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New Political Science Courses

New for Fall 2022

POLS 039: The Courts and American Democracy

What role should the courts play in a well-functioning democracy? From one perspective, the courts are an essential safeguard, securing fundamental rights and protecting vulnerable minorities. From another perspective, the courts can undermine democracy by affording unelected judges priority over the democratic public. These theoretical issues take a more concrete shape within the specific political and constitutional culture of the United States. Using the U.S. as our case study, we will think critically about the role of the judiciary in democracy. We shall read some American constitutional case law, while also exploring wider literature in philosophy of law, democratic theory, and American politics. We will focus on the judicial politics surrounding the Civil Rights movement, environmentalist movements, feminist movements, and LGBTQ movements.  We will also focus on the judicial politics of economic regulation, immigration, national security, and elections/campaign finance. Throughout, we will ask tough questions about whether the courts truly can be mechanisms of democratic progress, or whether they are essentially conservative institutions that entrench the status quo. It is a course that therefore straddles the fields of political theory and American politics.

New for Spring 2023

POLS 023: Dilemmas of Statebuilding: Race and Gender in American Political Development

This course follows a reading seminar structure and examines how race and gender relations in America fundamentally shaped—and were shaped by—the development of the contemporary American state. Students will read and critique both classic literature as well as recent studies in American political development (APD) and related disciplines. The course is centered on two particular areas of state building, the welfare state and the carceral state, and therefore takes a policy-centric approach.

Assistant Professor Susanne Schwarz

POLS 055: Ethics and International Relations

Ethical questions are central to the study of international relations. Does justice extend beyond the borders of states? Do we have moral obligations to distant strangers? Do we have an obligation to obey international law? When is war, if ever, just? Who should punish war crimes? In this course we explore the links between international normative theory (what would a just world order look like? how should it be constructed?) and the role norms and ethics actually play in contemporary international relations according to different theoretical perspectives (e.g. realist, constructivist, etc.). Topics include: the nature of ethical reasoning; state sovereignty, national self-determination, and secession; just war, human rights, and intervention; pluralism and cosmopolitanism; Black Lives Matter and international racial justice; transnational environmental responsibility and the ethics of climate change. 

Associate Professor Emily Paddon Rhoads

POLS 088: Special Topic: China and the World

What does China want, and what strategies is it deploying in pursuit of its goals? This course will examine critical issues related to China's role in the world, including its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its influence in global institutions and governance, its military profile and defense posture, and its evolving world view. The course will also focus on linkages between domestic politics and foreign policy, as well as contending theories of Chinese behavior.

Professor Tyrene White

New for Fall 2023

POLS 032: Social Philosophy

What is a society and how does it differ from a community? Under what circumstances, if any, can we legitimately speak of a "we" as opposed to a collection of individuals? Can a society or a corporation have beliefs and desires? What are social structures and how do they relate to individual action? Are all social phenomena "constructed" and if so in what sense? What is social science and how might it differ from natural science? This course will raise these foundational questions in social philosophy before turning to the question of how different pictures of society and social phenomena shape our normative stances. Do liberalism, socialism and conservatism all follow from particular pictures of society, for instance? What about movements focusing on race and gender? Should we adopt a conception of social phenomena in light of our political commitments or the other way around? By raising and addressing such questions, this course aims to help students in the social sciences achieve greater self-consciousness about the objects and aims of their various disciplines, while also becoming more sophisticated in their normative reflections.

Assistant Professor Jonny Thakkar

POLS 072: How the Sausage Is Made: Policymaking in America

This course provides a realistic introduction to how public policy is made in the United States today. It examines how people (voters, activists, wealthy individuals, lobbyists, politicians, bureaucrats, and judges), organizations (interest groups, firms, unions, foundations, think tanks, political parties, and the media) and political institutions (Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the judiciary) interact to create and implement public policy in the United States.

Assistant Professor Susanne Schwarz