An analysis of United States national government with emphasis on constitutionalism, the presidency, Congress, and the judiciary. Reference will also be made to the impact of political parties and pressure groups on the contemporary political system.
Study of seminal works in political philosophy. Students will examine texts by thinkers such as Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Bacon, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Tocqueville, Madison, Jefferson, and Nietzsche in an effort to uncover both classical and modern answers to enduring human questions. We seek to find, through these texts, comprehensive and consistent answers to the question of human happiness and its relation to political life, justice, friendship, obligation, regimes, political and moral virtue or excellence, science, and religious faith. Students will learn how to read texts carefully, to think critically, and to write well.
A survey of the key concepts and principles of comparative politics and international relations. Issues covered include state building and state failure; the functioning of democratic and non-democratic regimes and the ideologies that support them; the changing nature of the international system; the causes of war and search for peace; and problems of national and transnational security, such as terrorism, globalization, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and environmental challenges.
An essential foundation for advanced study in international relations. Students investigate the tumultuous international political events from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century and the big concepts of the period-balance of power, extreme nationalism, diplomacy, and international organization. Students explore the causes and effects of the Napoleonic Wars, the 99 Years' Peace, German and Italian unification, the arms race, and World Wars I and II. The League of Nations and the United Nations are central themes. Students study the Cold War and its thaw following the Cuban Missile Crisis.
An introduction of the wide range of research approaches used by political scientists to study American, comparative, and international politics. Students will discuss principles of data analysis and statistical tools frequently used in political science with an emphasis on skills to read, understand, and critique research. From this course students will be able to understand research techniques, interpret findings, assess appropriateness of research designs, and identify challenges to valid inferences.
A survey of the governmental and political features of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other European states.
Political thought of Plato and Aristotle. This course will treat the character of the political thought that Socrates initiated. Consideration will be given to the reasons for the original tension between wisdom and politics and to the manner in which theory can inform practice. Selected Greek comedies and tragedies as well as Roman and medieval political thought may also be considered.
Political thought of the Early Modern period to that of the mid-nineteenth century. Selected thinkers include Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and Marx. Particular emphasis will be placed on the aspirations of classic liberalism and the successive criticism these aspirations inspired. Provides foundation for upper division work in political theory.
An examination of a new breed of global giants, THE BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The BRICS are the main source of economic growth in the world, and are projected to dominate international affairs. They also exhibit remarkable political, social, and economic diversity. Students will tackle major questions facing international relations: Is the rise of BRICS fundamentally transforming the world we live in? What would a world no longer dominated by the "West," and in particular the United States, be like?
A comprehensive analysis of Latin American political, social, and economic processes and institutions from a multidisciplinary perspective. The course examines Latin America's political development, ethnic problems, gender roles, and economic strategies as well as the changing role of institutions such as the state, socioeconomic organizations, the church, and the military. It considers how Latin American societies changed after independence while noting those political, social, and economic aspects that remain unchanged. The objective of the course is to provide a critical examination of the evolution and transformation of Latin America while offering the analytical elements necessary to interpret similar processes in other geographical areas and historical periods.
A survey of the role of courts in contemporary American politics and society. Students will explore the organization and functions of state and federal courts and their relation to other political institutions and to society generally. Topics will include the decision-making processes of judges, attorneys, and litigants in various judicial settings, the role and impact of courts as policymakers, the selection and recruitment of judicial personnel, access to judicial power, courts and the media, and contemporary trends in litigation.
An examination of several different constitutional systems from around the world, using cases such as the United States, Israel, Canada, Poland, and South Africa. All constitutional systems are unique; but when studied comparatively, they help illuminate some of the fundamental principles of modern politics: constitutionalism, democracy, justice, citizenship, liberty, and community. As part of the course, students will consider how constitutional structures influence ethnic, religious, and personal identities.
