Reed College Catalog

The program in political science is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to the discipline, viewed as a set of specific strategies for understanding political life. These strategies—conceptual, historical, structural, institutional, and behavioral—are approached in the light of their theoretical presuppositions and in terms of their respective research approaches. The emphasis is less on learning the facts of politics than on being able to recognize, evaluate, and use intelligently the intellectual tools of the discipline.

Specifically, the curriculum is designed to provide:

  1. A basic understanding of the modes of inquiry in political science: normative, empirical, and comparative analysis. The department’s distribution requirements and the structure of the introductory course sequence reflect a strong and continuing commitment to this goal. All majors are required to take three of the four basic introductory courses: Introduction to Political Behavior, Comparative Politics, Political Philosophy, and International Politics.
  2. Research opportunities. Students are encouraged to explore quantitative and qualitative techniques of data collection and analysis. These efforts may be facilitated by the college’s excellent computer resources and by our access to the vast data archives of the Inter-University Consortium for Social and Political Research. The department’s public policy workshop (PPW) has meeting facilities and workstations and is available to students and faculty members for research.
  3. Opportunities for applied research.
  4. Specialized knowledge in one or more particular facets of politics. This is provided by the department’s upper-level course offerings and by the senior thesis experience.

Students have found that Reed’s political science program prepares them for careers in academia, government, law, nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, and other fields. Further information is available in Reed’s career services office.

Requirements for the Major

  1. Three of the five introductory courses, two of which must be completed before taking the junior qualifying examination. The third may be in progress at that time. a. Introduction to Political Behavior (210). b. Introduction to Comparative Politics (220). c. Introduction to Political Philosophy (230).d. Introduction to International Politics (240). e. Introduction to Public Policy (250).
  2. Economics 201.
  3. Statistics: one of Mathematics 141, Economics 311 or 312, Sociology 311, or Psychology 348. Students are strongly encouraged to complete this requirement in their sophomore year or first semester of their junior year.
  4. Political Science 470.
  5. Four additional units in political science.
  6. Junior qualifying examination. Students will write a junior literature review and research design in a regular course in place of a portion of the other assignments for that course. Course choice is left to the student, but this must be completed during the junior year in a 300- or 400-level course. Specific requirements are stated on the department junior qualifying examination page,

Competence in a foreign language is strongly recommended for all majors, especially for those with interests in comparative and international politics.

All courses in political science are offered as conferences. Some incorporate occasional lectures or a seminar format. Political Science 470 (thesis) may include one or more fall semester conferences made up of all political science thesis students and faculty members, depending upon enrollments. Detailed information about advanced placement, transfer credit, study abroad, and other policies is contained at

Political Science 210 - Introduction to Political Behavior

Full course for one semester. A gateway course for the study of political science, this course covers the basics of political behavior, with a focus on rational choice and institutional and quantitative approaches to political action. The substantive area of interest is political participation. Assignments include essays, analytical exercises, and examinations. Lecture-conference.

Political Science 220 - Introduction to Comparative Politics

Full course for one semester. This course emphasizes exemplary comparative analyses rather than a comprehensive mapping of the world. Using the comparative method, we will explore various types of political and social institutions (states, bureaucracies, legislatures, federalism, parties), various approaches to their development, and elements involved in their operation and change. Conference.

Political Science 230 - Introduction to Political Philosophy

Full course for one semester. This course takes up major ancient and modern political thinkers, paying particular attention to changing notions of freedom, obligation, justice, authority, rights, and legitimacy. Conference.

Political Science 240 - Introduction to International Politics

Full course for one semester. This course introduces the theoretical study of international relations. Students will learn to perform basic research and analysis through writing and thinking about events in world politics from different perspectives, including realism, liberalism, and feminism. Readings are drawn from historic and contemporary scholars of international relations, cover a wide variety of issues, and are grouped together in conflicting pairs where possible. Assignments are a mixture of analysis, research, and experiential learning. Conference.

Political Science 250 - Introduction to Public Policy

Full course for one semester. Public policy can be conceived of as what governments decide to do or not to do, the structure of government involvement, and the resources they allocate for these decisions. This course can, thus, be seen as an introduction to the process by which public policies are considered, designed, and implemented. We focus specifically on process elements endemic to American public policy; however, the general framework for the policy process is one that occurs across democratic governments. Lecture-conference.

