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, comparative and empirical 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.
Nine units are required, not including the SIP.
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.
Six units are required.
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 (e.g. 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.
Up to six credit hours may be transferred to Western Michigan University from Kalamazoo College with the successful completion of any combination of the following courses with a grade of B or better:
To receive up to 3 additional credit hours at WMU as graduate level equivalents, students from Kalamazoo College will be required to submit their final writing projects for POLS 593 (SIP). WMU Department of Political Science Faculty will determine the basis for evaluation and the awarding of the credit.
Introduction to U.S. Politics: Theory and Practice
Contemporary 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 a model of 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, behavioral, and institutional-to assist you in assessing the extent to which the functioning of American democracy fulfills its promise. Collectively, we will grapple with our conflicting visions of American Democracy, identify potential barriers we face, and debate the utility of potential reforms.
Introduction to Comparative Politics
Introduction 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.
Introduction to International Politics
An 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.
The Politics of Revolution
The 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, Haitian and Russian revolutions. The revolutions of 1989 throughout Eastern Europe will also be considered.
Voting, Campaigns, & Elections
Representative 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.
POLS-105 or POLS-225
The cornerstone of American democracy rests upon the U.S. Constitution. In addition to laying the blueprint for the institutional design of our government, the Bill of Rights, in theory, establishes the fundamental rights and liberties of all American citizens. In this course, students will familiarize themselves with the structure of the federal court system, the contrasting modes of legal reasoning employed by justices on the court, and the often competing legal, political, and societal factors that influence the Supreme Court's rulings. We will focus on three substantive areas of constitutional law: 1) equal protection under the 14th Amendment; 2) the right to privacy; and 3) freedom of speech. By tracing the evolution of the law in these three key areas, students will sharpen their legal-reasoning skills, and be better equipped to evaluate the extent to which the Court has fulfilled our Constitutional ideals.
Race, Law, & US Politics
This course will explore the intersection of race, law and politics in the United States. In the first half of the quarter we will develop a theoretical framework to understand each of these three interrelated concepts. First, we will examine the American judicial system, contrasting theories of jurisprudence, and legal reasoning and writing. Second, we will explore the complex relationship between law and politics. Third, we will examine theories of race, racial formation, and critical race theory. In the second half of the quarter we will turn our attention to tracing the key legal precedents and statutes that have at various times in our history shaped, reinforced, and/or challenged conceptions of race. We will examine the ways in which each has expanded and/or contracted the rights of racial and ethnic minorities. We will end the quarter by evaluating the extent to which the Court provides an effective venue for racial and ethnic minorities to pursue equal rights and access in America.
Congress & the Presidency
In American Democracy, legislative power at the national level is divided principally between two distinct institutions: Congress and the Presidency. By design our framers 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. On the other hand, institutions are not static; the evolution of institutions is inevitable. 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, institutions are not empty vessels, but rather are comprised of a body of goal-oriented elites. We will examine how elite behavior and legislative processes may be best explained by the goal of winning elections. Furthermore, we will identify the mechanisms that power elites implement to pursue legislative objectives, the barriers they face, and the level of representation and policy-making that results. Throughout the course we will apply these theories to explain and predict the legislative process in Washington D.C.
Politics of Latin America
This 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.
Politics of Sub-Saharan Africa
This 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 postindependence state and the efforts in dealingwith 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.
Justice and Political Community: Classical Political Thought
This 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 may include Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine, and Machiavelli. Offered biannually.
Liberty, Equality, and Authority: Modern Political Thought
This course examines political theory in the "modern" period (roughly 1650-1900). Many of the works considered here are central to the "canon" of political theory, shaping not only the kinds of questions we have come to ask about "the political," but how we go about asking them. In particular, liberalism has been central to the political development of the west. In this class we will work toward a deep understanding of liberalism as well as radical democratic, conservative, and socialist challenges to this important paradigm. Theoretical topics covered include classical social contract theory; the emergence of the abstract "individual" endowed with natural rights; attempts to reconcile the value of equality with that of liberty; and "radical" responses to deep structural inequality. The work of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Wollstonecraft, Marx, and others will be discussed and analyzed.
American Political Thought
In this course we will approach American Political Thought (APT) as a set of narratives and counter-narratives about the meaning and value of American freedom in relation to social, economic, and political equality. Dominant narratives about the meaning of freedom have often functioned to exclude certain groups, while resistance to that exclusion has often taken the form of contestation over the meaning of freedom itself. We will examine the tensions within American narratives of freedom from the time of the first Puritan settlers to today.
Feminist Political Theories
A core course in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality curriculum, Feminist Political Theories introduces students to a wide variety of feminist theoretical frameworks. We will examine what it means to do feminist theory; modern feminist theories, including liberal, radical, Marxist, socialist, and anarchist feminisms, as well as intersectionality theories; postmodern feminist thought, including queer and transgender theories and third-wave feminisms; and postcolonial feminist theories from early modernity to postmodernity.
Environment and Political Theory
This 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.
The European Union: Institutions, Actors, Aliens and Outcomes
This 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 and the environment to crime citizenship, migration, gay rights, and women's rights.
United States Foreign Policy
The 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.
International Law and Organization
This course addresses: 1) the history, structure, promise, and limitations of international organizations, especially the United Nations; 2) the basic nature and scope of international law; and 3) how the interplay of international law and organizations affects key areas of global relations, particularly the use of force, collective security and peacekeeping, the treatment of civilians in war, and human rights more generally.
Women, States, and NGOs
What 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.
Democracy and Democratic Theory
What 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. This course is not recommended for first-year students. Offered biannually.
The Politics of the Holocaust
Study 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.
The Politics of Contemporary Antisemitism
This course examines antisemitism's recent resurgence. We'll consider debates over definitions, data, and denials. This includes varied appropriations and inversions of the Holocaust from the alt-right to the progressive left.
From Social Movements to Non-Profits
We 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 and consequences of alternative forms of political expression - including movements and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Prerequisite: Seniors Standing
Domination, Liberation, and Justice: Contemporary Political Thought
In 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.
International Political Economy
This 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).
Contemporary Behavior, Theory, and Methodology
Analysis of major premises and theoretical frameworks underlying current political science research.
Senior Integrated Project
Each program or department sets its own requirements for Senior Integrated 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 Integrated Project section of the Academic Catalog for more details.
Permission of department and SIP supervisor required.