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Political Science


The study of political science widens cultural perspectives by providing insight into political institutions and behavior. Students of political science develop an understanding of the responsibilities of intelligent citizenship. Carthage’s political science major provides a foundation for graduate study in political science or, with other social science courses, preparation for careers in government service, law, teaching, journalism or research analysis. Scroll down to read descriptions of the political science courses offered at Carthage, or click on the following links for additional resources.

  • POL 1030

    Introduction to Comparative Politics (SOC)

    This course is an introduction to the study of comparative politics. The first half of the term focuses on the nature of comparative politics while the second half looks at a range of specific countries. The readings and assignments do not merely consider governmental institutions but the broader range of political activity, from grassroots organizing to social movements and formal political participation.

  • POL 1040

    Introduction to Public Policy (SOC)

    Introduction to Public Policy examines the actions undertaken by government. The course explores theoretical explanations and justifications for government actions, as well as quantitative and qualitative techniques for evaluating alternative courses of government action. These theories and concepts will be used to analyze specific policy issues and the political environments in which they exist.

  • POL 1050

    Introduction to International Relations (SOC)

    This course offers an introduction to the major concepts and theories in international politics and their application to the events of the postwar world, particularly the Cold War and the North-South conflict. Attention is also given to disruptive forces in the international community, such as the nuclear arms race and ethnic conflict, as well as those forces, such as the United Nations, that contribute to world order.

  • POL 1070

    Introduction to Political Theory (SOC)

    This course will introduce the student to a variety of political theorists. Included would likely be theorists such as Aristotle, St. Thomas, Machiavelli, Locke, Madison, etc., as well as more contemporary theorists such as Rawls and Nozick. The empirical and normative features of theories will be identified and examined. The course also will focus on how effective or adequately theories integrate critically necessary, yet apparently inconsonant, political principles and values.

  • POL 1900

    Constitutional Rights: Freedom of Expression (SOC)

    The assertion of a right to freedom of expression has come to refer broadly to a variety of rights that find their support in guarantees provided by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The term "expression" has come to be a generic reference to rights such as speech, press, assembly, protest, strike, symbolic speech, artistic expression, etc. Judgments respecting the acceptability of instances of various forms of expression have been determined by judicial standards, such as bad tendency, clear and present danger, fighting words, balancing, etc. These matters will be explored through the reading of Supreme Court decisions and the discussions that these decisions have provoked.

  • POL 1910

    Law and Society

    Law and Society introduces how disputes are authoritatively resolved and how the mechanisms for resolving disputes actually work. Students will examine legal institutions (the bar, courts, prisons, interest groups), rules (bills of rights, criminal procedure, contract law), and participants (parties, judges, prosecutors, police, attorneys) and ask when, why, and how they come into play. The course will also investigate the potential for bias in law and the uses of law as a tool for political and social change.

  • POL 2050

    Philosophical Foundations of Political Economy (SOC)

    An introduction to the philosophical foundations of political economy from classical times through the Enlightenment to the modern era. Students will read, discuss, and analyze the works of both European political economists (Smith, Ricardo, Mill, and Marx) and American thinkers and statesmen in the field (Jefferson, Mason, Hamilton, and Madison).

  • POL 2100

    Politics and Film

    4 cr.
    This course examines various political themes as expressed in films. Film serves as an important medium for political critique of institutions, behaviors, and norms. Students will learn to perform textual analyses of films to interpret the possible political narratives they contain, and engage with those narratives through discussion and critique. This is a variable content course with different versions which investigate particular themes and topics through particular films.

  • POL 2400

    American Government: National, State, and Local (SOC)

    This course involves a study of the institutions of American government at the national, state, and local levels and is designed to serve students seeking teacher certification. It will stress the informal as well as the formal dimensions of government and will, and thereby attempt to broaden and deepen insight into the processes of policy-making and implementation.

