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Behavioural revolution and new institutionalism

What is Political Science?

Political science focuses on the theory and practice of government and politics at the local, state, national, and international levels. We are dedicated to developing understandings of institutions, practices, and relations that constitute public life and modes of inquiry that promote citizenship.

Some of the major subfields are described below.

Political Theory

Political theory is concerned mainly with the foundations of political community and institutions. It focuses on human nature and the moral purposes of political association. To clarify these concepts, political theorists draw on enduring political writings from ancient Greece to the present and on various writings by moral philosophers. Political theory also focuses on empirical research into the way political institutions function in practice. Here political theorists subject beliefs about political life found in important political writings to re-examination in the light of ongoing human behavior. In either case, political theory seeks to ultimately deepen political thinking and to spur citizens to responsible and creative political action.

POL S 201, Introduction to Political Theory, provides students with an overview of the main lines of thought in political theory. Advanced courses focus on given concepts, topics, and thought in political theorizing.

Comparative Politics

Comparative politics is a broad field with a variety of approaches and goals. Some scholars and researchers compare contemporary political systems in order to judge which types best provide particular values: order, equality, freedom, or economic security and well-being for their citizens. Others suggest that the main purpose of comparative politics is to provide an understanding of how and why different societies develop different kinds of political institutions. Still others use comparative politics as a way of discovering general laws and theories that will explain human political behavior and its variability.

Comparative politics courses are of two basic types. One offers comparisons of a particular set of problems or institutions in a number of different countries. The second type offers in-depth analyses of the basic political institutions and processes of a single country or group of countries in a world region.

Most students will want to begin their study of comparative politics with the Introduction to Comparative Politics (POL S 204), which combines the two main approaches by including comparative discussions of particular problems, issues, processes, and institutions in a wide variety of political settings as well as in-depth readings and lectures on some of the major countries in the contemporary world.