Reed College Catalog

Mariela Daby

Comparative politics, distributive politics, social movements, gender, and political participation in Latin America.

Paul Gronke

American politics, elections, public opinion, legislative politics.

Chris Koski

American government, public policy, subnational politics, environmental policy. On sabbatical 2022–23.

Paul Manson

American government, disaster policy, elections, civic engagement, environmental policy, quantitative and qualitative methods.

Tamara Metz

Political theory, history of political thought.

Alexander H. Montgomery

International relations; network analysis; science, technology, and society. On sabbatical 2022–23.

Fathimath Musthaq

Political economy, central banking, development, financialization, South Asia, Latin America.

Lexi Neame

Political theory, interpretive methods.

Dan Qi

American politics, comparative politics, political behavior, public opinion, gender/race/ethnicity politics.

Peter J. Steinberger

Political philosophy.

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—which include conceptual, historical, structural, institutional, and behavioral approaches—are considered 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. 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 two of the three empirical introductory courses: Introduction to Comparative Politics, Introduction to International Relations, and Introduction to American Politics & Public Policy. Majors are also required to take at least one political theory course.
  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. 
  3. 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 choose two subfields to specialize in by taking at least two courses in each of those subfields (Comparative Politics, International Relations, American Politics & Public Policy, Political Theory).

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 the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

Requirements for the Major

  1. At least two empirical introductory courses:
    1. Introduction to Comparative Politics (220),
    2. Introduction to International Relations (240),
    3. Introduction to American Politics and Public Policy (260).
  2. At least one political theory course (280–298 or 380–415).
  3. Four additional units in political science.
  4. Subfield depth. Of the requirements listed above, students must take at least two courses in each of two subfields:
    1. Comparative Politics (220, 320–339, 420–439),
    2. International Relations (240, 340–359, 440–459),
    3. American Politics & Public Policy (260, 360–379, 460–469), or
    4. Political Theory (280–298, 380–415).
  5. Statistics: one of Political Science 311, 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.
  6. Junior Seminar.
  7. Political Science 470.
  8. Junior qualifying examination. Students may take the junior qualifying examination during either semester of the junior year, but must have completed both empirical introductory courses and at least one upper-level course before doing so. 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 politics and international relations.

All courses in political science are offered as conferences or lecture/conferences. Some incorporate occasional lectures or a seminar format. Detailed information about advanced placement, transfer credit, study abroad, and other policies is available at

Orientation Courses

Political Science 220 - Introduction to Comparative Politics

One-unit semester course. This course surveys major topics and theoretical and empirical contributions in comparative politics. It addresses such issues as methodology, modernization and economic development, democracy and authoritarianism, political parties, participation, representation, social movements, accountability, institutions of government, ethnic violence, revolutions, and civil wars. Lecture-conference.

Political Science 240 - Introduction to International Relations

One-unit semester course. This course introduces the theoretical study of international relations, with a focus on structures, systems, and strategies. Students will learn to perform basic research and analysis through writing and thinking about events in international relations 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 and exams are a mixture of analysis and experiential learning. Lecture-conference.

Political Science 260 - Introduction to American Politics and Public Policy

One-unit semester course. This course provides an introduction to the processes of political decision making, political institutions, and the formation of public policy in the United States. The course introduces students to the basics of political decision making by a collective, including how individual actors (voters, politicians, policy makers) reason; how institutions constrain and shape action; and how policies are ultimately designed and implemented. There will be weekly lectures and individual conferences. Lecture-conference.

Political Science 280 - Introduction to Western Political Theory

One-unit semester course. This course offers an introduction to a Western tradition of political thought by way of major ancient (Plato and Aristotle) and early modern political thinkers (Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau) who are antecedents of contemporary political philosophy and social theory. It engages the latter through the work of Karl Marx, W.E.B. Du Bois, Simone de Beauvoir, and various living scholars, for critical leverage on the tradition. Lecture-conference. 


Political Science 300 - Junior Research Seminar

One-unit semester course. This course focuses on preparing students for political science research, particularly for thesis. Topics include shaping and framing a research question; constructing a literature review; concept formation and measurement; writing with style, clarity, and grace; and presenting results. All areas of inquiry in political science win be given ample coverage. Prerequisite: sophomore status in political science, environmental studies–political science, or international comparative policy studies­–political science, or consent of instructor. Conference.

