PSC = Political Science SOC = Sociology HIS = History
IDS = Interdisciplinary PHIL = Philosophy ECON = Economics
Fall 2015 Course Descriptions
American Politics :: Comparative Politics
International Relations :: Political Theory :: Public Policy
General, Crossfield, & Related Courses
Constitutional Law, Professor Halper, PSC 72300, 3 credits, Tuesdays 6:30pm – 8:30 pm.
Constitutional Law begins by exploring several topics that will recur throughout the course: the tension between natural law and positive law; controversies about how to construe laws; the meaning and power of constitutions; and the proper role of courts in a democracy. If we cannot effectively hold them accountable, why do we want them to be powerful? If they lack the power of the purse and the sword, how can they be powerful? The course then turns to the chief substantive issues, separation of powers and federalism. Under the separation of powers, it deals with Dahl's analysis of the Supreme Court as a national decision maker, and examines cases involving Congress and the President, including INS v. Chadha, Ex parte Milligan, Hammer v. Dagenhart, Schecter Poultry v. U.S., Carter v. Carter Coal, Korematsu v. U.S., Youngstown Sheet & Tube v. Sawyer, U.S. v. Nixon, Clinton v. Jones, and Gore v. Bush. Among the issues raised are the uses to which the commerce clause can be put, the power of the national government during emergencies, addressing alleged presidential abuse, and deciding a problematical presidential election. Under federalism, the course will examine such cases as McCulloch v. Maryland, Plessy v. Ferguson, Lochner v. New York, Brown v. Board of Education, Moose Lodge v. Irvis, Milliken v. Bradley, Regents, University of California, Davis v. Baake, and Lopez v. U.S. Among the issues raised are liberty of contract, the takings clause, segregation and its removal, affirmative action, and state action. The course, in short, inquires as to how courts, constrained and empowered by unique rules and traditions, confront many of the great issues of the day. Although most of the assignments will be judicial opinions, readings from judges, lawyers, historians, and social scientists will supplement them. The course stresses thoughtful class discussion.
American Political Thought, Professor Fontana, PSC 72100, 3 credits, Thursdays 2pm – 4pm.
American Politics, Professor Lipsitz, PSC 82001, 4 credits, Mondays 2pm – 4pm.
This seminar provides an introduction to classic and contemporary studies in American politics. It is designed for graduate students, especially those who plan to take the American politics field exam. The semester will be organized around two central themes: institutions (e.g. Congress, the Presidency, and the media) and behavior (e.g. political participation and public opinion), beginning with the former. By the end of the course, students will have a basic familiarity with many of the fundamental works in the subfield, understand the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to studying the American political system, and be familiar with many of debates that have animated and continue to animate research in the discipline.
American Foreign Policy: National Security Strategy, PSC 82001, 4 credits, Wednesdays 4:15pm – 6:15pm.
Modern American Foreign Policy can be usefully divided into three periods: The Cold War; the 9/11 Decade, and the Post 9/11 Transition. Each period had it’s own “Doctrine:” Truman’s, Bush’s, and Obama’s.
This seminar examines the major challenges that American foreign policy faced during each period, and the adequacy of the presidential doctrines and strategies that were developed to meet them.
State and Society, Professor Erickson, PSC 87801, 4 credits, Wednesdays 6:30 – 8:30pm.
Seminar/colloquium on social movements, civil society, and the state. Readings and discussion cover historical and contemporary cases of social movements, contentious politics, and participation by civil society. In the contemporary era of democratic transition and consolidation, the course examines contentious popular and opposition movements that seek to revise the very nature of citizenship, particularly by expanding citizens’ rights of participation so as to include formerly excluded people and groups, and to win benefits for them. It also examines the role of such movements in transitions to democracy, and the impact of democratization on the movements themselves. My Latin American politics survey courses employ a top-down perspective, emphasizing the role of state institutions and political elites. This seminar examines many world regions and takes a bottom-up perspective, focusing on participation by worker, peasant, popular, feminist, indigenous, religious, and other sectors of civil society and ideological and political oppositions.
