Courses (Fall 2022-Spring 2023)
An introduction to the study of politics and the discipline of political science. The course examines: fundamental normative ideas and debates about politics; basic principles behind political ideologies; the logic of the scientific method used in empirical political science; and, a review of the four political science subfields. The course meets the objectives of the College’s civic engagement proficiency requirement.
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.
What accounts for the stark differences in political regimes and economic systems across different countries, 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.
This course is designed to familiarize students with the field of international politics. It will introduce concepts, 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, globalization, 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.
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.
Human rights are a universally recognized aspiration at the center of a global political struggle. Human Rights are also the subject matter of a growing academic discipline. This course will introduce the legal, political, moral and historical foundations, theoretical underpinnings, and key debates in the field, and familiarize students with the skills necessary to become effective human rights advocates.
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 civilization 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.
This course deals with the American legal system from a behavioral perspective. Emphasis is placed on the analysis of the behavior of the major actors in the legal system: attorneys, judges, police, and press. Some attention will be given to schools of jurisprudence and criminal justice policy.
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.
This is a survey course in urban politics. Students will be introduced to the political processes of urban and metropolitan areas in the United States. Topics include political organization, administration, and evaluation of urban public policy.
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.
An analysis of the contemporary presidency and its relationship to the American political system. Presidential power and roles are examined in terms of constitutional, institutional, personal, and contextual factors. Attention is given to evaluations and interpretations of the office, to presidential elections, and to the nature of presidential activity in domestic and foreign policy-making.
An examination of the history of the American Surpreme Court, the judicial decision-making process, and theories of constitutional interpretation, with an emphasis on the current docket. Each semester we will follow events as they unfold before the Court, including any nominations and confirmation hearings. For each case covered, we will review prior jurisprudence and historical context while considering all sides of the legal and political issues.
The larger foreign policy problems confronting the United States today, considered in the light of American values, historic patterns, and the current world situation. Fulfills the American Politics requirement.
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 constitutional doctrine and practice in American history.
This course explores U.S. Constitutional development in the areas of civil liberties and civil rights. In particular, the course will focus on the evolution of constitutional interpretation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, examining how the Supreme Court and other actors have understood the rights and liberties of individuals in the American political system. Students will come away with an understanding of how judges interpret constitutional provisions over time in response to concrete cases and controversies, as well as the role of the judiciary in the historical struggle for freedom and equality in the United States.
This course is concerned with the behavior of the American electorate. It examines in detail the factors that contribute to individual voting behavior and the outcomes of elections. Special attention is given to electoral change. Fulfills the American Politics requirement.
A consideration of the two primary forms of political organization in the United States. The emphasis will be on understanding the formation and organization of parties and interest groups and their activities related to decision making in government. Fulfills the American Politics requirement.
An introduction to state government and politics in the United States will be compared, individually and in groups, along such dimensions as electoral participation, executive leadership, legislative activity, and policy outputs. Fulfills the American Politics requirement.
Public policy — what government officials decide to do (or not do) about public problems — is crucial to politics and society. This critical survey will approach public policy through the theme of economic inequality, exploring how policies affect inequality, and how inequality shapes policies and policymaking. We will apply historical, theoretical and empirical perspectives to our topic, and engage with case studies of key policy areas like taxes, health care and environmental regulation. And throughout the semester, we will explore connections between public policy and political-economic power, evaluating how well (or poorly) policy and policymaking reflect and promote democratic values and practices. Fulfills the American Politics field requirement.
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. Fulfills the American Politics requirement.
This course utilizes a comparative approach to examine the political systems of China, Japan, the Koreas, and Indonesia. Special attention will be given to the impact of culture on politics and the political institutions. Fulfills the Comparative Government and Politics requirement.
Examines politics in the People’s Republic of China. Topics include, for example, politics and social structure prior to 1949, the Communist Party and Cultural Revolution, state-society relations, ideology and religion, elite politics, grass roots mobilization, domestic and international consequences of market reforms, popular protest, and prospects for political liberalization.
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.
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.
This course deals with the influence of mass media on politics. The political content of entertainment and news programming in both electronic and print media will be analyzed. Attention will be given to determinants of political messages in mass media and the consequences of those messages for political behavior.
A critical survey of public communication processes in American elections. Focus on history, technology, economics, production, effects and political implications of advertising, news, social media and other message forms. Classic and new scholarly and professional readings and first-hand analyses of electoral communication practices and discourse calibrated to current events. Cultivates skills for responsible and informed political media consumption and production.
A comparative introduction to the complex politics of the Middle East. Examines the contemporary relevance of Islamic movements, Zionism, and secularist ideologies and parties; evaluates the progress of “democratization”; considers the politics of social and economic development, oil production, and international petroleum markets; and explores in greater depth the domestic political systems of selected Middle Eastern countries.
Analysis of government and politics in selected African countries, focusing on issues of economic liberalization, democratization and good governance, ethnicity, class, gender, youth, conflicts, and civil wars. Emphasis on evolving state-society and civil-society relations within the context of new political structures and democratic institutions. Fulfills the Comparative Government and Politics requirement.
The study of government and politics in the context of development and underdevelopment in Latin America, including an analysis of international actors, especially the role of the United States policy in the region. Fulfills the Comparative Government and Politics requirement.
The ideal of authenticity is the project of becoming the person you really are. Some political theorists argue that authenticity is the virtue of contemporary society, that we live in the “age of authenticity.” Without authenticity, it is impossible to give direction to our lives and to discern a meaning of life. Others claim that authenticity is incoherent as a value or that it is destructive for politics because it simply leads to narcissism. This course is a study of contemporary political theory as it revolves around the concept of authenticity. We will attempt to answer the questions: What is it to be oneself? What is it to truly represent one’s self? How does authenticity impact the political outlook of contemporary societies? Counts as a Philosophy Core Requirement
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.
