PLSC 100 Introduction to Political Science

This course introduces the field of political science through a comparative, international survey of the major issues, questions, and ideas of politics. The class provides an overview of the discipline and its subfields. Key concepts and topics include:

  • order
  • power
  • the state and the nation
  • political change
  • resistance
  • violence
  • human rights
  • ideologies of
    • liberalism
    • conservatism
    • nationalism
    • feminism
    • environmentalism
  • the organization of major political systems
  • institutions of governance, including
    • executives
    • legislatures
    • courts
  • the international dimensions of politics and economics

These themes provide frameworks to both interpret current events and describe domestic and international political systems.

Parallel goals of this course include developing effective research, analysis, critical thinking, and writing skills. The class also aims to foster a global understanding of cultural diversity and difference. Together, these objectives help form the basis for future coursework in and out of the discipline and should help students make informed judgments about the political world around them.


The following book is available in the History and Political Science Department (Founders Hall 114):

  • Ellen Grigsby, Analyzing Politics: An Introduction to Political Science, Cengage Advantage Books, 5th edition

In addition, the following text must be purchased. (I have provided the link, but you should feel free to purchase from your preferred vendor.)

Additional readings can be found on Blackboard, as noted below in the schedule of course meetings and readings.

Students are also required to follow a source for current events, such as BBC World News, NPR News, The Washington Post, The New York Times, or The Economist.

Texts must be brought to class on the day they will be discussed.  Students will be considered absent if they do not bring the reading to class on the day it is discussed.


Class meetings will be grounded in discussion of the assigned texts. Readings must be completed before the class meeting in which they will be discussed. This enables students to get the most out of the lectures and to participate effectively in discussion.

Discussion: Each student will be assigned study questions to prepare for class discussion.  During these discussions, you will not be expected to have fully developed points of view about the course materials. However, you are expected to participate. No one will be penalized for being wrong or imprecise, for expressing uncertainty or frustration, or for changing their mind. But it should be clear that you are trying, that you have done the readings and are working toward a mastery of the material.

Questions: None of us, myself included, knows everything about the topics of this class. It is our responsibility to ask others who may know the answer, either in class, in office hours, or over dinner. I expect that you are learning the material, not that you know it. As much as possible, try not to be shy or embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. The biggest failure in learning any material, in college or in life, is to fail to ask questions about things you do not know.

Availability: I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me throughout the semester. I am almost always available to discuss the course material, or other life issues. Because I maintain an “open-door” policy, you should not hesitate to stop by my office during office hours–or at other times. If you would prefer to schedule a time during non-office hours, simply contact me by phone or email and we will schedule an appropriate time.

Laptops, Cell Phones, and TabletsLaptops  and tablets may not be used in class. Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings. Students who use laptops, tablets or cell phones without explicit permission to do so will be considered absent.


The value of our meetings will hinge on your advance preparation and on your willingness to engage the issues actively in class. When you are doing the readings, keep in mind that you will be expected to participate in the debates outlined in the readings, reject some positions, embrace others, and defend the choices you make.

Grades will be based on the following:

  • Study questions:  25%
  • Quizzes: 25%
  • Midterm: 15%
  • Final exam:  25%
  • Attendance and participation:  10%

Study Questions: Once a week, students must hand in responses to assigned study questions.  These responses should be between 250 and 500 words in length. You should write down the question you are answering as well as your answer to the question. Question sets will be assigned on the first day of class.

Quizzes: Quizzes will be given at the end of each class session.  (Each class meeting has two sessions.) I will write one or two questions on the board. These questions will be on the course material and on the relationship between the course material and current events.

Midterm: The midterm will ask you to answer a series of short-answer questions based on the course materials and lectures.  

Final Exam: The final exam will be in two parts. The first part will be identical to the midterm but will only include questions on course materials addressed after the midterm. (Questions drawn from the midterm review may appear on the final exam.) The second part will ask you to construct a research proposal based on the theme of power: how it is deployed and organized, how it produces inequities, and how those inequities might be addressed.

Participation: Attendance and punctuality are basic requirements for an effective discussion. Beyond that, each student’s frequency and quality of contribution to the class discussion will be assessed and reflected in the class participation score. Students who miss more than four classes will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B). Students who miss more than seven classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+). Students who are in class but do not have the assigned reading will be considered absent.


