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.