Political Science 320 - Power

Full course for one semester. This course explores the concept of power, examining basic tools in any social scientific enterprise. The basic questions include: Is power a relationship, an attribute of an actor, or something else? Is it proper to say an actor has power if it is latent? Must power be exercised intentionally to be power? Is power necessarily conflictual or consensual? Should power be conceived as narrowly coercive, or more broadly as positive or productive? How these questions are answered has specific implications for how one conducts social inquiry. The emphasis will be on the practical application—how to study events differently depending on one’s view of power, and how to know whether the claims made in each analysis are true or false? Prerequisite: Political Science 210, 220, 240, or any 300-level political science course under 386. Conference.

Political Science 328 - Comparative Political Economy

Full course for one semester. This course will provide the intellectual tools to understand economic policy, social welfare systems, business regulation, and economic competitiveness in the developed world. Using a range of theoretical approaches, we will study the creation and evolution of market institutions from the nineteenth century to the present. The course will focus on the industrialized world, but much of the material will help students understand the political economy of developing countries and postsocialist transition. In order to survey alternate ways of defining and interpreting capitalism, the first section of the course will introduce students to ways of thinking about states and markets beginning with European thinkers of the nineteenth century. The second section of the course will examine the varieties of political economy that developed in response to the Great Depression and the Second World War. Finally, we will examine the global wave of economic liberalization that began in the 1980s, and its consequences in the contemporary world. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 330 - The U.S. Congress

Full course for one semester. This course will examine the development and current state of America’s preeminent political institution: the U.S. Congress. We explore the “environment” of Congress in two main ways: external (mainly electoral) and internal (institutional rules, procedures and inertia). Since Congress makes its own rules, we will talk about the institution of Congress as a product of the goals and motivations of the members. These two views of Congress—a 200-year-old institution and a noisy aggregate of members—are a centerpiece of this course. The second theme of the course is politics vs. policy. Nothing can be “good” policy that has no chance of passing. The tension between politics and policy is one of the enduring features (and frustrations!) of Congress. Assignments in the class include a series of short papers and longer research papers. Course readings and some assignments may include quantitative and analytical materials. An understanding of strategic behavior, rational choice, or parliamentary rules is helpful, but not necessary. We may, if the class chooses, engage in a group project analyzing a current or recently passed piece of legislation. Prerequisite: one 200-level political science course. Conference.

Political Science 331 - State and Local Politics

Full course for one semester. Understanding state and local politics in this course involves an inquiry proceeding in three general stages. First, the course engages in a broad survey of the varied institutional arrangements that serve to administer subnational governments in the United States. Second, the course examines the varied political environment in which state governments operate, including an examination of state-level political culture and opinion. Finally, the course will use institutional arrangements and political environment to investigate variation in policy choices at the state and local level—particularly environmental policy.  Prerequisite: Political Science 210 or Political Science 250 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 333 - Elections: American Style

Full course for one semester. Elections are fundamental to democratic government, but there seem to be as many variations in electoral institutions, party systems, and campaign styles as there are democratic societies. In this course, we review the expansive literature covering elections, electoral rules, and electoral behavior in the United States. The course focuses on three main areas. First, we review electoral institutions, including laws, regulations, and the current state of electoral reforms. Second, we will survey the campaign literature, likely focusing on the presidency. Finally, we will examine individual vote choice—why individuals choose to vote, how they integrate information from the political environment, and how they cast their ballot. Students should be comfortable with analytical and quantitative material, since it makes up such a large portion of the literature in this area. Prerequisites: Political Science 210 and one upper-division course in the social sciences. Conference.

Political Science 338 - Environmental Politics and Policy

Full course for one semester. Despite being considered a pioneer of environmental protection and thought, the United States has a decidedly mixed history in protecting its environment. The US was quick to address issues related to “low-hanging fruit” in terms of air and water pollution; however, the US has lagged behind in addressing larger, more global problems such as climate change. This course investigates the current state of environmental policy in the US. We will first examine the origins of the environmental movement and the current landscape of environmental policy today in American government. We will then look at environmental policy and regulatory design by noting particular challenges inherent to modifying environmental behaviors on the parts of individuals and firms. The course will discuss broad policy areas – air, water, and land-use – but particularly focus on policy areas related to agricultural impacts on the environment, urban sprawl, and global warming. Prerequisite: Political Science 210 or 250 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 339 - Property Rights in Politics, Markets and the Law

Full course for one semester. This course examines one of the fundamental economic and political institutions of human society—property rights—from a variety of perspectives. The class will cover the transition between different property rights regimes, especially the transition from non-individual based property regimes to an individual-based private property rights regime (“privatization” in the broadest sense). The course covers the current developing and post-Communist countries. Students will read differing perspectives on the classical normative justification for (private) property as well as learn some basic analytical tools of property rights. Using those tools and perspectives, we examine three recent property rights revolutions: changes in land property (land reforms, land titling and decollectivization), privatization in the industrial sectors, and debates over property rights in cyberspace. Prerequisite: one course in political science, economics, or sociology; one 200-level course in political science recommended. Conference.