Explores basic questions at the heart of modern police institutions: Why do we have police forces? Why are different police forces in different countries structured the way they are? Are police able to “protect and serve” all the citizens of their states equally, or are they biased in terms of race, gender and sexual identity, class and other social identities? This course examines these questions in comparative political context; specifically, by comparing the experience of policing in the United States with that of in Russia, Brazil, Germany, the Philippines, and other states. The course is attuned to the question of how and why police institutions either empower citizens by providing safety and justice, or threaten citizens by exercising their power unequally, illegally or unjustly. Pays particular attention to the way that world historical trends such as colonialism, chattel slavery, the Cold War, and globalization produce understandings of both domestic and international security and powerful practices of white supremacy and anti-Blackness that influence the structure and functioning of policing in different states.
The study of state and local government, politics, and policies within the United States federal system. Emphasis on connections between government structure, politics, and the economy, with special attention to questions of public policy.
An overview of campaigns and elections in the United States for students with an interest in understanding elections, campaigns, and voting in the United States. Students will study the institutions governing voting, political communication, public opinion, political participation, and political behavior.
An introduction to the role and influence of the news media in politics. Students will study political communication theories about news media, identify important news media institutions that shape political communication, and explore how the news media influences political attitudes and behavior. The class will provide an introduction to how scholars study politics and media, and how politicians, public officials, interest groups, and campaign operatives interact with the media.
An examination of violent conflict in modern societies. Students will explore the role of the state as well as non-state actors in causing, escalating, and mitigating violence. Students will also address major questions underlying national and international security, such as: When does conflict turn violent? Under what conditions do victims become perpetrators, and perpetrators become victims? What are the causes of terrorism, and what is the state's role in terrorist activity? Is violence the only way to bring about major political change, or can nonviolent methods work? Are private military contractors changing the way we fight? Students will evaluate theoretical approaches to and empirical assessments of the role of violence in global politics.
A comparison of traditional Russian society with Soviet society after 1917. The course will focus first on the political, economic, and social characteristics of the authoritarian tsarist empire. Then we will turn to the revolutionary changes initiated by Lenin, the terror of Stalin, the reforms of Khrushchev, and the stagnation under Brezhnev. The course will focus in particular on changes in political structures and participation, economic organization and equality, and cultural life, including gender roles. Readings will include novels, memoirs, and press translations.
This course examines the development and current features of American foreign policy focusing on the international challenges and opportunities faced by the United States after the end of the Cold War. It analyzes some of the major patterns of United States foreign policy, reviews some important interpretations and methodological approaches to the study of United States foreign policy, discusses the ideological components of these policies, examines the foreign policy actors and the decision-making process in which they participate, and evaluates the changing objectives and circumstances shaping recent American international initiatives. Special attention will be devoted to the impact of the end of the Cold War and the rise of interdependence and globalization on recent United States economic, strategic, and environmental foreign policies as well as in the formulation of specific approaches to different regions of the world.
An introduction to and survey of the history, principles, instruments, theory, and practice of international law. Students explore the reach of and limits to international law with regard to the use of force, arms control and disarmament, human rights, and criminal justice in light of transnational crime and terrorism.
An exploration of how political, economic, and social interests contend for influence and exert power in the realm of environmental policy. We look at the ways in which local, regional, national, and international governmental institutions, nongovernmental organizations and interests groups, and the public interact in defining environmental problems, and formulating and implementing solutions. The course uses case studies on timely environmental issues ranging from cleaning up toxic waste pollution to protecting endangered species to understanding the clashes between science and politics at local, state, federal, and international levels.
Examines the rise and development of Political Islam. Students explore the roots of radical and reformist Islamist movements by analyzing major ideological, economic, social, and political transformations in Muslim-majority states. Students debate the causes and consequences of radical Islam, whether and how Islamist movements may participate in governance, and, more broadly, the role of religion in political life. Cases examined in the course are drawn from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America.
An examination of the writings of selected thinkers in the American political tradition. The course will place particular emphasis on the thought of the framers and on the response of succeeding political leaders and thinkers to the framers' principles.
