Political Science

Professors: Berry, Dugas, Einspahr (Chair), Elman

Political Science is an essential component of a liberal arts education, providing students with the tools to understand the complex world of politics and, in the process, to become better citizens. As a field of academic study, Political Science is both a classical discipline and a more recently developed social science. The study of politics utilizes philosophical, historical, and comparative analysis to examine governments, transnational institutions, political movements, politics, and policies. Knowledge of these areas enables students to participate more effectively in the political process on behalf of their own values. Students also learn skills to scrutinize both their own value systems and those of others.

The Political Science Department seeks to provide broad yet rigorous training in the fields of U.S. politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory. This training provides a thorough grounding for study in graduate and professional schools (including law school), as well as preparation for public service, nongovernmental employment, civic engagement, and political activism at the local, state, national, and international levels.

Requirements for the Major in Political Science

Number of Units
Nine units are required, not including the SIP.

Required Courses
POLS 105 Introduction to American Government
POLS 106 Introduction to Comparative Politics
POLS 107 Introduction to International Politics
POLS 490 Contemporary Behavior, Theory, and Methodology

ONE of the following:

POLS 257 Justice and Political Community: Classical Political Thought
POLS 260 Liberty, Equality, and Authority: Modern Political Thought
POLS 263 American Political Thought

The political science department requires all majors to pass a written comprehensive examination covering the fields of U.S. politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory. In addition, the department strongly encourages students to complete their introductory courses prior to leaving for study abroad.

Requirements for the Minor in Political Science

Number of Units
Six units are required.

Required Courses
POLS 105 Introduction to American Government
Five additional political science courses

Off-Campus Credits

One Political Science course from off-campus (study abroad or transfer credit) may count for credit toward the Political Science major or minor. Students must formally petition the department for approval of the course and provide the necessary materials (syllabus, notes, papers, etc.) for review. In general, the Political Science Department will accept for credit only a course that is not offered at Kalamazoo College.