  • POL 2900

    Constitutional Law and the Separation of Powers (SOC)

    An examination of the U.S. Supreme Court and its interpretation of the U.S. Constitution over time on such topics as judicial review, executive and legislative branch powers, federalism and the role of states, and political and economic regulation.
    Prerequisite: Sophomore standing

  • POL 2910

    Constitutional Law: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (SOC)

    An examination of the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the U.S. Constitution over time on such topics as freedom of expression and religion, criminal and civil due process, privacy, equal protection, and the nationalization of the Bill of Rights.
    Prerequisite: Sophomore standing

  • POL 3030

    Women of Africa

    The study of the countries in Africa has frequently focused on public events: colonialism, political change, war, government actions, and the formal economy. In recent years, researchers have begun to explore in more depth how women's lives are impacted by these events, and how women in Africa are active participants in the various sectors of their societies.
    This course will look at life in various African countries through the eyes of women and will examine how women of Africa actively engage in and are affected by political, cultural, and economic events both domestically and internationally. Themes will include human rights issues of women, the impact of modernity and tradition on women's lives, images of appropriate female behavior, economic hardship and survival techniques, cultural issues surrounding marriage and motherhood, and women's participation in the public spheres of their countries.

  • POL 3040

    African Transitions

    African countries and peoples have often been examined through the lenses of European and North American cultures. These analyses have sometimes been helpful and other times have resulted in inaccurate portrayals of African life and people. This course uses texts written predominantly by African authors from various parts of the continent to provide African perspectives on transitions that have occurred on the continent. These transitions include the transition from traditional life to colonial rule, the shift to independence, attempts at democratization, adaptations rural Africans make when moving to urban areas, and the clashes between Western and African cultures that continue today. Using themes of governance, community, and reference groups to examine different African cultures, the course incorporates theories and concepts from the disciplines of political science and sociology.

  • POL 3100

    The Logic of Political Inquiry (SOC)

    This class is an introduction to the research process in political science. Questions about the history and structure of the discipline, how inquiry is framed by philosophical assumptions, and the role of observation and experimental design are all examined. Students will use their understanding of these issues to plan a research project, collect and analyze data, and effectively present their findings. This class is a direct link to the Senior Seminar/Senior Thesis.
    Prerequisite: Junior standing

  • POL 3110

    Women's and Gender Studies Theory

    This is a reading seminar that will investigate the writings of feminist theorists as well as the critical questions raised by feminism pertinent to the academic disciplines. "Sexes (gender), difference between the sexes, man, woman, race, black, white, nature are at the core of [the straight minds'] set of parameters. They have shaped our concepts, our laws, our institutions, our history, and our cultures. To reexamine the parameters on which universal thought is founded requires a reevaluation of all the basic tools of analysis, including dialectics. Not in order to discard it, but to make it more effective" (Monique Wittig). This course will examine the feminist critique of culture as a way of examining our philosophical heritage and understanding the relationship of culture to academic inquiry.

  • POL 3200

    Women and Politics (SOC)

    This class is an examination of the political roles and activities of women internationally. Exploring cultural, religious, racial, economic, and social constraints, as well as opportunities for women's involvement in politics, the course will keep in mind theory and practice as well as the problems in specific countries. Attention will be given to how the discipline defines political participation, how various feminists may influence change, and what it means to look for common differences.

  • POL 3240

    Contemporary Political Theory (SOC)

    This course features the themes and thinkers of political theory dominant in the 20th century and our era. It will consider such themes as pluralism, democratic theory, legitimation, secularization, liberalism, and communitarianism and thinkers such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Foucault, Habermas, and Rawls. By considering the foundations of contemporary political theory, it will place current political debates in the context of the philosophical themes behind them.
    Prerequisite: POL 1070

  • POL 3250

    Classics of Political Thought (SOC)

    An analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of the major trends of Western political thought and philosophy from Machiavelli to the present. The course emphasis will be on the development of constitutional democratic thought. The approach emphasizes the connection between normative and empirical matters.
    Prerequisite: POL 1070

