Department of Political Science

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Spring 2016 Course Descriptions

All courses are offered for 3 credit hours unless otherwise noted. 

Course Number Course Name  Days/Times  Faculty
POSC 109 The U.S. Political System  TR 2:45-4:00 Joseph White
POSC 160 Introduction to Comparative Politics (Counts for CAS Global and Cultural Diversity Requirement) MW 12:30-1:45 Pete Moore
POSC 172 Introduction to International Relations MW 3:00-4:15 Elliot Posner
POSC 301/401 Decision-Making in American Cities W 4:30-7:00 Michael Wager
POSC 310/410 Congress in an Era of Polarization MWF 2:00-2:50 Justin Buchler
POSC 326/426 Constitutions in Practical Politics TR 1:15-2:30 Laura Tartakoff
POSC 341/441 Elections, Voters, and Political Parties MW 12:30-1:45 Karen Beckwith
POSC 353/453 Political Thought and Political Change in China  TR 2:45-4:00 Paul Schroeder
POSC 364/464 Dictatorship and Democracy in Modern Latin America TR 4:30-5:45 Laura Tartakoff
POSC 367/467 Western European Political Systems TR 11:30-12:45 Karl Kaltenthaler
POSC 370C/470C The United States and Asia TR 10:00-11:15 Paul Schroeder
POSC 375/475 The International Politics of Technology MW 9:00-10:15 Elliot Posner
POSC 380A State and War in Africa and the Middle East MW 3:00-4:15 Pete Moore
POSC 383/483  Health Care Policy and Politics in the U.S. TR 10:00-11:15 Joseph White
POSC 395 Special Projects (1-6 credit hours. Prerequisites: see description) Times as arranged Staff
POSC 396 Senior Project/SAGES Capstone (Prerequisites: See description) Times as arranged Staff
POSC 495 Independent Study  (Graduate students only. Must be taken for a letter grade. Prerequisites: See description) Times as arranged Staff
POSC 601 Individual Investigation  (1-6 credit hours. Graduate students only. May be taken only on a pass/fail basis. Prerequisites: See description) Times as arranged Staff
POSC 651 M.A. Thesis Research  (6 credit hours. Graduate students only. Permission from supervisor and graduate committee is required. Grade is for the thesis itself, so Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory) Times as arranged Staff
POSC 701 Dissertation Ph.D.  (1-9 credit hours. Prerequisites: see description) Times as arranged Staff
  Washington Center Program (See description)    
  Integrated Graduate Studies (See description)    

POSC 109
The U.S. Political System                                                                                      
Joseph White
TR 2:45-4:00 

The U.S. political system was created to bring cooperation, the ability to work together for public ends, out of conflict, the disagreements about ends and means that were common in 1787 and at least as common now. That is the fundamental task of government, and how well that works depends on how much people disagree (beliefs) the rules of the game (how political authority is exercised), and the policy environment (the severity of problems, such as economic conditions or security threats). For this class the basic questions involve what Americans fight about through politics, how decisions are made, whether decisions tend to favor some groups of people over others, and whether decisions can be made at all.

With those questions in mind we will survey the basic institutions and dynamics of the U.S. political system. These include public and elite attitudes and why they matter; how attitudes are mobilized to influence the government, through political parties, interest groups and the media; the separated institutions that share powers to make governmental decisions, such as Congress, the presidency, courts and government agencies: and the elections which link mobilized attitudes to who holds office in the government.

POSC 160
Introduction to Comparative Politics                                                                      
Pete Moore
MW 12:30-1:45 

Comparative politics is the study of processes and institutions within countries.  Prompted by real-world puzzles, comparativists investigate broad, theoretical questions:  What constitutes a revolution, and why do revolutions occur?  How does one country become more democratic than another?  Why do relations between some ethnic groups turn violent?  This course introduces some of the central puzzles and theories of comparative politics in order to help students better understand world events. Counts for CAS Global and Cultural Diversity Requirement.