Political Science courses

POLS105Introduction to U.S. Politics: Theory and PracticeContemporary conceptions of democracy in the United States are often based on the classic pluralist model of governance: individual citizens articulate interests, groups naturally form and lobby on behalf of those interests, a fair debate ensues, and the democratic system generates outcomes reflecting a general will. While this may serve as an ideal as to how democracy ought to operate, it is not clear whether it is an accurate reflection of how our democracy actually operates. In this course we will employ a multitude of approaches<theoretical, historical, behavioral, and institutional<to assist you in assessing the extent to which the functioning of democracy in the United States fulfills its promise.
POLS106Introduction to Comparative PoliticsIntroduction to the structure and functioning of different systems of governance within a comparative framework. What are the various paths to political development taken by various industrialized nations? To this end, students compare and contrast various political ideologies, cultures, and state institutions and their organizations.
POLS107Introduction to International PoliticsAn introduction to the study of international relations that focuses on the core issue of international war and peace. The issue is used as a means to explore how political scientists analyze international relations. The course examines different approaches to analyzing international relations (the system, state, and individual levels of analysis), as well as the ongoing debates between the paradigms of realism, liberalism, radicalism, and feminism.
POLS205The Politics of RevolutionThe very casual use of the term "revolution" frequently betrays its importance. What, for example, does it mean to be a "revolutionary"? Moreover, what has "revolution" meant for men and women? This course seeks to clarify its meaning(s), consider its causes, and explore the consequences with attention to the French and Russian revolutions. The revolutions of 1989 throughout Eastern Europe will also be considered.
POLS210Comparative Political Institutions: Social EuropeExamination of the political systems, institutions, and practices of European states. Emphasis is on analysis and comparison of social policies concerning immigration, the environment, and other issues.
POLS220Voting, Campaigns, & ElectionsRepresentative democracies rely upon elections to establish and maintain the link between the will of the people and the elites chosen to represent the public will. This course will examine three interrelated concepts of the American electoral process: voting, campaigns, and elections. First, we will examine the theories and methods employed to identify likely voters and the factors that impact their vote choice. Second, we will identify the distinct factors that determine a campaign's effectiveness including: the candidate, media coverage, political strategy, and broader contextual factors. Finally, we will assess the unique configuration of our electoral design, the extent to which these characteristics structure electoral outcomes, and whether modifications are required.
POLS225Constitutional LawConstitutional practice and doctrine commonly stand at the crossroads between law and politics. Although the US Supreme Court has long been involved in articulating constitutional rules and principles, these have never been its exclusive province. Congress, the President, political parties, and interest groups also play a significant role. Focusing on the development of constitutional doctrine across time, we will consider the growth of the Supreme Court's authority, the Court's relation to the other federal branches, and the relationship between constitutional change and social movements.
POLS229Race, Law, & US PoliticsThis class focuses on what Supreme Court decisions regarding race tell us about our constitution, how law and politics are balanced, and the appropriate scope of judicial decision-making. Supreme Court decisions on race provide an illuminating lens by which to investigate core concepts in legal decision-making and their underlying implications and assumptions. The aim of this course is threefold: to introduce students to the verbal and written analysis of complex texts and concepts in law, to familiarize students with basic authors and concepts in political science, and to help students think more critically and systematically about their own political ideas.
POLS230Congress & the PresidencyLegislative power in American democracy is divided principally between two legislative institutions: Congress and the Presidency. By design our founders created a government comprised of separate institutions with overlapping powers and distinct constituencies. In this course we will investigate both the origins and consequences of this institutional design. We will examine the ways in which each institution has shifted over time, the political and contextual factors that served as a catalyst for these changes, as well as their consequences on both policy-making and representation. Finally, we will identify the mechanisms elites employ to pursue legislative objectives, the barriers they face, and the level of representation and policy-making that results.
POLS231/SEMN 209The Politics of Rights & ImmigrationAccording to the UN Charter of Fundamental Rights, one has a fundamental right to leave one's country of origin (1948, Article 13), yet there is no corresponding right to enter another country. This sophomore seminar considers the consequence of this tension with attention to normative questions of who should be allowed entry to and citizenship within (other) states. In addition, we explore the empirical complexities that inform and result from these judgments. This broadly international and interdisciplinary seminar privileges states, laws (domestic and international) and actual policy over the last sixty years, with particular attention to North America and Western Europe - key destinations for migrants and thus crucial laboratories to investigate the myths, realities, policies and consequences of immigration. At a time when there are growing pressures for increased immigration in Western Europe, we conclude by noting recent developments within the European Union to harmonize asylum and immigration policies. We ask - what are the ethical challenges and what might the future look like?