  • POL 3260

    Studies in Political Theory (SOC)

    This course covers a major figure or epoch in the history of political philosophy; on a rotating basis this will include individual authors such as Plato, Augustine, Machiavelli, or Tocqueville, or specific periods of political philosophy and thought such as ancient, medieval, early modern American, or contemporary.
    Prerequisite: POL 1070 or consent of instructor

  • POL 3270

    Religion and Politics in the United States (SOC)

    This course examines legal, political, historical, and theoretical aspects of the relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Works of political and social theory and important constitutional law cases will be used to explore the liberal democratic understanding of religion's place in politics. The American approach will be compared with that found in several other countries. Specific topics covered include the secularization thesis (and its critics), the role of the religious right, the adoption of civil rights/anti-discrimination tactics by religious groups, and controversies over gay rights.
    Prerequisite: REL 1000

  • POL 3330

    Middle East Politics (SOC)

    This course is an introductory course on the regional politics of the Middle East. The course will include both a comparative politics perspective (contrasting the domestic politics within different countries), as well as an international relations perspective (explaining varying relationships between countries). The content will be organized thematically (political economy, religion, poverty, human rights, conflict, etc.), but we will also use specific country case studies to illustrate different themes such as the Arab Spring, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Syrian or other conflicts.
    Prerequisite: None

  • POL 3350

    Human Rights

    This course examines the politics of human rights and the changing nature of sovereignty in the international system. To do this it will explore the major threats to human rights in the contemporary world as well as the cultural and political obstacles to international consensus on human rights norms. Finally, it will attempt to determine the appropriate mechanisms for their implementation.

  • POL 3360

    Latin American Politics

    This course examines the origin and development of Latin American political institutions by exploring the history, politics, economics, and social issues of the region. While examining the remaining effects of colonialism on Latin America, this course also investigates questions of political and economic development and dependency, democratization, political culture, and relations with extra-regional actors. Individual countries will be examined as a way to discuss the status and prospect of democracies and dictatorships in the region.

  • POL 3370

    Russian/East European Politics (SOC)

    This course will focus on the changes that have occurred in the countries that occupy the territory of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The newly independent states that succeeded the disintegration of the former Soviet Union are still struggling with the Soviet legacy. We will explore whether the successor states will be able to throw off their past and become "successful" independent countries.

  • POL 3380

    West European Politics (SOC)

    This course will focus on Western Europe's historical experience, the organization of its decision-making institutions, and its electoral politics after 1945, with a largely contemporary emphasis. The country or countries that receive the most attention will vary from topic to topic. In general, the approach will be comparative across countries. This course will also explore the European Union by examining its history, institutions, policies, and future.

  • POL 3390

    Politics of Rapid Growth in East Asia (SOC)

    Politics of Rapid Growth introduces theoretical approaches to economic development and investigates the role of the state in economic development in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Students will also investigate democratization in Taiwan and Korea and the consequences of the changing global economy for domestic politics in the three countries. Finally, students will examine the environmental and social costs of rapid growth.

  • POL 3400

    Chinese Politics (SOC)

    Chinese Politics surveys the organization and policies of the post-1949 Chinese state, with a focus on state building, economic reform, and the problems created by economic change. The course covers both the Maoist and Reform periods and explores politics and policy in a Leninist party-state that has organized its economy using market mechanisms.

  • POL 3450

    Global Poverty

    While the focus of this course will be theoretical, the class will begin by introducing some general background information on global stratification. We will examine the geography of stratification (i.e., which countries are rich, which countries are poor, etc.). The basic demographics of poverty will also be explored. Particular attention will be paid to infant mortality rates, life expectancy rates, health care quality and access, education, the status of women, and the availability of foreign and domestic assistance. Finally, we will analyze various concepts of poverty, measures of poverty, and different kinds of stratification systems.