Political Science 311 - Introduction to Quantitative Analysis in the Social Sciences

One-unit semester course. This course is designed to provide students with the skills necessary to conduct quantitative research in the social sciences. The course provides a hands-on approach to obtaining, managing, and using data. Students will learn how to formulate appropriate research questions, obtain relevant information, and input and analyze data using the R statistical program. Topics will include data acquisition, causal inference, measurement, graphical displays, and multivariate analysis. Students who have previously taken Economics 311, Sociology 311, or Mathematics 141 are discouraged from taking this course due to overlap in coverage. Lecture-laboratory.

Comparative Politics

Political Science 320 - Politics and Society in Latin America

One-unit semester course. This course combines normative theory, empirical research, and a historical perspective to examine key issues in Latin American politics critically. The topics covered in the class include 1) transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, 2) democratic consolidation and its challenges, 3) poverty and distribution, 4) inequality and the quality of democracy, 5) gender and political representation, 6) the resurgence of the left, and 7) the rise of competitive authoritarianism. The course focuses on the cases of Chile and Argentina. It also reviews politics and political events in several other countries in the region. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Political Science 321 - Latin American Politics

One-unit semester course. This course examines the dynamics of political, economic, and cultural change in contemporary Latin America. The course will focus largely in six countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. We will examine Latin American politics since the collapse of democracy and the establishment of military regimes in the 1960s and 1970s, through the return of democracy in the 1980s, the economic liberalization of the 1990s, and the contemporary turn to the left and rise of populism in the 2000s. The course will focus on the challenges that persistent inequality, poverty, corruption, clientelism, political violence, and the war on drugs pose to the quality and consolidation of these democracies. Whereas we will engage with some classical texts, most of the readings will be drawing on new research conducted in the region. Prerequisites: Students should have some familiarity with the history and geography of Latin America, as well as with comparative political science. Prerequisite: Political Science 220, 322, 324, or 327, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 322 - Social Movements

One-unit semester course. The goal of the course is to inquire about the causes and consequences of several historical and contemporary social and political movements. Studying social movements in the United States from the ’60s to the current Black Lives Matter movement, social movements in communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc and in Syria, and past and current social and political movements throughout Latin America, the course will assess the consequences these movements had in the political lives of the individuals and groups involved, as well as in the societies in which they took place. The course will conclude examining the political causes and consequences that give rise to different social movements across time and space. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Political Science 324 - Politics, Violence, and Human Rights in Latin America

One-unit semester course. This course combines normative theory, empirical research, and a historical perspective to critically examine human rights in Latin America. By reviewing civil, political, and economic rights in Argentina, Peru, and Chile, the course seeks to familiarize students with human rights in the region. To accomplish this goal, the course reviews human rights issues that have afflicted (and continue to affect) Latin American countries since the Cuban Revolution (1959). The topics covered in the class include the emergence, development, and disappearance of urban and rural guerrillas; transitions from authoritarianism to democracy; violations to human rights and their effects on the selected countries; the creation, work, and consequences of Truth Commissions; and drug cartels, violence, and human rights abuses in present day Mexico and Colombia. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Students are expected to have familiarity with Latin American history. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 326 - Capitalism and Its Critics

One-unit semester course. What is the relationship between politics and economics? The course addresses this question in four parts. Its first part examines major systems of thought in relation to the historical development of capitalism. We will read the canon from Adam Smith to J.M. Keynes. The second part considers more recent writings, with a focus on the many (policy) issues that frame contemporary economic discourse such as value and profit, unemployment and the business cycle, competition, and investment. In part three, we will consider gender, race, and ecological critiques of capitalism. We will conclude by delving deeper into some of the “hot” topics in political economy today: oil and climate change, globalization and trade, and the politics of welfare. Throughout the course we will take up the following questions: Are we in an economic crisis? If so, what caused it? Where does unemployment come from? What role should the government play in the economy? Does welfare help or hurt the poor? Can poverty and inequality be eradicated? What alternatives exist to capitalism? This is a survey course and accessible to all majors and does not require previous knowledge of economics or politics. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 327 - The Politics of Poverty in Developing Countries