This course provides an extensive overview of politics in the Middle East in the 20th and early 21st centuries, covering the period from the Ottoman Empire at the close of World War I to the present. Some knowledge of the Middle East and theories of international relations and will be helpful but are not required.
The course is designed to explore a wide range of political processes and political dynamics in the Middle East. To do this, students will read a combination of empirical, historical, and theoretical material. We will read in-depth analyses about some Middle East countries and examine the connection between domestic politics, foreign policy, and regional and international outcomes. With a focus on methods and concepts that social scientists use to explore and explain political processes and dynamics in the region and within countries, we will learn how theoretical approaches and frameworks can help us analyze the Middle East.
Among the topics we cover are the region’s colonial period, its enduring conflicts, domestic tensions and instability, foreign intervention, and economic developments. We also examine the impact of global issues on the Middle East. These include climate change, human rights concerns, the role of international organizations, financial crises, religion, and movements of democratization and authoritarianism.
In the absence of a supra-national authority, the anarchic world systems is governed through multilateral agreements negotiated, implemented, and enforced within international organizations (IOs). The established politics and processes of the post-World War II, liberal-rules-based order is being challenged by revisionist state regimes and a resurgence of nationalist and protectionist ideologies. The purpose of this survey course is to develop an understanding of international law, treaties, and international organizations and the roles they play in the execution of international relations and global governance. Key questions to consider are how/why/and to what end do international organizations and legal agreements independently impact state behavior?. Understanding these questions is vital to understanding the importance of IOs, the pathways of reform, and the impact of illiberal revision. This course uses participatory processes with students negotiating international law, interpreting legal texts, understanding how states interact with them, and proposing reforms. To further understand the nuance and complexities of law and governance, the course also explores the dyads of legal v. illegal, formal v. informal, moral v. immoral aspects of law and governance through case studies. Students engage in advanced readings about political science theories and concepts of international law and IOs, read original legal texts, analyze and evaluate aspects of international law and IO structures, and develop original interventions that could improve the state-system.
How do violent conflicts between a country and a rebel group come to an end? When are these conclusions permanent and when are they temporary? What are the processes that contribute to effective conflict resolution? What role is played by actors outside a conflict? When does mediation work, when does it make problems worse? This course will engage in a comparative study of key conflicts including Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Kenya, Syria, and Sri Lanka in order to understand these questions. The class will include in-depth study of these cases coupled with independent research by students in the class on an additional case. The final result will be a grounded understanding of the complexity of conflict and conflict resolution in the current world.
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.
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.
The 1960s were a pivotal juncture for American society. So much of today’s politics are still an outgrowth or reaction to the period. This course explores the major political events and movements of the 60s with an eye toward using the study of that era to better understand the social challenges, political conflicts and cultural tendencies of our current moment. We will engage with academic analyses, first-hand accounts, fiction and media discourse from the era. We will also watch several films and listen to plenty of music as we consider the politically charged cultural expressions that marked the 60s.
Race and Politics in the Americas is an advanced course about racial politics, past and present. With a focus on the American hemisphere, you will study the history and contemporary politics of the region’s Indigenous, African-descent, Latinx, and Asian American populations. How can today’s social movements for Indigenous sovereignty, racial equality, political empowerment, and freedom from racial violence be understood, in light of past experiences of conquest, enslavement, and economic exploitation? What can we learn by applying an intersectional lens to the study of race, class, and gender? What are the prospects for further racial progress, in a time of demographic transformation, intensifying resistance to racial reconciliation, the reassertion of white supremacy, and the resurgence of anti-immigrant xenophobia? For students in all majors, the course satisfies the College diversity proficiency; for political science majors it also satisfies either the American politics or the comparative politics field requirement, or can serve as a political science elective; for Black studies minors, it fits the thematic track of social and structural analysis. Lectures, readings, discussion groups, videos, and regular attendance are required. Students may choose among several assessment options, including unit essays, take-home final, or independent research project. Open to all students.
This course is a hands-on introduction to policy analysis at the state and local levels. After learning about the role of research and analysis in the policymaking process, students work in groups on a research project of contemporary relevance to Rhode Island policymakers. Students formally present their research and advocate for their preferred policy outcomes as a part of the class.
The literary and film genre of science fiction has given its authors free rein to imagine the boundaries of human nature, alternative life forms, technologies, and human societies. By creating entire worlds of the distant past, alternative presents, and near or far futures, these authors show audiences new, sometimes startling visions of politics. The imagined societies of science fiction, whether they tend towards utopia, dystopia, or something altogether different, are the subject of this course, PSC 421 – Political Thought in Science Fiction. You will learn to analyze politics as depicted in science fiction short stories, books, and films, applying perspectives from both Western and non-Western political theories. How have the genre’s fictional societies incorporated the best—and worst—of humanity’s actual political history? What new ideologies, social structures, and political systems have authors created? How can our understanding of real-world politics be enhanced, through the lens of science fiction? Lectures, readings, discussion groups, videos, and regular attendance are required. Students may choose among three assessment options: One major (7-9 page) and one minor (3-5 page) essay; a cumulative take-home final exam (12 pages); or, for qualified students, a one-hour oral examination at mid-semester, and a two-hour oral final examination. Open to all students.
Examines origins and evolution of the contemporary global economy, emphasizing interdependence and competition among developed countries, increasing globalization and the backlash against it, and the widening gap between the developed and underdeveloped countries. Focus on foreign debt and financial crises, regional trade arrangements, multinational corporations, global production, and the search for sustainable development in the South. Fulfills the International Relations requirement.