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COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Political Science"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Bridget Welsh
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00-11:15 AM
OFFICE HOURS: 2-5pm Mondays or by appointment

The course introduces students to basic concepts, methods, and theories of the scientific study of politics. In so doing, the class provides a systematic understanding of the foundations of government, political systems, and political behavior. The course familiarizes students with the functioning of political institutions and political power, constitutional frameworks and procedures to obtain public legitimacy, and approaches to different fields, problems and issues of—domestic, comparative, and global—politics in the 21st century.

This course is designed to introduce students to political science. From the onset students will learn how power is studied and practiced and learn the tools to better understand the challenges in the modern globalized world. The course will include the basic concepts and theoretical approaches in the study of power and its practice. Among the many important questions the survey course will examine are the nature of political regimes, human rights, political culture and ideologies, public policy, political participation and institutions and violence. The level of analyses examined will extend from individual political behavior to governments and states and organizations in the international system. Students will enrich their knowledge and skills that will help them in any career and in becoming more empowered and informed citizens.  


After this course, students should expect to begin thinking, reading, writing and acting as a political scientist!  

Specific Learning Objectives 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

·         Understand a Range of Concepts, Theories and Approaches in Political Science

·          Appreciate the Diversity of Political Perspectives and Outlooks

·         Frame Problems from Multiple Perspectives

·         Construct and Present their Own Interpretations of Political Events 

·         Recognize the Range and Variation in Forms of Political Power

·         Evaluate Government Approaches to Rights and Justice

·         Formulate their Own Opinions on Political Issues

·         Work More Effectively in a Group Dynamic

·         Research Contemporary Political Issues 


Class Attendance ParticipationStudents are expected to read all the required reading before class to participate in discussion. Please note that more than THREE absences of any class session will significantly lower a student’s final participation grade. Regular patterns of tardiness will also negatively affect a student’s performance. Class participation will be assessed based on the quality of participation in the class, with higher marks given to students who relate inputs to the course readings and express individual ideas articulately and succinctly. Students are not evaluated on the volume that they say, but the degree to which their participation adds value to the discussion. Students are asked to turn their smart phones and PDAs on silent mode and not use them during class time. Laptops are to be used for note-taking, not chatting and emailing during class time. Student distractions that take away from the overall class learning environment are strongly discouraged and will be assessed in class participation performance. 15%
Class Learning Assignments/QuizzesAs part of the learning process, students will be asked to participate in a series of in-class simulations, outside class interviews/analysis, field trips and problem-solving tasks. These will draw on the assigned course reading. Students will be assessed on their class preparation and the quality of participation in these short assignments. There will be three quizzes in the course of the term and they will be unannounced. These will be held in the beginning of class and students who miss these quizzes (even with an excused absence) will not be allowed to take another quiz. The class-related assignments are associated with specific classes/topics and students that miss these classes cannot make up these assignments. The quiz/assignment grade will be the average score of quizzes/assignments taken/completed. These class assignments should be emailed directly to the professor and do not require uploading on Moodle. 15%
Opinion Pieces (Two each 15%)Students are asked to submit TWO opinion pieces that make clear arguments and harness evidence to buttress their positions. The opinion pieces should be succinct and accessible, no more than 800 words (strictly enforced). Students can choose their own topics and should relate their papers to contemporary global political issues. A list of possible topics will be available on Moodle. At least one of these assignments must address issues outside of your country of origin. Assignments will be assessed on individuality, writing, evidence, clarity and effective use of sources. The first paper must be submitted on October 17th and the second on November 9th and follow the protocol for turning in assignments noted above. Students will have the option of a third paper, with the highest two grades used for the final grade. This optional third paper is due November 21st. No late assignments will be accepted. In the beginning of term, there will be a workshop to introduce students to how to conduct research in political science with Library staff. 30%
Book Report/AssessmentStudents are asked to review the assigned book for the course in 3-5 double-spaced pages (1,500-2000 words). These book reviews must address the political issues in the text and connect these issues to the course material. The review must develop an argument. Reviews will be assessed based on their individuality, clarity, presentation, argument and knowledge of the issues in the book. The book will be discussed at the class dinner on September 12th. This assignment is due by September 21st and should follow the assignment protocol noted above. 10%
Final ExaminationStudents will be required to sit for a final two-hour examination at the end of term. This examination will include identifications, multiple choice questions and short answer questions that assess the comprehension of the course reading and class discussions. The test will include both objective and subjective questions that test knowledge and the ability to formulate analytical responses. The final examination will be held in early December. There will be a special scheduled class for the exam review. 30%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Students are allowed three absences per semester, after which any absence for any reason other than serious matters outlined above or with written permission from the Dean's Office will affect the class participation component of the student's final grade. Students are strongly encouraged to attend class. 