POSC 172
Introduction to International Relations                                      
Elliot Posner
MW 3:00-4:15

This course is a survey of international relations.  It will address the major questions about the ways that states interact: what is anarchy, and what are its consequences?  Can we mitigate its effects, and if so how?  Has globalization—the increasing flows of goods, people and knowledge across borders—changed the nature of the way states relate to each other?  Has the rise of non-state actors diminished the authority of the state?  This course will take up these large questions by examining the nature of anarchy and sovereignty and their effects in world politics.  It will also ask under what conditions can international cooperation—through treaties, laws and less formal arrangements—help provide peace, security and prosperity.  The course will cover the fundaments of the discipline, including a review of the theoretical approaches and major questions in contemporary international relations.  We will also look at specific issues in contemporary world politics such as human rights, environmental protection and other issues decided upon by the class.

POSC 301/401
Decision Making in American Cities
Michael Wager
W 4:30-7:00

To fully understand government and politics in the United States, we need to understand the role and functions of local governments.  This course will explore the rich history and current state of local governments. The course will show how these governments are organized and function, how they receive and spend their funds, what their responsibilities are, how they interface with other local governments as well as state and federal governments.  The course will also look at how local governments work with business, institutions, and the public at large. It will also look at how such issues as technology, national politics, economics, demographics, climate and other factors impacted local governments over time.

These governments (including cities, villages, townships, counties, special districts, among others) provide public services that affect our lives on a daily basis.  Such services requires decision-making on a myriad of tasks such as public safety, street maintenance, transportation,  trash pick-up, public health, economic development, education, recreation, planning, zoning, and many more.  Elected and appointed officials make decisions based on legal precedent, political goals, economic realities, and other factors.  The public at large makes decisions through participation in civic life, voting, and basic citizenship.

Because such issues are always in the news, students will discuss and analyze key events of the day as part of every class and attend a public decision-making meeting. With a presidential election in 2016, the class will explore the urban policies proposed by the candidates.

POSC 310/410
Congress in an Era of Polarization
Justin Buchler
MWF 2:00-2:50

A study of Congress in the modern era with emphasis on the development of polarization, procedural changes, conflict between the legislative and executive branches during divided government, and the current state of representation.

 

POSC 326/426
Constitutions in Practical Politics
Laura Tartakoff
TR 1:15-2:30

“Constitutions in Practical Politics” examines the practical role played by constitutions in ancient, modern, and contemporary politics. First, it explores the impact of constitutional order in Periclean Athens, republican Rome, and medieval Europe, and also in the Republic of Venice and the Dutch Republic. Then, after contrasting the constitutionalist visions of the English, American, and French Revolutions, the course turns to contemporary constitutional experiences in Hungary.

POSC 341/441
Elections, Voters, and Political Parties
Karen Beckwith
MW 12:30-1:45

This course examines US political parties, elections and voting behavior, with particular attention to the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.  Topics include party organization and structure; candidate recruitment, nomination rules and procedures; and the parties’ strategic interaction within the context of election law and campaign finance law.  The course investigates the distribution of and changes in party identification and voter turnout; and addresses current topical issues, such as “voter suppression,” “voter fraud,” changing voter demographics, and partisan polarization within and between the two major political parties. 

POSC 353/453
Political Thought and Political Change in China
Paul Schroeder
TR 2:45-4:00

“No state is forever strong or forever weak,” said Han Feizi, China’s great legalist philosopher. He believed that as a country’s conditions changed, the laws and institutions had to change to meet these new circumstances. China today faces new circumstances that have caused deep and broad challenges to its people. This has prompted serious debate among intellectuals, leaders, and average citizens about the possibility for and direction of political reform. Indeed, China’s leadership is focusing anew on Confucius is an effort to look for a reform model to follow.  But what might that reform look like, and how would it be conceived, if it could overcome current barriers? This seminar will provide a fuller understanding of China’s potential for political change by examining Chinese political thought from Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Han Feizi through Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. These and other political philosophies have influenced China’s political culture, which will influence the form of any change.

