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Political Science

Course Descriptions

Political Science Courses:

PS 101 Introduction to Political Science (4 SH). An introduction to the discipline of political science. The aim of the course is to introduce students to the scope and nature of political science, the fundamental problems of political life in the contemporary world, and the main types of political systems around the world. Special attention is paid to the challenges facing democracy as a political system in the coming decades.

PS 102 American National Government (4 SH). A critical introduction to the institutions, processes, powers, and limitations of the American national government. Special attention is given to an examination of the role of the citizen in American government and to the nature of democracy in America. Proposals for the reform of American government are also examined.

PS 103 Introduction to Political Philosophy (4 SH). An introductory examination of several ofthe basic problems of political life. The issues considered include the nature and function of order, authority, law, justice, freedom, equality and progress.

PS 104 International Politics (4 SH). A study of politics among states and other actors who affect global relations. Once establishing a background in the concepts used to analyze world politics, students will use these concepts to explore the Cold War era, the end of that system, and several pertinent international issues in the areas of security, economics, and the environment.

PS 204 Model United Nations (1 SH). This course prepares students to participate in a simulation that utilizes the basic structural tenets and procedural framework of the United Nations. Students develop familiarity with parliamentary procedures and a working knowledge of the national interests of member states. Students either attend a national Model United Nations conference or serve as conference staff for the Westminster College Model United Nations high school conference. Delegates work as diplomats, representing various countries and working towards solutions to various international problems. Conference staff members prepare a simulation experience and host committee sessions for area high school students. This course may be repeated for up to a total of four semester hours.

PS 211 State and Local Government (4 SH). A study of the American experience in state and local government, analytically oriented, with the objective of explaining political processes at the sub-national level. Attention is given to a description of basic institutions, to an analysis of state and municipal politics in a comparative perspective, and to salient policy questions.

PS 212 The Congress (4 SH). A study of the development and functioning of Congress and the legislative process. The course focuses on Congress’ role in policy making, with special attention given to the history, institutions, powers, and duties of Congress, and to the roles played by the committees and leadership of both Houses. The relationships of Congress to parties, interest groups, and other branches of government also are examined.

PS 213 The Presidency (4 SH). A survey of the development, roles, duties, powers, and limitations of the President and his chief advisers. The course focuses on such topics as the President andthe Constitution, Presidential elections, the structure of the Presidency, and the President’s relations with Congress, the bureaucracy, and the American people. Special attention is given to the impact of the President on both domestic and foreign policy and to recent attempts to reform the Presidency.

PS 214 The Courts (4 SH). This course covers a variety of topics relating to the politics of the American judicial system. Topics include: the structure and function of the state and national courts, the causes and consequences of civil litigation, the methods used to select judges, the politics of the bar, political litigation by interest groups, the historical development of judicial power and the controversies surrounding it, the factors that influence judicial decisions, and the relationship between the courts, the public and other branches of government.

PS 215 The Politics of Rock and Roll (4 SH). This course examines the relationship between one of the most powerful cultural forces of the 20th and 21st centuries—rock and roll music—and the political realm.

PS 221 American Political Thought (4 SH). An examination of American political theory from the origin of this country to the present, with emphasis on the development of liberalism, conservatism, and radicalism within the American tradition.

PS 222 Modern Democratic Ideologies (4 SH). A study of both the basic principles of democracy and also several modern ideologies which operate within the framework of democratic values and practices. Among those ideologies examined are liberalism, conservatism, democratic capitalism, democratic socialism, Christian democracy, and liberation theology. Central to the examination will be such problems as the role and value of the individual, the powers of government, and the organization of the economy and the distribution of rewards within the societies proposed by each ideology.

PS 232 Comparative European Governments and Politics (4 SH). A comparative study of the political systems and current challenges facing selected European powers. The patterns of political culture, political interests, political power, and public policy are analyzed. In addition, the project of European integration (the European Union) will be studied, and its current and future relations with the United States investigated.

