Political Science Courses

United States Politics

101 U.S. Government and Politics

An examination of American national government and politics. Required of political science majors and minors and recommended for anyone wishing to take upper-level courses in the department. (3 credits)

210 State and Local Government

An examination of the structure, functions and problems of contemporary state and local government in the U.S. federal system. Prerequisite: POSC 101 or 107. (3 credits)

220 Congress and the Presidency

An examination of the legislative process and the role of presidential leadership in the making of the nation’s public policy, with particular attention given to the constitutional and political dimensions to the contest of power between the two branches. Prerequisite: POSC 101 or 107. (3 credits)

230 Courts and Judicial Process 

This course is an introduction to judicial politics. It examines the role and structure of the judiciary, the judicial process, and how judicial decisions affect, and are affected by, society. The primary focus is the Supreme Court but the course also covers other federal courts and the state courts. Topics include: the courts and the constitution, models of judicial decision-making, judicial selection, the judicial process, the courts and public opinion, and the courts and democracy. Prerequisite: POSC 101 or 107.(3 credits)

232 Mock Trial

Students will learn how a trial works. Topics will include the fundamentals of case preparation, courtroom procedure, witness questioning, and rules of evidence. Prerequsite is any 100-level class. (2 credits)

240 Gender and Politics

An exploration of the different treatment of men and women within the American political system. We examine policies that discriminated against women as well as policies that have attempted to promote equality between the sexes. In addition, we explore the gender gap in terms of political views, voting behavior, running for office and legislative behavior. PR: POSC 101 or 107, or any Women’s and Gender Studies course. (3 credits)

243 Religion and Politics in America

Explores the influence of religion in American politics from the late 18th century through the present. Topics inclue the views of the founders on religion, the First Amendment and its interpretation, voting patterns of key religious groups, religiously motivated political activism, and religious views of political elites. (3 credits)

260 Public Opinion and Voting

An examination of the political ideology and behavior of Americans. The first portion of the class focuses on public opinion: where it comes from, what people think, how it influences government and vice-versa. In the second half of the class we explore the actions and inaction of citizens – exploring why some citizens decide to participate and others do not and how people decide which candidate to vote for in congressional and presidential elections. PR: POSC 101 or 107. (3 credits)

270 Constitutional Law and Governmental Power

An exploration of Supreme Court decisions that have established the boundaries of legitimate government action in the United States. Special attention is given to decisions that have drawn lines between state and federal power and have expanded or limited the capacity of various levels of government to address important social and political problems, including poverty, racial conflict, and environmental degradation. PR: POSC 101 or 107. (3 credits)

280 Constitutional Law and Civil Rights

An exploration of Supreme Court decisions that have established the range of individual rights and the meaning of legal equality in the United States. Topics may include freedom of speech and press, religious freedom, privacy rights, rights of the accused, gay and lesbian rights, racial equality, and gender equality. PR: POSC 101 or 107. (3 credits)

290 Environmental Politics and Policy 

An introduction to the issues and concepts of environmental policy, to policy analysis and the role of the analyst, to the process of policy making in the U.S. and to current U.S. environmental policy and its implementation. Attention is given to environmental politics in the national and international arenas. PR:POSC 101 or 107 or permission of instructor. (3 credits)

292 Public Policy

A study of the concepts and methods of public policy analysis, with emphasis on formulating policy problems, developing solutions, and use of analysis in the policy-making process. The cause, consequences, and performance of national public policies and programs are investigated. Prerequisite: POSC 101 or 107.  (3 credits)

310 Parties and Elections

An investigation of the role of elections in U.S. politics, with heavy reliance upon the empirical research of electoral behavior and of the effects of parties and interest groups upon the electoral and governmental process. PR: POSC 101 or 107. (EL) (4 credits)

320 Public Administration

Using case studies, this course explores the methods for conducting public affairs, external and internal elements affecting public agencies, and the role of these elements in creating and implementing public policies and programs. Prerequisite: POSC 101 or 107. (ILS) (3 credits):