One-unit semester course. This course examines everyday politics in poor democracies. Elections enable voters to select leaders and to hold them accountable for their performance in office. Yet, in new democracies where a large number of voters are poor, their political participation could be effectively exchanged (bought) for favors. This course studies the political effects of electoral corruption in democracy by examining the emergence and consolidation of political machines, organizations that provide social services and jobs in exchange for votes. The course will study electoral corruption, clientelism, and machine politics in the early history of the United States, present-day advanced European democracies, Latin America, India, and Africa. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 329 - Latin American Social Movements

One-unit semester course. Social movements have often played key roles in Latin American politics. In the 1980s, grassroots movements against dictatorships raised hopes that poor and marginalized groups might spur processes of democratization and development. In the new democratic regimes, however, significant social and economic inequalities persist, marking political and social space in acute ways. This course explores the struggle by poor and marginalized groups for space, both theoretically and literally, through an examination of rural landless movements, Indigenous and Black movements, urban squatter movements, LGBT movements, and women’s movements in the region. In addition to seminar meetings, this course invites students to apply concepts from social movement theory to the study of a contemporary movement of their choice. Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 331 - Money, Power, and the Politics of Finance

One-unit semester course. This course explores how the financial sector shapes politics, the economy, and our daily lives. We will begin with provocative accounts of the 1929 and 2008 financial crises to understand the complex, contradictory, and contentious nature of finance. Next, we will examine the history and ontology of finance—how did finance evolve from a dull banking industry into a dynamic financial system, most aptly represented by Wall Street? What are the building blocks of finance, its underlying logic? In the third section, we will explore how financial practices are inscribed in our daily lives and the world around us. Here we will move back and forth between the global North and the global South to investigate the sociopolitical structures that sustain financialization. In the final weeks, we will reflect on the political implications of a growing financial sector, specifically its effects on inequality and participatory democracy. We will use novels, TV shows, films, and scholarly writings to explore the power of finance. Prerequisites: Political Science 220, 240, 260, or 326. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 335 - Gender and Politics in Latin America

One-unit semester course. This course combines feminist theory and empirical research to examine gender and politics in Latin America. The course studies the workings of gender in the region over time. We discuss gender in laws and policies on marriage and divorce, regulations on reproduction and sexuality, child care, and political representation. We study how gender works within formal and informal institutions, the market, and international and domestic conflict to produce economic and status inequality. Finally, we consider the institution of normative heterosexuality and debates over gay marriage and LGBTQ rights. The course focuses on three main topics: (1) violence against women, (2) abortion decriminalization, and (3) political representation. Prerequisites: Humanities 110. Conference.

Political Science 336 - Natural Resource Politics

One-unit semester course. This course examines the political and economic consequences of natural resource wealth. We will use a mixture of theoretical overviews, historical analysis, and contemporary case studies to examine key questions such as: What is the resource curse and how can countries escape it? How do natural resources shape political institutions or regime type? What is the relationship between natural resources and conflict? How do natural resources shape the international political economy and interstate relations? How does natural resource management affect Indigenous rights and land use policies? We will first build a foundation for navigating these questions by scrutinizing the development paradigms that have prevailed in the global South since the Second World War. In addition to examining domestic consequences of natural resources, we will also devote considerable time to matters of international dependence and interdependence. Finally, we will address how ecological issues such as climate change intersect with economic and political ones and the complex issues of space exploration and Arctic drilling. The course will make extensive use of case studies in order to develop a contextualized understanding of how resource politics manifests on the ground. Prerequisites: Political Science 220, 240, 260, or 326. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

International Relations

Political Science 344 - International Environmental Politics

One-unit semester course. 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 the 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 346 - International Political Economy

One-unit semester course. This course introduces students to key conceptual and substantive issues in international political economy. By surveying its major approaches and actors, students will first develop a theoretical understanding of IPE. The course will then cover three main issue areas: international trade, international finance and monetary regimes, and migrant labor. Students will critically engage with issues such as regionalism, antidumping disputes, preferential trade agreements, ongoing trade wars, financial and currency crises, exchange rate regimes, the role of central banks, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and international labor laws. In the final section of the course, students will contemplate the future of the international economic order by interrogating corporate power, wealth and income inequality, and environmental crises. Prerequisite: Political Science 220, 240, or 260. Conference.

