Contacts | Program of Study | Program Requirements | Summary of Requirements for Students Meeting the Writing Requirement with a Long Paper | Summary of Requirements for Students Meeting the Writing Requirement with a BA Thesis  | Courses

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Program of Study

Political science is the study of governments, public policies, political processes, political behavior, and ideas about government and politics. Political scientists use both humanistic and scientific perspectives and a variety of methodological approaches to examine the political dynamics of all countries and regions of the world, both ancient and modern. Political science contributes to a liberal education by introducing students to concepts, methods, and knowledge that help them understand and judge politics within and among nations. A BA degree in political science can lead to a career in business, government, journalism, education, or nonprofit organizations; or it can lead to a PhD program in the social sciences or to professional school in law, business, public policy, or international relations. Our graduates have gone into all those areas in recent years.

Program Requirements

Starting in the 2016–17 academic year, the Department of Political Science has abolished the list of "pre-approved" petition courses. No course outside of Political Science taken in Summer 2016 or later will be automatically counted for the major; all must be petitioned to the department. Inclusion on the now-defunct pre-approved list does not guarantee future approval.

Course Requirements

The Political Science major requires twelve political science courses and a substantial paper. All students must take three out of the four courses that introduce the fields of political science. All students must also take the required research methods course. Students may meet the writing requirement by completing a BA Thesis or by writing a Long Paper. The BA Thesis and Long Paper options are explained below.

Introductory Course Requirement

To gain a broad understanding of political science, the department's faculty thinks students should take a wide range of courses. To ensure that breadth, students are required to take at least three of the following four courses:

PLSC 28701 Introduction to Political Theory

PLSC 28801 Introduction to American Politics

PLSC 28901 Introduction to Comparative Politics

PLSC 29000 Introduction to International Relations

Each course will be offered every year, introducing students to the four principal areas of study in political science. The introductory courses must be taken for quality grades. 

Research Methods Requirement

To prepare students to evaluate the materials in their classes and to write research papers, students are also required to take the department's research methods course, which will be offered every quarter:

PLSC 22913 The Practice of Social Science Research

The department also strongly recommends, but does not require, a course in statistics.

Political Science Course Requirement

In addition to the above requirements, students are required to take six to eight Political Science courses of their choosing in order to develop their interests in and knowledge of the field. Those following the Long Paper path, described below, must complete eight courses while those on the BA Thesis path must complete at least six. It may be appropriate for advanced students to pursue an independent study credit (see below). Courses outside Political Science may be considered for the major only by petition. (Please submit the General Petition form ( along with a copy of the course syllabus to Pick 406.) 

Writing Requirement: Two Options

Students who are majoring in political science must write at least one substantial paper. There are two ways to meet this requirement, by writing a BA Thesis or by submitting a Long Paper.

Option 1: Long Paper

The Long Paper is typically a course paper. It may be written for either a professor in Political Science or a professor in another department whose course is accepted for Political Science credit. Students who write a Long Paper are not required to write a BA Thesis. Students submitting a Long Paper must bring an approval form to the departmental office signed by an instructor who verifies that the paper meets two requirements: (a) the paper is twenty pages or longer, double-spaced (that is, approximately 5,000 words or longer); and (b) the paper received a grade of B or better (that is, a grade of B- or below does not meet the requirement).

The Long Paper might be:

  • A class paper for any course used to meet the major's requirements.
  • An extended version of a shorter paper written for a course. If a course requires a shorter paper, students may ask the instructor for permission to write a twenty-page paper instead.
  • Written for a course that did not require any papers. Students may ask the instructor for permission to write a twenty-page paper, either in place of another assignment, as an extra assignment, or as an ungraded assignment.
  • Written for a Political Science instructor after a course is completed. The student could either produce an entirely new paper or, with the instructor's permission, take a shorter assignment and turn it into a longer paper.

If the paper is not a graded assignment for class, it still meets the department's requirement if the instructor attests that it merits a grade of B or better. Unless the paper is written for a graded class assignment, students must ask the instructor's permission to submit any such paper.

Students are responsible for obtaining an approval form ( Paper Form.pdf) to verify the successful completion of the Long Paper from the department office and giving it to the relevant instructor. Please ask the instructor to sign the approval form and return it to the departmental office. The deadline for submitting the approval form and the paper is 4 p.m. on Friday of the second week of the quarter in which the student expects to graduate. Students should complete their paper before their final quarter; the approval form should be submitted to the departmental office as soon as the writing requirement is completed.

Option 2: BA Thesis

Writing a BA Thesis will meet the writing requirement in Political Science and may also qualify a student for consideration for honors; see sections below for more information. In either case, the paper is typically from thirty-five to fifty pages in length (the length of most scholarly articles in professional journals). It must receive a grade of B or higher. Students choose a suitable faculty member to supervise the research and writing. The deadline for submitting two copies of a BA Thesis to the departmental office is 4 p.m. on Friday of the fourth week of the quarter in which the student expects to graduate.

BA Colloquium. Students who choose to write a BA Thesis are required to enroll in PLSC 29800 BA Colloquium in the Spring Quarter of the third year and continue to attend the BA Colloquium in the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year. The colloquium is designed to help students carry out their BA Thesis research and to offer feedback on their progress. Although the course meets over two quarters, it counts as a single course and has a single grade. The final grade for the colloquium is based on the student's contribution to the colloquium during both quarters. Students who write a BA Thesis must also enroll in PLSC 29900 BA Thesis Supervision for one quarter, normally Winter Quarter of fourth year (although enrollment may be in any quarter). 