Survey of politics in the broader Middle East region. This course examines the evolution of the Middle Eastern state system, emergence of different political regimes, causes of uneven economic development, and consequences of social and military conflicts. Special attention is paid to the role of contending nationalisms, ethnic conflict, revolutionary movements, oil economies, Islamist groups, and civic activism in the region.
An exploration of the major approaches to the study and understanding of ethnic conflict and nationalism. Students examine sociobiological and psychological "primordialist" theories, realist and instrumentalist approaches, and normative/ideational explanations. These theoretical approaches will be illustrated through case studies, which may include: "troubles" in Northern Ireland; sovereignty movements in Quebec and Chechnya; ethnic violence in Indonesia, Nigeria, and the former Soviet bloc; indigenous people's movements in Mexico; separatism, racism, and anti-immigrant violence in Europe; or others.
Examines the distinctive understandings of liberty in the midst of the emergence of a new world of commerce in the eighteenth century. Students will focus on the writings of David Hume and Adam Smith, comparing their ideas against the backdrop of other thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as Locke, Hobbes, Mandeville, and Rousseau. Students will also judge the debates and disagreements among key figures in modern political philosophy. What are the origins of political liberty? Is vice or virtue the animating force of what Smith called the "system of natural liberty"?
An examination of how the wielding of political power and ideas about justice have shaped the experiences of people with different racial identities in three countries: the US, Brazil and South Africa. Students will come to understand how white supremacy was used historically as the basis of state and nation-building in these three states and how BIPOC and white citizens have challenged white supremacy and fought for more inclusive and democratic forms of nation-statehood in these three cases, up to and including the contemporary moment.
An exploration of how Hip-Hop music and culture emerges as a tool of resistance and empowerment in political and social movements in the United States and the broader African Diaspora, becoming an outlet for marginalized populations to mobilize and express political and social injustices. The course also explores specific instances of protest and the ways in which hip-hop’s popularity sustains, supports, and sometimes disrupts political mobilization. Students will explore the ways in which hip-hop culture spans various scales of governance, from the global to the local, to indicate how hip-hop’s inherent political undertones are brought to the mainstream.
This course provides students an opportunity to engage with the historical and present intricacies of the African continent and examine the lived experiences and multitude of perspectives on social and political life on the continent. This course provides students with a historical and contemporary context for understanding politics in Africa and encourages students to consider the linkages between their own experiences in politics and those within Africa. Emphasis is placed on the practical application of Africa-specific theories to understand the politics and governance in pre-colonial Africa, the enslavement of African people, and colonialism in Africa. Students will also explore the rise of nationalist movements, decolonization and the implications of competition between US, China, and Russia on the continent.
Topically organized courses focused on selected problems, areas, and issues of special interest in political science at the intermediate level. Topics vary from year to year, depending upon specialization and research interests of the instructor. Students may take the course more than once, with the approval of the department, if the topic is different each time.
An examination of how citizens' and public officials' attitudes, values, beliefs, experiences, and cognitive capacities shape political behavior and influence the actions of American political institutions. Topics include political socialization, political personality, attitude formation and change, and political decision-making.
Internship in government, political, or legal offices for students with appropriate academic preparation. The intern is required to produce a substantial research paper related to the area of the internship, on a topic approved by the faculty sponsor and the on-site supervisor.
An exploration of how political science uses experiments to understand the causes of behaviors, attitudes, and events. Students will discuss the logic of experiments, its their strengths and weaknesses compared to other ways of studying political science, and the ways in which experimentation has been-- and could be-- used to investigate political, social, and economic phenomena. Students will learn how to interpret, design, and execute experiments, with an emphasis on field experiments and survey experiments.
An exploration of different aspects of economic inequality, the different ways of measuring it, the implications for Americans’ lives, and how they relate to social and political justice. Americans are now living in what has been called a “second gilded age,” with higher levels of economic inequality than any time in the past hundred years. In this course, we will focus on why our political institutions seem to be so unresponsive to the increase in inequality and what it says about the nature of our democratic system. We will also examine how different public policies shape and refract the social and political effects of inequality.
