This one-year course introduces the field of political science through a survey of the major issues and questions of politics from a comparative perspective. The first semester will be devoted to understanding how and why countries become democracies and when democracies remain stable forms of government. After an introduction to essential issues within political science (such as what is politics, what is the comparative approach, what is the state, what are the fundamental differences between authoritarian and democratic governments), we will investigate questions about how modern democracies function. Is economic development critical to stable democracy? Does a population need particular cultural characteristics for its government to function democratically? What are the effects of regime type on economic growth and government performance? How important are political parties to democracy? The goal of these themes is for students to develop analytic tools for understanding various political systems and evaluating the proper nature of our society.
In the second semester, we will explore a choice of topics, such as human rights, political ideologies, secularisms, social movements, contentious politics, economic inequality and welfare states, nationalism, national identity, etc. Parallel goals of this semester include developing research and writing skills. Together, these objectives help form the foundation for future coursework in the discipline and should help students make informed judgments about the political world around them.