Topic Name Description
Course Introduction Page Course Syllabus
Page Course Terms of Use
1.1: What Is Political Science? Page Introduction to Political Science

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the field of political science, its cross-disciplinary connections, and the various fields and sub-fields of study within the discipline.

1.2: What Does Political Science Study? URL William Little's Introduction to Sociology, 1st Canadian Edition: "Chapter 17, Section 1: Government and Politics"

Read Chapter 17.1 only. As we just read in the previous article, to study politics is to “study power—who gets what, and how.” This reading explains that power can be conceptualized both in terms of “domination” and “collective capacity.” In other words, “power” can refer to the ability to get someone to do something they normally would not do, but it also refers to the capacity institutions and people have to act or create. 

Authority is “accepted power.” People accept the authority of a government or ruler when they believe that the government or ruler can rightly and appropriately exercise power over them. Accepting the authority of the government gives the government legitimacy. This reading introduces the three primary types of authority: traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal. Why do you think legitimacy is such a critical component in the ability to govern effectively? What happens when a government is not seen as legitimate by its citizens?

URL Ellen Hallams's "From Crusader to Exemplar: Bush, Obama and the Reinvigoration of America's Soft Power"

Since “power” is such an important concept in political science, political scientists have categorized power into three categories: hard power, soft power, and “smart” power. Hard power is the most traditional conceptualization of power, and involves force or coercion. Soft power, popularized by scholar and U.S. government official Joseph Nye, is power through persuasion or attraction. Lastly, “smart power” involves the strategic use soft and/or hard power, depending on the situation.

In this article, Dr. Hallam discusses and offers critiques of the concept of soft power in contemporary international relations. Hallam questions whether the debate over hard and soft power is outdated, particularly considering the Obama administration's emerging emphasis on "smart power" and the challenges of national security in an unstable international system. As you read this article, consider the importance of power in political science, and think about how power can be exercised. What do you think is most effective, hard, soft, or smart power?

URL Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, Comprehensive Edition, v1.0: "Chapter 14, Section 1: Power and Authority"

Chapter 14, Section 1 discusses the three authority types as defined by Max Weber, one of the foremost social theorists of the twentieth century. Weber outlines three primary types of authority: traditional authority, rational-legal authority, and charismatic authority. As you read, consider the following questions:

  • Which type of authority leads to the most stable form of government, and why? Which type leads to the least stable form of government?
  • How can one form of authority eventually lead to another? For example, in how can charismatic authority evolve into traditional authority? 
  • Why is the U.S. government primarily characterized by rational-legal authority? Can either of the other two types of authority apply?

1.3: Is Political Science a Science? Page University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center: "Political Science"

This handout is designed to teach you how to conduct original political science research. While you won’t be asked to write a research paper, this handout provides important information on the “scientific” approach used by political scientists. Pay particularly close attention to the section that answers the question, “What is scientific about political science?” 

If you were going to conduct research in biology or chemistry, what would you do? You would probably create a hypothesis, and then design an experiment to test your hypothesis. Based on the results of your experiment, you would draw conclusions. Political scientists follow similar procedures. Like a scientist who researches biology or chemistry, political scientists rely on objectivity, data, and procedure to draw conclusions. This article explains the process of operationalizing variables. Why is that an important step in social science research?

Page London School of Economics: LSE Impact of Social Sciences: Matt Wood's "An Insider View on the Relevance of Political Scientists to Government"

This article mentions the two primary approaches to social science research, quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative research involves the use of data from many cases, and uses statistical calculations to draw conclusions from these data sets. In the qualitative approach, a researcher will provide an in-depth analysis of a more limited number of cases. 

The previous article explored how social sciences and political science follow scientific methods in research and data gathering. This article reflects the ongoing debate within academia over the ways in which the study of politics should be conducted. Political science does not merely deal with academic or scholarly subjects; it can have significant practical applications. According to this article, what are some of the barriers to making political science research more “relevant” to contemporary policymaking?

