Political Science

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

Requirements for the Major in Political Science

Number of Units

Nine units are required, not including the SIP.

Required Courses

  • POLS 105 Introduction to U.S. Politics: Theory and Practice
  • 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 (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.

4+1 Graduate Program with Western Michigan University

4+1 graduate program with the Department of Political Science at Western Michigan. As stated in this Cooperative Agreement between Western Michigan University (WMU) and Kalamazoo College (KC), Kalamazoo College students may be able to transfer a maximum of 6 undergraduate credits (non-entry level) between KC and WMU for application toward a WMU master’s degree. Additionally, KC students may also be able to obtain from WMU a maximum of 3 graduate credits by examination based on advanced level course work at KC (Senior Integrated Project). Combined, students may acquire a maximum of 9 credits that can be applied toward a master’s degree from WMU.

Course Transfer

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:

  • POLS 305 International Law and Organization
  • POLS 310 Women, States, and NGOs
  • POLS 320 Democracy and Democratic Theory
  • POLS 330 The Politics of the Holocaust
  • POLS 360 Domination, Liberation, and Justice: Contemporary Political Thought
  • POLS 375 International Political Economy
  • POLS/SEMN 410 From Social Movements to Non-Profits
  • POLS 490 Contemporary Behavior, Theory and Methodology

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.

Political Science Courses

POLS 105 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.
POLS 106 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.
POLS 107 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.
POLS 205 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.
POLS 220 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-230
POLS 225 Constitutional Law 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.
POLS 229 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. POLS-225
POLS 230 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.
POLS 245 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.
POLS 248 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.
POLS 257 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.
POLS 260 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.
POLS 263 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.
POLS 265 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. Sophomore Standing
POLS 267 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.
POLS 270 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.
POLS 285 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.
POLS 310 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.
POLS 330 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.
POLS 335 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.
POLS 345 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
POLS 375 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). POLS-107
POLS 490 Contemporary Behavior, Theory, and Methodology Analysis of major premises and theoretical frameworks underlying current political science research. Senior standing.
POLS 593 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.
POLS 600 Teaching Assistantship