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

NOTE: In 2015, the Department of Political Science faculty decided to require that at least nine of the twelve courses required for the major must be Political Science courses. The change applies to the Class of 2018 and later. 

Starting in the 2016–17 academic year, the department has also 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 to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

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, a professor in another department whose course is accepted for Political Science credit, or for an advanced graduate student who teaches courses in the Department of Political Science. 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 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 on a P/F basis with the prior consent of the instructor.

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 at

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 20721. Violence and Development in Africa. 100 Units.

Why are many African states weak, poor, and conflict-prone? This course examines how institutions in sub-Saharan Africa shape both economic development and political violence. In the first part of the course, we examine the long-run effects of the slave trade, colonialism and decolonization on contemporary politics. In the second part, we examine the political economy of African civil wars. We focus on how patterns of state-building shape conflict onset and the emergence of conflict economies. We discuss the extent to which contemporary African conflicts are characterized by violent entrepreneurship and how wartime economies shape conflict termination and post-conflict outcomes. We will focus on five main case studies: the Niger Delta conflict, electoral violence in Kenya, the Somali civil war, the Congo Wars, and conflict in South Sudan. 

Instructor(s): I. Hock     Terms Offered: Autumn

PLSC 20725. On Condoned Violence: from Punishment to Pleasure. 100 Units.

This course offers students an introduction to issues surrounding the ways in which punishment and violence have been justified in the Western tradition. The readings address condoned violence broadly understood, covering a wide array of practices that produce suffering, but are considered justifiable to one degree or another by states or societies: judicial punishment, incarceration, the death penalty, pornography, and industrial farming practices, among others. By considering how such forms of violence are justified, the course aims to critically approach the notion that human societies are generally moving towards greater kindness and empathy. This seminar will bring together texts from political theory, legal theory, comparative politics, alongside several other “cultural attachés.”

Instructor(s): Y. Blajer de la Garza     Terms Offered: Winter

PLSC 21006. Political Economy of Inequality. 100 Units.

This seminar explores political consequences of economic inequality. The course will focus primarily on political reactions to economic inequality in the context of democracies. Does economic inequality always matter for politics? When does it become a salient issue in politics and how? What kind of effects does economic inequality have on political outcomes such as redistribution and regime change? Why is it that economic inequality is met in some democracies and at some times with discontent and in other democracies and at other times with tolerance? We will study some of the most compelling political and economic arguments in investigating these questions. We will also cover a variety of research methodologies including conducting interviews, participant observation, surveys and case studies, coding qualitative data and using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Instructor(s): Y. Lee     Terms Offered: Autumn

PLSC 21812. Global Ethics. 100 Units.

This course examines different theories of global justice that have been developed by political theorists since the 1980s. It explores how these theories have answered urgent moral questions in international affairs, with a particular focus on global poverty and inequality. Addressed questions will include the following: What does justice require at the global level? Does the very idea of global justice make sense? Are economic inequalities between countries morally objectionable? What do affluent countries (and their citizens) owe to less affluent countries (and their citizens)? Does nationality have moral significance? Are we morally permitted, or even required, to prioritize the interests of our compatriots over the interests of foreigners? Do states have a right to exclude immigrants? How should the burdens of mitigating climate change be distributed across countries? We will address these questions by reading and critically assessing important texts written by leading scholars within the field of political theory and applied ethics, including John Rawls, Thomas Nagel, Charles Beitz, Peter Singer, Simon Caney, David Miller, and Thomas Pogge.

Instructor(s): C. Cordelli     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 21812

PLSC 22110. Black Politics in the U.S. 100 Units.

The course will cover topics on Black Politics in the United States.

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

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

Some of the greatest 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, 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 informing 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 does the term “natural” mean, and can natural environments as such have moral standing? A and B

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

PLSC 22210. Roman Philosophers on the Fear of Death. 100 Units.