330 Politics of Race and Ethnicity

An examination of the political experiences of African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, American Indians, Arab Americans and Jewish Americans in the United States. By exploring the formal and informal barriers to equality these racial and ethnic groups have faced, as well as the strategies they have employed to bring about political change, we will gain a richer understanding how American democracy works (or does not work). PR: POSC 101 or 111, or 107. This course is additionally appropriate for students with an interest in ethnic studies. (ILS) (3 credits)

340 Media and Politics 

A look at the free media as an essential aspect of a representative democracy, which is premised on the consent of the governed. In this course we will explore the American news media in depth, analyze its content and politics and discuss its impact on the attitudes of citizens, election outcomes, the behavior of politicians, and the policies that do and do not get enacted. PR any 100-level POSC course. (ILS) (3 credits)

360 Interpreting the Constitution

An investigation of controversies over how the United States Constitution should be read and understood. Readings include theoretical works on Constitutional interpretation along with Supreme Court opinions. PR: POSC 270 or 280. (ILS)  (3 credits)

380 Regulatory Policy and Administration

The origins, purposes and operation of regulatory agencies and the programs in the U.S.: theories of regulation, issues and controversies in regulatory policy, and decision-making in such areas as economic regulation, public health, consumer protection workplace safety and environmental quality. Prerequisite: POSC 101.

International Politics

105 International Relations

An introduction to politics among and across nation-state, non-state and transnational actors. Competing theories on concepts such as as power, security, nationalism, nation-building and the emerging international system are examined. Other issues studied include: the uneven global economy, globalization, patterns of cooperation and conflict, conflict resolution, international organization and law, human rights and political transitions. Some country case studies are used to provide comparative analyses of issues across political settings. (3 credits)

205 U.S. Foreign Policy

A study of U.S. foreign policy, the politics of how that policy is formulated and implemented, and the consequences of that policy for other states. Themes and trajectories in U.S. policy history such as isolationism, international activism, intervention, hegemonic presumption, strategic alliances, arms control and unilateralism, among others, are reviewed with focus upon the sources, goals and assumptions of US policy. Approaches to US national security (broadly defined) are examined as students assess the values underpinning the projection, use and preservation of US power in the post-Cold War world. PR: POSC 101 or or 105 or 108, or permission of instructor. (3 credits)

215 International Organizations

This course is designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of leading organizations and processes that enable order, stability, and cooperation in the international system. It examines critical approaches to the study of international organizations and the impact these organizations exert on various issues and areas of the contemporary world. It also evaluates the United Nations and the European Union and analyzes the unique functions both perform and the novel challenges both are confronted within an increasingly more complex and interdependent world. Typically, students also will study the work of a nongovernmental organization, so as to understand how such NGOs develop and the philosophical and political challenges they face. PR: POSC 105 or 108. (3 credits)

245 The Model UN

This course prepared first-time participants for the Harvard Model UN role place, which takes place in February (in Boston) every year. The course meets during the second half of Fall Term, with the final grade being issued after the student’s participation in the three-day February role play. The course is tied to participation in the model UN. Students are taken through the process of resolution writing, inter-state negotiation, committee work, and are generally prepared to represent the assigned country or countries. PR: permission of instructor. Students can take this course up to four time for academic credit, however, only 2 of these credits can count towards the Political Science major or minor. (1 credit)

305 Comparative Foreign Policy

An examination of foreign policies and policy decision making of major world or regional actors, including an examination of the historical dynamics influencing policy making, the system-level (global) sources facilitating states’ strategic opportunities and constraints, and the domestic factors shaping foreign policies in these countries. From a comparative standpoint, the course evaluates foreign policy decision making with regard to each country’s regional imperatives and standing in the world, their foreign policy formulation vis-a-vis each other, and their relations with the world’s most dominant power, the United States. Examples of states likely to be included: China, Russia, India, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Israel, South Africa. PR: POSC 205, or permission of instructor. (ILS) (3 credits)