Political Science 341 - Markets as Social Institutions

Full course for one semester. This course will examine the market as a social institution using the intellectual frameworks of economics, political science, and sociology. The task of interpreting modern politics, the material basis of modern society, or even our own lives is impossible without understanding what markets are and how they affect human behavior and social organization. This course will begin by critically examining modern microeconomic theory and the intellectual history that produced it. We will then consider the ways in which markets distribute power and structure political conflict in modern democracies. Finally, we will use research from sociology and anthropology to examine how markets shape society at a more fundamental level, examining consumerism, social inequality, and education to understand how our identity, our status, and our values are mediated through markets. Prerequisite: Economics 201 strongly recommended. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 346 - Political Economy of Development

Full course for one semester. This course examines the causes of long-term economic and political change. It focuses on the great transformation from agrarian, rural society to industrial, urban society. Students will explore this process historically, looking at the origins of the modern industrial state. The class compares the process in current developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Comparative analysis emphasizes the interplay between political institutions and economic development and between domestic and international factors in shaping the paths to economic transformation. Prerequisites: one course in political science, economics, or sociology; Political Science 210, 220, or 240 recommended. Conference.

Political Science 348 - States and Markets

Full course for one semester. This political economy survey addresses the relationship between the state and the market—do states rule or serve markets? Following a "great books" approach, this includes a survey of important works on the topic from economics, political science, sociology, and history. The conceptual framework explored in this course includes transaction costs, property rights, corporate governance systems, power relationships, social networks, and cultural norms. Current phenomena such as the proliferation of private regulation, globalization, and the creation of new markets as regulatory instruments are also addressed. Prerequisite: one 200-level course in political science, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 358 - Strategy, War, and Politics

Full course for one semester. This course examines contemporary problems of war and peace from a historical and theoretical perspective. What were the causes of war in the past and what can we learn from that experience? What strategies do actors in the international system use to employ force, and how have they changed in the nuclear age? What are the current problems facing decision makers today? The course begins with a review of political, economic, organizational, cultural, and psychological theories of the causes of war, using these theories to examine the origins and character of both historical and contemporary conflicts, including the First and Second World Wars and the Iraq War. It continues by examining the effects on conflict of the nuclear revolution. The course concludes by examining the major contemporary threats to national and international security that may be faced in the coming decade. Prerequisite: Political Science 240. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 359 - Weapons, Technology, and War

Full course for one semester. This course examines the historical evolution of the conduct of war from a theoretical and normative perspective. What elements of war have changed over time, and what core precepts remain the same? What advances the technology of war, and how do these advances alter the conduct and outcomes of war? Why have some weapons been deemed cruel and inhumane at times and merciful at others? Who fights, and who suffers? We will explore the interrelationships among military technology, society, politics, and war, asking how different forces have shaped warfare from antiquity to the present. Prerequisite: one 200-level course in political science, one course from History 300–308, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 360 - Approaches to Violence

Full course for one semester. This course examines torture as an example of state violence, exploring different ways in which state violence has been explained in the twentieth century. The course will focus on specific country studies, exemplary practice, and metaphors and representations that underlie certain analyses of torture. Different explanatory paradigms will be considered both as social theory—how to explain the phenomenon—as well as political philosophy—what ought to be done? How ought torture to be controlled? Other questions to be considered include: Why does torture persist in the twentieth century? What is cultural about torture? What are the consequences of torture for the state, for the public, and for torture victims? Prerequisite: completion of two upper-division courses in one of political science, anthropology, or sociology, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 361 - From Communism to Capitalism: The Post-Communist Transition

Full course for one semester. This course examines the transition from planned economies and Communist regimes to market economies and capitalist democracy in former Communist countries. It first provides a historical review of Communist/socialist political and economic institutions, and discusses the major schools of thought on how the transition to capitalism should be implemented.  It then examines the three key projects for such a transition: state-building, market-building and nation-building. The course emphasizes the interaction and tension between economic and political constraints during such transition. The course focuses on several countries with differing transition experiences, with broader comparisons to all former socialist countries. Prerequisite: a 200-level political science course or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 372 - International Environmental Politics

Full course for one semester. This course examines contemporary international environmental problems from theoretical and policy perspectives. What are the causes of environmental problems? What strategies do international actors use to attempt to address these problems, and which are most successful? What are the most pressing problems facing policymakers today? How do environmental issues create other problems in areas such as security and economics? In an attempt to shed light on these questions, this course analyzes structures, agents, and processes affecting international environmental politics in the first part. The second part focuses on examining contemporary issue areas including the use of natural resources, overpopulation, pollution, energy use, global climate change, environmental security, and potential future problems. Prerequisite: Political Science 240. Conference.

Political Science 381 - Constitutional Law and Judicial Politics

Full course for one semester. This course will focus on the nature of judicial, legislative, and executive institutional power in the American political system, with special reference to the developments since 9/11 and its influence. This includes the rise of executive power both domestic and international during the Bush administration (Article II), the limits and potential of congressional power in meeting the economic crisis (Article I), and the changing nature of the Supreme Court as the constitutional “umpire” of federal policy and action in terms of the liberal/conservative dimension (Article III). Prerequisite: Political Science 210 or 230, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 387 - American Constitutional Democracy

Full course for one semester. This course examines the principles and practices of constitutional democracy in America. The aim is to set up a series of debates and written exercises that lead students into a critical engagement with some of the basic problems of free self-government generally, and democracy in America specifically. We begin with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: they announce the general standards by which, even now, we measure ourselves and other polities. These ideals, as expressed in historical debates, political theory, and constitutional interpretation, provide the underlying framework linking together the seemingly diverse topics covered in this course. While the Constitution and its interpretation serve as one of the focal points for our engagement with and assessment of these ideals and their implementation, this is a course in political theory, not constitutional law. Prerequisite: Political Science 210, 381, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 391 - Augustine and Hobbes

Full course for one semester. This course examines themes that unite The City of God, Augustine’s central work, and Hobbes’s Leviathan. Topics to be covered include the account of human motivation and the explanation of conflict, the foundations of secular authority and its relationship to religious authority, the nature of heresy, and the place of human achievement in time and the nature of salvation. Both books will be read in their entirety. Prerequisite: Political Science 230 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 393 - Liberalism and Its Critics

Full course for one semester. In this course we explore contemporary political theory through critical engagement with works of prominent twentieth-century liberal thinkers and their critics. We address questions including: What makes a thinker liberal or not? What grounds different varieties of liberalism (religion, reason, power, pragmatics)? What is, or ought to be, the connection between liberal political philosophy, liberal justifications, and liberal institutions? We consider the topics of freedom, progress, knowledge, power, equality, law and institutions, the relationships between individual and community, democracy and liberalism, public and private, toleration and unity, difference and gender. We will focus on the positions in this literature regarding what political theory is and why and how we ought to do it. The focus will provide a critical lever for the evaluation of materials and will result in the writing of a major research project in political theory. Prerequisite: one 200-level political science course and Humanities 110 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 394 - Sex, Gender, and Political Theory

Full course for one semester. This course provides an intensive study of Western political thought through the lenses of sex and gender. At least since Plato proposed abolishing the family in the name of justice, questions about sex, gender, power, and politics have been central to Western political thought. Does biological difference matter in political life? Why or why not? Should it? Can it not? What is "sex"? What is "gender"? Is either, or are both, socially constructed or naturally existing? Can we change the way sex and/or gender figure into political life? Should we? Why or why not? What is "political"? What is "power"? We shall engage these questions with thinkers from Plato to Simone de Beauvoir, Harvey Mansfield, and Judith Butler. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 397 - Muslim as Enemy

Full course for one semester. Knowing your friends from your enemies is one of the oldest questions of politics. But by which criterion should one distinguish among one’s fellow citizens, coworkers, or travelers? This course explores three criteria Europeans and Americans commonly use, what might be called the liberal, conservative, and neoconservative ways of identifying one’s enemies and friends. The goal will be to assess whether these are sound theorizing, prudent politics, and good security policy, and if not, what are the alternatives? The course will explore these and the alternatives using debates on the contemporary “Muslim question” in Europe and America. Readings will include John Locke, Carl Schmitt, Niccolo Machiavelli, Bernard Lewis, and Aristotle. Prerequisite: Political Science 210, 220, 240, or any 300-level Political Science course under 386. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 398 - What is Political Freedom?