Political Science 347 - Politics of International Development

One-unit semester course. Why are some countries rich and others poor? Scholars have debated this question for decades, offering a plethora of answers, ranging from international trade agreements to domestic political arrangements. In this course, students will evaluate these debates by relying extensively on case studies. The course begins with the thorny question of what we mean by “development.” How does development differ from “human development”, and from the idea of “progress”? Answers to these questions will help set the stage for evaluating theories of development and the historical trajectories of national wealth accumulation. The majority of the course will be dedicated to interrogating how foreign aid, colonial legacies, international trade and finance, culture, geography, the state, private property rights, and regime type contribute to development. The final section of the course will consider the implications of development, focusing in particular on urbanization, wealth and income inequality and environmental destruction. Throughout the course, students will assess the validity of global versus domestic explanations, and consider the role of international institutions, global finance, non-governmental organizations, foreign governments and domestic actors in fostering or hindering development. Prerequisite: Political Science 220, 240, or 260. Conference.

Political Science 350 - Networks and Social Structure

See Sociology 380 for description.

Not offered 2022–23.

Sociology 380 Description

Political Science 359 - Weapons, Technology, and War

One-unit semester course. 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? To what degree have advances in technology altered the conduct and outcomes of war? Why have some weapons been deemed cruel and inhumane at times and merciful at others? We will explore the interrelationships among military technology, society, politics, and war, asking how different forces have shaped warfare, focusing on how and why different weapons have been used (or prohibited) over time. Prerequisite: Political Science 240. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 442 - Nuclear Politics

One-unit semester course. This course investigates the origins and effects of the spread of nuclear weapons and power at international and domestic levels. It begins with a discussion of the morality of nuclear technology, the motives different states have for obtaining it, and the problems with intelligence on states’ progress. It continues with asking what nuclear strategies have been and should be used, then moves to sociological critiques of conventional understandings of nuclear weapons as well as debates over the safety of such weapons. The latter half of the class concentrates on case studies of a variety of programs, including proliferation networks and terrorism. Prerequisites: junior standing and Political Science 240, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 444 - Global Catastrophic Risks

One-unit semester course. This course investigates the politics of global risks—challenges, some created by humans and others by nature—that have the potential to drastically alter human civilization, the planet, or life itself. Such “apocalyptic” risks include extreme climate change, ecological catastrophes, global pandemics, nuclear war, artificial intelligence, and asteroid impacts. The course will analyze these nascent Armageddons using a variety of theoretical perspectives including the precautionary principle, the social construction of risk, normal accidents theory, and concepts of high-reliability operations. Prerequisites: junior standing and Political Science 240, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

American Politics and Public Policy

Political Science 365 - City and Local Politics

One-unit semester course. Cities and local governments offer a rich setting to explore conflicting narratives, processes, and outcomes. How and why do cities grow? How should local services be provided, regulated, and distributed? Who has access to the riches or burdens of urban development and growth? Why are cities the site of social conflict and change? This course will explore cities and local government from perspectives of governance, bureaucracy, and planning. In particular, the course examines the emergence of the modern city and the intersection with race and class. The course surveys models of planning and governance to better understand how cities have taken the form we find them in the United States. The course will also survey planning in the Portland and Oregon context. Prerequisite: one 200-level political science course or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 368 - Environmental Politics and Policy

One-unit semester course. The purpose of this course is to meld the science of environmental problems with the policy and politics surrounding them. Over the semester, we will cover the sources of environmental problems, the foundations of environmental policy, how environmental policy changes over time, the role of science and uncertainty, environmental policy in practice, and alternative routes towards addressing these issues. Throughout, we will focus on the conflicts that arise between the science of these problems, how they are perceived by the public and elites, and the role institutions play in addressing them. Prerequisite: any introductory political science course or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 371 - Identity Politics

One-unit semester course. The course explores the importance of identity politics in understanding American politics. The course utilizes an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates theoretical frameworks and empirical analysis to understand identity, mainly focusing on racial and ethnic identities. The course will proceed into three sections: First, we will discuss identity politics in theoretical ways. This includes different processes of identity politics, such as socialization, stereotyping, and discrimination. Second, we will explore how identity processes matter in various areas of American politics, including intergroup conflict and cooperation, public opinion, and public behavior. Third, we will specifically focus on Asian Americans, nationalism, and anti-immigrant sentiment associated with identity politics. A primary goal of this course is to provide students a foundation in understanding identity politics, guide them through critical thinking of identity politics in the U.S. context, and provide them with tools to generate research papers. Prerequisite: Political Science 220, 240, 260, or Sociology 211. Conference. 

Political Science 374 - Science, Technology, and Politics

One-unit semester course. Why or when should science play a role in policy debates? Why are certain scientific findings accepted over others in these debates? How can society manage the introduction of new technology and address possible risks that may emerge? To explore these questions, the course will explore the relationship between science and politics, how the two at times compete and depend on each other. Second, the course will investigate models of knowledge production and science to understand how we can study science in politics. Finally, the course will engage the challenge of technology. The implementation of science and policy is often found in choices around technology, and this course will engage ideas around managing emerging, risky, or uncertain technologies. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 375 - Disaster Politics and Policy

One-unit semester course. Disasters are the intersection of vulnerability, policy choices, natural systems, and our society. These events are often naturalized or seen as coming from outside of society. Disasters are often products of policy and political choices. These events are also opportunities for new policies to move to the front of the line. This course will examine several areas where disasters and politics interact. First, the course will explore models of disaster and risk as they relate to society. Second, it will examine the current law and policy that structure U.S. responses to disasters. While this is a U.S.-focused course, we will also have some opportunities for comparisons with other countries. Finally, the course will explore the role of disasters (real and imagined) that shape politics and policy making. Prerequisite: sophomore standing. Conference.

Political Science 377 - Elections: American Style

One-unit semester course. 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 in 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 the electoral process, covering presidential, congressional, state, and local elections. It includes the electoral law, rules and institutions, and election forecasting. Second, we will explore political campaigns, including the roles of advertising, polling, fundraising, news media, and political parties. Finally, we will examine individual and collective vote choice—why individuals choose to vote, how they integrate information from the political environment, and how they cast their ballots. 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 260 and one course in statistics (Economics 311 or 312, Linguistics 337, Mathematics 141, Political Science 311, Psychology 348, Sociology 311, or comparable course). Conference. 

Political Science 469 - Food Politics and Policy

One-unit semester course. This course examines the intersection of the political, social, economic, and ecological systems surrounding the production and consumption of what we generally call “food.” The dimensions of the semester-length study of food and food policy ask questions related to the modes of agricultural production—including policies that promote production for the sake of production, the rise and subsequent bureaucratization of the organic movement, and impacts of animal welfare and husbandry tactics. However, interlinked with these modes of production are socioenvironmental implications of consumption in the form of nutrition standards, food deserts, food justice, and the impacts of so-called locavores. The course will explore structures designed to govern food systems across a variety of federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Students will get an overview of food system components, key policies and policy instruments used to govern the food system, influential institutions and policy actors, and emerging food system trends. Prerequisites: sophomore standing, Political Science 260 (previously numbered Political Science 210 and 250), and one upper-division political science or environmental studies–history course. Conference. Previously numbered Political Science 420.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Theory

Political Science 382 - Body Politics

One-unit semester course. This course examines the politics of embodiment in relation to gender, race, class, sexuality, and ability. We consider how bodies are marked as deviant, abnormal, and/or pathological, and explore where processes of sexed, raced, gendered, and able-bodied normalization intersect and diverge. We engage conceptual and normative debates about controversial bodily practices (autonomy and alienation in prostitution and pornography; biocapital in surrogacy and organ donation; the self and genetic ancestry testing; the ethics of hunger striking and the weaponization of the body) from a range of perspectives: liberal humanist, radical and Marxist feminist, phenomenological and performative, intersectional and new materialist. Topics range from the marriage contract, domestic labor, and reproductive justice to turn-of-the-century sexology and the modern freak show, the science of homosexuality, the pleasures of trans and queer embodiment, and the biopolitics of AIDS. Conference.

Political Science 384 - Democracy and Data

One-unit semester course. This course explores the entanglement of democracy with data. We begin by historicizing “big data,” exploring the relation between statistics and statecraft, including the census and opinion polling. We then turn to three contemporary challenges associated with (really) big data: First, surveillance by corporations and states for governance, marketing, and control. Second, algorithmic prediction and decision-making, particularly as they relate to the construction of identity and the maintenance of inequality. Finally, information disorder in the digital public sphere and its implications for democratic self-government. Throughout, we will consider how big data and computational technologies might lead us to rethink central concepts in political theory, including consent and freedom; property and (self-)ownership; identity and difference; security, privacy, and the commons. Literature will be drawn from a range of disciplines, including science and technology studies, critical information and media studies, and the history of political thought. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 385 - Hannah Arendt and Origins of Totalitarianism

See History 375 for description.

History 375 Description

Political Science 390 - The Human Condition

One-unit semester course. This course undertakes a systematic study of Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958), both in its own terms and as a portal into the history of the modern West. We will examine the book’s architecture, along with its conceptual apparatus: earth and world alienation; the vita activa and vita contemplativa; the conditions of natality, mortality, and plurality; the activities of labor, work, and action; the realms of public, private, and the social. We will explore the contexts Arendt invokes—including the ancient world and early modern science—as well as those she doesn’t. That is, we will read in light of Arendt’s own experience: as a German emigre in Cold War America, writing in the shadow of the Nazi death camps and the atom bomb; witnessing the expansion of the welfare state, the acceleration of automation, and the launch of Sputnik. Finally, we will locate the work intertextually, critically assessing Arendt’s readings of Marx, Heidegger, and others. Prerequisite for history credit: Humanities 110. Conference. Cross-listed as History 343.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 391 - Islamic Thought in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

See Religion 321 for description.

Not offered 2022–23.

Religion 321 Description

Political Science 393 - Liberalism and Its Critics

One-unit semester course. 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 introductory political science course and Humanities 110 or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 394 - Sex, Gender, and Political Theory

One-unit semester course. 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 this tradition. 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, Judith Butler, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Nancy Fraser. Prerequisite: Political Science 280, or one of Political Science 380 through 415, or consent of the instructor. Conference.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 397 - Foucault: Power, Subjectivity, Truth

One-unit semester course. This course is an introduction to the work of one of the twentieth-century’s most influential thinkers, Michel Foucault (1926–84). We begin with his “genealogical” studies, Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality vol. I, focusing on the relationship between power, knowledge, and subjectivity in modernity. We will also address questions of method, including the influence of Nietzsche. Turning to Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France in the latter half of the 1970s, we will consider how biopower, apparatuses of security, and neoliberal governmentality intersect in the contemporary politics of mass incarceration, digital surveillance, and pandemic response. Finally, we will assess Foucault’s “ethical turn” (the care of the self, an aesthetics of existence, and parrhesia or fearless speech) in terms of its possibilities and limitations for political thought and action. Throughout, we will attend to a variety of challenges posed by Foucault’s critics, including historians (on how we think, write, and deploy history); critical theorists (on the legacy of the Enlightenment); and feminists (on oppression, agency, and liberation). Prerequisite: Humanities 110. Conference.

Political Science 403 - Hegel and Marx

One-unit semester course. 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.

Not offered 2022–23.

Political Science 405 - Judgment

One-unit semester course. How are particulars subsumed under, or otherwise connected with, universals? The 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 409 - “Being and Time” and Politics

One-unit semester course. An exploration of the political implications of Heidegger’s ontology, understood primarily as a phenomenology of mind. We will begin by considering some of the contexts of Heideggerian thought through an examination of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, and we will end by tracing certain aspects of its moral and political influence both in the writings of Levinas and Arendt and in the more recent critical literature on the question of Heidegger and National Socialism. Our principal task, however, will be to pursue a close and systematic study of Being and Time, focusing on central elements of its conceptual apparatus, including, for example, notions of entity and world, care and concern, anxiety and resoluteness, temporality and death, history and the state. Prerequisites: Humanities 110 or equivalent. Conference.

Other Courses

Political Science 470 - Thesis

Two-unit yearlong course; one unit per semester.

Political Science 481 - Independent Reading

Variable (one-half or one)-unit semester course. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing and approval of instructor and division.