 

POSC 364/464
Dictatorship and Democracy in Modern Latin America
Laura Tartakoff
TR 4:30-5:45

This course focuses on political leadership in 20th century Latin America, exploring the nature, causes, and consequences of dictatorship and democracy in the region. Case studies in dictatorship will highlight Rafael Trujillo, the Somozas, Juan Perón, Fidel Castro, and Augusto Pinochet.

Chile’s transition to democracy will introduce key factors in the process of democratization. Costa Rica’s José Figueres, Venezuela’s Rómulo Betancourt, and Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín will serve as case studies in democracy. The class will contrasting the records of current presidents Nicolás Maduro and Michelle Bachelet.

POSC 367/467
Western European Political Systems
Karl Kaltenthaler
TR 11:30-12:45

Comparative analysis of sociopolitical systems of selected Western European industrial democracies, using North American systems as a point of comparison.

POSC 370C/470C
The United States and Asia
Paul Schroeder
TR 10:00-11:15

Survey and analysis of U.S.-Asia relations in the post-World War II period. The course focus is specifically on the interaction of politics and economics in the United States’ relations with Japan, China, and North and South Korea.  Topics will include the role of Asia in U.S. Cold War policies, the dynamics of U.S.-Japan and U.S.-Korean alliance politics, post-Cold War issues involving U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, a history and analysis of economic conflict cooperation, and an examination of the move toward Asia-Pacific “regionalism.” 

POSC 375/475
The International Politics of Technology
Elliot Posner
MW 9:00-10:15

Technology is deeply political.  Nowhere is this statement more evident than in the realm of international relations, where governments perceive technology as a source of power and wealth and a symbol of relative position and modernity.  Yet for centuries skeptics have questioned the economic rationale of government technology policies.  Still, to this day, countries support emulation, innovation and a host of other strategies as means for catching up with leading nations or locking in current advantages.  What lies behind such policies?  What do they accomplish?  And what are the domestic and international politics surrounding them? After reading classic arguments, including texts by Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List, students will consider 20th and 21st century debates and an array of experiments tried by poor, middle-income and rich countries.  Cases include the development of new industries; the imposition of sanctions; the dilemma of dual technologies and military spillovers; the forging of national champions; the reorganization of banks and the creation of international financial centers; the copying of regional clusters (e.g. Silicon Valley) and stock markets (e.g. the Nasdaq); and the extraterritorial extension of domestic regulation and governance techniques.  There are no prerequisites.

POSC 380A
State and War in Africa and the Middle East
Pete Moore
MW 3:00-4:15

The Middle East, North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa remain the most volatile and conflict prone regions of the world. Traditional approaches to war and state conflict have emphasized systemic variables, such as balance of power, military capabilities, perceptions, the security dilemma, and of course anarchy. While these concepts have generated much academic interest, their ability to explain and understand conflict in the developing world is severely limited. This is due to the basic fact that nearly all conflict in the world today is not between states but is taking place within state boundaries. What drives these conflicts? Are there common factors and patterns within the Middle East and Africa? How does sub-state conflict affect political and economic development? What are the most likely resolution strategies? Recommended preparation: POSC 379. Counts as SAGES Departmental Seminar.

POSC 383/483
Health Policy and Politics in the United States
Joseph White
TR 10:00-11:15

The debates about “Obamacare” reveal deep divisions in the United States about the role of government in the health care system. Yet governments are deeply involved in many ways, ranging from local public health regulation, to states licensing medical professionals, to the federal government’s funding of research and both federal and state health insurance programs.  Health care is at least a sixth of the national economy, a far larger share than in any other country.  Ironically, the United States both funds a smaller share of health care through public programs than in any other rich democracy and, because the system is so expensive, spends a larger share of its economy on public finance of health care than in all but a few other countries. What explains government’s roles in U.S. health care? Any answers must address both the peculiarities of the health care field and the dynamics of U.S. politics. So this course will provide an introduction to health policy issues and the health policy community, and an analysis of the politics of policy conflict.

