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Political Science

Political Science Classes

Department Overview

Upcoming Political Science Events

Night Owls: Becoming a Politician with Nikil Saval

Date: Saturday, March 2 @ 8pm

Location: Sci Center 199

For the ancient Greeks one of the central question of ethics concerned the relation between the contemplative life, exemplified by philosophy, and the practical life, exemplified by politics. Are the two opposed in some way, or is it possible to combine them? Does the intellectual life require a certain distance from politics, for example? Does a career in politics require sacrificing the life of the mind? What is it like to be a politician anyway, and why would anyone want to live like that? What are the distinctive challenges facing intellectuals in politics?

Nikil Saval is the perfect person to help us think through these questions, having spent many years editing the literary magazine n+1 and writing for outlets like the New Yorker and the New York Times before getting elected as a PA State Senator in 2020, earning the endorsement of Bernie Sanders along the way, and successfully introducing the Whole Home Repairs Program in 2022.

Jemille Duncan '26 highlighted on 6abc's Visions: Celebrating Black difference-makers in Philly

Will Li ('24) Selected as Schwarzman Scholar

Will Li ('24, Political Science Honors Major), has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar in the 2024-25 round.  Will is only the second Swarthmore student to receive the award, and one of only three US liberal arts college undergrads selected this year (out of 58 awards given to US undergrads and post-grads). Globally, there were over 4000 applicants for 150 awards. The award will allow Will to spend next year in Beijing at Tsinghua University (one of China's two most prestigious universities), working toward a Masters' degree in Global Affairs.

Political Science Students Compete in Schuman Challenge

Some of Political Science's best and brightest competed in the 2023 Schuman Challenge. Read more about it here, from Political Science's very own Noah Sandfort ('25)

2023 Schuman Challenge

Political Science

Whether by bullets or ballots, by violent struggle or elections, politics is about who rules or governs, for what purposes, and under what constraints. Politics influences the duties of rulers and the ruled, the rights of citizens, whether or not people live in fear, the generosity of welfare systems, and many other aspects of how people conduct their day-to-day lives. Politics includes people acquiring and using power, cooperatively or non-cooperatively, for creative or destructive purposes.  It encompasses the forging of collective symbols and the crafting (and recrafting) of compelling narratives about mutual identities and social goals.  Through political action, some people demand recognition and justice, (re)defining what it means to be political.  Others expend energy and resources to maintain existing structures.  Through politics, people may focus attention on collective problems or try to prevent such a focus.  Politics also affects the distribution as well as the redistribution of economic resources – which is one reason why politics can be terribly contentious.


Political Science is the rigorous intellectual quest to identify and analyze such phenomena.  Political scientists build on the foundational ideas of social and political theorists, from the ancient world to the Enlightenment to the present day.  As political scientists, we develop logical and parsimonious theoretical arguments to better understand and explain important social and political phenomena, and even sometimes predict future developments.  Political scientists develop and test their arguments through a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis, including archival research, interviews, surveys, statistical analysis, and experiments.


Through immersion in the substance and methods of political science, students gain the knowledge and skills to succeed in a variety of career paths, including the law, public policy analysis, foreign service, international development, journalism, and academia.

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