  • POL 3510

    Campaigns and Elections (SOC)

    This course focuses on three institutions of American politics that serve as the linkage between the average citizen and the government. We will examine the role of political parties, interest groups, and elections in the American political system. Specifically, we will examine how a political campaign is conducted during election season.
    Prerequisite: POL 2400 or instructor's consent

  • POL 3520

    America at War

    This course covers events and debates surrounding major military conflicts in U.S. history. It will focus on particular conflicts, such as the Vietnam War; consider specific periods, such as the emergence of the United States as a great power at the end of the 19th century; and survey military developments over broader periods of time. The ultimate purpose of the course is to understand and evaluate the principles governing the United States' defense policies and practices.

  • POL 3530

    Congress and the Presidency (SOC)

    This course provides an examination of the principal policy-making institutions of the United States government: the Congress and Presidency. The political and Constitutional dimensions of these institutions will be addressed as well as the administrative structures and processes that allow them to carry out their legislative and executive functions.

  • POL 3580

    American Foreign Policy (SOC)

    A study of the formulation and execution of foreign policy in the United States, together with an examination of the substantive issues of American foreign policy since World War II. A primary objective of the course is to provide the student with a basis for an intelligent analysis of current foreign policy issues.

  • POL 3600

    International Security (SOC)

    With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the world seemed to become a less threatening place and there was hope that a "New World Order" would bring peace and prosperity to all the world's inhabitants. Only a few years later the events in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Kosovo, among others, have made some ask how the New World Order differs from the old Cold War Order. Are we really more secure? This course will explore what it really means to be "secure" by examining some of the sources of conflict and instability that exist in the world today.

  • POL 3610

    Nuclear Proliferation (SOC)

    Is it important for a country to acquire nuclear weapons? This is the question with which countries both with and without nuclear weapons are dealing. This course will explore the costs and benefits of acquiring nuclear weapons both to the country trying to gain them and the countries that have to deal with the new nuclear power(s). Moreover, if the world community has come to the conclusion that we do not want more countries to possess them, how can the acquisition of nuclear weapons and materials be prevented?

  • POL 3620

    Environmental Politics (SOC)

    This course introduces students to important theoretical and policy issues in the study and practice of environmental politics. It is designed to provide a better understanding of past, present, and future events by framing environmental issues within various theories of political science; introducing prominent actors, institutions, and issues; and examining recent attempts to create effective institutions to address specific environmental problems. This course examines the politics of environmental problems at all geographic scales; however, depending upon the professor, emphasis will either be on domestic or international issues.

  • POL 3900

    Comparative Law

    Comparative Law examines the role of written constitutions, legal institutions, and legal traditions across countries. Special attention will be given to the role of constitutional courts and judicial organization. While the course will focus on the Anglo-American and Civil Law traditions, students will also read on Islamic and other legal systems.

  • POL 3930

    Environmental Law (SOC)

    This course provides an introduction to the field of environmental law and the legal processes and outcomes that affect environmental policies. Both statutory and case law will be explored in ways that will develop students' analytical skills and abilities to form legal arguments related to the fields of natural resource management and pollution regulation. Political, economic, and philosophical issues are interwoven throughout the subject and speak to the complexity that characterizes the relationships between society and nature.

  • POL 4000

    Senior Seminar in Political Science (SOC)

    This course serves as the capstone to a student's political science studies. The Senior Seminar will help students to organize the analytical frameworks, perspectives, and theories they have learned throughout their political science career into a coherent structure in the form of a Senior Thesis. Students are required to present their Senior Thesis as part of the course.
    Prerequisite: Senior standing and POL 3100 or instructor approval

  • POL 4050

    Seminar in International Political Economy (SOC)

    Serving as a capstone for the International Political Economy major, the seminar goes beyond disciplinary lines in an attempt to further integrate diverse and often competing perspectives, methodologies, and values. A research thesis, on a topic of the individual student's choice made in consultation with an advisor, is required along with an oral presentation to faculty and students involved in the program.
    Prerequisite: Senior standing

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2020), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 3 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …