What is Political Science?

Political science concerns the theory and practice in politics and government at all levels. We strive to understand the institutions, patterns, relationships, and ways in which they are part of public life and modes of inquiry that foster citizenship.

Political Theory

The political theory focuses primarily on the foundations of institutions and political communities. It is concerned with human nature and the moral purposes of political associations. These concepts are clarified by political theorists who draw from various moral philosophers’ writings and enduring political writings, including those from ancient Greece. The empirical study of how political institutions work in practice is also part of political theory. Political theorists examine beliefs about politics found in political writings and reexamine them in light of human behavior. The political theory aims to deepen political thought and spur citizens to take responsible and creative action in politics.

POL S201, Introduction to Political Theory, provides students with a broad overview of politics’ significant lines of thought. Advanced courses focus on specific concepts, topics, or thoughts in political theory.

Comparative Politics

Comparative politics encompasses many approaches and goals. Researchers and scholars compare current political systems to determine which ones best reflect specific values, such as order, equality, freedom, or economic security and well-being for their citizens. Some argue that comparative politics’ primary purpose is to understand how and why different countries have different political institutions. Others use comparative politics to discover general laws and theories that can explain human political behavior and its variability.

There are two types of comparative politics courses. The first type allows for comparisons between specific institutions or problems in different countries. The second type provides an in-depth analysis of the fundamental political institutions and processes in a country or group of countries within a global region.

Students will be most interested in starting their comparative politics studies by taking the Introduction to Comparative Politics. This course combines the main approaches and includes relative discussions on particular problems, issues, and institutions in various political settings. It also provides in-depth readings and lectures about some of the most critical countries in the modern world.

International Relations

International relations studies the interplay between states and international actors like the United Nations or multinational corporations. The field of international relations is diverse in the types of behavior and how they are studied. Global conflict, especially war, remains a crucial focus of the field. Why do wars start? Who wins, and why? What can be done to stop wars? What role does international law play? Scholars have recognized the importance of global economic activity as the world becomes more interdependent. Scholars are now studying international trade, finance, communication, development, and foreign investment. Another critical area of research is how states make foreign policy decisions. Examples of foreign policy decisions include national security policy, nuclear deterrence, and arms control.

POL S 203 is an introduction to International Relations. This course is the basis for many offerings at the 300- and 400-levels, including American foreign policy, global environmental politics, and international conflict.

American Politics and Government

American politics and government students want to understand the politics of the United States. The department offers courses on the American presidency, Congress, and the courts. It also offers specialized courses such as the political role and politics of race, ethnicity, constitutional law, policy formation, American politics, and American political thinking.

Students in this field will be interested in the following questions: How and why have American political institutions, ideas, and practices developed as they have? How can one evaluate them? Is American politics unique in its beliefs, methods, and institutions? Or are they like other societies? What could be done to improve American politics?

POL S 202 is recommended preparation for all other courses in American Politics. Students are encouraged to do academic internships in Washington D.C. or Seattle to gain firsthand experience of the American political system.

Political Methodology

The subfield of Political Methodology is concerned with the philosophical foundations of political science, social sciences, and practical field experience.

Political methodology courses cover philosophical questions regarding the possibility of science to politics, the similarities and distinctions between social sciences and political science, alternative explanations, and truth claims in knowledge. They examine experimental and non-experimental research designs to make causal inferences about political behavior and processes. These research designs allow for the analysis and use of mathematics, statistics, and computers to analyze political data. Seminars offer students the opportunity to work on individual or group research projects. Faculty members in political Methodology have current research and teaching interests in various topics, including mass media, feminist theory, and language politics.

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