Introduction to Political Science

Spring 1996 Course Description and Readings


This course introduces the study of political life by providing an overview of a discipline described variously as Political Studies, Political Science, Government, or Politics. Political Studies is perhaps the best label since Government is too narrow a label to encompass all of political life, and Political Science suggests a level of prediction and precision possible in only limited cases. Since politics affect almost everything we do, the purpose of the course is equally broad: from exposing you to the socio-political world around us, to helping you clarify your own political beliefs and attitudes.

We will examine key concepts used in political analysis and discourse. These concepts will include power, legitimacy, class, authority, ideology, freedom, equality, community, democracy, the state and so forth. These concepts will be discussed in the context of covering the three broad areas of the discipline: political philosophy, international relations, and comparative politics. We will relate these concepts to contemporary issues confronting the world.

To accomplish this task it will be necessary to keep up to date on world events. While this course is not a "current events" course, you are expected to be aware of political issues in the news, particularly in the English speaking world. One purpose of the course is to help you develop habits of mind that will allow you to exercise fully your rights and responsibilities as an informed citizen of the world. You will be introduced to a number of news sources on the internet and will be expected to utilize these sources daily.

This course will combine lectures, discussion and computer lab sessions. Lectures will not always coincide with the reading, but the reading is designed to give you the background necessary for political discourse. It is essential that you complete the reading assignment by class-time in order to understand the lecture and to participate in the discussions.

The goal in the content component of this class is not to learn English. The primary goal is to learn how to use political science tools. The use of English in pursuit of that goal is of course necessary, but English is not the only language you can use to learn about political science. To do your research for the required position papers, to prepare for class discussion, and for your reading log you may use any language. In class and for all written work, only English may be used. If you quote from a source in a language other than English, you must translate both the quotation and the citation.


Grades will be assigned on the basis of the following criteria:

1) Quizzes will constitute 15% of your content grade: There will be several "surprise" quizzes covering readings, news events and previous lectures. In order to do well, you will have to take notes on lectures, review the readings, and take note of major news events before every class. These quizzes will not be announced and are designed to insure that you regularly keep up with course assignments.

2) Three "Position Papers" will constitute forty-five percent of your content grade: The "Position Papers" can be no longer than two pages each. One paper will be on an issue in political philosophy, one on an issue in comparative politics, and one on an issue in international relations. In the position paper, you must identify a controversy, summarize the status of that controversy, and take a position in favor or against one side of the issue. The first paper is due October 8, the second paper is due November 12, and the third paper is due December 12. You can find useful information and tools for this paper here.

3) Thirty percent of your content grade will be based on two exams, one covering the first half of the course, and one covering the second half of the course. There will be no final exam. The exam will be in a short answer format.

4) A Reading log will constitute ten percent of your content grade. You are required to turn in a weekly reading log. The log should list all the materials you have read during the week for this course, and each article or section of a book should be characterized in at least a sentence or two. The more elaborate you are in your log, the easier it will be to write the papers. As a rough guide, you should be reading a minimum of two hours for each content hour of class time. If you are a serious student, of course, more than two hours per content hour will be necessary to explore a topic to your satisfaction. A very good tool for your reading log can be found by clicking here, and the APA style guide can be found here. An excellent source on how to cite electronic references is here.


The English part of the course is designed to help students develop their ability to comprehend important concepts discussed in the course, express their ideas about these concepts and develop their overall language proficiency, academic study skills, and critical thinking skills. Students will be required to participate in a variety of activities involving academic reading and vocabulary and grammar development, writing, listening, and speaking.


John Danzinger, The Political World.







September 3: Orientation

September 5: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 3-23.

September 10: Swift, Jonathan, A Modest Proposal

September 12: Paine, Thomas, The Rights of Man

September 17: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 27-48.

September 19: John Locke, Concerning Civil Government, second
essay, Chapters 1 & 2.

September 24: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 247-267.

September 26: George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

October 1: C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, Chapter 12.

October 3: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 269-290.

October 8: Robert Michels, "Oligarchy"

October 15: Danziger, The Political World, pp. pp. 53-77.

October 17: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 81-103.

October 22: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 105-124.

October 24: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 129-156.

October 29: Kropotkin, Peter, The State: Its Historic Role

October 31: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 159-182.

November 5: Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

November 7: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 185-218.

November 12: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 221-244.

November 15: Madison, James, Federalist Papers, No. 10

November 19: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 293-319.

November 21: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 321-342.

November 26: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 347-376.

November 28: Sun Tzu, The Art of War

December 3: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 379-410.

December 5: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 413-448.

December 10: Andrei Kozyrev, Partnership or Cold Peace?

December 12: Danziger, The Political World, pp. 451-510.


World Parliaments