Course Descriptions and Syllabi

American Politics   POSC 101


Do you like Washington politics?  Or are you disgusted with it?  Whatever your views, this course will introduce you to the nuts and bolts of American politics--the things the political commentators never talk about or discuss.  Like other sections of this course, you will be provided with an overview of the American political system, including its structure, historical origins and operations at the national level.  You will also receive, in addition to this overview, detailed illustrations on how the rules in Washington work and how people manipulate these rules to influence the public and the legislature.  Upon completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the historical and philosophical foundations of American democracy, as well as an understanding of contemporary American governmental institutions.

Every week students take part in class debates on current philosophical, social and political problems in democracy.  If you are interested in political debates, this class is for you. Improve your public speaking and debating skills!


Political Analysis II POSC 301


Have you ever thought that the study of political science was just one person's opinion against someone else's opinion?  This class will change your mind about such assumptions.  This course focuses on different questions about politics using an analytical framework suitable not only for political science students, but also science students interested in more rigorous investigations of politics.

One set of questions involves the rationality of citizens, their political motivations and beliefs.  In this section of the course, we explore how changes in motives and beliefs influence the behavior of citizens in democratic interest groups.  Another set of questions involves the logic of legislative organizations and the logical foundations for manipulating policy outcomes in legislatures.  In this section of the course, we explore how changes in rules and changes in ideological beliefs of legislators influence policy outcomes.

The material in this course is useful for students interested in pursuing a political career in a legislature, because it involves detailed discussions of the organization and rules governing policy votes in legislatures.  The material in this course is also useful for students interested in mass politics or grass roots organizing, since we discuss the main factors influencing successful collective actions.

Introduction to Democratic Political Thought POSC 262


Students think that political theory is all about reading dead white guys.  This is your chance to argue against these guys and their views on democracy (in a live setting)!  It is also an integral part of a liberal education.  Students find that it gives them an edge on other students in law school by providing them with a good foundation in democratic thinking.  In this class you will have the chance to discuss, think and write about critical issues in democracy.

Using the writings of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, you will be asked to explore, clarify and reflect on important themes found in political theory and political philosophy.  The course is unique in that it weaves historical, philosophical and mathematical perspectives on political theory into a coherent perspective that yields a rich vision of contemporary democratic thought.  This perspective will provide students with an understanding of classical contract theory, insights into the roots of modern democratic theory that go well beyond standard presentations of political theory.

Studies in Comparative Politics POSC 462


East European Politics after Communism                                                                   Berlin Wall
Are you interested in foreign affairs and democracy?  This course introduces students to political, economic and social problems facing Central and Eastern Europe since the collapse of communism in 1989.  Although we will discuss the political history of the region, our focus will be on transitional politics and the problems associated with changing economic and governmental institutions from totalitarian socialist economies to capitalist democracies.  As we shall see many countries have successfully introduced democracy into their societies.   Yet much work remains in Eastern Europe and throughout the world.  In 1996, only 48% of countries in the world were liberal democratic.  Another 26% were partial democracies while 26% were authoritarian regimes.  With many countries not yet democratized, understanding the problems of transitional politics remains extremely relevant for tomorrow's policy makers.

Copy of President Reagan's speech card, June 12, 1987





Last Modified: 09/10/04
Michael J. G. Cain, 1999
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