A few students each year study abroad in the Spring Quarter of third year or in the Autumn Quarter of the fourth year and also intend to complete the Political Science major by writing a BA Thesis. Students who study abroad in the Spring Quarter are not required to enroll in the BA Colloquium in the Spring Quarter, but are expected to enroll and participate in the BA Colloquium in the Autumn Quarter. Students who study abroad in the Autumn Quarter must enroll in the BA Colloquium in the previous Spring Quarter, but are not required to participate in the Autumn Quarter. 

All students who intend to write a BA thesis must submit a proposal for the thesis by the end of Spring Quarter, regardless of residency. Students who are away from campus in the Spring Quarter should line up an adviser and discuss ideas about a thesis topic while they are abroad or even during the Winter Quarter before departure. The department has arranged the BA Thesis process so that students arrive back on campus for fourth year ready to execute the research for the thesis in the Autumn Quarter, rather than compressing research and writing both into the Winter Quarter. Students who will be abroad in Spring Quarter and unable to participate in the Spring BA Colloquium should contact the department's Undergraduate Studies office during the Winter Quarter to receive instructions about the preparations they should expect to make while they are away. 

BA Thesis SupervisionDuring their fourth year, students who choose to write a BA Thesis must register with their BA Thesis faculty adviser for one quarter of PLSC 29900 BA Thesis Supervision. Students may also elect to take a second quarter of PLSC 29900 BA Thesis Supervision, which will count toward the twelve required courses. To enroll, students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form, which is available from the College advisers. The final grade for the course will be based on the grade given the BA Thesis by the faculty adviser. Although most BA Theses are supervised by Political Science professors, the adviser need not be a member of the Department of Political Science. 

Summary of Requirements for Students Meeting the Writing Requirement with a Long Paper

Three of the following Political Science courses:300
Introduction to Political Theory
Introduction to American Politics
Introduction to Comparative Politics
Introduction to International Relations
PLSC 22913The Practice of Social Science Research100
Eight additional Political Science courses *800
Fulfillment of the writing requirement000
Total Units1200

At least five must be courses in Political Science.

Summary of Requirements for Students Meeting the Writing Requirement with a BA Thesis 

Three of the following Political Science courses:300
Introduction to Political Theory
Introduction to American Politics
Introduction to Comparative Politics
Introduction to International Relations
PLSC 22913The Practice of Social Science Research100
Six additional Political Science courses *600
PLSC 29800BA Colloquium100
PLSC 29900BA Thesis Supervision100
Total Units1200

At least three must be courses in Political Science. 

Pass/Fail Courses

Courses that meet requirements for the major are normally taken for quality grades. The three required introductory courses must be taken for quality grades. However, students may take up to two courses in the major on a P/F basis.

Independent Study

Students with extensive course work in Political Science who wish to pursue more specialized topics that are not covered by regular courses have the option of registering for PLSC 29700 Independent Study, to be taken individually and supervised by a member of the Political Science faculty. Students must obtain the prior consent of the program director and the instructor, as well as submit the College Reading and Research Course Form that is available from their College adviser. The substance of the independent study may not be related to the BA Thesis or BA research, which is covered by PLSC 29900 BA Thesis Supervision. Only one PLSC 29700 Independent Study course may count toward requirements for the major.

Honors in the Major

Students who do exceptionally well in their course work and who write an outstanding BA Thesis are recommended for honors in the major. A student is eligible for honors if the GPA in the major is 3.6 or higher and the overall GPA is 3.0 or higher at the beginning of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate. Students who wish to be considered for honors are required to register for PLSC 29800 BA Colloquium and PLSC 29900 BA Thesis Supervision and to submit a BA Thesis. To graduate with department honors, then, a student must have both honors-level grades and a BA Thesis that receives honors.

Double Majors

Students who plan to double major may complete the Political Science requirements by either the BA Thesis option or the Long Paper option. Students who write the BA Thesis must attend the Political Science BA Colloquium even if the other major also requires attendance at its colloquium. A request to use a single BA Thesis for two majors requires the approval of both program directors on a form available from the student's College adviser or here ( 

Courses Taken at Other Universities by Students Who Transfer to the University of Chicago

Student who transfer into the University of Chicago and wish to transfer courses into the major should see the Director of Undergraduate Studies soon after matriculation. The introductory course requirement and the research methods requirement cannot be satisfied by courses taken elsewhere, but courses may be counted toward the major by petition (

Becoming a Political Science Major

Most students declare a major at the end of the second year or beginning of the third. The department encourages students to try out the major even before declaring. To receive announcements about the program in the major and other information about the Department of Political Science, students should sign up for the undergraduate email list either in the departmental office or at

Political Science Courses

PLSC 20750. Social Choice Theory. 100 Units.

This course will provide you with an introduction to the field of social choice theory, the study of aggregating the preferences of individuals into a "collective preference." It will focus primarily on classic theorems and proof techniques, with the aim of examining the properties of different collective choice procedures and characterizing procedures that yield desirable outcomes. The classic social choice results speak not only to the difficulties in aggregating the preferences of individuals, but also to the difficulties in aggregating any set of diverse criteria that we deem important to making a choice or generating a ranking. Specific topics we will cover include preference aggregation, rationalizable choice, tournaments, sophisticated voting, domain restrictions, and the implicit trade-offs made by game theoretic versus social choice theoretic approaches to modeling. (E)

Instructor(s): E. Penn     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 40801

PLSC 20800. Machiavelli: Discourses on Livey and The Prince. 100 Units.