Political thought of the twentieth century. Primary attention will be given to the influence of Nietzsche as reflected in existentialism, postmodernism, and postmodern feminism. Additional topics might include the influence of Freudianism on political thought, the debate between Rawls and Nozick on social justice, and the claims of communitarianism.
An examination of the relations between Latin America and the United States, including their political, strategic, and economic aspects. The course reviews some of the major theoretical interpretations of these relations and analyzes some crucial historical events and developments before focusing on crucial contemporary topics including collective security, revolutionary change, imperialism and nationalism, economic issues, human rights and democracy, drug traffic, and migration.
A survey of the American constitutional system emphasizing sources and uses of governmental power, the political role of the Supreme Court, the Court's jurisdiction, and the allocation of powers between the federal government and the states.
An examination of selected constitutional issues, including the proper role of the Supreme Court in our political system. The course covers theories of judicial review, as well as many of the complexities of modern civil rights and civil liberties.
An analysis of recent Supreme Court decisions interpreting our civil liberties, civil rights, guarantee of due process of law, and equal protection of the laws.
An examination of immigration and the issues arising from it-the reshaping of cities, suburbs and rural areas, and the altering of racial dynamics, labor markets, politics, and culture in the U.S. Students will address varied topics, such as the historical evolution of American immigration policy, theories of immigration, the economic costs and benefits of immigration, the assimilation of recent immigrants, and the future direction of U.S. immigration policy.
An exploration of how democracy works in Saratoga Springs. Students will use the Saratoga Springs City Council elections as a real life laboratory for studying the practice of democracy in 21st century America. Students will design and implement several research projects, including mapping voter turnout, surveying City Council meetings, analyzing local campaign strategies, interviewing local political elites, and conducting an exit survey of citizens' vote choice in the Saratoga Springs City Council election. Students will make presentations of their analyses to the general public and candidates at the end of the semester.
This course will examine the writings of several dissidents of the twentieth century (including Milosz, Solzhenitsyn, and Havel) and their unique contributions to the enduring themes of political theory.
Examines the political fortunes of the Czech people from the Austro-Hungarian Empire through the founding of the First Republic after World War I, the periods of Nazi and Communist rule, and the return to democracy in 1989. Students study key figures such as Jan Hus (fifteenth-century religious reformer), Tomas Masaryk (founder of the First Republic), and playwright-turned communist dissident, who became president of a reborn Czech state-Vaclav Havel. Students read the narrative history of the period and explore relevant political analyses; they also watch films by famed Czech directors such as Milos Forman and Jiri Menzel.
An analysis of politics in Russia and in the post-communist republics of the former Soviet Union. After analyzing the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. under Gorbachev, the course will focus on the attempts since 1991 to create democratic political systems. Special attention will be paid to elections, constitutions, political party formation, parliaments, leadership strategies, and nationalism.
An introduction to the concepts, ideas, and strategies employed in the pursuit of state and local economic development. We will survey and critically review the range of strategies commonly used to improve the economic prospects of neighborhoods, cities, and regions, including luring corporations with tax breaks, emulating Silicon Valley, promoting high technology, building sports stadiums and prisons, and community development. This course will rely heavily on interviews of policymakers and analysis of state policies and problems to help students appreciate the importance and complexity of economic development policy. A background in economics is not required.
An examination of the influence of our political parties at critical moments of the formation of the American democracy. The course explores how political parties emerged almost immediately after the ratification of the Constitution and engaged in public debate on the meaning of republican government as well as the meaning of citizen participation and representation. Students will learn to appreciate the distinction between American political development and the historical study of politics. They will also become familiar with party realignment and be able to recognize the unique character of the elections of 1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, and 1932. Students will also learn to appreciate the challenge of finding the appropriate role for political parties in our democracy.