Aug. 28

  • Introduction
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 1
      • What is politics?________________________
      • What is political science?________________________
      • What role to change, resources, and the common life have in politics?_______________________________
      • What distinguishes a democratic from an authoritarian political system?___JB, PT, GR________________________
      • What was Mayor Giuliani’s position on displaying Renee Cox’s work?  What are the arguments for and against this position?___JB, PT, GR _____
      • How are art, love and emotion political?__JB, PT, GR__________________

Aug. 30

  • Political Science and Scientific Methods in Studying Politics
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 2
      • Questions 1, 2_________BrandonS, TannerS, MasonF______
      • Questions 3, 4, 5_______DeanW, ChristianK, CodyS_________
      • Questions 6, 7, 8_______SeanC, GerardoT_______________
Sept. 4
  • Key Concepts in Political Science
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 3
      • Questions 1, 2______CristianC, DiannaC. JuliaT_____________
      • Questions 3, 4, 5____HelenR, HanaH, JoshW__________________
      • Questions 6, 7, 8____KylieH, GawainC, IsaiahD_________________
      • Questions 9, 10, 11____BryceB, MarioL______________________
Sept. 6
  • Political Theory: Examining the Ethical Foundations of Politics
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 4
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___BrandonS, DeanW, SeanC, GonzaloR_____________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___CristianC, HelenR, KylieH_________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9___BryceB, TannerS, ChristianK_____________________
      • Questions 10, 11___GerardoT, DeanC, JohnB ________________________

Sept. 11 NO CLASS: Instead we will attend a performance with the FLEX group at the Dailey Theatre on the evening of November 15. Details to follow.

Sept. 13

  • Political Ideologies I: Liberalism, Conservatism, and Socialism
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 5
      • Questions 1, 2, 3__GawainC, MarioL, MasonF___________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6__CodyS, JuliaT, JoshW ____________________
      • Questions 7, 8, 9__JohnD, HanaH, PeterT________________________
Sept. 18
  • Political Ideologies II: Fascism
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 6
      • Questions 1, 2, 3__GerardoT, GawainC, CodyS___________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6__IsaiahD, DeanW, HelenR_______________
      • Questions 7, 8____TannerS, DianaC, MarioL___________
      • Questions 9, 10___JuliaT, HanaH, SeanC____________________

Sept. 20

  • Political Ideologies III: Feminism, Environmentalism, and Postmodernism
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 7
      • Questions 1, 2____KylieH, ChristianK, JohnB____
      • Questions 3, 4, 5__MasonF, JoshW, PeterT, GonzaloR_____
      • Questions 6, 7___BrandonS, ChristainC, BryceB____
Sept. 25
  • Comparative Politics I: Governmental Systems: Democracy and Nondemocracy
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 8
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___JuliaT, DianaC, HelenR, GerardoT_________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___KylieH, HanaH, MarioL, IsaiahD_________________
      • Questions 7, 8____MasonF, ChristianK, SeanC_________________

Sept. 27

  • Comparative Politics II: Governing Democracies: Executives, Legislatures, and Judiciaries
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 9, pp. 191-209
      • Questions 1, 2____BrandonS, JoshW, JohnB___________________
      • Questions 3, 4_____GawainC, ChristianC, GonzaloR____________
      • Questions 5, 6, 7___DeanW, CodyS, BryceB, TannerS__________________
Oct. 2
  • Comparative Politics II (cont’d): Governing Democracies: Executives, Legislatures, and Judiciaries
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 9, pp. 209-225
      • Questions 8, 9_____JohnB, Mason F, DeanW, DiannaC, BryceB_____________
      • Questions 10, 11___PeterT, CodyS, ChristianK, HelenR, MarioL____________

Oct. 4

  • Comparative Politics III: Governing Democracies: Executives, Legislatures, and Judiciaries
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 10
      • Questions 1, 2, 3___GonzaloR, JuliaT, SeanC, HanaH_______________________
      • Questions 4, 5, 6___IsaiahD, BrandonS, GerardoT, KylieH__________________
      • Questions 7, 8_____JoshW, TannerS, CristianC, GawainC___________________
Oct. 9: Gitty Amini, Hot Spots Lecture, President’s Dining Room in the Old Dining Hall, 12:00-1:00
  • International Relations I: Introduction
    • Reading: Grigsby, ch. 11
      • Questions 1, 2__JohnB, ChristianK, IsaiahD_____________________
      • Questions 3, 4__MasonF, HelenR, BrandonS____________________
      • Questions 5, 6__DeanW, MarioL, GerardoT, GawainC___________
      • Questions 7, 8__DiannaC, GonzaloR, KylieH______________________