1.4: Political Theory URL Wikipedia: "Constitutionalism"

The study of political science often involves difficult and philosophical topics. The Saylor Introduction to Political Science reading you read at the beginning of this unit explained that political theory involves the study of politics from a philosophical perspective. Political theory “addresses such issues as the nature of political authority, the relationship of the state to the individual, and citizens’ obligations and responsibility to one another. Political theory seeks to interpret abstract concepts such as liberty, justice, human rights, and power.”  

Constitutionalism and political representation are two important perspectives in political philosophy that seek to address some of the above issues. In this first article, you will read about constitutionalism. According to constitutionalism, laws and written constitutions should be what binds and controls the power of government. In other words, the central tenet of constitutionalism is that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law. Pay close attention to some of the common criticisms of constitutionalism. Do you think constitutionalism is a practical or democratic approach to governance?

URL Wikipedia: "Representation (politics)"

According to constitutionalism, written, formalized law should control the government and be the source of the government’s authority. According to the perspective of political representation, the process of citizen representation in government should be the source of government authority, and should be the way in which government power is controlled. The article outlines some of the different ways in which political actors choose to reflect or represent the will of the people. Which do you think would be more effective or democratic, constitutionalism or political representation?

2.1: Political Culture Page "American Political Culture"

As you read this article, consider the following question: What have been the defining characteristics of American political culture as a whole? As this article mentions, the political culture of other countries may be characterized by different core values. For example, the political culture of Asian countries is often characterized by an emphasis on the good of the group over the good of the individual. Countries in Northern Europe tend to have political cultures characterized by secular values and self-expression, while the political culture of African countries often centers around traditional and community values.

URL American Government and Politics in the Information Age, v1.0: "Chapter 6: Preamble" and "Chapter 6, Section 1: Political Culture"

Read the Preamble and Section 6.1. As these sections describe, political culture is “a nation’s personality” or “the habits of the heart.” Political culture involves a country’s shared ideologies, beliefs, norms, customs, traditions, and heroes. A defined political culture can help bind citizens to one another, facilitating consensus-building.

2.2: Political Socialization and Public Opinion URL American Government and Politics in the Information Age, v1.0: "Chapter 6, Section 2: Political Socialization"

People are not born a Democrat or a Republican; instead, political knowledge, beliefs, and values are learned over the course of one’s life. As this section describes, political socialization is “the process by which people learn their roles as citizens and develop an understanding of government and politics.” Political learning takes place through “agents” of political socialization. The most commonly recognized agents of political socialization include the family, school, peer groups, and the media. Which of these agents of socialization have been most influential in the development of your political beliefs?

URL American Government and Politics in the Information Age, v1.0: "Chapter 6, Section 3: Political Culture and Socialization in the Information Age"

As television and internet usage grows, so does their potential to influence citizens’ political learning. While media has typically been included as an agent of political socialization, do you agree with this section when it claims that this influence is growing? Why do some people believe that it is not good for young people to learn about politics solely through the media?

Page Jonathan Mott's "Public Opinion"

Public opinion is the expression of political beliefs or values, and it is measured through political polls. In a democracy, we typically accept that the will of the people should direct the actions of government, and so public opinion polls have become a critical part of the political process in the U.S. and other democracies. In the Unit 1 reading on political representation, you were asked to consider the different perspectives on representation, and so you should think about those different perspectives as you read about public opinion. Should political leaders try to copy public opinion precisely? Or, should political leaders use their best judgment to make decisions, even if that means going against public opinion? As explained towards the end of the article, many people are uninformed about politics. Does that mean that political leaders should still take public opinion into account when making decisions? 

2.3: Media URL Understanding Media and Culture: An Introduction to Mass Communication, v1.0: "Chapter 15, Section 6: Media Influence on Laws and Government"

Read this section, which explains the ways in which the media influences government and politics. Citizens absorb political information through television, radio, and internet on a daily basis, which can impact their thinking about politics. Unlike the U.S., some countries do not enjoy a free media; instead, the government controls what messages citizens receive from the media. A censored or government-controlled media can significantly influence the political process.

Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 6, Section 2: Forming Public Opinion: The Mass Media"

As described in the last section, the “media” is considered an important agent of political socialization, as it can teach people certain political beliefs or values. Besides the socializing role, the media also serves as a “watchdog,” drawing attention to government corruption or mistakes, which promotes government transparency and accountability. The media can also serve an agenda-setting role. By covering some news stories and not others, the media has the power to shape what people will think or talk about. Similarly, by “framing” a story from a particular perspective, the media often influences both public opinion and influence government leaders.

2.4: Interest Groups Page Lumen Learning: "American Government: The Interest Group System"

Individuals can influence government and create change, but coming together in groups offers even greater opportunities. Interest groups are one important form of group participation in politics. After you complete this article, you should be familiar with the following topics: economic interest groups, societal interest groups, ideological interest groups, and public interest groups. Pay particularly close attention to the section on “interest groups and elections,” as this explores the power of interest groups to directly affect the political process.

Page Lumen Learning: "American Government: Interest Groups and the Political System"

Most people agree that interest groups significantly influence the government. However, some believe that interest groups are beneficial to democracy, while others think interest groups are harmful. The views of the former typically stem from the theory of “pluralism,” which is described in this article. We will read about the potential for interest groups to be harmful in the next article.

2.4.1: Power of Special Interests Page Alexandra Raphel's "Lobbying, Special Interests and 'Buying' Influence"

According to this article, "an increasing number of Americans believe that government is run to serve a few large interests rather than for the benefit of all." Many view interest groups with skepticism, believing that the "special interests" often have too much influence in the policy process. What do you think? Do you think that interest groups are beneficial, as pluralism contends, or do you think that the “special interests” have too much power?

Page "The Bureaucracy: The Real Government"
Pay close attention to the image that depicts the iron triangle as you read this article. The United States is not the only country in which interest groups have a significant influence over policymaking. For example, Japan is said to have an “iron triangle” composed of interest groups, leaders in the majority political party, and senior bureaucrats. Do you think that “iron triangles” simply represent an effective and necessary way to “get things done,” or are they undemocratic?
2.5: Political Parties URL American Government and Politics in the Information Age, v1.0: "Chapter 10: Political Parties"

Read this entire chapter. Though most political scholars agree that today's major political parties do not play the central role that they did in the past, they still provide important functions. While reading the chapter, think about the influence and relevance of political parties in today's political landscape. Pay close attention to the specific definition of “political parties” as outlined in this reading.

Page "Political Parties"

Like interest groups, political parties represent another opportunity for citizens to come together in a group in order to influence politics. These are some of the most important roles of political parties:

  • Run candidates for political office and help to train and develop political leaders
  • Serve as a check on the power of the other party or parties
  • Inform the public about specific policies or opportunities for participation 
  • Organize the government 

Political parties exist both in democracies and non-democracies. How do you think these roles change when political parties are operating in a non-democratic society? 

2.5.1: Two-Party vs. Multiparty Systems Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 7, Section 6: Political Parties"

As this article explains, there are three types of party systems: single or dominant party systems, two-party systems, and multi-party systems. One party or dominant party systems tend to be found in authoritarian or non-democratic countries, since choice is a critical element of a truly democratic society. As we will read more about in the next section, the type of electoral system used by a country can influence whether it has a two-party or multi-party system.

Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 7, Section 7: The Two-Party System"

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that has a two-party system. This article explains why the U.S. has a two-party system, and explores the advantages and disadvantages of a two-party system.

Page The Moderate Voice: Aaron Astor's "What if We Really Did Have a Multiparty Democracy?"

As described in the last reading, most democratic countries have a multi-party system. This article asks you to consider what the political system would be like in the U.S. if it, too, had a multi-party system. Consider the questions the author asks towards the end of the article, such as, would a true multiparty system more accurately reflect the values of American citizens?