Contemporary scholarly interest in social movements and civil society developed in the 1970s and 1980s, when a body of literature on “New Social Movements” emerged in response to changing political realities, as “post-materialist” environmental, peace, and women’s movements developed in Western Europe and North America; as opposition to authoritarian rule crystallized in Latin America; and as unrest challenged the weakening communist party-states in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This literature, inspired by the work of scholars and activists, began to gain recognition by North American specialists on Latin America only in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In Latin America, scholars and activists raised very optimistic normative expectations that contentious social, economic, and political engagement by hitherto oppressed and excluded lower strata would create new, superior, forms of participatory democracy. The disappointing, or at best mixed, results on these headings prompted a sobering normative reappraisal by scholars, then a reappraisal of that reappraisal, followed by a focus on “contentious politics” by one school and on participatory politics within democratic institutions by others. In sum, in their empirical work on various world regions, researchers advanced a seemingly dominant interpretive paradigm and then, under challenge, refined it more than once. The trajectory of concepts covered will illustrate this process while providing students with an array of useful interpretive tools.
The first portion of the course will be a colloquium devoted to a close reading and discussion of the conceptual and case materials that should catalyze or orient individuals’ research projects. I will open each session by asking students to set the agenda for discussion on the assigned materials, agenda points they will have posted on Blackboard’s discussion board by the previous evening. The final portion of the course will be devoted to presentation of students’ research projects. Several days before the presentation, students will distribute via the discussion board a brief written précis of the project and other relevant documents to enrich discussion.
Democratization, Professor Unger, PSC 77903, 3 credits Tuesdays 6:30pm – 8:30pm.
For the first time in history, a vast majority of countries have adopted democracy, making democratization a key focus of comparative politics. Drawing on histories and current developments in each world region, this course comparatively assesses the strength and quality of democratic regimes around the globe by examining civil society, the balance of powers, policymaking, the rule of law, and the many entrenched problems – such as corruption, organized crime, and inequality – that trap most regimes in a grey area between transition and consolidation. The critical analysis of democratization that the class develops will also strengthen understand comparative and international politics more broadly.
Basic Theories and Concepts of Comparative Politics Part I, Professor Woodward, PSC 77901, 3 credits, Mondays 4:15pm – 6:15 pm.
Students are strongly encouraged to take this course the first semester in their graduate program, if at all possible.
This seminar is a graduate-level introduction to the literature in comparative politics. It can serve as a survey or review for advanced students as well. Because the key theories and concepts are also key political science concepts and theories, it is not exclusively intended for those majoring or minoring in comparative politics; all are welcome. It is not a course in methods or methodologies of research. The focus is on substantive topics within comparative politics: the role of concepts and theoretical approaches, the state, political regimes (e.g., democracy, authoritarian government) – origins, stability, and transition, political institutions, revolution and civil war, collective action, identity politics, institutions of political participation, the state and economic development, and the global context of domestic politics and policy.
Students in this seminar will vary in their goals depending on the extent of their prior knowledge of the subject matter, their particular substantive interests, and their field specialization within the discipline. Overall, the course should prepare them (1) to think, articulate orally, and write theoretically: to identify a theory in a reading, define its key concepts, articulate its causal mechanisms, and evaluate its empirical demonstration; (2) to know the evolution of questions, concepts, and theories within the discipline of comparative politics so as to understand those theories better and to analyze their limitations and biases; (3) to pass the first exam in comparative politics comfortably; and (4) to feel solidly grounded in the questions and literature of comparative politics so as to identify areas of further interest and specialization and to begin to prepare a dissertation proposal. These goals are basic, foundational; many other benefits for critical thinking and analysis will also result, but the foundation comes first.
Requirements include reading the assigned material prior to each class meeting, participation in class discussion, three brief written essays summarizing and analyzing the readings on one substantive topic in the syllabus, and a final examination.
Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Professor Andreopoulos, PSC 86401 (Cross Listed with WSCP 81000), 4 credits, Wednesdays 6:30pm - 8:30pm.
This course will focus on key concepts in human rights and humanitarianism, and examine their analytical value in the context of varying approaches towards the promotion and protection of internationally recognized human rights and humanitarian norms. In particular, the course will examine these concepts in light of (a) the recent debates in international relations theory on the role of ideas and norms, and the intersections between international relations and international law research agendas; and (b) the growing convergence between international human rights law and international humanitarian law. It will assess the impact of normative considerations, as well as the role of the relevant state and non-state actors on a whole set of critical issue areas including discrimination, accountability, human protection, political membership, human development, and legal empowerment. The course will conclude with a critical discussion of recent UN initiatives in these issue areas.
Seminar in International Security, Professor Liberman, PSC 86402, 4 credits, Tuesdays 4:15pm – 6:15pm.
This seminar has two goals: to develop students’ understanding of alternative theoretical and methodological approaches to understanding international security, and to develop students’ ability to conduct research in the field. Although the course readings feature works using a wide variety of methods, we will devote a week at the beginning of the semester to the fundamentals of research design and to qualitative case-study methods, to prepare students to engage in their own qualitative research.
“International security” is defined broadly in the course as the politics surrounding the threat, control, and employment of military force. Although time is too short to survey all topics, the course will begin by examining fundamental questions such as why states go to war, how they perceive threats and formulate military postures, and how these are affected by domestic politics and political culture. The course readings emphasize recent contributions and policy-relevant theory, rather than “the classics” or the intellectual history of the field. A variety of time periods and regions are examined in the empirical studies, although students are encouraged to focus their research papers more specifically if they wish. The students will help select the topics addressed in the course, and 4-5 weeks of the semester will be customized to address their interests.
Students will write a substantial research paper over the course of the semester, and present their findings during the final class meeting. Students will present their research plans mid-semester, with feedback provided by the class and by the instructor.
Basic Theories and Concepts in International Relations, Professor Shirkey, PSC 76000, 3 credits, Thursdays 2pm - 4pm.
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the different theories and concepts that scholars use to understand and explain world politics. The course examines the major theories in the field of International Relations (IR) and some of the central theoretical debates. Throughout the course, the relevance of specific theories and theory in general for how we make sense of world politics will be critically assessed. The focus of this course, however, will be theoretical rather than empirical. Thus, each class will be devoted to an in-depth discussion of a different theoretical perspective in IR, focusing on its key concepts, foundational assumptions, and central arguments.
UN & Changing World Politics, Professor Weiss, PSC 76203, 3 credits, Tuesdays 2pm - 4pm.
The object of this course is to situate the United Nations (UN) within the context of international relations theory and contemporary world politics. It is an introduction to the subject, which figures prominently in first exams, second exams, and other programs of study at The Graduate Center. It is geared to students who have not taken their first exams and are without significant professional or analytical exposure to the UN system.
The seminar will focus on a number of concrete cases using references to the history, administration, and especially the politics and some international legal dimensions of the UN system in its three main areas of activity: international peace and security; human rights and humanitarian action; and sustainable development. Given its impact in budgetary and political terms, the “high politics” of security receive the most emphasis. Consideration is also given to other actors (non-governmental and regional organizations) that interact with the UN in the processes of “global governance”—another topic that will appear with some regularity. Because of the importance of the United States to multilateralism, American foreign policy toward the world organization figures prominently in discussions, including the roller-coaster ride during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. Finally, we pay attention to the role of ideas within international institutions (that is, constructivism), an important orientation in recent international relations scholarship as well as a particular interest of mine after over a decade of research by the United Nations Intellectual History Project.
Every student enrolled or auditing is expected to lead two discussions (perhaps three, depending on enrollment) of the required readings (which requires going beyond them to consult the “suggested” readings); these presentations will constitute about one-third of the final grade. About two-thirds will be constituted by two “First” Exams taken under exam-like conditions on 27 October and 15 December.
Critical Reason: The Basics, Professor Buck-Morss, PSC 71901, 3 credits, Tuesdays 2pm – 4pm.
This course deals with basic concepts and problems of Western Critical Theory. The readings focus on three key authors: Kant, Hegel and Adorno. Philosophy is considered from the perspective of the political. Concepts include: critical reason, transcendental claims, phenomenology, dialectics, non-identity, materialist metaphysics, history, causality, and freedom. Students who are non-specialists are encouraged to read extremely difficult texts (Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Hegel's Phenomenology, Adorno's Lectures on History and Freedom) with the goal of developing critical capacities for concrete, historical analyses of political, social and economic life. The challenge is to make the concepts of the readings meaningful for contemporary projects of critique. Seminar requirements: sustained, active seminar participation, one short midterm paper, and one final paper (or exam option).
Policing the Social: Aristotle, Arendt, Foucault, Ranciere, Professor Feldman, PSC 80302, 4 credits, Thursdays 11:45am – 1:45 pm.
This course examines the writings of three political theorists—Arendt, Foucault, and Ranciere—who sought to make sense of distinctively modern forms of governance, ordering and exclusion in part through critical engagement with, and selective appropriation of, Aristotle’s Politics. We will look at some of the key contributions of each including Focuault’s account of biopower, governmentality and police in History of Sexuality vol 1, and selections from his 1978 and 1979 lectures Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitcs, Ranciere’s distinction between (democratic) politics and police and the notion of the police order, and Arendt’s theory of the rise of the social and critique of natural rights in the nation-state system. The course will also examine three texts of 21st century political theory that each draw upon one of these thinkers to provide insight into contemporary political problems: Wendy Brown on neoliberalism (Foucault); Ayten Gundogdu on migrants and statelessness (Arendt) and Davide Panagia on the sensory basis of democracy (Ranciere).
Ancient Political Thought, Professor Mehta, PSC 80301, 4 credits, Wednesdays 2pm – 4pm.
This course will offer an introduction to the political thought of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero. It is organized around five important and classic texts of the Western philosophic tradition.
The questions around which the course will be structured will include: Why is the study of politics and ethics some thing about which we need to, and can, have abstract theories? What is the status of an "ideal" polity with respect to actual polities? How does the question of justice relate to issues of interests, human identity and knowledge? What is the meaning of constitutionalism? What do Plato, Aristotle and Cicero take to be the original motivation underlying the formation of political society? How do these motivations conform to the normative prescriptions that they propose? How do notions such as friendship, duty and virtue relate to the understanding of citizenship? What are the justifications underlying the various proposed institutional arrangements? Finally, does the organizing of political life related to other conceptions of human needs and potentiality?
Social Contract Theory, Professor Morgenstern, PSC 71902, 3 credits, Wednesdays 4:15pm – 6:15 pm.
This course examines the social contract tradition and its effect on modern political discourse. While the social contract tradition is popularly identified with early modern political thought, approximations and appreciations of this idea are found in Plato, as well as in the more well known texts associated with this tradition: Hobbes (Leviathan), Locke (Second Discourse ;and other essays), Rousseau (Social Contract & Discourses), Rawls (A Theory of Justice, The Law of Peoples). We will also look at early modern appraisals (Hume) and emendations (Freud) of social contract discourse, as well as more contemporary rereadings and critiques of the social contract tradition (Pateman, Mills, Sen). Course requirements include class attendance and participation, an oral presentation, and a research paper.
Dictatorship: The Career of a Concept from Robespierre to Lenin and Beyond, Professor Wolin, PSC 71903, 72500 (Cross Listed with HIST 72100), 3 credits, Mondays 4:15pm – 6:15 pm.
The Austerity Crisis & Failures in National Urban Policy, Professor Goering, PSC 82503, 4 credits, Thursdays 2pm – 4pm.
National urban polices in the U.S. have confronted multiple political, sociological, and fiscal challenges over the past century. Conditions of permanent austerity and uncertainly characterize the complex realities of routine policy-making in and for cities. While Thomas Piketty concludes “the rich world is rich, but the governments of the rich world are poor,” policy choices are seldom so simply framed. Unyielding in many ways and pliable in others, cities are complex instruments for examining inequalities and change, including policy-driven effects. In this course will examine federal attempts to make progressive political choices in the face of partisan political polarization, exploring the limits, frailties, and political successes of U.S. urban policies. This should enable a clearer assessment of cities as potential sites of and instruments for policy change.
Introduction to Policy Process, Professor Gornick, PSC 73101, (Cross Listed with SOC 85700), 3 credits, Tuesdays 4:15pm – 6:15 pm.
This course will provide an introduction to theories of the policy-making process, with a focus on the United States.
The first section of the course will offer an overview of major theories, concepts, and models of public policy-making.
The second section of the course will address problem definition and agenda-setting, and will situate policy-making in the political landscape.
The third section will focus on the impact of social movements on the policy process.
The final section of the course will assess the implementation process, with a focus on “street-level bureaucracy”.
Readings will include works by leaders in the field, including David Rochefort and Roger Cobb, Paul Sabatier, Deborah Stone, Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram, Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones, John Kingdon, Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky, and Michael Lipsky.
The requirements include a set of written summaries of class readings; supervision of one class session, and two exams.
Global Inequality: Measurement, Analysis, and Political Implications. Professor Milanovic, PSC 72500, (Cross Listed with SOC 84606), 3 credits, Wednesdays 6:30pm – 8:30pm.
The focus of the class is on global inequality which is defined as inequality between citizens of the world (as if they were members of a same nation). We will review the evolution of global inequality from the Industrial Revolution until today, and see how the changing composition and magnitude of global inequality affects politics, economics, and migration. Two types of inequalities, within-national (inequality among individuals within a single nation) and cross-national (inequality in mean incomes across nations) combine to determine global inequality. We shall thus also review the changes in within- and between-national inequalities. The class ends with an overview of positions of various political philosophers (e.g., Rawls, Pogge, Sen, Nagel) regarding global inequality and migration.
The course will be fairly empirical but does not require any prior specific knowledge of the issues nor techniques. It is recommended for students of economics, political science, and sociology. This class is a follow-up of the one on “The theories of income distribution: from Pareto to Piketty” but can be taken independently.
Theories of Neighborhood and Community Change, Professors Mollenkopf & Kornblum, PSC 72500 (Cross Listed with SOC 82800), 4 credits, Wednesdays 4:15pm – 6:15 pm.
Neighborhoods are the basic units of community formation in urban settings. People are sustained the attachments they form with their neighbors and neighborhoods – and they in turn play important roles in identity-formation, family-formation, child-rearing, primary education, friendship networks, sociability, shopping, dining, recreation and entertainment, worship, access to work, civic engagement, political representation, and so on. The clustering of similar people in neighborhoods is thought to generate both positive and negative feedbacks. In the ideal case, these building blocks of urban community are resilient in the face of change, or at least achieve new equilibria when circumstance require them. (In the worst case, people abandon their neighborhoods.) At the same time, neighborhoods constantly evolve, as people come and go, while those who stay age through the life cycle. Larger trends in politics and government, the housing and job markets, and society and culture operate on them, if unevenly. We have surprisingly little systematic theory about how patterns of neighborhood change result from the interplay of individual and family choices about where to live nested in the larger framework of housing markets, political institutions and regulations, and social change. This course begins by reviewing some classic theoretical orientations, such as the Chicago School, urban political economy, and the gentrification debates. It will then interrogate a series of case studies in New York City. While the specific cases will depend on the research interests of seminar participants, whom we expect to join in elaborating the case studies, they may include East Williamsburg/Bushwick/Ridgewood, the neighborhoods around Jamaica Bay, and the New York City working waterfront. We will use these case studies to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the theoretical perspectives and consider how to improve them.
General and Crossfield
Core Seminar in Political Science, Professor Cole, PSC 71000, 3 credits, Thursdays 11:45am-1:45pm.
This course has two primary objectives: (1) to introduce students to and provide an overview of major perspectives, problems, and approaches in political science; (2) to foster intellectual community within our Department. The seminar proceeds through the various subfields of the political science discipline, engaging key texts and debates in these modes of analysis through course sessions led by faculty members in the program. It also engages the conduct of current scholarship in the discipline through course sessions where advanced graduate students discuss their own research. An important theme throughout the course is how gender, race, sex, and sexuality inform political questions and political science inquiry.
Topics in Women's & Gender Studies: Trans Theories, Practices, Politics, Professor Currah, PSC 71904 (Cross Listed with WSCP U81601), 3 credits, Tuesdays 2:00 – 4:00 pm.
In this course, “trans” will be looked at as an identity, a set of practices, a site of activism, and a point of entry for the study of gender. We will become familiar with different approaches to the topic of transgender—some that understand the category as a basic for gender self determination and some that see trans* as a way to move away from norms organized around the gender binary. Many of the texts will be situated on a continuum between gender fundamentalist projects and gender subversive projects. We will begin with an overview of some canonical texts on sex, gender, and the relation between them and then move on to the public history of transsexuality, the emergence of movements for transgender equality, medical accounts of gender non-conformity, struggles for de-pathologization, debates about quests for recognition and redistribution, the racialization of transsexuality and transgender subjectivities, trans-feminism, minoritizing and universalizing approaches to (trans)gender, and intersections with other interdisciplinary areas (e.g. animal studies, disability studies, post-colonial studies). The last section of the course will focus on particular topics reflecting the interests of those in the class, possibly including: sex classification, incarceration, discrimination, pedagogy, art and activism, quantitative and qualitative research questions (e.g., methodology, ethics) on transgender and gender non-conforming communities.