POSC 395
Special Projects
Times as Arranged

(Requires consent and a permit from instructor)  Study of a topic of particular interest, or an approved internship. The student must submit to the departmental office a project prospectus form, approved and signed by the faculty supervisor, no later than the end of the second week of classes. The prospectus must outline the goals of the project and the research methodology to be used and is part of the basis for grading. The prospectus form is available from the departmental office of from the department’s Web page.

POSC 396
Senior Project SAGES Capstone
Times as Arranged

(Requires consent and a permit from instructor)  Capstone experience for political science majors or senior POSC minors as part of the SAGES program, providing opportunity to do an in-depth paper on a topic of particular interest to them. Students must obtain approval from a faculty project advisor and list that advisor on the registration form. The advisor must sign and student submit to the department a prospectus including goals, schedule, and research methodology. This paper should demonstrate, and ideally even extend, the skills and expertise developed over the course of study in the department. Upon completion of the capstone, students will be expected to present their work in a public forum. Recommended preparation: Junior or Senior political science major or senior political science minor and departmental prospectus form. Counts as SAGES Senior Capstone.

POSC 495    
Independent Study
Staff
Times as Arranged

(Requires consent and a permit from instructor)  Independent study on particular topics that are not covered by individual graduate courses or are not available in a timely manner for the student’s needs.  In order to receive a permit, the student must complete a prospectus form, approved and signed by the faculty project supervisor and the student.  The prospectus must outline the material to be covered and the basis for grading of the course, and a copy of the form will be filed with the Department Office.  POSC 495 is designed especially for reading courses but can be used for other purposes as well.  Note that this course will result in a letter grade.  Graduate students wanting to take independent study on a pass/fail basis should speak with their project supervisors about registering for POSC 601, “Individual Investigation.”

POSC 601
Individual Investigation
Staff
Times as Arranged

(Requires consent and a permit from instructor)  POSC 601 permits a graduate student to do an in-depth study of a topic of particular interest for which no regular course is available.  It should be particularly helpful in preparing for field exams.  Students must develop their course of study with a supervising professor, who will set requirements for written work.

Credit (1-6 hours) and times as arranged.  Note that this course may be taken only on a pass/fail basis.  Graduate students who wish to do a project for a letter grade should speak with their supervising professors about registering for POSC 495, “Independent Study.”

IMPORTANT:  In order to obtain a permit, the student must complete a POSC 601 project prospectus form, signed by the faculty project advisor and the student, which will form the basis of a “contract” of expectations for the project.  The prospectus form, available in the Department Office (Mather House 111), will outline the goals of the project and the research methodology to be used and thus will be part of the basis for grading.  A copy of this completed and signed form will be filed with the Department Office.

POSC 651
M.A. Thesis Research
Staff
Times as Arranged

Independent study of a research question and completion of a major paper under advisor supervision. The School of Graduate Study requires 6 credit hours be completed.  The thesis will be reviewed by the advisor and a departmental committee.

POSC 701
Dissertation Ph.D. 
Staff
Times as Arranged

(Requires consent and a permit from instructor)  Credit (1-9 hours) and times as arranged.  However, Graduate School regulations specify that a student must register for a minimum of 3 hours of 701 per semester until 18 hours of 701 credit have been completed.  After having earned 18 hours of 701, a candidate may be permitted to register for less than 3 hours per semester, but only with the prior approval of his/her dissertation advisor and only for a maximum of four semesters.  Thereafter, the student must resume registering for a minimum of 3 hours of 701 credit per semester until the dissertation is completed and defended.  See the Political Science Graduate Brochure or your POSC dissertation advisor for complete details on eligibility to register for 701.

Page last modified: October 16, 2017