2.5.2: Comparing Parties and Interest Groups URL U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs: "Political Parties, Interest Groups, NGOs"

Read this webpage for a brief overview of the role of political parties, interest groups, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

2.6: Elections URL Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 8: Campaigns and Elections"

Read each of the pages under the "Campaigns and Elections" header. Pay close attention to the "Winning an Election: Majority, Plurality, and Proportional Representation" subsection in the "Elections" page, as this will help explain why the U.S. has a two-party system.

File International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance: Pintor and Gratschew, ed.'s "Voter Turnout since 1945: A Global Report"

Read pages 13-19 and 75-88. Compare and contrast the turnout rates for different countries and consider the variables (social, economic, and political) which contribute to a country's propensity for its citizens to exercise (or not exercise) their right to vote.

2.7: Other Forms of Participation Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 9, Section 1: Voting as Political Participation: Other Forms of Political Participation"

Voting is a critical form of citizen participation in politics. However, voting happens only periodically, so how do citizens participate in politics the rest of the time? As you’ve already read, citizens can join an interest group or participate in a political party. This article will describe even more opportunities for citizens to participate in politics, apart from voting. Citizens can participate in civil society, attend a rally or protest, donate time or money to candidates, discuss political issues with friends or family, or connect with like-minded citizens on social media. Do you participate in politics? If so, what is your preferred method of participation? Which types of participation do you think are most effective at influencing change?

3.1.1: Democracy URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 4: Types of Government: A Republic or a Democracy?"

Read Chapter 4 through the subheading “Other Forms of Government: Monarchy” in Section 4.2. When you finish this reading, you should be familiar with the following concepts:

  • Direct democracy
  • Initiatives
  • Referenda
  • Republics
  • Illiberal democracies

Page Ian Shapiro's "The Moral Foundations of Politics: Democracy and Majority Rule"

Watch both parts of Yale University Professor Ian Shapiro’s lecture on democracy and majority rule. Shapiro's focus in these two lectures is majority rule, democratic competition, and representation. Providing both historical and contemporary examples, Shapiro shows how majority rule lends legitimacy to collective decisions. He also explores concerns about the tyranny of the majority. True democracies require both majority rule, but also the protection of minority rights. Democratic Capitalism Page Boundless Business: "Chapter 2, Section 2: Businesses Under Capitalist Systems: Capitalism in the US"

If you recall, to "study politics is to 'study power – who gets what, and how.'" Since politics is about the distribution of resources in a society, studying economics is critical. Some of the most contentious political questions involve questions of economics: How much should wealthy citizens pay in taxes? How much should lower-income citizens pay in taxes? Where should those tax dollars go? What is fair, and what is not fair? In this reading, you will read about "Democratic Capitalism", which is the United States' answer to some of these questions of how resources should be distributed in a society. Pay close attention to the "three pillars" of a democratic capitalist political-economic system. Democratic Socialism Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 16, Section 1: Economic Systems: Democratic Socialism"

As the name implies, "democratic socialism" relies on a democratic political system and a socialist economic system. Generally speaking, democratic capitalism values fewer regulations more than economic equality. Proponents of democratic socialism would be more likely to highly value economic equality than would proponents of democratic capitalism. Which do you think is more important in political-economic systems, open markets or equality? Do you think open markets and equality are mutually-exclusive economic goals?

Page Best of the Left: “What's up with Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism Anyway?”

In the previous reading, you explored the definition of democratic socialism. This audio clip gives you the opportunity to hear how the term "democratic socialism" can be applied to contemporary politics. The speaker describes the difference between socialists and communists. Socialists, he describes, were those who wanted to work within the system, making it better, while communists were determined to have only state enterprise and economic planning. Then, there was a third group of socialists who wanted a socialism that was closely intertwined with and "married" to a real democracy. Listen closely from 42:56, as it describes carefully what democratic socialism looks like in practice.