This course is devoted to reading and discussing Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy and The Prince, supplemented by substantial selections from Livy's History of Rome, followed by a brief reading of Machiavelli's comedy Mandragola. Themes include the roles of princes, peoples, and elites; the merits of republics and principalities; the political effects of pagan and Christian religion and morality; war and empire; founding and reform; virtue and fortune; corruption and liberty; the relevance of ancient history to modern experience; reading and writing; and theory and practice. This course is part of the College Course Cluster, The Renaissance.

Instructor(s): Nathan Tarcov     Terms Offered: Winter. Course taught Winter 2018
Prerequisite(s): Open to undergrads by consent of instructor
Equivalent Course(s): FNDL 29300,PLSC 32100,LLSO 21710,SCTH 31710

PLSC 20921. Politicized Militaries and Militarized Politics. 100 Units.

How do we define a military? What is a military’s purpose? How have militaries around the world embedded themselves into the social and institutional fabric of the state? How do military leaders act compared to their civilian counterparts when placed in similar political roles? This seminar will help students answer the following questions by introducing them to the literature on civil-military relations. The general structure of the class readings will focus on two primary themes. The first half of the course will introduce students to long-standing debates over the role of politicization in military organizations and whether such trends are desirable or not. The latter half of the class will focus on research that analyzes the militarization of politics and how such trends might subvert traditional notions of the military profession.

Instructor(s): K. Weng     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 20922. Russian State and Society under Putin: Uses of History, Myth, and Ideology. 100 Units.

In the Russian language, there is a specific phrase that conjures up historical periods of chaos brought on by domestic disorder/disintegration and foreign threat: “smuta”, or, “smutnoe vremya” [time of troubles]. Several moments in Russian history can be interpreted as contributing to a deep cultural consciousness of “smuta”, from the invasion of the Mongol Horde and the succession crises after Ivan IV and Peter I, to the post-Imperial Russian Civil War and the post-Soviet transition period. In this course, we will begin with this last “smuta” of Russia’s 1990s transition out of the Soviet Union, moving on to explore the last two decades of Vladimir Putin’s political influence and its effects on both the state and society in Russia. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which Putin: 1) has responded to Russia’s difficult experience with transition by marshaling this and other historical memories to his aid in national mythmaking; and 2) has attempted to forge Russia’s own unique, “special path” under such ideological monikers as “conservative modernization” and “sovereign democracy.” Of crucial importance in this course are the ideational rather than institutional components of Putin’s regime: how has Putin marshalled history and myth to forge powerful ideological tools, and how have these ideological tools been put to work in and variously received by Russian society?

Instructor(s): C. Brandly     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 21402. Truth, Lies, and Opinions. 100 Units.

The recent tumult over "fake news" and the erosion of facts in public discourse picks up a long-standing debate in political thought over the role of truth, lies, and opinion. Is politics a domain where rulers should be truthful and the people should be sincere, or is it a domain where lies and cunning (realpolitik) are bound to reign supreme? Can we even clearly identify what is a truth and what is a lie when it comes to politics given the varying ideologies and perspectives through which people apprehend the world? What room can there be for truth and knowledge in democracy, which is organized around giving voice to people's conflicting opinions? In this political theory course, we will examine such questions by reading authors like Hannah Arendt, Charles Mills, Michel Foucault, Gandhi, Sandra Harding, Vaclav Havel, Niccolò Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, and Bernard Williams.

Instructor(s): D. Nichanian     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 21505. Sex, Gender, and War. 100 Units.

This course explores the sexed, gendered, and oftentimes racialized dimensions of war. With the rise of civil wars and the decrease of interstate or world wars, the nature of warfare has changed: wars are no longer being fought in battlefields, but neighborhoods; and combatants and civilians are no longer distinguishable. Additionally, over the last century, women’s formal participation in armed groups and militaries has increased, challenging the traditional segregation of men and women into different roles during war. As such, this undergraduate seminar explores various dimensions of contemporary war, in order to understand how war is not only made possible, but is perpetuated and reinforced by sexed, gendered, and racialized inequalities. It draws from literature in armed conflict studies and gender studies, as well as from contemporary representations of gender and war in films and novels.

Instructor(s): A. Blair     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 21605. Power, Violence, and the Global North/South Divide. 100 Units.

Oftentimes terms such as “Global North” and “Global South” are used synonymously with West vs. the rest, and developed vs. developing countries. While each of these terms grew out of particular historical contexts, each pairing generally refers to political, economic, and sometimes, social divides that denote development gaps across the globe. This undergraduate seminar explores these divides, and examines the role that power and violence play in creating and perpetuating it. We will look at practices such as colonialism that created and reinforced the divide, before turning to phenomena such as land grabbing and climate change that hide power and condone violence. This course draws from an array of disciplines, including international history, subaltern studies, and gender studies, as well as from contemporary representations of the Global North/Global South Divide in films and novels. 

Instructor(s): A. Blair     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 21802. Global Justice and the Politics of Empire. 100 Units.

Over the last four decades, political theorists and philosophers have transcended the nation-state form and taken their concerns about redistribution, democracy, and rights global. Though often not explicitly acknowledged, this global turn emerged just at the tail end of decolonization when political and economic crises from large-scale famines to authoritarianism and ethnic violence rocked the newly emerging post-colonial world. This course will examine how contemporary debates around global justice broadly construed interact and intersect with the legacies of imperialism and decolonization. In exploring questions of redistributive justice, global democracy, human rights, and humanitarian intervention, we will consider the following questions: (1) in what ways are debates about global justice responding to the legacies of imperial rule, (2) how are the historical and contemporary manifestations of international hierarchy challenged and retrenched, and (3) is contemporary cosmopolitanism an alibi for new forms of imperialism? This course is part of the College Course Cluster, Inequality.

