resisting in other places, even with the force of arms? The problem of judgment must point to the principles, or the standards, of judgment and to an understanding that is distinctly philosophic. But political men and women also need a certain sense of the ways of the world: the things that hold people in alliance or impart a movement to events; the ways in which the character of politics is affected by the presence of bureaucracies or elections; the arts of persuasion; the strains of rendering judgments. And the knowledge of these things must depend on experience. In this style of introduction to political science, a central place will be given over to the study of statesmen and politicians: Lincoln, Churchill, Eisenhower, but also Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan. The course will draw us back to Aristotle and Plato, to Machiavelli and the American Founders, but then it will also encompass the study of voting and campaigns, and the more recent politics of race and gender.
Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Arkes.2021-22: Not offered
[ AP ] [SC - Starting with the class of 2015 ] This course will examine the salience of race in American politics and public policy. Race--its construction and meaning--shapes and has been shaped by the politics and institutions of the United States. The course will help students to develop an understanding of the historical, ideological and cultural foundations and contexts of racial politics. While attention will be directed to the emblematic black-white racial paradigm, we will also examine minority politics of Latinos, American Indians, Asian Americans and other groups. We will evaluate the ways in which race remains central in a number of political and policy contexts including representation, political partisanship, public opinion, legal institutions, and the mass media. How can we make sense of the conflicting descriptions of contemporary America as a racist, colorblind, multicultural, or post-racial Society?
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Burns.
2021-22: Not offered
(Offered as WAGS 207 and POSC 207 [SC - starting with the Class of 2015].) This course will study South Asian women and gender through key texts in film, literature, history and politics. How did colonialism and nationalism challenge the distinctions between the “home” and the “world” and bring about partitions which splintered once shared cultural practices? What consequences did this have for postcolonial politics? How do ethnic conflicts, religious nationalisms and state repression challenge conceptions of “home”? How have migrations, globalization and diasporas complicated relations between the home and the world? Texts will include Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown, Ram Gopal Varma’s epic film Sarkar and Partha Chatterjee’s The Nation and Its Fragments.
Omitted 2013-14. Professors Basu and Shandilya.2021-22: Not offered
(Offered as POSC 208 [CP] [SC, IL - Starting with the class of 2015 ] and ASLC 208.) This course provides an introduction to the major institutions, actors, and ideas that shape contemporary Chinese politics. Through an examination of texts from the social sciences as well as historical narratives and film, we will analyze the development of the current party-state, the relationship between the state and society, policy challenges, and prospects for further reform. First, we examine the political history of the People’s Republic, including the Maoist period and the transition to market reforms. Next, we will interrogate the relations between various social groups and the state, through an analysis of contentious politics in China including the ways in which the party-state seeks to maintain social and political stability. Finally, we will examine the major policy challenges in contemporary China including growing inequality, environmental degradation, waning economic growth, and foreign policy conflicts.
Limited to 50 students. Fall semester. Professor Ratigan.2021-22: Offered in Spring 2022
(Offered as POSC 209 [CP/IR ] [ G - Starting with the class of 2015 ] and ASLC 209.) This course will analyze China's foreign relations, major foreign policy challenges, and China's role in the international community. To understand the context in which foreign policy is made, we will begin the course by examining the domestic forces that shape foreign policy, including the role of elites and popular nationalism. We will then turn to China’s relations with its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region with a particular focus on political hot-spots and areas of territorial dispute or historical conflict such as relations with Japan and Taiwan. We will also broaden our focus to examine China’s relations with other regions of the world including North America, Europe, Latin America, and Africa. Finally, we will evaluate the evolution of China’s engagement with international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. We will assess the impact that China has had on international discourse related to human rights and democracy and analyze the implications of a “Beijing Consensus” as an alternative narrative for the international system.
Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Ratigan.2021-22: Not offered
[ CP ] [ G, SC - Starting with the class of 2015 ] In recent decades, two competing trends have emerged: the deepening of globalization and increasing decentralization. While globalization has inspired significant debate, decentralization has been accepted with relatively little discussion. Decentralization can take many forms: from federalism to devolution of power in select regions to tasking local government or non-state actors with certain policy responsibilities. This course examines the politics of decentralization and its implications for the state, society, and good governance. We begin by critically examining theoretical approaches to state–society relations and assessing the need to disaggregate the state. Using examples from around the world, we will conduct empirical analyses of local power and politics by analyzing cases ranging from community organizing and local development projects to clientelism and machine politics. Finally, we assess the implications for democracy, good governance, and state–society relations.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Ratigan.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] This course is a survey of Western liberal political theory from its 17th-century origins through some of its contemporary expressions. Among the thinkers whose works we may read are Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls, Stanley Cavell, and Judith Sklar.
Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Dumm.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] 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.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Arkes.2021-22: Not offered
[IR] [G - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. To see examples of past syllabi please go to http://www3.amherst.edu/~pmachala/Syllabi/ for more information.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Machala.2021-22: Not offered
[CP, IR] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] This is a modified version of POSC 232, The Political Economy of Development. The first half of the course is identical to 232, but the second half will have a different focus: the political economy of oil. This section will explore the extent to which oil is a “resource curse,” the neo-structuralist notion that an abundance of a natural resource, in this case oil, is detrimental for development because it distorts economic incentives (away from diversification) and distorts politics (by facilitating corruption, raising the stakes of power-holding, increasing the chance for abuse of state power, and weakening society’s capacity to hold the state accountable). We will examine these hypotheses by focusing on Venezuela, one of the world’s leading oil producers. Until the 1980s, Venezuela was considered an example of democratization. In the 1990s, Venezuela became instead a paradigmatic case of policy incoherence. In the early 2000s, under the Hugo Chávez administration, Venezuela became a case of political polarization, and some argue, rising authoritarianism. The second half of this course will assess whether the resource-curse theory provides the best account of Venezuela’s politics since the 1980s. To address this question, we will: (1) compare the resource-curse argument with other competing theories of development that might account for Venezuelan politics; and (2) compare the Venezuelan case with other cases in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. This course fulfills requirements for the Five College Certificates in Latin American Studies and International Relations.
Not open to students who have taken POSC 232. Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Corrales.2021-22: Not offered
[CP, IR] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Fall semester. Professor Corrales.2021-22: Not offered
[LP, AP] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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 2013-14. Professor Arkes.2021-22: Not offered
[LP, AP] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] This course surveys ancient Greek and Roman political thought. The course aims to illustrate that, although the ancient Western world was remarkably different from our own, many of the concepts and ideas that dominate our thinking about politics today have been influenced by our inheritance of these classic traditions. Such ideals as democratic citizenship, the rule of law, public and private spaces, and civil liberties, find their first articulation in these ancient polities. Indeed, many of the questions and problems that plagued politics in those ancient worlds – What is justice? What are the obligations of rulers and the ruled? What is the best form of government? – are still vibrant today. The course is divided into two parts: The first, set within the context of ancient Athenian thought, examines the invention of democracy, as well as purported critiques of its functioning (Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle); The second section examines the concept of “the universal” and its genealogy as a political concept in Roman thought (Cicero, Paul, and Augustine). Through close textual readings and contextual analysis we will engage in a systematic comparison of our assumptions about politics with those expressed in these ancient worlds. And, in so doing, we will attempt to further our understanding of contemporary politics and the problems requisite to our own political practices.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Poe.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] This course surveys the development of political concepts in modern Western thought. Modernity – the age of individualism, increasing social autonomy, and political self-determination – was an era of enormous progression and novelty in Western political thinking. In it we find new conceptions of political rationality and affect (how to think and feel about politics), as well as reconceptualizations of such key concepts as equality and liberty, the state and civil society. Such changes held much promise, shaping institutions that seemed destined to improve economic and social conditions for rapidly increasing populations. Yet the politics that ensued from such "modern" thinking sometimes proved disastrous for mass society. The 20th Century – once thought to fulfill the promise of modernity – has been the most violent in history. This course will trace paradigmatic shifts in political ideas as they begin to surface in 17th- and 18th-century European thought, evidenced in the writings of Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, Rousseau, and Kant, amongst others. We will compare these ideas with the thinking of some prominent 19th- and 20th-century critics of modernity, including Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, and Carl Schmitt. Through close textual readings and contextual analysis we will aim to systematical engage our assumptions about politics with those expressed in these philosophic debates.
