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Courses & Descriptions

PS 24: American Constitutional Law

(usually each year except sabbatical)

This course will focus on the Supreme Court in American political life, with emphasis on American constitutional law and development. Through Court decisions, the course will explore the meaning of individual rights and civil liberties, along with the concept of group rights. We will also look at emerging civil liberties issues in the aftermath of September 11th. We will examine the equal protection and due process clauses as they bear on the struggle for equality of women and minorities. We will follow the paths by which the Bill of Rights has been extended to the states in recent decades, leading to examination of rights of the accused. Judicial review, judicial activism and restraint, doctrines of constitutional interpretation, and the role of the Supreme Court in political agenda-setting will be explored. We will consider the Court's role in defining property rights, federal economic policy, contracts and the commerce clause. The course will also examine how Court decisions shape the separation of powers; interpretation of the powers of the President in national security, foreign, affairs, and war powers; federalism and limits of national power.

PS 2: American Politics

(common descriptions for all sections)

To what extent do American institutions and political processes produce democratic, egalitarian, rational, efficient, or otherwise desirable outcomes? This course examines the exercise and distribution of political power with current political issues as a backdrop. Topics include: national legislative-executive politics; the role of the judiciary; parties, groups, and social movements; public policy and public law; the politics of class, race, and gender; the relation between citizen preferences and politics; voting and electoral politics; political culture; participation at the grassroots. The course engages different theoretical approaches and analyzes the political system's performance using criteria drawn from democratic theory.
Required texts (sec 4): Fall 2008

PS 105: Constitutional Law in the American Polity

(Honors seminar offered each year except sabbatical years)

This seminar will focus on the Supreme Court in American political life, with emphasis on civil rights and civil liberties and on constitutional development. The seminar examines the Court's role in political agenda setting in arenas including economic policy, property rights, separation of powers, federalism, presidential powers and war powers, and interpreting the equal protection and due process clauses as they bear on race and gender equality. We will examine paths by which the Bill of Rights has been extended to the states in recent decades. We will also be paying attention to judicial review, judicial activism and restraint, and theories of constitutional interpretation.

PS 22: American Elections: Myth, Ritual and Substance

(taught presidential election years with Professor Reeves)

An examination of the role of policy issues, candidate images, campaign advertisements, media, polling, marketing, and political parties in the American electoral process. We will consider the role of race, gender, class, and other variables in voting behavior and look for evidence concerning the increasing polarization of American politics. We will examine the impact of recent laws and practices that seek to encourage or depress voting in the aftermath of the 2000 election, and will explore the impact of felony disenfranchisement. What are some of the most important recent changes affecting American electoral politics? Historical trends will provide the basis for analyzing 2008. Do elections matter, and, if so, how?
Required texts for Fall 2008.

PS 43: Environmental Politics and Policy

(taught alternate years)

Topics in environmental politics, policy and law. In U.S. domestic politics, an emphasis on the role and impact of the environmental movement; regulation and proposals for more flexible responses to achieve environmental goals; collective action and free rider problems; the role of science in environmental policy-making in a democracy; courts and the impact of federalism, commerce clause, and rights on regulation. Since environmental problems cross both state and national boundaries, we will examine the role of not only national but also transnational institutions in managing environmental problems, with attention to more developed/less developed world environmental controversies. We seek to understand patterns of responses and possible future options in different environmental issue areas and will explore the efficacy of local, regional, national, and global solutions to environmental problems. Environmental topics include most of the following: air and water pollution, common-pool resource problems, toxic and radioactive waste, sustainable development, ecology, natural resource management, wilderness, environmental racism, green movement, global warming.

ES 91: Environmental Justice (Capstone)

(last offered spring 2006)

Capstone project: Mapping Environmental Justice in Delaware County [pdf]. The Capstone Seminar will be offered again spring 2010.

PS 11: Ancient Political Theory

(last taught by Professor Nackenoff fall 2006; scheduled again for 2009 with this description)

Reason, force, and persuasion are major tools of politics considered and used by political philosophers as they seek to legitimate their vision concerning the proper organization of political life. Each tends to reflect particular views about human capacities and differences, and each entails certain difficulties. This course explores these issues and key concepts of political thought by introducing students to major works in the Western tradition by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, and Hobbes. Ancient and modern theorists tend to take different positions on questions of human capacities, equality and inequality, and methods of political legitimation; they tend to come to different conclusions about the best ways to organize political life. While there is some argument about Machiavelli's classification as an ancient or modern, there is no doubt that Hobbes stands in the modern era of Western political thought, and we end with Hobbes to contrast visions and approaches.

Courses that have not been offered in the past five years:

  • PS 13: Feminist Political Theory (last taught in 2002 with Professor Halpern)
  • PS 31: Difference, Dominance, and the Struggle for Equality (cross-listed with Women's Studies)
  • PS 32: Gender, Politics, and Policy in America