Instructor(s): A. Getachew, J. Wilson     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 31802

PLSC 22202. Philosophies of Environmentalism and Sustainability. 100 Units.

Many of the toughest ethical and political challenges confronting the world today are related to environmental issues: for example, climate change, loss of biodiversity, the unsustainable use of natural resources, pollution, and other threats to the well-being of both present and future generations.  Using both classic and contemporary works, this course will highlight some of the fundamental and unavoidable philosophical questions presented by such environmental issues.  Can a plausible philosophical account of justice for future generations be developed?  What counts as the ethical treatment of non-human animals?  What do the terms “nature” and “wilderness” mean, and can natural environments as such have moral and/or legal standing?  What fundamental ethical and political perspectives inform such positions as ecofeminism, the “Land Ethic,” political ecology, ecojustice, and deep ecology?  And does the environmental crisis confronting the world today demand new forms of ethical and political philosophizing and practice?  Are we in the Anthropocene?  Is “adaptation” the best strategy at this historical juncture?  Field trips, guest speakers, and special projects will help us philosophize about the fate of the earth by connecting the local and the global. (A) (B)

Instructor(s): B. Schultz     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Course is open to Undergraduates and MAPH students.
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 22201,MAPH 32209,ENST 22209,GNSE 22204,PHIL 22209

PLSC 22400. Public Opinion. 100 Units.

What is the relationship between the mass citizenry and government in the U.S.? Does the public meet the conditions for a functioning democratic polity? This course considers the origins of mass opinion about politics and public policy, including the role of core values and beliefs, information, expectations about political actors, the mass media, economic self-interest, and racial attitudes. This course also examines problems of political representation, from the level of political elites communicating with constituents, and from the possibility of aggregate representation. 

Instructor(s): J. Brehm     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 26802

PLSC 22515. The Political Nature of the American Judicial System. 100 Units.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the political nature of the American judicial system. In examining foundational parts of the political science literature on courts understood as political institutions, the course will focus on the relationship between courts, other political institutions, and the broader society. The sorts of questions to be asked include: Are there interests that courts are particularly prone to support? What factors influence judicial decision-making? Are judicial decisions influenced by public opinion? What effects do congressional or executive actions have on court decisions? What impact do court decisions have? While the answers will not always be clear, students should complete the course with an awareness of and sensitivity to the political nature of the American judicial system. The course is not case-based. No prior knowledge of the judicial system is necessary.

Instructor(s): G. Rosenberg     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 24011,PLSC 42515

PLSC 22600. Introduction to Political Philosophy. 100 Units.

In this course we will investigate what it is for a society to be just. In what sense are the members of a just society equal? What freedoms does a just society protect? Must a just society be a democracy? What economic arrangements are compatible with justice? In the second portion of the course we will consider one pressing injustice in our society in light of our previous philosophical conclusions. Possible candidates include, but are not limited to, racial inequality, economic inequality, and gender hierarchy. Here our goal will be to combine our philosophical theories with empirical evidence in order to identify, diagnose, and effectively respond to actual injustice. (A)

Instructor(s): B. Laurence     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): Students should register via discussion section.
Equivalent Course(s): GNSE 21601,LLSO 22612,PHIL 21600

PLSC 22819. Philosophy of Education. 100 Units.

What are the aims of education? Are they what they should be, for purposes of cultivating flourishing citizens of a liberal democracy? What are the biggest challenges—philosophical, political, cultural, and ethical—confronting educators today, in the U.S. and across the globe? How can philosophy help address these? In dealing with such questions, this course will provide an introductory overview of both the philosophy of education and various educational programs in philosophy, critically surveying a few of the leading ways in which philosophers past and present have framed the aims of education and the educational significance of philosophy. From Plato to the present, philosophers have contributed to articulating the aims of education and developing curricula to be used in various educational contexts, for diverse groups and educational levels. This course will draw on both classic and contemporary works, but considerable attention will be devoted to the work and legacy of philosopher/educator John Dewey, a founding figure at the University of Chicago and a crucial resource for educators concerned with cultivating critical thinking, creativity, character, and ethical reflection. The course will also feature field trips, distinguished guest speakers, and opportunities for experiential learning.

Instructor(s): B. Schultz     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): Course is open to Undergraduates and MAPH students.
Equivalent Course(s): CHDV 22819,MAPH 32819,PHIL 22819

PLSC 22913. The Practice of Social Science Research. 100 Units.

This is a first course in empirical research as it is practiced across a broad range of the social sciences, including political science. It is meant to enable critical evaluation of statements of fact and cause in discussions of the polity, economy, and society. One aim is to improve students' ability to produce original research, perhaps in course papers or a senior thesis. A second objective is to improve students' ability to evaluate claims made by others in scholarship, commentary, or public discourse. The specific research tools that the course develops are statistical, but the approach is more general. It will be useful as a guide to critical thinking whether the research to be evaluated, or to be done, is quantitative or not. Above all, the course seeks to demonstrate the use of empirical research in the service of an argument.

Instructor(s): P. Conley     Terms Offered: Autumn,Spring,Winter

PLSC 23001. Southern Politics in State and Nation. 100 Units.