315 Rising Powers 

An examination of significant changes in the diffusion of power across states and the resulting emergence of “rising powers” in global affairs such as Brazil, China, Russia, India, Turkey and others. We will study the expanding influence and presence of 5 or 6 rising powers, the factors contributing to ongoing global power shifts and the effects of recent power shifts on state behavior and international relations. Study will also focus upon a growing list of global challenges that will require wide collaboration among current and rising powers if they are to be addressed successfully. Prerequisite 105 or 108 and 1 course in international/comparative politics at the 200 level or permission. (ILS) (3 credits)

325 Global Environmental Governance

An exploration of how environmental challenges are addressed across state borders. It considers how national institutions, stakeholders and political cultures interact with international actors, norms and institutions to shape both national level and global outcomes. The course looks at power and legitimacy in international environmental governance, and explores the way environmentally crucial states participate in global environmental initiatives. It focuses on the management of several specific environmental issues, which may include efforts to address climate change, protect biodiversity, and manage hazardous wastes. Prerequisite: POSC 105 or 108 and 1 course in international/comparative politics at the 200 level, or any course in the Environmental Science and Policy minor, or permission. (ILS) (3 credits)

335 International Law

An introduction to the role of public international law, including evaluation of both historical and contemporary perspectives on the operation of international law, the nature and sources of international law, the rights and obligations of states (including why states and non-state actors comply with and violate international law), and issues dealing with sovereignty, international treaties, territoriality, and international adjudications. The course examines how international law applies to the use of force and human rights and considers the role international law plays in U.S. foreign policy. PR: POSC 105 or 108 or permission of instructor (ILS) (3 credits)

345 Seminar: Global Issues, Global Crises 

This course examines crisis-level issues in global affairs and analyzes private (non-governmental) and public responses to them at both the national and international levels. Study of crisis-precipitating factors will be followed by more intense focus on state and non-state actors involved in addressing crises and shaping policy responses. How actors and groups interact, cooperate, or compete, and pursue their own interests as they respond to crises will be explored. Actors studied will include: IGOs (such as the UN, or regional trade organizations), NGOs (such as the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, or local micro-credit organizations), and international financial institutions (such as the IMF or the World Bank). A consideration of lingering dilemmas and challenges will accompany discussions of lessons learned from the politics of crisis response. Example issues include: refugees and refugee warehousing, massive-impact natural disasters, global terrorism, failed states and post-conflict nation-building, trafficking in children, child workers and child soldiers, and comparative immigration policies. PR: POSC 105 and a 200-level Comparative Politics or International Politics course, or, permission of instructor. (ILS) (3credits)

Comparative Politics

108 Intro to Comparative Politics

An exploration of how history, culture, institutions, economics and interests shape politics in other lands. The course focuses on the political systems and policy processes of at least five different countries from various regions of the globe. In addition to introducing the variety of political systems currently in existence, each country study will allow for a look at various sub-fields of study within comparative politics— for example, state formation, contentious politics, nationalism, democratization, political institutions, and political culture. (3 credits)

208 Russian Politics 

An evaluation of the history, politics, and economics of Russia and its “near abroad” (the countries of the former Soviet Union). The course will examine the post-Communist transitions that have been taking place in the political, economic and social realms and the different form they have taken in different states. Particular attention will be given to questions of democratization and authoritarian consolidation, integration into regional and international organizations, and changes in the political economy. Prerequisite: POSC 105 or 108 or permission. (3 credits)

218 Central Asian Politics

A study of the politics of the states of Central Asia, with particular focus on the post-Soviet “stans” – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – as well as on Afghanistan. Because the region has historically been a crossroads and a source of competition among powerful states, the course will examine the way this has influenced the region over time and the role played by powers such as Russia, China, the European Union and the United States today. Particular attention will be paid to questions of national identity, political transition, economic change, the role of Islam, and relations among Central Asian states. Prerequisite: POSC 105 or 108 or permission of instructor. (3 credits)