All human beings fear death, and it seems plausible to think that a lot of our actions are motivated by it. But is it reasonable to fear death? And does this fear do good (motivating creative projects) or harm (motivating greedy accumulation, war, and too much deference to religious leaders)? Hellenistic philosophers, both Greek and Roman, were preoccupied with these questions and debated them with a depth and intensity that make them still highly influential in modern philosophical debate about the same issues (the only issue on which one will be likely find discussion of Lucretius in the pages of The Journal of Philosophy). The course will focus on several major Latin writings on the topic: Lucretius De Rerum Natura Book III and extracts from Cicero and Seneca. We will study the philosophical arguments in their literary setting and ask about connections between argument and its rhetorical expression. In translation we will read pertinent material from Plato, Epicurus, Plutarch, and a few modern authors such as Thomas Nagel, John Fischer, and Bernard Williams.

Instructor(s): M. Nussbaum     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Ability to read the material in Latin at a sufficiently high level, usually about two years at the college level.
Equivalent Course(s): CLCV 24716,CLAS 34716,LAWS 96305,RETH 30710,PHIL 30710,PLSC 32210,PHIL 20710

PLSC 22402. Florentine Political Thought. 100 Units.

This course is devoted to the political writings of the giants of medieval and Renaissance Italian and specifically Florentine political thought: Petrarch, Salutati, Bruni, Bracciolini, Savonarola, Guicciardini, and, of course, Machiavelli.

Instructor(s): J. McCormick     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor required.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 52402,LLSO 22402

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 22710. Electoral Politics in America. 100 Units.

This course explores the interactions of voters, candidates, the parties, and the media in American national elections, chiefly in the campaign for the presidency, both in nominating primaries and in the November general election. The course will examine how voters learn about candidates, how they perceive candidates, how they come to turn out to vote, and how they decide among the candidates. It will examine the strategies and techniques of electoral campaigns, including the choices of campaign themes and the impact of campaign advertising. It will consider the role of campaign contributors and volunteers, the party campaign organizations, campaign and media polls, and the press. Finally, it will assess the impact of campaigns and elections on governing and policymaking.

Instructor(s): M. Hansen     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 22710

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,Winter,Spring

PLSC 23010. Liberalism and Empire. 100 Units.

The evolution of liberal thought coincided and intersected with the rise of European empires, and those empires have been shaped by liberal preoccupations, including ideas of tutelage in self-government, exporting the rule of law, and the normativity of European modernity. Some of the questions this course will address include: how was liberalism, an apparently universalistic and egalitarian theory, used to legitimate conquest and imperial domination? Is liberalism inherently imperialist? Are certain liberal ideas and doctrines (progress, development, liberty) particularly compatible with empire? What does, or what might, a critique of liberal imperialism look like? Readings will include historical works by authors such as Locke, Mill, Tocqueville, and Hobson, as well as contemporary works of political theory and the history of political thought (by authors such as James Tully, Michael Ignatieff, David Kennedy, and Uday Mehta).

Instructor(s): J. Pitts     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 23010,LLSO 25903,PLSC 33010

PLSC 23415. Emergence of Capitalism. 100 Units.

This course investigates the emergence of capitalism in Europe and the world as a whole between the early sixteenth and the late eighteenth centuries. We discuss the political and cultural as well as the economic, sources of capitalism, and explore Marxist, neoclassical, and cultural approaches.

Instructor(s): W. Sewell     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 23415,PLSC 32815,HIST 23304,HIST 33304

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 24202. Politics in Chicago. 100 Units.

The distinctive feature of Chicago politics was the machine, and we will use the party machine as it operated in the mid-twentieth century as our touchstone. First, we will study how the party was organized and how it operated. Next we will explore the influence that the machine had on the citizens of the City of Chicago and the effect it had on the actions of the mayor and the city council. Along the way, we will consider the development of machine politics and the features of the city that made its politics similar to other cities’ and different from theirs. Finally, we will examine the change that has occurred and the lingering effects of the past on the city’s politics today.

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

PLSC 24302. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Politics. 100 Units.

Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Western conceptions of philosophy, rhetoric, and politics—and the site of contentious debates about the relationship between them. This course offers an introduction to some of those debates. Does rhetoric pose a threat to the sound practice of democratic politics? Or is rhetoric instead a necessary part of any democratic politics? How did ancient Greek philosophers develop a critique of rhetoric and its practice in democratic Athens? What techniques and concepts did they themselves borrow from rhetoric in pursuing their own philosophical agendas? Does the power of rhetoric make the pursuit of rational and reasonable politics impossible? We will take up these and other related questions through a close reading of Plato (Gorgias, Phaedrus, Menexenus), Aristotle (Rhetoric), Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War), speeches of the Athenian orators, and other ancient Greek texts.

Instructor(s): M. Landauer     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 34302

PLSC 24401. Herodotus and Thucydides: History and Politics. 100 Units.

In this course we read Herodotus and Thucydides not only as historians but as political thinkers. The course will be organized around an intensive engagement with two central texts: Herodotus’ Histories and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. As we read through these works, we will also take up the wider historical and political context—e.g., the fifth-century rise of Athenian democracy and imperialism—and the relationship between our texts and other genres, including philosophy, drama, and rhetoric. The aim of the course is not only to give students a close familiarity with our two authors and some of the scholarship surrounding them, but also, more broadly, to think through the relationship between political theory and history. How might political theory guide the writing of history, and how can history contribute to theorizing politics? What can our reading of Herodotus and Thucydides tell us about how to think about these questions in different eras and contexts?

Instructor(s): M. Landauer     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 34401,FNDL 24403

PLSC 24402. Greek Political Thought. 100 Units.

This course is designed to help students in political theory and related fields think about—and do—the history of political thought by recovering the strangeness of ancient democracy and its critics. It is an advanced survey of the political thought of classical Athens with particular emphasis on the cultural, institutional, and poetic practices through which Athenians enacted democracy and questioned its assumptions and effects. In sixth century Athens, the notion that the people could and should rule themselves—not by virtue of wealth, property, or family name but simply by birth—served as a radical rejection of the longstanding view that political power belonged in the hands of the few (the wealthy, propertied, and elite). We contextualize the dramatic poetry, philosophy, oratory, and history that emerged in the subsequent century or so, under conditions of expanding and contracting empire. We read them as critical reflections on what life was like under this new political arrangement and ask to what extent the works of Thucydides, Aristophanes, Euripides, and Plato can be said to constitute the birth of political theory as an idea and a practice.

Instructor(s): D. Kasimis, M. Landauer     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 34402

PLSC 24410. Authoritarian Regimes. 100 Units.

The persistence of many authoritarian regimes since the end of the Cold War has inspired a major new literature in comparative politics on how non-democracy works. This mixed graduate-undergraduate class for MA and College students considers some conceptual and theoretical issues and debates in this new wave of research, such as: How should authoritarian regimes, including so-called “hybrid regimes,” best be classified? What kind of institutions makes authoritarianism more or less stable and durable? How do these regimes try to generate compliance and support? Why do so many of them hold elections and convene parliaments? What economic factors tend to bolster or undermine dictatorship? And how do they both extract support and deflect threats from their international environment?

Instructor(s): D. Slater     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 34410

PLSC 24500. Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition. 100 Units.

This seminar will be devoted to a reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958), one of the most influential works of political theory written in the twentieth century. Through careful study of the meaning and function of Arendt’s often-puzzling distinctions among “public,” “private” and “social” and among “labor,” “work,” and “action,” we’ll try to understand her account of the significance and prospects of human activity, including especially political activity, in modernity. Topics of special concern may include: the relation between philosophy and politics; Arendt's relationship to Marx and to the Marxist critique of capitalism; the meanings of work and leisure in the twentieth century and beyond; the nature and basis of political power and freedom; the relations between art and politics; the significance of city life for politics; and many others. While The Human Condition will be at the center of the course, the book will be supplemented and framed by other material, including essays on related subjects by Arendt; excerpts from some of the other thinkers with whom Arendt was in conversation; and material by later writers that will help us situate Arendt in the larger contexts of twentieth-century intellectual life, and which will also give us different angles on some of the key issues in Arendt’s book. (A)

Instructor(s): P.Markell     Terms Offered: Spring

PLSC 24805. Legitimacy and Political Institutions. 100 Units.

Legitimacy is key to successful governance. This course will consider what makes people perceive government decisions (and, ultimately, the government itself) as legitimate, or as being "appropriate, proper, and just." We will focus on four characteristics of political institutions—access, accountability, efficiency, and fairness—and how they affect individuals' feelings toward government officials and their decisions. We will compare the challenges faced by democratic and authoritarian governments as well as those faced by new versus established governments. Specific topics that will be discussed include the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), the politics of austerity and bailouts in the European Union, and local law enforcement and public education in the United States.

Instructor(s): J. Patty     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 24805

PLSC 24902. Democratic Accountability and Transparency. 100 Units.

Diagnoses of democratic failings, from the influence of money in politics to abuses of police power, often come with a promised solution: Our institutions need to be more "accountable" and "transparent." But what do these concepts really mean—and how much of a difference do they really make? We'll begin by considering the ways in which fears of tyrannical, arbitrary, unaccountable rule have long been central to democratic political thought and practice. But we'll spend most of our time on contemporary issues and problems. How should we conceive of accountability, both conceptually and normatively? Are elections sufficient to make politicians accountable to ordinary citizens? What forms of accountability are appropriate for modern democratic politics? Is accountability only for elites, or should ordinary citizens be accountable to one another? In what contexts are transparency and accountability valuable, and when might we instead find their operation counter-productive and troubling? In addition to philosophical readings, we consider a variety of real-world cases, from Wikileaks to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.

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

PLSC 25205. Racial Justice and Injustice. 100 Units.

The course will explore moral and political problems of racial justice and injustice. Topics may include antidiscrimination theory, the fair political representation of racial minorities, reparations for racial injustice, racial segregation, the use of racial preferences in various practices of selection, and the evaluation of practices of law enforcement and punishment. We will use reflections on particular problems such as these to inquire about the uses of racial concepts in political theory; the connections between racial justice and ostensibly more general conceptions of justice; and the connections between racial equality and other egalitarian ideals.

Instructor(s): J. Wilson     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 35205

PLSC 25215. The American Presidency. 100 Units.

This course examines the institution of the American presidency. It surveys the foundations of presidential power, both as the Founders conceived it and as it is practiced in the modern era. This course also traces the historical development of the institutional presidency, the president's relationships with Congress and the courts, the influence presidents wield in domestic and foreign policy making, and the ways in which presidents make decisions in a system of separated powers. (B)

Instructor(s): W. Howell     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 25215,PLSC 35215

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 26703. Political Parties in the United States. 100 Units.

Political parties are a central feature of American government. In this course we will explore their role in contemporary politics and learn about their development over the course of American history. We will start by asking the following questions: What is a political party? Why do we have a two-party system, and how did that system develop? We will then proceed to study shifts in party coalitions, parties’ evolving structures, their role in policymaking, and trends in popular attitudes about parties. Although our primary empirical focus will be on parties in the United States, we will spend some time on comparative approaches to political parties.

Instructor(s): R. Bloch Rubin     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 26703

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 27001. The Problem of World Government. 100 Units.

Why is there no single world government? From Tennyson to Einstein, thinkers have asserted that solving the world's ills could be accomplished only through the creation of a single, global government. Is this feasible? What forces, technological and political, have prevented its creation? Do institutions of global governance, such as the United Nations Security Council, serve as a stepping-stone towards or a substitute for world government? The course mixes readings in philosophy, theory, and history to consider such questions. Students will grapple with two fundamental ideas in international relations—sovereignty and anarchy—and use these ideas to gauge the practicality of achieving a global monopoly on the use of violence, the creation of a global single currency, and the viability of a global constitution.

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

PLSC 27301. Weimar Political Theology: Schmitt and Strauss. 100 Units.

This course is devoted to the idea of "political theology" that developed during the interwar period in twentieth-century Central Europe, specifically Germany's Weimar Republic. The course's agenda is set by Carl Schmitt, who claimed that both serious intellectual endeavors and political authority require extra-rational and transcendent foundations. Along with Schmitt's works from the period, such as Political Theology and the Concept of the Political, we read and discuss the related writings of perhaps his greatest interlocutor, Leo Strauss. (A)

Instructor(s): J. McCormick     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 37301

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 27703. Exemplary Leaders: Livy, Plutarch, and Machiavelli. 100 Units.

Cicero famously called history the “schoolmistress of life.” This course explores how ancient and early modern authors—in particular, Livy, Plutarch, and Machiavelli—used the lives and actions of great individuals from the Greek and Roman past to establish models of political behavior for their own day and for posterity. Such figures include Solon, Lycurgus, Alexander, Romulus, Brutus, Camillus, Fabius Maximus, Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, and Augustus. We will consider how their actions are submitted to praise or blame, presented as examples for imitation or avoidance, and examine how the comparisons and contrasts established among the different historical individuals allow new models and norms to emerge. No one figure can provide a definitive model. Illustrious individuals help define values even when we mere mortals cannot aspire to reach their level of virtue or depravity. Course open to undergraduates and graduate students. Readings will be in English. Students wishing to read Latin, Greek, or Italian will receive support from the professors.

Instructor(s): J. McCormick, M. Lowrie     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 47703,CLCV 27716,CLAS 37716,FNDL 27716

PLSC 27705. Machiavelli's The Prince. 100 Units.

This course is devoted to a close examination of the most infamous book in the history of political thought, Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince (1513). Among the themes we will explore are: the role of fortune in political affairs; the place of love, fear and hatred in princely rule; the distinction between principalities and republics; the relationship of principality and tyranny; the status of “founders” and "new modes and orders"; the inter-relationships among individual leaders, the elite and the common people; the (in)compatibility of moral and political "virtue"; the utility of class conflict; and the question of military conquest.

Instructor(s): J. McCormick     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 47705

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 has two goals. 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, with special attention on the tensions and challenges of development. 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, development and corruption, population and environment, and the role of the armed forces in society. 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 28005. 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: Autumn

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: Autumn

PLSC 28505. Race and the Problem of American Citizenship. 100 Units.

This course will examine relationship between race and the discourse, concept, and practices of citizenship in the United States. Throughout the course, we will interrogate how ideologies and experiences of race and citizenship have constituted each other over time, producing particular forms of politics–and enabling forms of unequal political belonging to coexist with claims to equal citizenship and democratic principles. As we critically evaluate different conceptual treatments of citizenship with race in view, this course will consider the limitations of citizenship as the privileged end goal of struggles for rights and recognition. Readings might include works from authors such as Alexis de Tocqueville, WEB Du Bois, Gunnar Myrdal, Martin Luther King, Jr., Judith Shklar, Joel Olson, Charles Mills, Danielle Allen, and Claudia Rankine. 

Instructor(s): E. Pineda     Terms Offered: Autumn

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: Autumn

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): J. Wilson     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 28800. Introduction to Constitutional Law. 100 Units.

This course is an introduction to the constitutional doctrines and political role of the U.S. Supreme Court, focusing on its evolving constitutional priorities and its response to basic governmental and political problems, including maintenance of the federal system, promotion of economic welfare, and protection of individual and minority rights.

Instructor(s): G. Rosenberg     Terms Offered: Winter
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 23900,PLSC 48800

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: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 39900

PLSC 28901. Introduction to Comparative Politics. 100 Units.

What factors prolong the lives of dictatorships? When do autocrats choose to relinquish power? Why does democratization sometimes produce violence and/or social inequality? What are the long-term consequences of colonial rule for democratic development? This course will use pairwise comparisons of countries from four different world regions and apply the comparative method to address some of the most enduring puzzles and paradoxes of democratization. Rather than covering an exhaustive set of topics that make up the entire field of comparative politics, we will focus on some of the most pressing challenges to democratic development today. In addition to course readings, we will also include the screening of several films that underscore and dramatize the key themes discussed in the class.

Instructor(s): M. Nalepa     Terms Offered: Autumn

PLSC 29000. Introduction to International Relations. 100 Units.

This course introduces the main themes in international relations, including the problems of war and peace, conflict and cooperation, national security, and the politics of international economic relations. The course begins by considering some basic theoretical tools used to study international politics. It then focuses on several prominent security issues in modern international relations, such as the Cold War and post–Cold War world, nuclear weapons, terrorism, and global order (and disorder). The last part of the course deals with economic aspects of international relations. It concentrates on issues where politics and economics are closely intertwined: world trade, international investment, environmental pollution, and European unification.

Instructor(s): C. Lipson     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 39800

PLSC 29120. Big Wars: Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern. 100 Units.

This course examines the onset, unfolding, and aftermath of several major wars.  Focusing mainly on the largest European wars, it covers the Ancient Wars: Peloponnesian War (Athens and Sparta), Punic Wars (Rome and Carthage); the Medieval Wars: The Hundred Years’ War (England and France); and the Early Modern Wars: Wars of Louis XIV, Seven Years War, and probably the US Revolution. The course concentrates on the origins of each war, but also includes some material on how the wars were fought and how they were concluded. The course focuses mainly on historical analysis but also includes major questions of international relations theory.

Instructor(s): C. Lipson     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): This course has no prerequisites, but prior coursework in international politics or European history (ancient, medieval, or early modern) would be useful.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 39120

PLSC 29200. Civil Rights/Civil Liberties. 100 Units.

This course examines selected civil rights and civil liberties decisions of U.S. courts with particular emphasis on the broader political context. Areas covered include speech, race, and gender.

Instructor(s): G. Rosenberg     Terms Offered: Spring
Prerequisite(s): PLSC 28800 or equivalent and consent of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): LLSO 24000

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

This course explores the secret side of international politics. We will analyze what governments do “behind closed doors” and learn about different theoretical approaches to understanding the production of secrecy, its effects on participants, and its consequences on issues like conflict and diplomacy. The course covers ten specific domains featuring secrecy, including secret state partnerships, closed-door crisis decision-making, secrecy during war, and the process of gathering and analyzing intelligence. 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? Students will also gain experience doing their own research about secret statecraft via a research paper case study that showcases their own analysis of declassified materials. This course has a heavy reading load and both attendance and substantial participation in weekly discussion sections are required.

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

PLSC 29411. Consequentialism from Bentham to Singer. 100 Units.

Are some acts wrong "whatever the consequences"?  Do consequences matter when acting for the sake of duty, or virtue, or what is right?  How do "consequentialist" ethical theories, such as utilitarianism, address such issues?  This course will address these questions by critically examining some of the most provocative defenses of consequentialism in the history of philosophy, from the work of the classical utilitarians Bentham, Mill, and Sidgwick to that of Peter Singer, one of the world's most influential living philosophers and the founder of the animal liberation and effective altruism movements.  Does consequentialism lend itself to the Panoptical nightmares of the surveillance state, or can it be a force for a genuinely emancipatory ethics and politics? A and B

Instructor(s): B. Schultz     Terms Offered: Winter
Note(s): Course is open to undergraduates and MAPH students.
Equivalent Course(s): MAPH 39411,PHIL 29411

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 Mark Hansen
Pick 316A

Administrative Contact

Student Affairs Administrator
Kathy Anderson
P 406