Political Science

New Courses

Fall 2013

POSC 208: Power and Politics in Contemporary China

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-208  |  Political Science, as POSC-208

Faculty

Kerry E. Ratigan (Section 01)

Description

(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.

POSC 308: Democratic Theory

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-308

Faculty

Andrew L. Poe (Section 01)

Description

 [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.

POSC 309: Collective Action and the Politics of Resistance

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-309

Faculty

Kerry E. Ratigan (Section 01)

Description

[ 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.

POSC 342: Development Aid in Practice

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-342

Faculty

Peter Uvin (Section 01)

Description

[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.

Spring 2014

POSC 111: Leviathan

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-111

Faculty

Andrew L. Poe (Section 01)

Description

 [ 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

POSC 206: Race and American Politics

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-206

Faculty

Ashley B. Burns (Section 01)

Description

 [ 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.  Fall semester.  Professor Burns.

POSC 209: China in the International System

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-209  |  Political Science, as POSC-209

Faculty

Kerry E. Ratigan (Section 01)

Description

(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.

POSC 210: Local Politics in a Globalized World

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-210

Faculty

Kerry E. Ratigan (Section 01)

Description

[ 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.

COLQ 232: Suicide Protest

Listed in: Special Seminar, as COLQ-232

Faculty

Andrew L. Poe (Section 01)

Description

This course will engage current debates on the place of suicide protest in affecting political change. Recent events--from self-immolations in the Arab Spring, to hunger strikes in Turkey and India, to public suicides in China, Tibet, and Greece--have revealed that suicide can be a significant mode of protest. Yet despite the public attention these events have claimed, there has been too little consideration of whether and how suicide constitutes a unique form of social and political protest. How does “suicide protest” work politically to mobilize support or to incite hostility? Are different forms of suicide protest useful for different sorts of political ends? What are the psychological grounds on which suicide protest affects populations? Does the speed of the method of suicide (rapid, as with self-immolation or slow, as with fasting) produce different outcomes? In what respects is suicide protest non-violent? How, if at all, is suicide protest normatively distinct from suicide terror? Using these questions as guides, this course is designed to introduce students to suicide protest as an area of important current academic research. The course will be organized to help students to theorize such political violence, fostering understandings of how research on this topic can be framed, as well as identifying new pathways for further exploration. This course is part of a new model of tutorials at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive and collaborative research with faculty.

Limited to six sophomores. Admissions with consent of the instructor. Spring semester.  Professor Poe.

Fall 2014

POSC 306: Policy Choice as Value Conflict

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-306

Faculty

Ashley B. Burns (Section 01)

Description

[ LP ] [IL - Starting with the class of 2015 ] This course will examine the ethical and moral complexities of public policy formation and implementation and investigate the varied moral foundations of public policy. We will locate contemporary debates within the historical-political contexts that define ethical dilemmas faced by policy makers and social actors. This course also will introduce students to a number of theorists, such as Marx, Plato, Rawls, Locke, and J.S. Mill.  We will investigate a selection of case studies that shed light on value conflicts in political decision-making including war, using examples from WWII, Vietnam, and the War on Terror; distributive justice in wages, business and consumption; race, diversity, and citizenship; humanitarianism; gender, sex, and reproduction; and environmental pollution, global warming, and animal rights. Students will be encouraged to reflect upon the important but often neglected connections between ethics, politics, and public policy formation and implementation. 



Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Burns.

POSC 406: Politics of Place: Poverty, Policy and Housing

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-406

Faculty

Ashley B. Burns (Section 01)

Description

[ 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 Millionarie, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Precious, and Trouble the Water.

Requisite: prior coursework in Political Science.  Limited to 15 students.   Spring semester.   Professor Burns.

 

Clark House