PS 233 Government and Politics of Developing Countries (4 SH). Selected countries from the Third World will be studied to analyze the politics of change in the developing countries as they face the complex world of the international system. In particular, these issues will be studied: political instability; money management, inflation, and foreign debt; population pressures on limited resources; ethnic problems contributing to city, rural and regional frictions; asymmetrical economic development; and foreign policy issues relating to trade and diplomacy with industrialized countries of the world.

PS 235 African Politics and Society (4 SH). A study of the interaction between politics and social structures in Africa. Topics will include political organization in pre-modern Africa, the development and impact of slavery, the operations and impact of European colonialism, thestruggle for independence, the nature of the African state, the operation of democratic and authoritarian governments, the role of women, and the effects of AIDS.

PS 236 Politics of the Russian Federation & Former Soviet Republics (4 SH). This course introduces students to important issues in contemporary Russian politics including the development of its political, economic and social institutions. Students will examine the historical development of Russia’s governing institutions; compare the Russian Federation to other post- Soviet republics, and consider Russia’s regional and global significance.

PS 241 Public Policy (4 SH). An introduction to theories of policy making, policy implementation, and policy evaluation with particular attention to their applications to the American political system. An overview of policy in areas such as education, transportation, civil rights, welfare, agriculture, and defense is also provided. Special attention is given to the discussion of improving public policies.

PS 242 Environmental Policy and Politics (4 SH). This course explores “the environment” as a focus of public policy, an issue in political debate, and a basis for thinking about the purposes of political life. It reviews some of the classic readings in environmentalism, considers domestic and international policy approaches to major issues such as climate change, clean air and water, and sustainable development, and explores the ways in which thinking “environmentally” challenges our standard assumptions about policy-making and political life. Prerequisite: PS 101 or consent of instructor.

PS 251, 252, 253, 254, 255 Political Science Seminars (4 SH). Work in selected areas. These areas include PS 251 Seminar in Politics and Behavior; PS 252 Seminar in American Politics; PS 253 Seminar in Political Philosophy; PS 254 Seminar in Comparative Politics; PS 255 Seminar in International Politics. Special topics related to the selected area to be offered are announced prior to each registration period.

PS 301 Junior Seminar: Research Design and Analysis in Political Science (4 SH). An introduction to the various approaches to and challenges of research design and analysis in the discipline of political science. The goal is for each student to design a research project which will then be pursued in the Senior Capstone course. This course must be taken in the spring of the junior year. Prerequisites: PS 101, 102, 103, 104 and junior standing.

PS 302 Seminar—Mock Convention I (2 SH). Seminar to be held in the Spring term before Westminster’s Mock Convention. Students will learn about the role of National Nominating Conventions in the American political system. Planning will begin for Westminster’s Mock Convention to be held in the fall of the following academic year.

PS 303 Seminar—Mock Convention II (2 SH). Seminar to be held in the same term as Westminster’s Mock Convention. Students will continue to plan, prepare and execute the convention. Students will gain experience in all aspects of the process: credentials, public relations, platform, etc.

PS 311 Campaigns and Elections (4 SH). An examination of the processes by which Americans and their government are linked. Special attention is given to the study of the structures and functions of political parties and interest groups. Attention is also given to the role of the individual citizen, public opinion and elections in the linkage process. Problems in citizen-government linkage in the United States and proposals for reform are emphasized. Prerequisite: PS 102, or permission of instructor.

PS 321 American Constitutional Law: Government Powers (4 SH). An examination of the U.S. Supreme Court as an agency of judicial decision making within the framework of the American political system. The Supreme Court is studied within its political, historical, and constitutional framework, where it seeks to protect or expand its own powers as it is called upon to clarify social values as it interprets the major clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Prerequisite: PS 102 or 103, or permission of instructor.

