POLITICAL SCIENCE

POLITICAL SCIENCE

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Political science focuses on the theory and practice of government and politics at the local, state, national, and international levels. We are dedicated to developing understandings of institutions, practices, and relations that constitute public life and modes of inquiry that promote citizenship. Some of the major subfields are described below.

Political Theory

Political theory is concerned mainly with the foundations of political community and institutions. It focuses on human nature and the moral purposes of political association. To clarify these concepts, political theorists draw on enduring political writings from ancient Greece to the present and on various writings by moral philosophers. Political theory also focuses on empirical research into the way political institutions function in practice. Here political theorists subject beliefs about political life found in important political writings to re-examination in the light of ongoing human behavior. In either case, political theory seeks to ultimately deepen political thinking and to spur citizens to responsible and creative political action.

Comparative Politics

Comparative politics is a broad field with a variety of approaches and goals. Some scholars and researchers compare contemporary political systems in order to judge which types best provide particular values: order, equality, freedom, or economic security and well-being for their citizens. Others suggest that the main purpose of comparative politics is to provide an understanding of how and why different societies develop different kinds of political institutions. Still others use comparative politics as a way of discovering general laws and theories that will explain human political behavior and its variability. Comparative politics courses are of two basic types. One offers comparisons of a particular set of problems or institutions in a number of different countries. The second type offers in-depth analyses of the basic political institutions and processes of a single country or group of countries in a world region.

International Relations

The field of international relations is concerned with developing an understanding of why states and non-state international actors, like the United Nations and multinational corporations, interact as they do. International relations is a diverse field both in terms of what kinds of behavior are studied and how they are studied. International conflict, particularly war, continues to be an important focus of the field. Why do wars start? Who wins and why? How can wars be prevented? What is the role of international law and organizations? As the world has become more interdependent, scholars have become more aware of the importance of international economic activity. As a result, scholars are analyzing world trade, communications, development, foreign investment, and international finance. How states make foreign policy decisions is another important area of study. National security policy, nuclear deterrence, arms control and defense spending decisions are typical examples of foreign policy decisions.