Oct. 11

  • International Relations II: Contemporary Issues
    • Grigsby, ch. 12
      • Questions 1, 2__BryceB, JuliaT, JoshW____________________
      • Questions 3, 4__PeterT, SeanC, TannerS______________________
      • Questions 5, 6___CodyS, HanaH, ChristainC_____________________
Oct. 16 
Oct. 18 
  • Readings in Political Theory (Blackboard, pp. 10-28) 
    • On Human Nature
      • What is human nature? How are human beings the same?  How are we different?______________
      • Do differences of sex and gender have any relevance for politics?_____________
      • Are we fundamentally political beings? Economic beings?  Something else?______________
      • What is humanity’s natural condition? Are we naturally solitary or social?______________
      • According to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, what distinguishes the state of nature from the state of war? Compare the state of nature in Hobbes and Locke.______________
      • What is Karl Marx’s “method of approach?” What conclusions follow from this method?_____________________

Oct. 23

  • Readings in Political Theory (Blackboard, pp. 37-83)
    • On Human Nature (cont’d)
      • According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, what are the virtues of a woman? Why is it so critical that women be virtuous for Rousseau?______________
      • What is required for women to be free and equal, according to Mary Wollstonecraft?_____________
      • What does Gilligan’s study reveal about gender differences?_____________
    • On the Origins of Society
      • How do societies originate according to Hobbes and Rousseau?_______________
      • Who is sovereign according to Hobbes and Rousseau?_______________
      • How much power does the sovereign wield?__________________
    • On the Authority of the Law
      • What is Socrates’ argument for obeying the law?_____________
      • What is Thoreau’s argument justifying disobedience?___________
Oct. 25
  • Readings in Political Theory (Blackboard, pp. 91-140)
    • On Democracy
      • According to Plato, what qualifies one to rule?_________
      • What is Plato’s critique of democracy?____________
      • What is the general will, according to Rousseau? How it is best implemented?___________
      • What is the tyranny of the majority, according to Alexis de Tocqueville? Why is it a particular problem for democracies?_____________
      • What is the difference between the liberty of the ancients and the liberty of the moderns, according to Benjamin Constant? What are the dangers of each one?____________
    • On Morality and Individual Liberty
      • According to John Stuart Mill, under what conditions may individual liberty be restricted?_____________
      • What are James Fitzjames Stephen’s and Patrick Devlin’s criticisms of Mill’s argument?_____________
Oct. 30
  • Readings in Political Theory (Blackboard, pp. 158-245)
    • On the Virtues of Citizenship
      • According to Niccolo Machiavelli, why were the ancient religions superior to Christianity?___________
      • According to Tocqueville, how does democratic power affect the character of its citizens?______________
    • On Rights
      • What are rights? What are Bentham’s and Marx’s criticisms of them?____________
    • On Economic Justice
      • What is Smith’s argument against government intervention in the economy?________________
      • What are John Rawls’ two principles of justice?__________

Nov. 1

  • Readings in Political Ideology, Comparative Politics, and American Government
    • Jan-Werner Müller, What Is Populism, 1-41
      • Mason, Dean, Dianna
        • What is populism?
        • Is populism a left-wing or right-wing phenomenon? Name a populist on the left and one on the right. What makes each one of them populists?
      • Bryce, Peter, Cody
        • What is pluralism? What is the relationship between populism and pluralism?
        • What is identity politics? How does it relate populism?
        • What is the relationship between populism and democracy?
      • ChristianK, Helen, Mario
        • What is the relationship between populism and liberalism?
        • Why, according to Müller, is it wrong to understand populism as an expression of anger or frustration or resentment?
        • What is the relationship between the populist leader and the people?
      • Gonzalo, Julia, Sean
        • What is the “core claim” (p. 21) of populism?
        • What is producerism?
        • How do populist leaders characterize the institutions of democracy, such as elections, courts, separation of powers, parties, etc?
        • Explain the concept of direct representation.
Nov. 6  
  • Readings in Political Ideology, Comparative Politics, and American Government
    • Jan-Werner Müller, What Is Populism, 41-103
      • Hana, Isaiah
        • How do populists use conflict?
        • Describe the populist’s strategies of occupying or colonizing the state, mass clientelism, and discriminatory legalism.
        • What is illiberal democracy? Does populism in power equal illiberal democracy?
      • Gerardo, Kylie, Josh
        • Why is Müller opposed to applying the concept of “illiberal democracy” to populists?
        • What is the relationship between populism and constitutionalism? Give one historical example to illustrate your answer.
        • When, if ever, is it possible to speak in the name of the people as a whole?
      • Tanner, ChristianC, Gawain
        • How does populism “solve” the broken promise of democracy?
        • How should defenders of liberal democracy respond to populists?
        • Who were the American Populists of the 19th century? What policies did they advocate?
      • John, Brandon
        • Name some instances of populism in 20th-century America.
        • What is technocracy? What is its relationship to populism?
Nov. 8
  • Readings in Comparative Politics and American Government
    • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (Blackboard, 1-52)
      • Kylie, ChristianC, Brandon
        • Why did Ziblatt and Levitsky believe the US was immune to democratic decline?
        • How did Hugo Chavez transform Venezuela from a democracy into an autocracy?
        • What are the guardrails of American democracy? How have they been weakened?
      • Dianna, Cody, Mario, Mason
        • How did Mussolini and Hitler come to power?
        • What are the behavioral warning signs of an authoritarian ruler?
        • What should democratic politicians do to stop authoritarians?
      • Sean, Josh, Gawain, Bryce
        • How did Belgium stave off fascism in 1936? How about Austria in 2016?
        • What are America’s gatekeeping institutions?
        • How did gatekeepers keep Henry Ford from power?
        • How did the 1968 Democratic convention lead to changes in the parties’ gatekeeping function?