Omitted 2013-14. Professor Poe.2021-22: Not offered
[IL - starting with the Class of 2015] This course will consider how institutions, often contrary to their intended purposes, serve to disable individuals and limit their life potential. We will examine a variety of institutions, including state bureaucracies, facilities designed to house people with mental and physical conditions, schools, and prisons. We will also consider a range of disablements, resulting from visible and invisible disabilities as well as gender, sexuality, race and class-based discrimination. We will explore how institutions might be redesigned to less rigidly enforce normalcy and to enable the political participation of individuals who currently experience social exclusion.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Bumiller.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] What is “Democracy”? Sometimes this phrase refers to a set of beliefs and values, including freedom, equality, and the opposition to any domination. But "democracy" can also refer to a specific set of political institutions, including free and fair elections, open civil society, and variation in rule and office. It seems this phenomenon can be understood equally well as a political ideal or as the practice of achieving that ideal. How these different meanings operate--how they do and don’t work together--is not always clear. In this course we will examine current debates in democratic theory. Our aim will be to parse contemporary discourse on how democratic institutions shape and are shaped by different theories of what democracy should be. The course will be divided into four parts: the Institutions of Democracy; Democratic Agonism; Deliberative Democracy; and Political Action. Readings will include selections from various democratic theorists, including Robert Dahl, Carl Schmitt, Jacques Ranciére, Jürgen Habermas, Hannah Arendt, and Walter Benjamin, amongst others.
Limited to 30 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Poe.
2021-22: Not offered
[ CP ] [ SC - Starting with the class of 2015 ] What is power? How and why do people resist power? This course begins by analyzing theories of power and resistance and then proceeds to examine case studies of social movements and other forms of resistance. We will critically evaluate examples of resistance politics, asking questions such as: How do people bring about social change? Which strategies of resistance are justifiable? Under what conditions are social movements successful? What are the implications of contentious politics for democracy and good governance?
We will study a range of social movements and acts of resistance across time and space, including peasant protest, workers’ rights, anti-globalization protests, women’s movements, democracy movements, ethnic and racial movements, and violent forms of resistance such as terrorism, while acknowledging that these categories are not mutually exclusive. We will analyze how the dynamics of contentious politics differ across various political, economic, and social contexts. We will also examine the interaction between global forces, transnational organizations, and social movements.
Requisite: One course in Political Science or its equivalent. Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Ratigan.2021-22: Not offered
[AP, IR] [G - starting with the Class of 2015].) This course will combine the methods of diplomatic history and political science in examining critical moments and themes in American diplomacy. Our overall aim is to better understand the evolving position of the United States in world politics as well as domestic controversies over the character of America’s global role. Specifically, we will assess the combined influence of racism and ethnicity as well as of religious and secular values and class interest on American diplomacy. We shall also investigate the major domestic political, social, economic and intellectual trends and impulses, (e.g., manifest destiny, isolationism and counter-isolationism, and containment) that have shaped American diplomacy; analyze competing visions for territorial conquests and interventions as advocated by various American elites; examine the methods used to extend the nation’s borders, foreign trade and international influence and leadership; and seek to understand the impact of key foreign policy involvements and controversies on the character of the Presidency, Congress and party politics. Among the topics to be considered are the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates over the scope of constitutional constraints on foreign policy, the Monroe Doctrine, the Mexican War, the imperialist/anti-imperialist debate, the great power diplomacies of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and FDR, as well as key moments of American diplomacy during the Cold War (e.g., the origins of the Cold War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the end of the Cold War. To see examples of past syllabi please go to http://www3.amherst.edu/~pmachala/Syllabi/ for more information. One class meeting per week.
Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Machala.2021-22: Not offered
(Offered as POSC 312 and HIST 257 [US].) [G - starting with the Class of 2015] 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: POSC 213, 310, 311, 410; HIST 256. Limited to 30 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professors G. Levin and Machala.2021-22: Not offered
[AP, CP, IR] [G - starting with the Class of 2015] Hegel once remarked that "[T]o read the newspaper is the modern man's morning-prayer." What may be captured in this seemingly obvious observation is a proposition that political understanding of current events is difficult to sustain without daily reading of a newspaper; that reading itself is a dynamic activity, involving interpretation; that all interpretation is, in effect, translation because in any act of reading, the reader inevitably forms a judgment as to what the text is saying. A century and half later, Paul Sweezy wrote [E]veryone knows that the present will someday be history…[and believes] that the most important task of the social scientist is to try to comprehend it as history now, while it is still the present and while we still have the power to influence its shape and outcome.”