Full course for one semester. What is political freedom? This course investigates the central question of the modern canon of Western political thought. Our materials include that canon and its commentators, contemporary scholarship, and the real world of politics. The course is organized thematically, but with an eye to the history of ideas. Our inquiry draws on a range of methodological traditions or approaches housed in the contemporary discipline of political theory. The course is designed to help students to develop a comfortable but critical understanding of these approaches. Prerequisite: Political Science 230 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 403 - Hegel and Marx

Full course for one semester. This course examines the principal political writings of Hegel and Marx. Much emphasis will be placed on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and its conceptual and historical foundations. Readings from Marx will include Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Paris Manuscripts, Theses on Feuerbach, German Ideology, Capital, and Critique of the Gotha Program. Contemporary ideas on the question of Hegel and Marx will be traced in various writings, including those of Habermas and Althusser. Conference.

Political Science 405 - Judgment

Full course for one semester. How are particulars subsumed under, or otherwise connected with, universals? This problem of judgment is treated with respect to a range of related concepts: taste, rhetoric, phronesis, interpretation, common sense, and the like. The initial texts are Kant’s Critique of Judgment and Gadamer’s Truth and Method. Particular issues emerging from these texts are treated variously in the writings of Arendt on politics, Dworkin and Fish on textual interpretation, Habermas on communication, and Oakeshott on conversation. All of these issues bear on the broad question of rationality, objectivity, and human understanding. Conference.

Political Science 410 - Biopolitics

Full course for one semester. This course examines the concept of biopolitics. The term has currency in many areas including public policy, ethics, military strategy, critiques of globalization, feminist and environmental analysis, and Continental social theory. This course approaches biopolitics through the lens of Foucault’s concept of biopower. Foucault uses the word “biopolitics” very rarely, but his analysis fundamentally reorients much thought in this area. The main texts are Foucault’s three seminal lecture courses: “Society Must Be Defended,” ,” “Security, Territory, Population,” and “The Birth of Biopolitics.” The course considers this work in light of older thinkers (Carl Schmitt, Thomas Hobbes, Niccolo Machiavelli) as well as contemporary thinkers (e.g., Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri). Prerequisites: Political Science 320, 358, 359, 360, 411 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 411 - Max Weber

Full course for one semester. This course examines the contribution of Max Weber to issues in the social sciences, philosophy of social science, and political theory. The course focuses on Weber's account of the field of social scientific inquiry and the methods appropriate to it, as well as the concepts he used to understand empirical political phenomena (e.g., rationalization, authority). Emphasis will be on his political sociology, and Economy and Society will be read in its entirety. As with all great thinkers, the question is, what is alive and what is antiquated in Weber’s thought for us today? Prerequisite: completion of two upper-division courses in one of political science, anthropology, sociology, economics, or history, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2011–12.

Political Science 412 - The Subject of the Last Foucault

Full course for one semester. This course examines the work of Michel Foucault after his last published works on sexuality. The main text is Foucault’s The Hermeneutics of the Subject. This 1982 lecture course is the richest, most textually detailed work by Foucault, and his final innovations are clearer and more marked. HS offers a new theoretical access point to the history of ancient, and particularly Hellenistic philosophy, especially in relation to Christian hermeneutics. At the same time, Foucault uses HS to reframe his earlier work. In HS, the subject is an active agent in games of truth, not as it is in his earlier work, in relation to knowledge or power into which people become subjects of a certain kind.  In addition to students meeting the prerequisites, the course welcomes those who have a serious background in Hellenistic thought or Continental philosophy (Hegel Heidegger Foucault), or familiarity with standard theories of power. Prerequisites: Political Science 320, 391, 398, 403, 410 or 411, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Political Science 415 - Special Topics in Political Science

Junior Seminar

One-half course for one semester. This course focuses on preparing students for political science research, particularly the junior qualifying examination and subsequent thesis. Topics include research design, research methodology, shaping and framing a research question, locating data, and presenting results. All areas of inquiry in political science will be given ample coverage. While focused on students who are writing their junior qualifying examination in political science, the course may be helpful to students in the first semester of their thesis research. Prerequisite: junior or senior status in political science or consent of instructor. Conference.

Political Science 422 - Nuclear Politics

Full course for one semester. This course examines contemporary international nuclear politics, covering a number of historical and recent suspected nuclear weapons programs. The course begins with an overview of nuclear technology, the history and morality of nuclear use, motives for proliferation, nuclear doctrines, and nuclear safety issues. It then explores a number of cases of states that did or did not pursue or acquire nuclear weapons. Additionally, we will explore the role of faulty intelligence, clandestine proliferation networks, and nuclear assistance from third parties on proliferators' programs and U.S. policy. Prerequisite: Political Science 240, Political Science 358, or consent of instructor. Conference.

Political Science 470 - Thesis

Full course for one year.

Political Science 481 - Independent Reading

One-half or full course for one semester. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing and approval of instructor and division.