POLS245Politics of Latin AmericaThis course provides an introduction to contemporary Latin American politics. The first part of the course examines the historical factors and socioeconomic conditions that have influenced the development of Latin American politics, including its frequently troubled relationship with the United States. The second part examines the principal political structures that have characterized Latin American politics in the form of authoritarian, revolutionary, and democratic regimes.
POLS/AFST248Politics of Sub-Saharan AfricaThis course offers an in-depth perspective on the study of Sub-Saharan African politics. It examines Africa's post-independence democratic strides, security issues, and the failure and successes of statism. It specifically exposes students to the challenges and the conundrum of the postcolonial state and the efforts in dealing with such challenges in Africa. The end of the Cold War as well as the demise of apartheid affected the political landscape in Africa, thus strengthening the role of grassroots organizations and of other external forces to engage in the process of state reconstruction.
POLS/CLAS257Justice and Political Community: Classical Political ThoughtThis course examines political thought from the Greek period through the Italian Renaissance. We will pay particular attention to classical conceptions of human nature, justice, the ideal political order, and the obligations of citizens to their political communities. We will also form an appreciation for the Greek and Roman foundations of subsequent political systems. Thinkers covered include Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine, and Machiavelli.
POLS260Liberty, Equality, and Authority: Modern Political ThoughtThis course examines political theory in the "modern" period (roughly 1650-1900). We will explore liberal, radical, conservative, and socialist frameworks for answering the question, "What makes authority legitimate?" Theoretical topics include classical social contract theory; resistance and revolution; the proper relationship between liberty and equality; and competing articulations of "rights." We will read the work of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Mill, Marx, and others.
POLS263American Political ThoughtIn this course we will explore the main currents of American political thought (APT) by focusing on how the concept of freedom has developed in America over the last 400 years. In particular, we will examine the ways in which a "classical" conception of freedom, originating in Puritanism, classical liberalism, and civic republicanism, has worked to include and exclude various groups of people and ideas over time.
POLS/WGS265Feminist Political TheoriesIn this course, we will engage critically with a variety of feminist theories that have emerged as women have struggled for social and political change. First we will explore the history and development of feminist theories with a focus on the role of "experience" and the category "woman" in feminist theorizing, paying particular attention to the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality. Using various feminist theoretical approaches, we will then explore issues such as women's embodiment, reproductive freedom, sexual violence, women's agency, and the role of the state in advancing feminist goals.Prerequisite: Sophomore Standing
POLS267Environment and Political TheoryThis course will serve as an introduction to the growing field of environmental political theory, or political ecology, including the writings of political theorists past and present on the relationship between politics, humans, and non-human nature and attempts by contemporary political theorists and environmental activists to articulate principles for organizing society in relation to the natural world. Students will confront their own assumptions about the proper relationship between humans and the natural world, which are embedded in core political concepts such as citizenship and democracy, and work to form reasoned judgments in relation to current environmental problems and controversies.
POLS270The European Union: Institutions, Actors, Aliens and OutcomesThis course offers a broad introduction to the European Union and the politics of European integration. We move from a historical overview to a description and assessment of several basic political institutions and conclude with the impact that European integration has had (and continues to exercise) over matters ranging from agriculture, food, the environment, and crime to citizenship, migration, gay rights, and women's rights.
POLS285United States Foreign PolicyThe first part of this course provides an introduction to, and a historical overview of, U.S. foreign policy from the end of World War II to the present. Particular emphasis is given to security issues, the development of the Cold War, and the search for a guiding doctrine for contemporary U.S. foreign policy. The second part of the course examines the way in which U.S. foreign policy is made, looking specifically at the role of the Presidency, Congress, and the bureaucracy.
POLS295Special TopicsSpecial Topics offerings focus upon topics not addressed in the department's regular offerings. The course can be repeated with a different topic. Check the course schedule to see when Special Topics courses are being offered.
POLS295Special TopicsFrom hazardous chemicals and nuclear accidents to stratospheric ozone depletion and concern over tropical rain forests and "sustainable development," environmental justice activists have raised our consciousness and endeavored to provide a coherent vision of policies and programs they want implemented. How did activists express their claims, what are some of the specific challenges they faced, and how have different states/regions around the world responded?
POLS310Women, States, and NGOsWhat role do states have, if any, in defining, maintaining, constructing, or remedying sex discrimination? This course provides a comparative, historical framework to consider the challenges and opportunities feminist movements have met and continue to face as they mobilized both within and beyond their countries to demand social justice.