3.1.2: Non-democratic Regimes URL A Primer on Politics: "Other Forms of Government"

Read from the subheading "Other Forms of Government: Monarchy" to the end of Section 4.2. Think back to Unit 1, where we considered a government’s source of legitimacy. What do you think is the source of legitimacy for monarchies, constitutional monarchies, authoritarian governments, and totalitarian governments? According to this reading, a survey of experts classified 53 states as authoritarian, 37 as hybrid, 53 as flawed democracies, and only 25 as full democracies. Why do you think democracy is so hard to achieve and sustain? Marxism and Communism Page Boundless Sociology: “Chapter 16, Section 1: Economic Systems: The Marxist Critique of Capitalism”

In capitalism, private property rights are fundamental and freedom in economic interactions is paramount. Marxism and communism offer an alternative explanation of socioeconomic structures that focuses more on the exploitative potential of capitalism. How else is Marx’s view of social-economic relations different than the capitalist view?

URL Lumen Learning: "International Business: The Communist Economic System, The Benefits of Communism, and The Disadvantages of Communism"

Read the section "The Communist Economic System," and then click "next" twice so that you also read "The Benefits of Communism," and "The Disadvantages of Communism." These sections expand upon the ideas introduced in the previous reading. Be sure you click "next" twice so that you read all of the relevant sections. In particular, these sections describe the economic features of a communist system, which include collective state ownership of capital, and state control over inputs, outputs, labor, and prices. In theory, communism provides equality and job security for all. In practice, communist governments have often fallen to authoritarianism. What do you think would need to happen to create a well-functioning communist state? Fascism and National Socialism Page Boundless: "Fascism"

Read this definition of fascism and keep it in mind as you read more about Mussolini’s fascist state and the Nazi state.

Page Yale University: John Merriman's "Fascists"

Watch this lecture on the life of Adolf Hitler and how Nazism took hold in pre-World War II Germany. Merriman describes the economic, political, and social situation in Germany that allowed Hitler and Nazism to take root. Fascism and National Socialism are extreme forms of state ideologies. According to Merriman, "The Nazis and other fascist groups are better at saying whom they were against than what they wanted. What they want is ultra-nationalism. What they want is a totalitarian state and the destruction of parliamentary rule". Why do you think fascists and other authoritarian governments tend to focus more on "whom they were against than what they wanted"?

URL Murphy, Stevens, Trivers, and Roland's "National Socialism"

Read the first section under "National Socialism". In its intense nationalism, mass appeal, and dictatorial rule, National Socialism shared many elements with Italian fascism. However, Nazism was far more extreme both in its ideas and in its practice. In almost every respect, it was an anti-intellectual and a theoretical movement, emphasizing the will of the charismatic dictator as the sole source of inspiration of a people and a nation, as well as a vision of annihilation of all enemies of the Aryan race. Think back to the original definition of “fascism.” What parts of that definition do you think could apply to the Nazi state? Islamism URL Wikipedia: "Islamism"

Read the introductory paragraphs and the section under "Definitions". Islamism a modern ideology. Whereas Islam is a religion that is in a class with Judaism and Christianity, Islamism is a political response to ideologies that emerged in the modern West: communism, socialism, or capitalism. With the revival of radical Islamism and its ties to terrorist activity (like the 9/11 attacks), much attention has been focused among Western leaders on both the resurgence and the future of Islamism.

Page World Economic Forum: “Davos 2016: Issue Briefing: The Evolution of Political Islam”

Watch this panel discussion from the World Economic Forum. At the beginning of the panel discussion, the moderator asks the panel participants to consider the question, "What is political Islam?" At 4:00, one panel participant explains that Islam has always been actively integrated with politics, with morality, with "everything". He states that, "A Muslim person has a responsibility to be active in every part of his life, including political matters". To him, "political Islam" occurs when fundamentalist Muslims are fighting to impose their political views on others, even to non-Muslims. Many religions seek to influence politics, so what do you think separates Islamism from traditional types of religious expression?