PS 322 American Constitution Law: Civil Rights and Liberties (4 SH). An examination of the role of the Supreme Court, judicial review, and political struggle in shaping the evolution of the Constitutional framework of American politics. This course focuses on judicial review and the role of the Supreme Court in articulating and defending the civil rights and liberties of American citizens, through the interpretation and application of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment. Particular focus will be placed on the issues of freedom of speech and expression, the relationships between church and state, the right of privacy, and the constitutional guarantees of equal protection before the law. Prerequisite: PS 102 or 103, or permission of instructor.

PS 323 Modern Political Philosophy (4 SH). A study of normative values, as related to government and politics, utilizing the writings of the great political thinkers of the West from Machiavelli to the present. Prerequisite: PS 103 or permission of instructor.

PS 331 Geopolitics (4 SH). This course reviews traditional understanding of geopolitics, but moves beyond examining how geography impacts the projection of military power; addressing broader issues regarding the relationship between territory and international conflict. Particular attention will be paid to how nationalism and globalization have transformed the relationship between geography and war.

PS 332 U.S. Foreign Policy (4 SH). An exploration of the actors, institutions, and processes that shape the making of contemporary U.S. foreign policy. The course begins with an overview of Cold War foreign policy, and then focuses on the challenges facing American policy in the post- Cold War era. Special attention is given to the continuities and changes in the political processes through which foreign policy is made, and different theoretical approaches to the explanation of United States foreign policy. Prerequisite: PS 104 or permission of instructor.

PS 342 Politics and the Economy (4 SH). An examination of the manifold relationships between political life and economic organization, with an emphasis on advanced capitalist societies. The course will consider major theories about the relationship between government and theeconomy, explore the history and variety of relationships between the state and the market economy, evaluate the impact of economic change on political life, and discuss some of the pressing contemporary issues in this area, such as fiscal policy and government deficits, free trade/protectionism and international economic interdependence, monetary policy, government regulation of the economy, and questions of poverty and inequality. Prerequisite: PS 101 or permission of instructor.

PS 411 Political Psychology (4 SH). A study of the dynamic relationship of the individual to his/ her political environment, with emphasis on theories of political personality, political socialization, and political efficacy. Students are introduced to a means of scientifically studying the subjective communication that is inherent in theories of political personality. Prerequisite: PS 101 or 102, or permission of instructor.

PS 431 International Law and Organization (4 SH). A study of selected international institutions that have been constructed to address challenges faced by the world’s states. The course will introduce the student to several theories of international cooperation and explore the validity of these approaches in explaining behavior in the United Nations system (which consists of many international organizations). Students will leave the course with an understanding of the structures of these organizations, as well as a sense of how and why they work and sometimes fail to work. Topical areas will include peacekeeping, arms control and disarmament (e.g., nuclear weapons, biological and chemical warfare), development and trade, social and humanitarian issues (e.g., refugees, drug trafficking, transnational crime), and legal issues (e.g., war criminals, asylum). Prerequisite: PS 104 or permission of instructor.

PS 590-594 Field Experience/Internship (1-4 SH). Prerequisites: two courses in political science and consent of department.

PS 601 Senior Capstone (4 SH). An examination of central theoretical debates and challenges confronting modern political scientists. Over the course of the semester, each student will complete a substantial research project that applies a contemporary theoretical approach to a pressing issue in contemporary political life. This course must be taken in the fall of the senior year. Prerequisite: PS 301.

PS 620-624 Independent Study (1-4 SH). Prerequisites: two courses in political science and consent of department.

PS 660, 670, 680, 690 Honors Project (1-4 SH).

Supporting Courses:

SSC 252 Data Analysis for Social Science (4 SH). An introduction to methods of tabulating, analyzing, and interpreting empirical social science data; and to the use of computers in social science research. Emphasis is placed on assessing strengths, weaknesses, requirements, and applicability of the various statistical methods. Prerequisite: SSC 251 or some exposure to research methods and instructor permission.


What can you do with a Political Science degree?

Imagine yourself teaching or working in government, politics, or a professional position in the private sector.