A senior seminar in which each student will conduct individualized research into a topic or question in contemporary American politics. Each student will prepare a research design, class progress reports, and a final paper. Special attention will be given to primary sources, such as government documents, and to computer-based research techniques and resources, such as Internet and databases.
An analysis of the presidential role in United States politics. The course will examine the expansion of the constitutional and political powers of the president in the light of contemporary politics.
Research into the operation of polling places and the administration of elections by local election officials. The course will define the quality of polling places by several categories of characteristics developed in the scholarly literature. Students will develop a research design to investigate the operation of polling places on election day, execute the research design, and then analyze the data collected.
An exploration of how elections are run in the United States. Students will examine the state and federal laws and regulations governing the conduct of elections, the way local election officials administer elections, and proposals for reforming voter registration and how voters cast ballots in local, state, and national elections.
Explores changes in international politics that lend more weight to economic and environmental issues and analyzes the responses to those changes of developed and developing countries and regional, international, and nongovernmental organizations. Students examine different theoretical perspectives on international political economy issues, engage in problem-solving exercises, and conduct a major research paper or prepare for participation in Model United Nations, Model European Union, or other simulation exercises.
An examination of the philosophical, religious, and legal bases of the modern international human rights regime. Students will explore such questions as: How did the concept of human rights evolve? How do states, international and non-governmental organizations, and individuals try to provide for and protect human rights around the world? When do they succeed, and why do they fail? What is one's individual responsibility regarding the international human rights regime? Students will work with the primary texts that form the international human rights regime and will engage in research projects that examine the practice of human rights provision and violation around the world.
Examines the unique strain in French political philosophy that confronts the origins and impact of liberal democratic theory. Students will engage thoughtfully and critically with an underappreciated tradition in French political philosophy and will gain an awareness of both the positive and negative potentialities of modern democratic life. Students will encounter the well-known triad of Montesquieu, Constant, and Tocqueville as well as contemporary French thinkers such as Bertrand de Jouvenel and Pierre Manent.
An examination of the Global South as a site of politics. Students question what is the meaning of sovereignty to those who have experienced colonialism and imperialism? How are the dichotomies of war/peace and failed state/good governance gendered and racialized? This course examines the question of what an IR rooted in the experiences of the global South and the non-West might actually look like. This course critically evaluates the development of International Relations and its Western-centric theories and explores alternative origins of the discipline and its views on the state, security, cooperation, and development that do not have their roots in the West or the North. Students will examine how the global South’s encounter with the “international” has been mediated by its invisibility within dominant, universalizing narratives and practices of the West and how to conceive of an IR that challenges and engages perspectives from the global South with mainstream perspectives.
An examination of organized violence from around the world. From World War II to the War on Terror, most people alive today have experienced armed conflict in one way or another. Students will examine why and how we fight as well as investigate the timeless and the distinctive features of modern warfare. Students will consider how, over the past century, we have transformed warfare, and how warfare has transformed us.
Critical analysis of the relations between state-making, national integration, and democracy. The course focuses on the emergence and diffusion of the modern state system, technologies of governance, modes of resistance to state authority, policies geared toward building national majorities, and the causes and consequences of democratization. Students will analyze and discuss classic works in comparative politics as well as cutting-edge research in the field.
An examination of the politics and society of South Asian states, with a special focus on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Students will develop substantial regional knowledge and learn to apply social scientific reasoning to tackle the major puzzles and policy issues facing South Asia. Students will gain knowledge of the region and investigate the big and enduring questions of political inquiry: What is the relationship between development and democracy? What is the role of history in shaping political outcomes? Is nonviolent resistance more effective than violence? In addressing these questions, students will engage closely with classic and contemporary social scientific texts on South Asia.
