• Course Introduction

        • Time: 111 hours
        • Free Certificate
        This is a survey course, and it can be used if you are looking to take just one general overview course of political science or if you want to go on to more advanced study in any of the subfields of the discipline, such as American politics, comparative politics, international politics, or political theory. This course will survey the different ways in which political scientists study the phenomena of politics and will deepen your understanding of political life as both a thinker and a citizen. The goal of this course is to introduce you to the discipline's concepts, terminology, and methods and to explore instances of applied political science through real-world examples.

        In this introductory course, we will focus on the basic principles of political science by combining a historical study of the discipline's greatest thinkers with an analysis of contemporary issues. We will also identify and discuss the questions that drive the field of political science, including: How do we define the changing nature of power? How do we differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate governance? What are the differences between political institutions and political behavior? How do leaders define who gets to be heard and counted in a political community? By the end of this course, you will be familiar with these issues and capable of discussing them in the context of contemporary politics.

        • Course Syllabus

          First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

        • Unit 1: Foundational Concepts of Politics

          Our study of politics will begin with a review of the basic principles of politics and various perspectives on how we define politics and its domain. We will discuss the changing notion of politics over time and across cultures as we work towards a definition.

          This unit will lay the framework for the remaining five units in this course. A confident and solid grasp of the principles presented in this unit is therefore crucial to your progression through the remainder of the course. You will find, for example, that each of the five subsequent units will conclude with a discussion of how the principles you have learned and the issues you have identified apply to a contemporary, real-life situation. You will need to draw from the foundational material you have learned in this unit in order to respond to these applied situations.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 11 hours.

        • Unit 2: Participation and Public Opinion

          In this unit, we will look at the participation of citizens in their governments. We are all born into political culture, and our political socialization begins as young as age 3, when we first learn our attitudes toward police officers. Think back on your childhood. Did you hear your mom or dad say, "If you ever get lost, find a police officer, and they will bring you home", or did you hear "Oh no! Slow down! It's the cops!"? One gives you a good feeling toward police, and authority in general, while the other instills fear.

          Our environment continues to shape our political opinions as we grow, and when we become eligible to vote, we also decide whether to join parties or interest groups or even whether or not to participate in political marches or other forms of protest. Some of us may grow up in a political void and feel alienated, while others try to use the government to promote racist and hate-filled agendas; when their voices are rejected, or even "silenced", they feel disenfranchised and resort to violence. In a democracy, hearing everyone's voice is the goal, even if we do not like what our fellow citizens are saying.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 25 hours.

        • Unit 3: Ideologies

          In this unit, we will be looking at the ideologies of the state and its citizens. Some of these ideologies reflect more on the state, others on the people and their political parties, and others overlap the two. Some of these ideologies have only come into existence in the twentieth century, while others go back hundreds of years. Some ideologies mean one thing in the United States and something different from the rest of the world, such as for liberalism. The following subunit covers many of the traditional and best-known ideologies, however, the list is not all-inclusive.

          Historically, the political spectrum was seen as one-dimensional, left and right, representing the government's position on the economic and defense issues of the day. But in the twentieth century, the New Deal and other social issues led to the creation of another dimension, confusing many who were trying to understand where they stood on both the economic/defense issues and social issues. At the end of this unit, you will be able to take a test and see where your political views fall on the multidimensional political spectrum.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 30 hours.

        • Unit 4: The State

          In this unit, we will look at the state, a relatively new creation. What is a state? What is the difference between a nation and a state? Are states sovereign? Who controls the state? What is the role of the state? Do states have a future? These are the types of questions that will be explored in this unit.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 5: Political Institutions

          This unit looks at the various forms of government a country can adopt and how government forms the foundations of the institutions that countries build. Although this course tries to give a global perspective on government, a lot of the specifics we will look at will be from the perspective of the United States. 

          The Max Planck Manual has a global perspective and was written for the people of the Sudan as they contemplate and hope for a future of democracy and stability. If you were from the Sudan, which would you chose: federal or unitary relationships between the central government and the local governments; a president or a prime minister to lead; legislature or a parliament to make laws? And what difference does it make, anyway? This unit will explore these types of questions.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 20 hours.

        • Unit 6: International Politics

          This unit traces the emergence of a world system of states from the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), which first standardized the conditions for peace among states, through the colonial period and into contemporary globalization. We will see that global governance has its roots both in the economic interests of states and a general aversion to war. For instance, you will learn how economic interests led European powers to expand their political control over – and ultimately establish formal colonies in – Africa, the Americas, and Asia. European powers used their colonies both to extract raw materials for the industrial revolution in Europe and the United States and to export excess segments of their own populations. From an economic perspective, European colonization was exchanging excess Europeans for raw materials like lumber, steel, tea, and crops. This pattern of exchange has led to complex political dynamics across state borders, the implications of which continue to be felt today.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 20 hours.

        • Study Guide

          This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

        • Course Feedback Survey

          Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

          If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org.

        • Certificate Final Exam

          Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

          To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.