JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Introduction to Political Science"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Bridget Welsh
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 8:30-9:45 AM
OFFICE HOURS: Mondays 1:30-4:30pm


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 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, violence and international relations. 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

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Home FireKamal ShamsieRiverhead BooksISBN-13: 978-0735217690 This book has already been ordered at Almost Corner Bookstore

Class Attendance and ParticipationClass Attendance & Participation (10% of total grade) Students 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 other devices 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. 10%
Field Assignments?In-Class Learning Assignments/QuizzesField Assignments/In-Class Learning Assignments/Quizzes (20% of total grade, 8% for field assignments), As 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 a minimum of 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. 20%
Opinion PiecesOpinion Pieces- (30% of total grade) 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 March 5th and the second on April 11th 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 April 25th. 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 ReportBook Report (10% of total grade): Students 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 Tuesday, February 5th. This assignment is due by February 12th and should follow the assignment protocol noted above. 10%
Final Examination Final Examination (30% of the final grade): Students 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 May. There will be a special scheduled (optional) 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. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________
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.



The assignments in this course develop knowledge and skills, with the aim of making students more confident and better prepared to address real world problems they will face. Simultaneously, they introduce students to contemporary problems in the world and teach core material associated with political science. Texts and course material for this course are purposely selected for accessibility. Teaching materials include novels, the course website, in-class simulations and core disciplinary reading material.   


Students are encouraged to meet one-on-one with the professor to discuss course material and their assignments. The professor holds regular office hours where students can meet her. Students are also welcome to schedule an appointment, but should provide at least two different alternatives to be accommodated for a meeting outside of office hours. Students are encouraged to book their time early. During term, students should expect a response to their emails within three business days.

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 university website for the complete policy.


Class sessions will be held for two and a half hours per week, with each session one hour and fifteen minutes. Each session will combine lectures, discussions, and group activities focused on the assigned topics.   


Students will be expected to read all the assigned reading before class. Students should concentrate on the reading with the * as this will be prioritized in exams and discussions. All the course reading will be available in the Library on available via MYJCU or Moodle. Additional optional reading material will also be made available during the course of term. Students are expected to keep informed of political events by reading the New York Times, and other similar news reports. The required book is available for purchase at the Almost Corner bookstore in Trastevere.

Required for Purchase: 

Kamila Shamsie. Home Fire. (New York: Riverhead Books, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-0735217690

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 metal folder outside of the (Mathematics) Chair’s office on the 2nd floor 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 (January 20-26) Introducing Political Science

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

Session 1 (January 21) Course Introduction

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

Session 2 (January 23) Comparative Method

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

WEEK 2 (January 27-February 2) State Formation and States

Thematic Question: How were modern states formed? How does state formation affect politics? 

Session 3 (January 28) 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 (January 30) 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 (February 3-9) Political Regimes & Regime Change

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

Session 5 (February 4) Understanding 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.

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.

Session 6: (February 6) Regime Change

Matthijs Bogaards. "Microscope or Telescope? The Study of Democratisation across World Regions." Political Studies Review 16, no. 2 (2018): 125-135.    

***Course Dinner Tuesday, February 5th, 7:30pm***

WEEK 4 (February 10-16) Political Ideology and Political Identities

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

Session 7 (February 11): 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 (February 13) 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 (February 15. Make up day) Learning how to Do Research Session

In-class Library Presentation on How to Conduct Research

***Book Review Due, February 12th by 5pm***

WEEK 5 (February 17-23) Political Participation

Thematic Question: How do citizens participate and why?  

Session 10 (February 18) Religion and Politics

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

Session 11 (February 20) 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. 

WEEK 6 (February 24 – March 2) Political Representation

Thematic Question: How are people represented in politics? 

Session 12 (February 25): Voting and Elections

Justin Fisher et. al. The Routledge Handbook of Elections, Voting Behavior and Public Opinion. (London: Routledge 2018), Chapter 2 (Hutchings and Jefferson), pp. 21-29 and Chapter 10 (Evans and Ball), pp. 123-136.

Session 13 (February 27) Nationalism and Populism

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.

Benjamin Moftitt & Simon Tormey (2014). “Rethinking Populism: Politics, Mediatisation and Political Style,” Political Studies 62, 2 (2014): 381-97.           

WEEK 7 (March 3-9) Political Institutions

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

Session 14 (March 4) Checks and Balances
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay. The Federalist Papers (London/New York: Penguin, 1987), Federalist 10 and 51

***First Think Piece Due, Tuesday, March 5th by 5pm ***

Session 15 (March 6) Political Institutions in Action

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

Session 16 March 8 (Make-up Day for May 1) Field Assignment

Students are asked to interview three individuals from different backgrounds regarding elections and voting behavior.

WEEK 8 (March 10-17) Spring Break. No Class.

WEEK 9 (March 18-23) Political Economy

Thematic Question: How does politics affect the economy and visa versa?           

Session 17 March 18 The Politics of the Economy

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

March 20th No Class (Make up session held earlier)

WEEK 10 (March 24-30) Development and Poverty

Thematic Questions: Why are some countries more economically developed than others? Why are people poor?

Session 18 (March 25) 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. 

Session 19 (March 27) Poverty

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, (New York: Broadway Books, 2016) pp. 1-8, 207-14, 293-314.

WEEK 11 (March 31-April 6 ) Human Rights and Political Conflict

Thematic Questions: What are human rights and human rights problems? How do we understand political conflict and its causes? 

Session 20 (April 1) 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 21 (April 3) 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

WEEK 12 (April 7-13) International Relations 

 Thematic Questions: Why to states go to war? Why do states cooperate and how?

Session 22 (April 8) War and Cooperation

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 23 (April 10) Case Study Syria

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

Faten Ghosn, “The Hard Road Ahead for Syrian Reconstruction,” Current History, (December 2018), pp. 331-37.

***2nd Think Piece Due, Thursday, April 11th by 5pm***

WEEK 13 (April 14-20) Foreign Policy in Practice (Course Simulation Exercise)

Session 24 (April 15) International Crisis Simulation I

Session 25 (April 17) International Crisis Simulation II

WEEK 14 (April 21-27) Globalization and Terrorism

Session 26 (April 22) Globalization, Internet and Social Media

Jamie Bartlett, The People vs. Tech: How the internet is killing democracy (and how we can save it), (London: Ebury Press, 2018), pp. 11-40.

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

(New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), Chapter 10 on Trump Campaign.

“Do social media threaten democracy?” The Economist, Nov 4, 2017. https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21730871-facebook-google-and-twitter-were-supposed-save-politics-good-information-drove-out

Session 27 (April 24) Terrorism and Non-State Actors

Jessica Stern. ISIS: The State of Terror. (New York: Ecco, 2016), pp. 199-218.

Gus Martin, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives and Issues, 6th Edition. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 20-66.

***Optional Third Think Piece Due Thursday, April 25th by 5pm ***

WEEK 15 (April 28-May 4) Reflections and Review

Session 28 (April 29) Course Review

May 1. Holiday No Class.  

WEEK 16 (May 5-11) Final Examination TBD