POLS315Public Opinion: Race, Class, and GenderThe preferences of the public, and how these preferences are transmitted to elected officials, serve as the foundation of representative democracy. Thus, to evaluate the success of a democracy one must begin with a clear understanding of the origins, measurement, structure, and consequences of Americans' political attitudes. This course will explore the multitude of factors that structure and influence the development of political attitudes, the extent to which these attitudes are represented in government, and whether policy outcomes are reflective of public demands. Finally, we will apply the knowledge and analytical strategies that we have surveyed to better understand racial, class-based, and gender cleavages in American politics todayPrerequisite: POLS-105
POLS320Democracy and Democratic TheoryWhat does it mean to say that something is "democratic" or that a government is a "democracy"? Almost everyone today claims democratic principles as their own, yet there is widespread disagreement about what this really means. The literal translation of "democracy" is "rule by the people," but rule how exactly, and over what matters? And who is included in "the people"? In this course we will examine the theory and practice of democracy in historical context as well as its meaning for people around the world today. Topics covered include classical democracy and republicanism; liberal, direct, radical, agonistic, and deliberative democracy; and challenges to democracy in the present age of global and corporatism. Offered biannually
POLS330The Politics of the HolocaustStudy of two fundamental elements: (1) a brief historical overview of anti-Semitism and the social construction of identity whereby Jews are rendered "Other," and (2) a focus on how and by whom the Jews were annihilated. Students will comprehend the unique fate of the Jews under National Socialism, the incorporation of racial eugenics into law, and the capacities of modern states to service genocide.
POLS360Domination, Liberation, and Justice: Contemporary Political ThoughtIn the twentieth century, a diverse group of thinkers challenged the basic underlying premises of modern political thought, refiguring how we think about domination, liberation, and justice. In this course, we will be addressing the overlapping themes of knowledge, power, history, and identity as they relate to contemporary political dilemmas. Thinkers discussed may include Arendt, Beauvoir, Butler, Foucault, Nietzsche, and other contemporary thinkers. Previous coursework in political theory or philosophy is recommended. Offered biannually.
POLS370Civil Liberties and Civil RightsStudy of individual liberties as defined by today's Supreme Court; development of the Court's point of view in such areas as freedom of speech, subversion and disloyalty, religious freedoms and church-state separation, and equal protection of the law; the role of the Supreme Court in the political system of the United States.
POLS375International Political EconomyThis course deals with issues arising in a world system that is increasingly united by a global economy, but that remains fragmented politically. It begins with an examination of the alternative paradigms of economic liberalism, economic nationalism, and radicalism. It then proceeds to examine in greater detail issues concerning international trade (including debates over globalization and free trade) and the international monetary system (including the roles of the IMF and World Bank, debt crises, and financial crises).Prerequisite: POLS-107
POLS380Drugs, Democracy, and Human RightsAn overview of three of the most contentious issues in contemporary U.S. foreign policy. Specifically, the course examines the role of U.S. policy with regard to the problems of international human rights, the promotion of democracy, and the international drug trade. Past and present U.S. policy is discussed, as well as what U.S. policy ought to be regarding these challenging problems.
POLS/SEMN406Male Violoence Against WomenThis course focuses on male violence against and sexual exploitation of women. Students will examine the historical development of these related issues that feminism identifies as central (prostitution, pornography, sexual harassment, rape and battery). More specifically, we will explore how the story of that oppression and the efforts taken against it have been continuously ignored and/or undermined. Students will, for example, consider the ways in which the feminist fight against "male violence" is currently referred to as "domestic" or "gender" violence. Those working to end rape are portrayed as anti-sex while those who have survived it are said to have merely had a sexual experience they later regretted. Additionally, feminists fighting against pornography are depicted as "pro-censorship," prostitution is defended as an "occupational alternative," and rape-genocide now offers an artistic backdrop for the telling of a 'love story' between a soldier and his captive. Such topics are up for lively discussion in this senior capstone.Prerequisite: Seniors only
POLS/SEMN410From Social Movements to Non-ProfitsWe will compare and contrast the politics of "social movements" across different countries and in the context of "globalization". We open with an overview concerning the decline of traditional mass based political institutions (e.g., parties and unions) and consider the rise of alternative forms of political expression - including movements and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). After focusing on contemporary debates about movements (e.g., the efficacy of social movements for positive social change) we will reflect on the often-vibrant debates that occur within them (e.g., priorities, identities, alliances, strategies, funding and institutionalization). Prerequisite: Seniors Standing
POLS490Contemporary Behavior, Theory, and MethodologyAnalysis of major premises and theoretical frameworks underlying current political science research. Prerequisite: Senior standing.
POLS593Senior Individualized ProjectEach program or department sets its own requirements for Senior Individualized Projects done in that department, including the range of acceptable projects, the required background of students doing projects, the format of the SIP, and the expected scope and depth of projects. See the Kalamazoo Curriculum -> Senior Individualized Project section of the Academic Catalog for more details.Prerequisite: Permission of department and SIP supervisor required.