228 EU Politics

A study of the development of the European Union (EU) and the issues it faces as it enlarges and increases the scope of its common policies. The course will consider important EU institutions, the way different European states relate to the EU, and how EU foreign policy is made and carried out. It will also explore concerns that have been raised about the EU including about its bureaucratization and possible “democratic deficit.” Prerequisite: POSC 105 or 108 or permission. (3 credits)

248 Middle East Politics 

An examination of factors shaping political systems in the Middle East and North Africa, with special focus on global contexts, resource politics, economic change, women’s status and political transitions. While studying the politics of individual states and sub-regions within the MENA group of states, students will explore the rich cultural history of the region, and examine the impact on politics of ethnic and racial diversity, regional income gaps, women’s economic roles, religious diversity, and radical Islam. PR: POSC 105 or 108. (3 credits)

268 Latin American-Caribbean Politics

A survey of post-World War II politics in Latin American and Caribbean states, with special attention on the changing political and economic institutions, policies and prospects of these states. The effects of colonial history, culture and international alignments on local institutions are examined, as is the dynamism of grassroots movements for change in the region. PR: POSC 105 or 108 is recommended.(3 credits)

278 East Asian Politics 

An examination of the politics of China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and several other states in the region. Students will evaluate these states’ politics and economies from the 20th century, particularly in the post-WWII period. The focus will be on transitions to market economies, the transition to and consolidation of democracy, the impact of civil society, and major challenges facing these states in the 21st century. Prerequisite: POSC 105 or 108 or permission. (3 credits)

288 African Politics

An examination of the governments, politics and policies of African states. Topics to be covered include: colonial legacies; current political and economic models across African states; political transitions toward more open government; ethnic politics and conflict; environmental stress; and other challenges and opportunities confronting African countries as they develop their systems of governance. Africa’s position in global politics and economy will also be examined. African literature and music, group projects, student reports and discussion of current African events will all be employed in learning. PR: POSC 105 or 108 or permission of instructor. (3 credits)

308 Seminar in Comparative Politics

An examination of the leading topics informing the field of comparative politics, including the utility and efficacy of civil society, democratic transitions and consolidations, authoritarianism, globalization and its impact on developing countries, the challenges stemming from ethnicity and nationalism, and the north-south divide. The seminar includes a significant writing component and requires students to read each other’s research and present their research before their peers in the classroom. PR: 105 or 108 and one regional politics course at the 200-level, or permission of instructor. (ILS) (3 credits)

328 Women, Politics and Development

An examination of the experiences of and central role played by women in political and economic development in poor countries. Study considers the impact of international institutions and actors and of local development programs and micro-lending on women’s economic and political opportunities. Among the topics studied are women’s roles in formal and informal economies, in the household, and in local and national politics; competing views of feminism; and critiques of mainstream development theory. Case studies are drawn from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. PR: POSC 105 or 108 or permission of instructor. (3 credits)

Political Theory

107: Freedom, Equality, and Power

An introduction to political thought. Students explore influential ideas about politics through careful study of important works from earlier eras as well as our own. (3 credits)

227 Justice and Virtue: Classical Political Ideas

Students investigate the ideas that shaped and emerged out of pre-modern political life, including arguments about the nature of justice and of political virtue. Authors may include Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Augustine, Aquinas, Machiavelli, and others. PR: POSC 101 or 107 or any Philosophy course. Offered alternate years. (3 credits)

247 Rights and Revolution: Modern Political Ideas

Students investigate key political ideas of modernity, including arguments over the legitimacy of revolution and over the nature and scope of individual rights. Authors may include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Marx, Nietzsche, Dewey, Arendt, Fanon, Gandhi, and others. PR: POSC 101 or 107 or any Philosophy course. Offered alternate years. (3 credits)

