International Politics

Can laws and treaties stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Does the rise of China present a security threat to the world? Why can’t global leaders come to an agreement to effectively tackle climate change? This class seeks to address why global cooperation can be so difficult even if most of the world shares similar goals of peace and prosperity.  We will start by taking an historical approach, tracing major events in world history from the Peloponnesian War to the Cold War and examining how these events changed (or haven’t changed!) the way we think about how to overcome international conflict.  We will then examine the ways in which globalization and development have created new opportunities and new challenges for international cooperation on issues from security to economic growth and from human rights to the health of the natural environment. Course website.


Political Science Research Methods

This course focuses on how we go about collecting evidence in order to provide answers to important social, political, and legal questions. We will cover a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, from direct observation to surveys to statistical analysis. But more importantly, we will pay attention to how good research design allows us to draw helpful conclusions about the world we live in while flawed methodologies can yield misleading results. Upon successful completion of PS222, I expect you will be able to be able to critically evaluate information presented to you as “research” in your future careers in policy, advocacy, law, or simply as engaged global citizens. Course website.

Photo Credit: dimnikolov

Political Economy

Can government help reduce unemployment?  How much should citizens be expected to pay in taxes?  Is universal healthcare possible? … Desirable? … and at what cost?  And how did we get into this global financial mess in the first place? This course will be centered around these questions.  We will start with a broad overview of the history of economic interactions and the development of the capitalist, market economy.  We will cover basic principles of micro and macro economics and then investigate what these principles tell us about the impact of government policies from taxes and deficits to regulation and social provisioning.  We will also look at how politics and economics interact, and why the advice of economists sometimes (often?) falls on deaf ears. Finally, we will explore the international dimensions of political economy with specific emphasis on the global economic crisis and the challenge of global development. Course website.


Peace, War, and Security

This course offers a broad overview of security challenges facing policymakers, activists, and citizens in the 21st century.  We will begin with a “traditional” approach to security studies, examining questions surrounding the causes of war, the art of strategy, and the logic of deterrence. We will then move on to address the complex threats posed to security in the 21st century: from nuclear proliferation to environmental conflict, from terrorism to transnational organized crime, and from genocide to nonviolent resistance.  Finally, we will explore methods for addressing these security challenges including negotiation and conflict resolution processes, multilateral peacekeeping operations, and the use of force in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.  By the end of the course, students are expected to demonstrate not only a deep understanding of each of these concepts, but also an ability to place contemporary challenges in their broader historical contexts and to evaluate the costs and benefits of potential policy responses. Syllabus.

Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Resistance

From colonial America to colonial India, the Berlin Wall to Tahrir Square, nonviolent resistance movements have proven capable of toppling regimes and recasting the geopolitical landscape. But what exactly constitutes “nonviolent resistance?” Why do some groups employ it while others turn to arms? Why and when is it effective? What, if anything, can the international community do to help nonviolent movements succeed? This seminar is intended to provide a broad, interdisciplinary overview of the study of what has been interchangeably called civil resistance, nonviolent direct action, and strategic nonviolence. It will explore questions surrounding the ethics of nonviolent action, when and where civil resistance is used, the conditions under which it is more or less effective, and its consequences for local communities, state polities, and the international system. The course will draw from seminal philosophical texts, historical accounts, and cutting-edge social science research. Students will gain an understanding of both the normative and empirical debates surrounding the practice of civil resistance and a familiarity with key cases in which it has been used. Syllabus.