This course revisits V.O. Key’s foundational study of the South to consider how southern sectionalism has shaped American politics since Reconstruction. In what ways is the South a distinctive polity—and how did it come to be so? How has the region’s politics changed over time? What can we learn about the nature and corrigibility of American democracy through the southern experience? Introducing students to canonical studies of the region, we will explore the economic and historical factors that shaped the South’s political and social development in the century after the Civil War. We will also consider “exceptional” features of southern politics today—including the increasing rate of black political participation and officeholding in the region’s urban centers. Finally, we will examine how the South’s regional distinctiveness has affected institutional development and policymaking at the national level.

Instructor(s): R. Bloch Rubin     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 23313. Democracy and Equality. 100 Units.

This course is part of the College Course Cluster, Inequality. Democracy has often been celebrated (and often criticized) for expressing some kind of equality among citizens. This course will investigate a series of questions prompted by this supposed relationship between democracy and equality. Is democracy an important part of a just society? What institutions and practices does democracy require? Is equality a meaningful or important political ideal? If so, what kind of equality? Does democracy require some kind of equality, or vice-versa? The course will begin by studying classical arguments for democracy by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Stuart Mill, and then focus on contemporary approaches to these questions. The course will conclude with some treatment of current democratic controversies, potentially including issues of race and representation; the fair design of elections; the role of wealth in political processes; and the role of judicial review. The course aims to deepen participants' understanding of these and related issues, and to develop our abilities to engage in argument about moral and political life. (A)

Instructor(s): J. Wilson     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 23501. International Political Economy. 100 Units.

What explains a government’s decision to block a trade deal, prevent foreign investors from gaining control of a local factory, or ban the export of rare earth minerals? This course develops theory and evidence that these decisions reflect domestic and international politics. We will discuss the political dimension of the integration of the global economy and the way that globalization separates workers, business, and consumers. Drawing on methods and theory from international political economy, we will critically examine the prospects for international cooperation on trade and immigration, as well as the future of international governance.

Instructor(s): R. Gulotty     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 24806. Strategies of Power, Resistance, and Change. 100 Units.

As the forces of populism, isolationism, ethnocentrism, and polarization increasingly shape U.S. politics, how can citizens actually affect politics and policy? What are the tools and strategies for pursuing (or resisting) change? How is power actually exerted in the modern state? In this course, we will consider how people exert, resist, and manipulate political power in modern states.  We will compare and contrast democratic and authoritarian regimes; formal and informal processes; and economic, moral, and social policies.

Instructor(s): J. Patty     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 34806

PLSC 25303. Evaluating the Candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election. 100 Units.

Though the election is over, the question of how we evaluate and select our presidents is still relevant. What does it take to get elected? What does it take to do the job? Can we predict whether a candidate will be a good president?  We will discuss presidential leadership as a function of character and experience, institutional constraints, the selection process, and the domestic and global political context.  We will evaluate recent presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders using insights from the academic literature on the presidency. Finally, we will ask how much the individual who occupies the office can bring about change, given the political and institutional context of American government. Is the executive in the United States too powerful or not powerful enough?

Instructor(s): P. Conley     Terms Offered: Autumn

PLSC 25311. Models of Ancient Politics I: Athens, Sparta, Rome. 100 Units.

This course begins a two-quarter sequence on Athens, Sparta, and Rome as models of politics and their subsequent reception and appropriation in the history of Western political thought. This quarter, we will focus on understanding the institutions, political culture, and political theory of ancient Greece and Rome through an engagement with ancient texts and modern scholarship. Readings will include Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Plutarch, Polybius, Livy, and Sallust.

Instructor(s): M. Landauer     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 35311

PLSC 25312. Models of Ancient Politics II: Modern Receptions. 100 Units.

This is the second course in a two-quarter sequence on the importance of Athens, Sparta, and Rome for Western political theory. This quarter we will focus on the reception and appropriation of ancient political models in modern European political thought. Authors to be read include Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Adams, Hume, Rousseau, Mill, and Grote, as well as modern scholars.

Instructor(s): M. Landauer     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 35312

PLSC 25501. Race and Imperialism in the 20th Century. 100 Units.

The turn of the 20th C. marked the legal sanctioning of Jim Crow segregation in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision while the Scramble for Africa only a decade earlier had inaugurated a new era of imperial expansion. For W.E.B. Du Bois and others, these confluences indicated a singularity about the global experience of race in the 20th C. Focusing on the period prior to WWII, this course is an effort at understanding this specificity through an engagement with the politicians, statesmen, activists, and intellectuals writing in the midst of “the problem of the color line.” The course exposes students to thinkers on both sides of the color line as we read Sir Frederick Lugard, the colonial administrator of Nigeria and a member of the League of Nations' Permanent Mandates Commission, alongside George Padmore, the anticolonialist of Trinidadian descent who played a central role in Ghana’s independence movement. To further our insights, we engage recent commentary by scholars who have sought to understand the racial formations of the 20th C. The course aims are 1) to trace the processes—ideological, political, and economic—through which the Jim Crow color line became international and consider the reverberations of this internationalism, 2) to reexamine the crisis of WWI and the creation of the League of Nations in light of the “problem of the color line,” and 3) to trace the intellectual roots of a global anticolonial movement concerned with securing racial equality.

Instructor(s): A. Getachew     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CRES 25501

PLSC 25610. Authority, Obligation, and Dissent. 100 Units.

What is the basis of political authority? What, if anything, makes it legitimate? Under what conditions are we obliged to follow the laws and orders of government authorities? Under what conditions can we legitimately disobey such laws or orders, or even engage in violent rebellion? How have some of the most influential political thinkers answered such questions historically and which of their theories are most helpful for illuminating these issues for us today? Readings include classic writings by Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Burke, Paine, Kant, Thoreau, Gandhi, Fanon, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Instructor(s): S. Muthu     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 25610

PLSC 25804. Feminists Read the Greeks. 100 Units.