An examination of economic and social development in the Global South. Students analyze the market-building policies of states through a comparative perspective with a special focus on developing countries. Students evaluate concepts, theoretical perspectives, and key issues that constitute the field of political economy of development. The first part of the course explores the shifting role of states and markets in development policy since before the Great Depression. The second part brings together multiple viewpoints to examine the key actors in the Global South, the current phase of globalization, the growing competitiveness of some developing countries such as Brazil, India, China, Russia and Turkey, and the causes of stagnation in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
A seminar devoted to a particular issue or a particular thinker. Topics will vary from year to year. Recent topics have included “The ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ in Modern Political Thought,” “Machiavelli’s Political Thought,” and “Shakespeare’s Rome.”
A critical exploration of contemporary feminist political thought. The course will focus on the different conceptions of subjectivity found within feminist thought and the implications of those conceptions for political society. Readings will come from a wide range of approaches including postmodernism, psychoanalytic theory, and standpoint theory.
An exploration of how the theory and practice of international relations is gendered. Students examine how the fundamental international relations concepts of security and defense are defined in gendered ways, and how the practice of diplomacy, war-making, and international economic development are gendered. Special focus on the environmental impacts of international relations' gendered past and present, and how women's and environmental organizations work together to challenge traditional patterns of global governance.
A seminar devoted to the examination of the congressional system through research, class discussion, and written work.
An upper-level course devoted to the intensive study of a particular topic in political science, especially with a visiting scholar.
Selected issues, regions, and research in comparative politics. Topics will vary from year to year, depending upon specialization and research interests of the instructor. Possible topics: post-authoritarian transitions in Eastern Europe; party politics in Israel.
Selected issues, regions, and research in international relations. Topics will vary from year to year, depending upon specialization and research interests of the instructor. Possible topics: Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Union), conflict and compromise; United States and Japan, allies in collision. Students may take the course more than once, with the approval of the department, if the topic is different each time.
Selected issues, periods, and research in American politics. Topics will vary from year to year, depending upon the specialization and research interests of the instructor. Possible topics include: urban government, politics of AIDS, political role of the labor movement, etc.
An opportunity for qualified majors to do special studies in the field of political science beyond or outside of the regular departmental offerings. The student's study program is supervised by a member of the department. Written work and regular periodic discussion meetings are required.
Independent research under the direction of a member of the department, undertaken in the fall of the senior year by students writing a senior thesis. Students should consult department guidelines regarding the senior thesis, which specify the expectations for this course.
Optional for government majors. Particularly recommended for majors wishing to develop a problem or theme in depth and for those working toward professional careers or in preparing for graduate work. The student's work is supervised by a member of the department. Individual and, if appropriate, group conferences will be held during the term. Written work and regular periodic discussion meetings are required. Proposals for the senior thesis must be prepared in consultation with a government faculty thesis-sponsor, approved by the sponsor and the student's advisor, and submitted to the chair for approval during the semester preceding the one in which the student wishes to work on the thesis.
An integration of the first three years of the Political Science major curriculum with other experiences at Skidmore, while at the same time enabling consideration of life after Skidmore. This course is a moment for students, together with other senior PL majors, to simultaneously reflect on their academic past and path at Skidmore, while also thinking about plans to move into the future, past Skidmore.
A semester-long intensive field experience. Students spend a minimum of 30 hours a week working in Albany for an Assembly member and their research staff, conducting research, responding to constituent mail, bill tracking, bill memo preparation, and attending committee and public hearings, among other tasks. The program also has an academic seminar component, Policy in the NY State Legislative Process, and includes other weekly meetings (Issue Forums), as well as mandatory participation in a Mock Legislative Session at the end of the semester.
A semester-long intensive field experience. Students spend a minimum of 30 hours a week working in Albany for a Senate member and their research staff, conducting research, responding to constituent mail, bill tracking, bill memo preparation and attending committee and public hearings, among other tasks. The program also has an academic seminar component, and includes other weekly meetings (Issue Forums), as well as mandatory participation in a mock legislative session at the end of the semester.
Internship experience at an advanced level in government, political, or legal offices for students with substantial academic preparation. The intern must produce a major research paper related to the area of the internship, on a topic approved by the faculty sponsor and the on-site supervisor.