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Protocol for Handing in Written Assignments: Students must turn in all major written assignments three ways. This assignment must be 1) emailed to the professor, 2) with a hard copy delivered to the political science assignment box in the Front Office of the Tiber Building by 5pm on the due date and 3) an electronic copy delivered on through MOODLE to TURNITIN. This will require that you set up your own MOODLE account. 


WEEK 1 (August 27-September 2) Introducing Political Science

Thematic Questions: What is politics? How do you study politics?

Session 1 (August 28) Course Introduction

Students are asked to read the NY Times before each class, including this one.

Session 2 (August 30) Comparative Method.

*Richard Rose. “Comparing Forms of Comparative Analysis” Political Studies 39 (3) (1991): 446-62.

WEEK 2 (September 3-9) State Formation and States

Thematic Question: How were modern states formed?

Session 3 (September 4) Understanding the ‘State’

*Max Weber. “What is a State?” in Roy C. Macridis and Bernard E. Brown, Comparative Politics: Notes and Readings, Eighth Edition. (Belmont, MA: Wadsworth Publishing Co, 1996), pp. 84-87.

Clifford Geertz. Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth Century Bali. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 11-25.

Session 4 (September 6) States Formation and its Diversity

*Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order: From Pre-human Times to the French Revolution, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), pp. 245-289.

Jeffrey Herbst. States and Power in Africa, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 11-31.

WEEK 3 (September 10-16) Political Regimes & Political Development

Thematic Questions: How do dictatorships differ from democracies? How do regimes change?

Session 5 (September 11) Type of Regimes

Amartya Sen. "Democracy as a Universal Value." Journal of Democracy (1999) 10 (3):3-17

*James Hyland, Democratic Theory: The Philosophical Foundations (Manchester, 1995), Chapter 2, pp. 36-50.

Session 6: (September 13) Regime Change

*Larry Diamond. The Spirit of Democracy, (New York: Times Book, 2008) Chapter 4, pp. 88-105.

Fareed Zakaria. "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy," Foreign Affairs 76(6) (1997): 22-43.

Olivier Roy.“Transformations of the Arab World” Journal of Democracy, (July 2012), pp. 5-18.

*Course Dinner Discussion of The Optician of Lampedusa on Tuesday, September 12th at 7:30pm*

WEEK 4 (September 17-23) Political Ideology and Identities

Thematic Question: How and why do political ideas differ? How do different political approaches shape public policy?

Session 7 (September 18): What is Ideology

*Leon P. Baradat, In Political Ideologies: Their Origins and Impact. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2000), pp. 4-12, 162-182.

Session 8 (September 20) Political Identities

*Ta-Nehisi Coates. Between the World and Me. (NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2015), pp. 1-39

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie We Should All be Feminists, (NY: Anchor, 2015), pp. 7-25.

Session 9 (September 22) Class Field Trip 8:30-11am 

***Book Review Due, Thursday, September 21st by 5pm***

WEEK 5 (September 24-30) Political Institutions: Parliaments to Courts

 Thematic Question: How do formal political institutions work and differ? 

Session 10 (September 25) Checks and Balances

*Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. The Federalist Papers (London/New York: Penguin, 1987), Federalist 10 and 51

Session 11 (September 27) Political Institutions at Work

Gary W. Copeland and Samuel C. Patterson, (eds.), Parliaments in the Modern World: Changing Institutions (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994), Chapter 1

*Alfred Stepan and Cindy Skach. “Constitutional Frameworks and Democratic Consolidation: Presidentialism versus Parliamentarianism,” World Politics, 46 (October, 1993): 1-22.

WEEK 6 (October 1-7) Conducting Research and Political Participation

 Thematic Question: Why and how do people participate in politics? 

