Course Description

This course continues from the fall semester. The course introduces students to the fundamental theories and methods of modern political science through the study of a small number of major books and articles that have been influential in the field. This semester, the course focuses on American and comparative politics.

There are six sections in this course 1) social division and identity 2) ideology and beliefs 3) participation 4) institutions 5) how institutions shape outcomes 6) summary readings which address the first five sections in combination. Essentially, the course asks who are the members in a political system, what do they believe, how and why do they participate, what are the institutions that channel participation, and how do institutions translate, or fail to translate, participation into meaningful outcomes.


The organization of the course is basically the same as in the first semester. The first half of each meeting will be devoted to lecture and questions. We will then break for 15 minutes, and the second half will be devoted to student presentations and discussion. We will typically have two presentations each week, and the discussions associated with the presentation will be chaired by a member of the seminar.


Over the course of the term, you are required to submit six short, analytical papers of 1000-1200 words on assigned questions about the readings. (Do not hand in anything under 900 words or more than 1300 words.) You are required to write one paper, and only one paper, from each section of the course. You will receive questions at the beginning of each section. In writing these short assignments, you must answer the prepared question. The writing assignments get you to the central claims and arguments in the reading, and the point of the assignments is to ensure that you master those claims and arguments. Answering the questions will not require any research or any reading beyond the week's assignment. The assignments will not need (or benefit from) footnotes or literature reviews or surveys of doctrines or any references at all beyond the assigned reading.

Aside from the short writing assignments, you are required to do four things for the course:

  1. Do all the reading each week.

  2. Attend and contribute to discussion. To prepare for the discussion, you will need to think about the question raised by the writing assignment, whether or not you do the writing assignment that week.

  3. Give a short presentation (of no more than 15 minutes) on one week's reading assignment. The presentations will focus on a theme from the week's readings, and will lead into a discussion, which will be chaired by another member of the seminar (other than the presenter and other than me). The student making the presentation will decide what to focus the presentation on. You may not make a presentation on the topic of the writing assignment, but you may take one of the questions for further reflection as the focus for your presentation.

  4. Serve as chair for one presentation/discussion. The chair's responsibility is to ensure broad participation, keep the discussion focused, and enforce the time limits. The chair for the discussion should discuss the topic of the presentation with the presenter in advance of class.

Finally, I strongly urge that you regularly attend the Work in Progress Colloquia that meet right after class.

Grading Policy

Grades are assigned based on short writing assignments, completion of readings, attendance, contribution to class discussions, short presentations, and role as chair of class discussions.