Michael A. Mosher
Jeffrey D. Hockett
Michael A. Mosher
There are myriad ways in which political ideas, political institutions, and political processes touch and mold our lives, but typically this dimension of society is little noticed and nearly invisible when things are going well or appear normal. However, when the world is in turmoil, in recession or depression, caught up in war or in need of new leaders, laws, and practices, politics makes itself felt. At this moment politics appears everywhere and intrudes upon everything. It emerges as the now-visible set of causes that structures and establishes the tone for our collective existence together.
We study political science not so much because it is a science. It is a science but in addition to that, it is a source for hints, suggestions, and direction that might begin to explain what politics has to do with the turmoil we feel around us. We look for insight into the ideas that have set the ideological agenda and for insight into the challenger ideas hidden in the long history of our societies. We are on the track of insight into the contingent facts of institutions and their development that could have turned out differently than they did, and which may someday change again, for good or for ill. We seek insight into the intersecting causes that frame conflict and cooperation, whether on the global or the local scale.
Turmoil exposes the background machinery that creates, sustains, or destroys arrangements of power and relationships of authority. It raises questions about what is possible in a given space of power. It shows us why political ideals depend for their realization on the times in which we live and how time both renews and erodes ideals and the practices in which they are embodied.
Even in normal times, political insight is useful. Scientific research itself is heavily indebted to the political structures that fund it and to the public opinion that supports funding. We need insight into how this works. A democratic society is a wonderful engine of dynamic innovation, but this very fact creates social and economic instabilities. For some, precious customs are constantly under challenge and politics provides insight into their conservation. For others, change is desired and analyses of power and authority will enable them to establish strategies for transformation. The liberties which the ideals of our society uphold require citizens who have studied their meaning and place, or else they will have no traction upon on our actual lives.
As no career is untouched by politics, political science also makes a good second major and a good minor. For majors, political science is one of the grand entrances into law, government service, and teaching. It is also critical for anyone who expects to join a not-for-profit agency or a for-profit corporation that is impacted by domestic political processes or by international events.
- Students who complete the undergraduate program in political science will be able to evaluate political ideas, institutions and processes within states and in a global context.
- Students will have an in depth knowledge of at least one of the following subfields: American politics, international studies, and political and legal theory.
- Students will be able to demonstrate critical thinking skills and the ability to defend a thesis in written and oral format.
Students from the American politics subfield will be able to:
- Demonstrate substantial knowledge of current political and governmental structures and processes in the United States;
- Explain the development of American political institutions, as well as the social, cultural, and historical contexts in which they were formed; and
- Comprehend the history and meaning of American political ideas, being especially attentive to the ideological conflicts that have characterized our political history.
Students from the international studies subfield will be able to:
- Demonstrate a familiarity with the main theoretical perspectives that facilitate an understanding of politics within and among states;
- Recognize the patterns of interaction among actors of the global community and have an informed awareness of the structural, social, economic, and political factors that shape those interactions; and
- Understand in a comparative context the political structures, institutions, governing processes, and cultures of a diverse selection of developed and developing countries.
Students from the political and legal theory subfield will be able to:
- Demonstrate familiarity and engagement with the great thinkers and political ideas that have shaped the development of political life in the West for over 2500 years;
- Be aware of contemporary debates about recurrently contested political ideas, such as equality, liberty, virtue, tolerance, and justice; and
- Understand the major schools of constitutional/legal thought and interpretation.
The department encourages students to study abroad.
Internship credit can be arranged for work in the region or in Washington, D.C.