Session 12 (October 2): In-class Learning how to Do Research Session

Repertoires of Political Participation *Sylvia Bashevin. “Interest Groups and Social Movements,” in Lawrence Le Duc, Richard G. Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds.) Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in Global Perspective. (London: Sage Publications, 1996), pp. 134-159. 

*Session 13 (October 4) Outside Class Learning Assignment

Understanding Voting Behavior Assignment

WEEK 7 (October 8-14) Religion and Nationalism

 Thematic Questions: How does political identity evolve and impact politics?

Session 14 (October 9) Nationalism and Political Identity

*Benedict Anderson. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 1-7

Adam Hothschild. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Horror, Terrorism and Heroism in Colonial Africa. (New York: Houghton Miffton, 1999), pp. 1-33.

Session 15 (October 11) Religion and Politics

*Samuel Huntington. Clash of Civilizations. (New York: Touchstone (Simon Schuster), 1996), pp. 19-39.

WEEK 8 (October 15-21) Political Economy & Development

Thematic Questions: How does politics affect the economy and visa versa? Why are some countries more economically developed than others?

Session 16 (October 16) The Politics of the Economy

*Thomas Oatley, International Political Economy, 5th Edition. (New York: Longman, 2011), pp. 1-20.

Session 17 (October 18) Development

*Alan Thomas. “Meaning and Views of Development,” in Tim Allen and Alan Thomas. (eds.) Poverty and Development into the 21st Century. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 23-48.  

***First Think Piece Due, Tuesday, October 19th, 5pm ***

WEEK 9 (October 22-28) Human Rights

Thematic Question: What are human rights and human rights problems? 

Session 18 (October 23) Introducing Human Rights

*Jack Donnelly. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 2nd Edition. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), pp. 7-21.

Micheline R. Ishay. The Human Rights Reader. (New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 1-5, 42-55, 56-59, 199-200, 424-40, 461-68

*Session 19 (October 25) Visit to Refugee Centre (on own time)

WEEK 10 (October 29-November 4) Conflict and Violence

Thematic Questions: Is conflict bad? Why does violence occur?

*Session 20 (October 30) Learning How to do Research Assignment

Outside Class Assignment: Conflict and Political Identities Interview

November 1st No Class 

WEEK 11 (November 5-11) International Cooperation and War 

 Thematic Question: Why do states cooperate and how?

Session 21 (November 6) Political Violence Repertoires and Causes

*Earl Conteh-Morgan, Collective Political Violence: An Introduction to the Theories and Cases of Violent Conflicts (New York: Routledge, 2003), Chapter 1. 

Paul Collier and Ian Bannon.  Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy (Washington, DC: World Bank Publication, 2003), Chapter 1

Session 22 (November 8) Case Study Syria

Samer Abboud, “How Syria Fell to Pieces,” Current History, (December 2015), pp. 337-342. 

***2nd Think Piece Due, November 9th, 5pm***

WEEK 12 (November 12-18)

Session 23 (November 13) War

Robert Jervis, "Theories of War in an Era of Leading-Power Peace." American Political Science Review (2002) 96 (1):1-14.

*Hans Morgenthau. “Chapter 1: A Realist Theory of International Politics,” Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1992 (1948)), pp. 3-16.  

Session 24 (November 15) Cooperation – or Lack Thereof

Robinson Meyer, “Questions Answered on Climate Change,” The Atlantic, March 8. 2016 http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/questions-answered-climate-change/471372/

WEEK 13 (November 19-25) Foreign Policy in Practice (Course Simulation Exercise)

Session 25 (November 20) International Crisis Simulation I

Session 26 (November 22) International Crisis Simulation II 

***Optional Third Think Piece Due Tuesday, November 21st by 5pm ***

WEEK 14 (November 26-December 2) Globalization, Internet and Social Media

Session 27 (November 28) Globalization, Internet and Social Media

*Philip Howard and Muzammil M. Hussain. Democracy’s Fourth Wave: Digital Media and the Arab Spring, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), Chapter 1

Andrew Chadwick, The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power (Second Edition)

New York: Oxford University Press, 2017, Chapter on Trump Campaign. 

Session 28 (November 30) Terrorism and Non-State Actors

Jessica Stern. Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), pp. 9-31 

Session 29 (December 1) Exam Review (Optional)

WEEK 15 (December 3-9) Final Examination TBD