As one scholar puts it, feminist thought has “gone a long way… toward inscribing classical Greek philosophy at the origins of some of the most tenacious assumptions about sexual difference in the Western tradition.” Since the 1970s, writing on gender, sex, and sexuality has staged a series of generative, critical, and sometimes controversial encounters with ancient Greek thought and culture. We examine the ways in which the texts and practices of ancient Greece, if not the idea of “the Greeks,” have offered theoretical and symbolic resources for feminists and others to think critically about gender as a conceptual and political category.  What sorts of interpretive and historical assumptions govern these engagements? To what extent are the trajectories of gender studies and classics intertwined? Was there a concept of “gender” in ancient Greece? Of sexuality? Is it fair to say, as many have, that classical ideas about gender and the sexed body are wholly opposed to those of the “moderns”? Readings range from feminist theory to Greek mythology, philosophy, and drama to scholarship on gender and sexuality in antiquity (including Foucault, Halperin, and Winkler).

Instructor(s): D. Kasimis     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 45804,GNSE 25804,GNSE 45804

PLSC 26001. Race and Politics in the United States. 100 Units.

Fundamentally, this course is meant to explore how race, both historically and currently, influences politics in the United States. For example, is there something unique about the politics of African Americans? Does the idea and lived experience of whiteness shape one's political behavior? Throughout the quarter, students interrogate the way scholars, primarily in the field of American politics, have ignored, conceptualized, measured, modeled, and sometimes fully engaged the concept of race. We examine the multiple manifestations of race in the political domain, both as it functions alone and as it intersects with other identities such as gender, class, and sexuality.  

Instructor(s): C. Cohen     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): CRES 26001

PLSC 26102. The French Enlightenment’s Legacy in Political Theory. 100 Units.

The course is an introduction to the main aspects of the French Enlightenment’s political thought and its contemporary legacy. We will study major philosophers (Montesquieu, Rousseau, Voltaire, Diderot) and examine their influence on contemporary controversies on Democracy, Justice, Civilization, Europe and Empire. We will read Foucault, Habermas, Philipp Pettit, Charles Taylor and challenge the idea of a "Radical Enlightenment." 

Instructor(s): C. Spector     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): For those enrolled FREN 26118 or FREN 36118, there will be a weekly discussion session in French.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 36102,FREN 26118,FREN 36118

PLSC 26152. A Right to Belong. 100 Units.

In this course we will seek to identify commonalities and disparities in the formal and informal ways in which we belong to political societies today, seeking to articulate how the formal and informal
,structures of inclusion mimic or contradict one another. Doing so should provide analytical
,opportunities to recognize the virtues and shortcomings of the institutional tools designed to guarantee the many pieces necessary to make belonging possible. Part of what this course seeks to accomplish is to support students in thinking about the commonalities between the many ways in which we belong, while avoiding the temptation of silver bullets and all-encompassing explanations. The end-goal is a more refined and informed approach to the topic, as well as the ability to articulate a cogent response to whether belonging should be understood as a human right or not. If belonging ought to be considered a human right, what kind of policies and international instruments are better suited to guarantee it?

Instructor(s): Yuna Blajer de la Garza, Graduate Lecturer in Human Rights     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 26152

PLSC 26603. Democracy and the Immigrant in Classical Greek Thought. 100 Units.

Readers have long marveled at classical Greek thought’s ability to capture the enduring dilemmas of democratic life. But on the increasingly urgent issue of immigration, political scientists persistently bypass the Athenian democratic polis and its critics even though Athenians lived in a democracy that invited, but kept disenfranchised, a large number of free, integrated immigrants called “metics” (metoikoi). With this curiosity in mind, we seek to understand how ancient philosophers, dramatists, and orators saw the democracy’s dependence on immigrants to support its economy, fight its wars, educate its citizenry, and express a precarious way of living in the polis. On what grounds were metics excluded from citizenship? What do critics think citizenship comes to mean under such conditions? Can they shed new light on contemporary assumptions about the relationship between democracy and immigration? Readings of primary texts in translation will be paired with contemporary political theory, gender theory, and classical studies.

Instructor(s): D. Kasimis     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): CRES 26603

PLSC 26605. Kant's Political Thought. 100 Units.

An examination of the political thought of Immanuel Kant. We will examine his writings about a broad range of topics, including humanity, freedom, social relations, equality and inequality, property, government, justice, revolution, religion, history and progress, international relations, and cosmopolitanism.

Instructor(s): S. Muthu     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 26800. Insurgency, Terrorism, and Civil War. 100 Units.

This course provides an introduction to asymmetric and irregular warfare. From Colombia to Afghanistan, non-state armed organizations are crucially important actors. We will study how they organize themselves, extract resources, deploy violence, attract recruits, and both fight and negotiate with states. We will also examine government counterinsurgency and counterterrorism policies, peace-building after conflict, and international involvement in internal wars. Case materials will be drawn from a variety of conflicts and cover a number of distinct topics. This course has a heavy reading load, and both attendance and substantial participation in weekly discussion sections are required.

Instructor(s): P. Staniland     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 26804

PLSC 27500. Organizational Decision Making. 100 Units.

This course examines the process of decision making in modern, complex organizations (e.g., universities, schools, hospitals, business firms, public bureaucracies). We also consider the impact of information, power, resources, organizational structure, and the environment, as well as alternative models of choice.