Nov. 13

  • Readings in Comparative Politics and American Government
    • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (Blackboard, 52-71, 97-117)
      • ChristianK, Gonzalo, Isaiah, Hana
        • What is the invisible primary?
        • Why are party gatekeepers “shells of what they once were?”
        • How was Trump able to win the Republican nomination with no support from the establishment?
      • Gerardo, Tanner, John
        • How does Trump perform on Linz’s four measures for autocrats?
        • What should Republicans have done to stop Trump?
      • Dean, Peter, Helen, Julia
        • Why can’t well-designed constitutions guarantee democracy?
        • Why did the Spanish Republic fall?
        • What is constitutional hardball? Give an example from a country outside the US.

Nov. 15 

  • Readings in Comparative Politics and American Government
    • Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die (Blackboard, 145-175)
      • ChristianC, Cody, Josh
        • What role did Newt Gingrich play in norm breaking?
        • Which norms were broken under the Bush administration?
        • Why was 2008 a “watershed moment in partisan intolerance?”
        • What role did the Tea Party play in the erosion of norms?
        • What was birtherism?
      • Gonzalo, Tanner, Peter
        • How did the Democrats under Obama respond to Republican norm breaking?
        • What is polarization? How has it gotten worse in recent years?
  • Readings in American Government
    • Christopher Ellis and James A. Stimson, Ideology in America (Blackboard, 1-31)
      • Brandon, Mario, Gawain
        • What are the core components of liberalism?
        • What are the core components of conservatism?
        • What are the historical origins of liberalism?\
        • What are the historical origins of conservatism?
      • Isaiah, John, Helen
        • What are symbolic and operational ideology?
        • How do Stimson and Ellis measure Americans’ policy preferences?
        • Why are Americans operational liberals?

Nov. 20

  • Readings in American Government
    • Christopher Ellis and James A. Stimson, Ideology in America, (Backboard, 57-85)
      • JohnB, Mason F, DeanW, DiannaC, BryceB
        • What percentage of Americans identify as liberal and conservative? Why don’t conservatives always win in a landslide?
        • What is self-identification? Why is it difficult to study prior to 1968?
      • PeterT, CodyS, ChristianK, HelenR, MarioL
        • What caused the dramatic reduction in self-identified liberals?
        • Who was the new clientele of liberalism?

Nov. 22

NO CLASS: Thanksgiving

Nov. 2

  • Readings in American Government
    • Christopher Ellis and James A. Stimson, Ideology in America (Blackboard, 155-174)

Nov. 29

  • Readings in International Relations
    • Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (Blackboard, pp. 8-52)

Dec. 4

  • Readings in International Relations
    • Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (Blackboard, pp. 53-98)

Dec. 6

  • Readings in International Relations
    • Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (Blackboard, pp. 127-161)
FINAL EXAM: Dec. 13, 9:50-12:35 pm


The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk).


  1. One seat space between students when possible.
  2. No bathroom breaks except in the case of illness or emergency.  Student should discuss this circumstance with the proctor prior to the start of the exam.
  3. No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.
  4. Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.
  5. Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.


Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

A— designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.

B— designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.

C— designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.

D— designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.

F— designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.


Plagiarism is a prevalent but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course, please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy.

Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:

·The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.

·Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.

·Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.

·The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.

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