Upcoming Courses (Fall 2020-Spring 2021)
American Government and Politics (PSC 201)
If you’ve been following the news over the last few years, you know that American politics is in turmoil. This course is designed to shed some light on that turmoil, by helping you (1) attain a basic understanding of the United States’ political development and institutions, (2) understand why our government works the way it does, and (3) become a more critical analyst of government, politics and political news. Our core theme will be political economy, or the relationship between the processes and practices of democracy, on the one hand, and the operation of the national and global economy, on the other. In working through this theme we will pay special attention to key public policy debates as they have been shaped by the 2018 congressional elections and preparations for the 2020 presidential election, and to how the basic features of American government and politics illuminate the issues and events that appear in the news every day. We hope you will leave this class with a solid understanding of how the government and political system operate, as well as an expanded sense of the possibilities for and the limits to American democracy, and thus a better ability to make informed decisions as an engaged citizen.
Comparative Politics (PSC 205) What accounts for the stark differences in political regimes and economic systems across different coun-tries, and at different moments in world history? Why do social movements and revolutions erupt in some contexts, and not others? How should we define “development,” and what factors facilitate it? In order to answer these questions, we will examine the intertwined histories of colonialism and imperialism, state-formation, nationalism, and capitalism. Next, we will proceed to survey key concepts in the field of comparative politics: political regime; the political economy of development; state/society relations; social movements; and revolutions.
International Relations (PSC 207) This course is designed to familiarize students with the field of international politics. It will introduce con-cepts, theories, and debates central to the understanding of the field. Topics covered include power, anarchy, security dilemma, balance of power, interdependence, conflict and cooperation, international institutions, international law, collective security, glob-alization, international political economy, foreign policy, and international norms and human rights. Students will learn to think critically and analytically about how various theories are used to explain patterns and events in international relations. Historical and current cases and events in international politics will be used to demonstrate theories and debates.
Public Administration (PSC 211) This course examines the theories, institutions, processes and politics of implementing public policy. The first half of this course examines the development, structure and organization of contemporary governmental bureaucracies, with a specific focus on the federal government. The second half of the course examines the operations of bureaucracies and the major challenges to bureaucracies in the United States. We employ case studies to illustrate major course concepts, and examine current issues related to the civil service and bureaucratic politics. Since much of what government does is through contractors (we call this “government by proxy”), we will additionally focus on the rise of private and nonprofit service providers, and on intergovernmental relations (federal-state-local coordination). This course also meets the oral proficiency objectives for the College’s core curriculum, and so students have several oral presentations in the course
Environmental Politics (PSC 217) Political scientists analyze Environmental Politics, in the United States and around the world, to understand how citizens and governments are responding to unprecedented environmental threats. For more than two centuries our civiliza-tion has powered its growth by burning coal, petroleum, and methane, emitting vast quantities of carbon dioxide, increasing the heat in Earth’s atmosphere to dangerous levels. During the same period expanded agriculture, the burning of forests, and industry’s demand for resources have led to destruction of habitats on every continent, causing mass extinction on a scale not seen in 65 million years. Billions of people face drought, famine, and coastal inundation, as well as violence sparked by conflicts over scarce resources. Many of our world’s majestic animals—whales, elephants, polar bears, giraffes, gorillas, orangutans, and tigers—may soon disappear forever. In this course we will study the international social and political movement which emerged in the 1970s, demanding action for environmental protection and environmental justice, setting international standards, strengthening national laws, and transitioning to renewable energy.
Research Methods (PSC 302)
This team-taught course is a hands-on introduction to the political science research process. After covering the philosophical foundations of social science research, we survey a wide variety of approaches and techniques, with due attention to both quantitative and qualitative methods. Students learn how to come up with research questions, formulate theories and hypotheses, develop research designs, analyze and interpret different types of data and evidence, and evaluate substantive arguments. By the end of this course, students will be ready to undertake a significant political science research project on a topic of their choosing. PSC 302 is a required course for Political Science majors and is open to majors only.
The American Congress (PSC 305)
An analysis of the dynamics of the United States Congress. Included will be a consideration of the constituency relationship, internal procedures, and the congressional role in the policy process.
Constitutional Law (PSC 311)
This course if the first of a two-part series introducing the basic concepts in American constitutional law. We will examine the development of American constitutional law, with an emphasis on how the structures of government (including separation of powers, judicial review, federalism, and executive authority) have changed over time. But this course is different from traditional constitutional law courses that often place an emphasis on United States Supreme Court cases. Congress, the President, political parties, social movements, and public opinion have also played a significant role in shaping the course of con-stitutional doctrine and practice in American history.