In the spirit of these observations, this seminar has a three-fold aim: (1) to introduce the habit of reading a newspaper daily; (2) to encourage an in-depth reading of current political events in the US and around the world from an interdisciplinary perspective by drawing upon the theoretical and methodological tools which students have encountered in their college courses across many social science disciplines; and (3) to help students recognize the multitude of fascinating researchable social science topics imbedded in an active reading of the daily press. This groundwork will enable class participants to develop and formulate viable research designs, make normative and causal arguments as well as address rival hypotheses in a research paper which will be due at the end of the semester.
Although the specific newspapers may vary from year to year, this semester, students will be reading the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and a newspaper of their choice, selected from a list of newspapers in English from around the world;
Requisite: the seminar is open to qualified second-semester sophomores and juniors who have taken at least six social science courses in college, including two in political science, and at least four additional courses from at minimum two other social science departments. Participants should seriously anticipate writing a thesis during their senior year.
Admissions with consent of the instructor. Limited to 14 students. Not open to first year studensts. Spring semester. Professor Machala.2021-22: Not offered
[CP] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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.
Fall semester. Professor Basu.2021-22: Not offered
In his 1984 book Antigones, George Steiner claimed that Sophocles’ Antigone was the most adapted and rewritten Greek tragedy in modernity. More recently, Mark Griffith has called Antigone “the most widely admired of all Greek tragic heroines,” and Stephen E. Wilmer has claimed to have received conference proposals about recent productions of the play in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Nigeria, and South Africa, among others. Such admiration is equally noticeable in the significant theoretical attention given to the play. Just in the previous three years, more than five books have been entirely devoted to a reinterpretation of both the play and the literature on the play, from Söderbäck’s Feminist Readings of Antigone (2010) to Bonnie Honig’s Antigone, Interrupted (2013). Beyond the dialogue there seems to be something about Antigone herself that continues to fascinate us. This seminar is designed to explore some of the most influential theoretical interpretations of Antigone, to trace their mutual debts and influences as well as their ruptures, disagreements and limitations and to explore Antigone’s claim to be a stranger who is both familiar and foreign.
Limited to 15 students. Spring Semester. Professor Castro.2021-22: Not offered
[AP, PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Spring semester. Professor Dumm.2021-22: Not offered
[CP] [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] The rich countries of the world annually give more than $100 billion in aid to promote social and economic change in the developing world--a type of planned social change that has come to be known as "development." But this is not only the preserve of big bilateral and UN agencies. Every year, millions of citizens in both rich countries and poor countries give money to NGOs that aid the poor and "do development"--they seek to empower women, protect the environment, provide microcredit, educate children, promote democracy, increase farmers' incomes, etc. Development is one of the great projects of our modern world, and millions of people are active in it, whether as volunteers or professionals. This course analyzes the operational and professional world of development. It aims to analyze the policy and operational debates ongoing in the development world as a profession, an institution, a community of like-minded people. We will study what it is development professionals do when they provide development aid. We will look at the concrete aims, tools, practices, and institutions of development and subject all this to serious social science analysis. The course uses readings from political science, anthropology, history, and institutional economics to analyze these practices and aims. In so doing, the course will end up questioning many of the received wisdoms about the development world, and hopefully prepare those of you who are concerned by the continued existence of mass deprivation in a world of plenty with appropriate tools to carve out your own path.
Fall semester. Professor Uvin.2021-22: Not offered
[AP, PT] IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Fall semester. Professor Bumiller.2021-22: Not offered
[GP, PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Spring semester. Professor Dumm.2021-22: Not offered
[AP, LP] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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.2021-22: Not offered
(Offered as POSC 372 [CP, IR] and EUST 372.) [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] This seminar discusses political and economic ideas and ideologies in 20th-century Europe. Some of the recurring themes are: nationalism; Marxism/socialism/communism; fascism; anti-Semitism; Catholicism and the role of the church in politics; existentialism; the expansion of liberalism and the collapse of Communism; the role of the U.S. and American culture in European societies; the “idea of Europe” and the reality of European integration; European identity and national identities. Seminar discussion is a free-wheeling mix of politics, economics and culture.
Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Tiersky.2021-22: Not offered
[CP, IR] [G - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Fall semester. Professor Corrales.2021-22: Not offered
[GP,LP] [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] 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, and state and local governments. The principle questions to be addressed will include: How does the conception of public and private shift over time and what are the forces driving these changes? How is the private sphere seen as a site of safety versus danger? What are the consequences of the intervention of state power and policing into the private sphere? A wide range of issues will be covered including the role of bureaucracies, the social organization of families, regulation of health and safety, domestic violence, urban revitalization, the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, homelessness, economic and racial inequality, policing, and incarceration. The course will examine these issues primarily in the context of American politics and society. There is a required 20-page research paper. This course satisfies the seminar requirement for the Department of Political Science.
Requisite: An Introductory course in political science or its equivalent. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Bumiller.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] 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 genealogy of fanaticism as a political concept. We will explore theoretical defenses and critiques of fanaticism, especially as the concept developed in relation to the history of liberal democracy. Who are political fanatics? What are the political (and psychological) consequences to labeling others as "fanatics"? How might we distinguish between fundamentalism and fanaticism? Is fanaticism necessary to define the parameters of toleration? Is fanaticism always dangerous to democratic politics or is it sometimes useful? Ultimately these inquiries are designed to test our assumptions about what fanaticism is as a political idea and how it operates in contemporary political thought. This course fulfills the requirement of an advanced seminar in Political Science.
Requisite: One course in political or social theory. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Poe.2021-22: Not offered
[ LP ] [ IL - Starting with the class of 2015 ] In the U.S., issues of stratification along the lines of income/wealth, spatial designation, and housing persist. These dimensions of place and space are basic components of the lived experience of many citizens. This course will explore the oftentimes disjointed perceptions and realities of poverty, neighborhoods, and housing policy in America. We will examine some key theoretical and critical issues regarding both the existence and persistence of poverty in the U.S. We will also assess the role and significance of the physical, economic, social, political and demographic attributes of neighborhoods as key aspects of place and space in society. Finally, we will explore contemporary housing policy and the ways in which such public interventions impact and shape the relationships between poverty and place. In addition to texts such as Patillo’s Black Pickett Fences, Jargowsky’s Poverty and Place, Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier, Sen’s Development as Freedom, and Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, we will also assess the geography of opportunity as portrayed in such films as Winter’s Bone, Slumdog Millionaire, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Precious, and Trouble the Water.
Requisite: prior coursework in Political Science. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Burns.2021-22: Not offered
[IR, PT] [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] “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 of POSC 213, 232, 244, 312, 320, 332, 345, 468, and 489 or their equivalent. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2013-14. Professor Machala.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Fall semester. Professor Machala.2021-22: Not offered
(Offered as POSC 467 [CP] [SC starting with the class of 2015] and WAGS 467) The goal of this seminar is illuminate the complex character of social movements and civil society organizations and their vital influence on Indian democracy. Social movements have strengthened democratic processes by forming or allying with political parties and thereby contributed to the growth of a multi-party system. They have increased the political power of previously marginalized and underprivileged groups and pressured the state to address social inequalities. However conservative religious movements and civil society organizations have threatened minority rights and undermined secular, democratic principles. During the semester, we will interact through internet technology with students, scholars and community organizers in India. This seminar counts as an advanced seminar in Political Science.
Requisite: Prior course work in Political Science. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Basu.
2021-22: Not offered
(Offered as POSC 474 [GP, LP] [SC - starting with the Class of 2015] 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.2021-22: Offered in Spring 2022
[CP, IR] [G- starting with the Class of 2015] 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.2021-22: Not offered
[PT] [PT - starting with the Class of 2015] 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. Fall semester. Professor Dumm.2021-22: Offered in Spring 2022
[IR, AP] [G - starting with the Class of 2015] 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 2013-14.2021-22: Not offered
[IR] [G - starting with the Class of 2015] 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 20 students. Omitted 2013-14.2021-22: Not offered
[CP, IR] [IL - starting with the Class of 2015] 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), lingering social issues, 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. For their final projects, students will have two options: 1) participate in a community-service internship in Argentina, Chile or Uruguay during the summer through a college-approved program, followed by completion of a policy-oriented paper based on the internship experience; or 2) write a 20-page research project on a topic relevant topic. Option 1 will require approval from the instructor and is contingent on funding availability. 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 20 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Corrales.2021-22: Not offered
Fall and spring semesters.2021-22: Offered in Fall 2021, Spring 2022
Spring semester: One full course.
Open to seniors who have satisfied the necessary requirements. The Department.2021-22: Offered in Spring 2022