Instructor(s): J. Padgett     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 37500,SOCI 30301

PLSC 27600. War and the Nation State. 100 Units.

The aim of this course is to examine the phenomenon of war in its broader socio-economic context during the years between the emergence of the modern nation-state in the late eighteenth century and the end of World War II. 

Instructor(s): J. Mearsheimer     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 37600

PLSC 27815. Politics and Public Policy in China. 100 Units.

As the world’s most populous country and second largest economy, China wields considerable weight globally but also stands out for its non-democratic political system. This course examines how China is governed and looks at China’s domestic governance and international policies. First, it examines political institutions and political behavior in China in historical perspective, especially since the Communist takeover of power in 1949. It emphasizes how institutions have been shaped and reshaped and the importance of leadership. Second, it considers various issues of public policy and governance, including the role of the Communist Party, state-society relations, the relationship between Beijing and the provinces, corruption, population and environment, and the role of the armed forces. Third, it examines the interaction between domestic and international factors in China’s development and considers the global implications of China’s struggle to develop.  The course looks at many of these issues from a comparative perspective and introduces a variety of analytical concepts and approaches.

Instructor(s): D. Yang     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 37815

PLSC 28006. Intro to Social Choice and Electoral Systems. 100 Units.

Voting procedures play an integral role in our lives as citizens by translating the preferences of people into collective outcomes. This course will evaluate these procedures mathematically, by considering the various properties that electoral systems may or may not satisfy. A classic example is Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, which tells us that every electoral system must fail to satisfy one or more criteria of fairness or sensibility. We will examine this result and other legislative paradoxes, and learn why the choice of procedure is critical to our understanding of how "good" and "bad" decisions can be made—and how we can distinguish a bad decision from a good one.

Instructor(s): E. Penn     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 28102. Political Theory in Dark Times. 100 Units.

This is a seminar in political theory for advanced undergraduates. "Dark Times" is a phrase that the political theorist Hannah Arendt borrowed from a book of Bertolt Brecht's poetry, written in exile from Germany in the 1930s: "In the dark times/Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing/About the dark times." This seminar is about what political theory might be, what it might be about, and what it might be for, in "dark times," and also about what it means to describe a political situation that way: Does it indicate urgency? helplessness? defeat? confusion? Something else? We will not discuss these questions in the abstract; instead, we will read some exemplary works of political theory, historical and contemporary (and not all by self-described "political theorists") alongside supplementary material about the circumstances in which they were written.

Instructor(s): P. Markell     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Completion of one of the following social sciences general education sequences is a prerequisite: Classics of Social and Political Thought; Power, Identity, and Resistance; Self, Culture, and Society. Other prior course work in political theory recommended but not required.

PLSC 28300. Seminar on Realism. 100 Units.

The aim of this course is to read the key works dealing with the international relations theory called "realism." 

Instructor(s): J. Mearsheimer     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor required.
Note(s): Students must attend the first class.

PLSC 28510. Jews and Arabs: Three Moralities, Historiographies & Roadmaps. 100 Units.

A distinction will be made between mainly three approaches to Zionism: essentialist-proprietary, constructivist-egalitarian, and critical-dismissive. This will be followed by an explication of these approaches’ implications for four issues: pre-Zionist Jewish history; institutional and territorial arrangements in Israel/Palestine concerning the relationships between Jews and the Palestinians; the relationships between Israeli Jews and world Jewry; and the implications of these approaches for the future of Israel/Palestine and the future of Judaism.

Instructor(s): C. Gans     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): This course may be used to fulfill the general education requirement in civilization studies.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 38510,JWSC 20233,NEHC 24800,NEHC 34800

PLSC 28620. The Intelligible Self. 100 Units.

The Delphic maxim "know thyself" is one of the cornerstones of Western philosophy. But how, exactly, do we figure ourselves out? This course examines three approaches to self-knowledge: Buddhism, Psychoanalytic Theory, and Social Neuroscience. We will learn both the theories behind each approach and how they can foster deeper perspectives on our own condition. We will explore the nature of love, guilt, anxiety, and other emotions, the origins of morality, and the many biases in our cognition. Readings include Sigmund Freud, Patricia Churchland, Daniel Kahneman, Pema Chodron, and Walpola Sri Rahula.

Instructor(s): E. Oliver     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 28701. Introduction to Political Theory. 100 Units.

This course will address several major, pressing questions of political morality, and introduce students to theoretical approaches to those questions. The class aims to develop students’ abilities to address political problems in rigorous and thoughtful ways. Topics will include property rights and distributive justice; the meaning of freedom and equality; arguments for and against democracy and the proper design of democratic institutions; war and the use of force; racial and gender justice; and global economic justice and human rights. The focus will be on contemporary approaches to these problems rather than on classical works of political thought. Familiarity with some such works will be helpful but is not required.

Instructor(s): M. Landauer     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 28710. Democracy and the Politics of Wealth Redistribution. 100 Units.

How do political institutions affect the redistribution of wealth among members of a society? In most democracies, the distribution of wealth among citizens is unequal but the right to vote is universal. Why then have so many newly democratic states transitioned under conditions of high inequality yet failed to redistribute? This course explores this puzzle by analyzing the mechanisms through which individual and group preferences can be translated into pro-poor policies, and the role elites play in influencing a government's capacity or incentives to redistribute wealth. Topics include economic inequality and the demand for redistribution, the difference in redistribution between democracy and dictatorship, the role of globalization in policymaking, and the effects of redistribution on political stability and change.

Instructor(s): M. Albertus     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 28710

PLSC 28801. Introduction to American Politics. 100 Units.

