Political Science

Political science involves the study of politics from the local to the global level—politics within countries, politics among countries, and theories and philosophies of politics. Consistent with its expansive spirit of inquiry, the Political Science department offers courses touching on questions about power, conflict, ideas, representation, institutions, distribution, and identity. In their research, faculty members approach the study of political phenomena from multiple directions, using different methodologies suited to the kinds of questions asked. This pluralistic and interdisciplinary approach often creates overlap with fields such as anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. The major offers a broad liberal education, but it also serves as great preparation for many careers, including those in public and international affairs, law, and business.

Political Science courses are organized into five subfields: comparative government examines politics in one, several, or many countries; international relations explores politics among nations, including wars, international negotiations, and international institutions; American government encompasses politics at local, state, and federal levels; political philosophy involves the history of political ideas and theories of politics; and analytical political theory develops the statistical methods and formal logic used to formulate and test hypotheses about politics. Majors in Political Science gain experience in a wide range of areas by taking courses in three of the department’s five subfields. Although there is no specific course required for the major, the department offers introductory surveys of various subfields of the discipline (see below).

The programs in Global Affairs and in Ethics, Politics, and Economics have substantial overlap with Political Science. Many courses offered by these programs may count toward requirements of more than one of the three majors.

Freshmen considering Political Science as a major may find it useful to take some introductory courses in the field. These courses provide a good orientation to issues explored at a deeper level in more advanced offerings, such as departmental seminars reserved mostly for majors.

  • PLSC 111, Introduction to International Relations
  • PLSC 113, Introduction to American Politics
  • PLSC 114, Introduction to Political Philosophy
  • PLSC 116, Comparative Politics: States, Regimes, and Conflict
  • PLSC 118, The Moral Foundations of Politics

For more information, visit the undergraduate section of the departmental Web site.