317 American Political Thought

Students investigate significant themes in political thought in the American colonies and the United States. The course focuses on ideas about central conflicts in American political life—including conflicts over race, ethnicity, gender, and the role of government. Readings include both formal theoretical works and works intended to directly shape public opinion. PR: POSC 101 or POSC 107. (3 credits)

327 Politics Through Literature

An examination of a number of contemporary writers of various nationalities who explore concepts of traditional interest to students of politics, e.g., imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, revolution, the revolutionary mentality, terrorism, modernization, bureaucracy, war and visions of future world orders. (3 credits)

337 Politics, Law, and Gender

Students explore the relationship between gender and legal and political theory and institutions. Readings may include historical and contemporary works of political and legal theory, as well as state and federal court opinions. PR: POSC 101 or 111, or 107 or any Women’s and Gender Studies course.(3 credits)

347 Politics, Culture, and the Arts

Students investigate the relationship between politics and art. In addition to readings, course materials include works of visual art, film, music, literature, and theater. PR: Any 100-level POSC course, or any Art or Music course. (ILS) (3 credits)

357 Democratic Theory

What is democracy? How much citizen participation does democracy demand? How does a diverse citizenry affect the pursuit of democracy? Does democracy demand free markets? Or does it demand a carefully regulated economy. Through theoretical and empirical works, students examine democratic theory and practice. PR: POSC 101 or 107. (ILS) (3 credits)

377 Seminar in Philosophy of Law (same as PHIL 377) 

Philosophical questions about such topics as the nature of law, the function of legal systems, the meaning of legal terms, legal reasoning, justice, law and morality, theory of punishment. Some background in philosophy and/or political science is recommended. (ILS) (3 credits)


150, 250, 350 Topics in Political Science 

Special topics are considered in depth; more than one topic may be taken for credit. Prerequisite depends on the topic. 209 Research Methods (3 credits) An introduction to the scope and methods of research in Political Science; required for majors. PR: POSC 101 or 111 or 105. (3 credits)


395 Internship

Internships in government at the national, state and local levels and in the private sector with significant government involvement. Developed by interested students in consultation with a departmental coordinator and a field “supervisor” representing the organization that offers the internship. A maximum of two credits accepted toward a major and one credit toward a minor. PR: at least one POSC on campus course. Also required: The consent of a member of the political science faculty to serve as coordinator and the approval of the head of the department and the director of off-campus study. (3 credits)

Methods & Senior Thesis

209 Political Science Research Methods 

This course, required of all Political Science majors, focuses on how to conduct research in political science and how to interpret and critically assess the research of others. The course reviews the scientific method and the distinguishing characteristics of scientific knowledge, and focuses on the stages of the research process including: how to develop a good research question, how to find and effectively utilize existing research, how to generate plausible hypotheses and measure the variables in hypotheses, when and how to employ different research designs and data collection techniques, and how to statistically analyze data to determine what the data are saying about the political world. PR: POSC 101 or 107, and 105 or 108. Typically offered once or twice each academic year. (3 credits)

489 Thesis Methods

This course must be taken the same term as POSC 490. This course focuses on how to design and carry out the senior thesis research project. Thesis students will meet with the Political Science faculty to discuss issues such as the literature review, hypothesis development, research design, data collection, and argument development. Students will be assigned to report on aspects of their thesis research throughout the semester. PR: POSC 209 and registration for POSC 490 the same semester. (Note: Neither POSC 489 nor POSCc 490 are offered during January Term.) (1 credit)

490 Senior Thesis

Each senior major is required to write, in consultation with a faculty member of the department, a research paper that demonstrates the ability to investigate and analyze a problem in depth and to defend it before fellow students and the political science faculty in a public forum. PR: POSC 209 and registration for POSC 489 the same semester. (3 credits)