This survey course canvasses the basic behavioral, institutional, and historical factors that comprise the study of American politics. We will evaluate various modes of survey opinion formation and political participation both inside and outside of elections. In addition to studying the primary branches of U.S. government, we will consider the role of interest groups, the media, and political action committees in American politics. We also will evaluate the persistent roles of race, class, and money in historical and contemporary political life.

Instructor(s): R. Bloch Rubin     Terms Offered: Autumn

PLSC 28900. Strategy. 100 Units.

This course covers American national security policy in the post–cold war world, especially the principal issues of military strategy that are likely to face the United States in the next decade. This course is structured in five parts: (1) examining the key changes in strategic environment since 1990, (2) looking at the effects of multipolarity on American grand strategy and basic national goals, (3) focusing on nuclear strategy, (4) examining conventional strategy, and (5) discussing the future of war and peace in the Pacific Rim.

Instructor(s): R. Pape     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 39900

PLSC 28901. Introduction to Comparative Politics. 100 Units.

Why are some nations rich and others are poor? Why is inequality skyrocketing across the developed world? Why are some countries democratic and others are dictatorships, and what determines switching between regimes? Does democracy matter for health, wealth, and happiness? Why are some countries beset by civil violence and revolution whereas others are politically stable? Why do political parties organize themselves politically around ethnicity, language, religion, or ideology? This course explores these and other similar questions that lie at the core of comparative politics. Drawing on political science, economics, sociology, and anthropology, while utilizing a wealth of data and case studies of major countries, we will examine how power is exercised to shape and control political, cultural, and economic institutions and, in turn, how these institutions generate policies that affect what we learn, what we earn, how long we live, and even who we are.

Instructor(s): M. Albertus     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 29000. Introduction to International Relations. 100 Units.

Humans face many challenges today. These range from wars and nuclear proliferation, to economic crises and the collapse of global order. International Relations—the study of global anarchy and the commitment problems it creates between sovereign governments—offers analytical tools for understanding the causes and consequences of these challenges. This course introduces students to the scientific study of world politics, focusing on the areas of security, economic cooperation, and international law.     

Instructor(s): P. Poast     Terms Offered: Autumn

PLSC 29102. Game Theory I. 100 Units.

This is a course for graduate students in Political Science. It introduces students to games of complete information through solving problem sets. We will cover the concepts of equilibrium in dominant strategies, weak dominance, iterated elimination of weakly dominated strategies, Nash equilibrium, subgame perfection, backward induction, and imperfect information. The course will be centered around several applications of game theory to politics: electoral competition, agenda control, lobbying, voting in legislatures, and coalition games. This course serves as a prerequisite for Game Theory II offered in the Winter Quarter. (E)

Instructor(s): J. Patty     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 30901

PLSC 29103. Game Theory II. 100 Units.

This is a course for graduate students in Political Science. It introduces students to games of incomplete information through solving problem sets. We will cover the concepts of Bayes Nash equilibrium, perfect Bayesian equilibrium, and quantal response equilibrium. In terms of applications, the course will extend the topics examined in the prerequisite, PLSC 30901. Game Theory I to allow for incomplete information, with a focus on the competing challenges of moral hazard and adverse selection in those settings. (E)

Instructor(s): J. Patty     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): PLSC 30901 or equivalent.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 31000

PLSC 29202. The Secret Side of International Politics. 100 Units.

This course introduces students to the secret side of international politics. We will survey theoretical approaches to studying secrecy and analyze what governments do “behind closed doors.” The focus is less on learning about what states do in secret and more about how to think critically about why governments do what they do in secret and the consequences of it. Typical weeks cover intelligence collection and analysis, secret interstate partnerships, secrecy in crisis decision-making, and covert military operations during war. Questions we will address include: What agreements do diplomats negotiate privately and why? For what ends do state use secrecy in wartime? What do covert cooperative partnerships look like and when do they succeed? What espionage practices do states use and how have they changed over time? Student grades will be based largely on a research paper which requires students engage in hands-on historical research about a major event of their interest drawing on archival/declassified materials. As part of this assignment, students will receive detailed, practical guidance in the research and writing process, including how to access relevant archival materials, how to organize your research materials, how to effectively prepare to write, and how to write well. 

Instructor(s): A. Carson     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): The course is run like a graduate seminar: it meets once per week and has a heavy reading load and requires original research and high quality writing. Attendance and substantial participation are essential.

PLSC 29700. Independent Study. 100 Units.

This is a general reading and research course for independent study not related to the BA thesis or BA research.

Terms Offered: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring
Prerequisite(s): Consent of faculty supervisor and program chair.
Note(s): Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form.

PLSC 29800. BA Colloquium. 100 Units.

The colloquium is designed to help students carry out their BA thesis research and offer feedback on their progress.

Terms Offered: Autumn, Spring
Note(s): Required of students who are majoring in political science and plan to write a BA thesis. Students participate in both Spring and Autumn Quarters but register only in the Spring Quarter of the third year. PLSC 29800 counts as a single course and a single grade is reported in Autumn Quarter.

PLSC 29900. BA Thesis Supervision. 100 Units.

This is a reading and research course for independent study related to BA research and BA thesis preparation.

Terms Offered: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring
Note(s): Required of fourth-year students who are majoring in political science and plan to write a BA thesis. Students are required to submit the College Reading and Research Course Form.


Undergraduate Primary Contact

Director of the Undergraduate Major
John Brehm
Pick 318A

Administrative Contact

Student Affairs Administrator
Kathy Anderson
P 406