Political Attitudes, Public Opinions (PSC 319) An analysis of the sources and distribution of public opinion in the United States. Attention will be given to relationships between social background, personality characteristics, and opinions on political issues. Additionally, linkages between public opinion and public policy will be considered.
Government and Politics of Russia and Fmr. Soviet Union (PSC 324) An analysis of the political systems of Russia and other nations of the former Soviet Union, with emphasis on historical continuity and change, ideology, the authoritarian model, functionalism, modernization, and policy decision-making processes.
Comparative Revolutions (PSC 325) What is revolution? What causes it, and what distinguishes revolution from rebellion and other large-scale political change? In this course we examine theories of revolution and the socio-political forces that produce revolutionary change. We do so by comparing revolutionary movements and outcomes in France, Russia, China, Nepal, Egypt, Colombia, Iran, and other cases. The course also considers the future of revolution in the 21st century.
Classical Political Theory (PSC 341) A study of ancient Greek, medieval Christian, and early modern political theory, with emphasis on Plato’s Republic
American Political Theory (PSC 348)
This course focuses on race in America. We begin by reading a superb and shocking book on what slavery was actually like in America and how slavery was central to the making of American capitalism. We then turn to the early 20th century and the terror of lynching, the Great Migration of Blacks out of the South, and racist myths and violence featured in everyday objects and entertainment. Next we study the Black Liberation struggle of the 1960s, especially the radical thoughts and actions of Malcolm X, Ella Baker, James Baldwin, and the Black Panther Party. (One of the books for the course is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, another is Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.) We conclude by examining the contemporary condition in America with respect to race. Course themes include: 1) what is omitted and distorted in dominant narratives about race in America; 2) race in relation to economic class, masculinity and femininity, and norms and myths of sexuality; 3) the continued use of violence against African-Americans, including state violence; 4) race and wealth inequality, including the case for reparations; and 5) different forms of resistance to racist practices.
Gender and Politics (PSC 380)
This course provides an introduction to the study of sex, gender, and sexuality in relation to power. The main focus is on the United States since the 1950s. We begin by studying the American Women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s and the context in which that movement erupted. We’ll learn about a variety of historical events in the United States (including the failed effort to pass an Equal Rights for women Amendment to the US Constitution in the 1970s and the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s) and study some key theoretical arguments that are very useful for thinking about what sex, gender, and sexuality have to do with power. We’ll study how norms of gender, sex, and sexuality find expression in American institutions (including Supreme Court decisions), public policies, and in everyday practices and lived experience, including at work, at home, and on the PC campus. We‘ll examine how sex, gender, and sexuality are connected to race and class. We’ll watch films that complement our readings, and we’ll discuss the politics of gender in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Politics and Visual Culture (PSC 382)
This course explores how visual culture is intimately connected to power, control, oppression, and political resistance. Visual culture includes everything from photographs, films, and videos to hairstyles, clothing, and tattoos. We’ll ask how meanings are produced in visual practices, and ask who is seen and who is made invisible in the dominant visual culture. We’ll explore how visual practices construct meanings of race, class, gender and sexual orientation. As a case study, we’ll consider early 20th century photographs and films depicting lynching and how and why white audiences took visual pleasure in seeing lynching imagery. We’ll analyze how visual images are often tied to moralizing stories, mythic and melodramatic stories used to justify inequality, violence, and exploitation. Other course topics include: changing gender meanings in visual culture; visual practices of Western imperialism; contemporary practices of posting photographs on social media; visual surveillance as a mechanism of power; advertising; visual politics on the PC campus; films about race; recent debates about whether or not to take down Confederate statues; contemporary community-based social justice art projects from around the world; and visual aspects of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Mass Media, Political Economy and Political Power (PSC 488)
We know that the media affect our ability to act as informed, responsible and critical participants in democratic politics. Much less well appreciated are the political-economic structures and power relations that shape how the media themselves operate. This seminar takes up that challenge with a close study of the interactions among governments, corporations and the media in industrialized capitalist democracies. How have nations in different times and places organized and structured their media? How do the political debates and historical residues that shape media systems affect the character and quality of democracy? We will explore general theoretical perspectives on media political economy and its relationship to democracy; survey the historical roots of media systems in North America and Western Europe; and compare media structures in contemporary industrialized capitalist democracies. We will spend the second part of the semester on case studies of key government policies that have shaped the U.S. media system, ending with a critical discussion of big-picture concerns about information, communication, power and democracy.