3.2.1: Liberalism Page Boundless Political Science: “Chapter 1, Section 5: Political Ideology: Liberalism”

This section describes the ideology of liberalism. Liberalism values individual freedom, free economic systems, and democracy. As you read this section, consider how the ideology of liberalism compares to socialism or fascism. What sets liberalism apart? Also, pay close attention to the distinction between classical liberalism and modern liberalism. Classical Liberalism Page Boundless U.S. History: "Chapter 5, Section 2: An Empire of 'Freedom': Classical Liberalism"

This article describes some of the key features of classical liberalism. According to this article, classical liberalism advocates for a government that:

  • Protects against foreign invaders;
  • Protects citizens from being wronged by other citizens; and
  • Provides public institutions/works that the private sector cannot profitably provide Modern Liberalism URL A Primer on Politics: "American Liberalism"

Read "American Liberalism". U.S. Democratic and Republican Parties both adhere to a derivation of classical liberal ideals. The words 'liberal' and 'conservative' have come to represent a different set of values in modern times. American or modern liberalism, also known as progressivism, is represented by the Democratic Party in the United States. Modern progressives advocate for appropriate government oversight, strong social safety nets, and social policies that promote equality and justice. Classic Conservatism URL Wikipedia: "Conservativism"

While classical liberalism emphasizes the sovereignty of the individual, classical conservatism emphasizes the importance of the preservation of the current authority. Classical liberalism's end goal is freedom, while classical conservatism's end goal is to maintain current hierarchies. Classical conservatives also seek to create a society based on tradition and the existing social hierarchy. Modern Conservatism URL A Primer on Politics: "American Conservatism"

Read the section entitled "American Conservatism." American conservatives are represented by the Republican Party. American conservatives seek deregulation of the economy and are more interested in regulating specific social issues than promoting economic equality or justice.

3.2.3: Feminism URL Wikipedia: “Feminism”

Read the introductory paragraphs, as well as the sections titled "History" and "Societal Impact". Feminism can be defined as "the acting, speaking, writing, and advocating on behalf of women's issues and right sand identifying injustice to females in the social status quo". As you’ve seen, ideologies discuss human nature, the role of government, freedom versus equality, and other critical issues. Feminism includes gender in these conversations.

URL Social Problems: Continuity and Change: "Chapter 4, Section 2: Feminism and Sexism"

This section outlines the primary feminist movements in the United States. Pay close attention to the description of liberal feminism, socialist feminism, radical feminism, and multicultural feminism. How do these approaches suggest we should structure government and political life?

3.2.4: Environmentalism URL Wikipedia: "Environmentalism"

Read the introductory paragraphs and the sections entitled “Definitions” and “Environmental Movement.” Environmentalism “is a broad philosophy, ideology, and social movement regarding concerns for environmental protection and improvement of the health of the environment.” One of the primary goals of government for environmentalists is to encourage development that is sustainable.

Page Ben Goossen's "What the US Can Learn from Germany's Stunning Environmental Movement"

This article compares environmentalism in the US to environmentalism in Europe. Like environmentalism, most ideologies take different forms in different countries. In this article, pay close attention to the continued mention of sustainability, as this is a critical feature of environmentalism.

3.2.5: Determining Your Own Political Philosophy Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 1, Section 5: Political Ideology: The Traditional Political Spectrum"

We have covered a wide range of political ideologies, and so in this final section, we will bring them all together. First, as you read this Boundless article, look closely at the image of the political spectrum. Where do you think that you fall on this spectrum? Are you in the center, left-of-center, or right-of center? Like many people, you may have a hard time answering this question definitively. Frequently, people are not wholly ideologically consistent, and tend to fall on different places on the spectrum depending on the specific social, economic, or political issue in question.

URL Political Ideology

This article provides a brief overview of the ideologies we have covered in this unit. Keep in mind that it is describing modern or American liberalism and conservatism. Where would you place each of these ideologies on the spectrum?

4.1: What is a State? Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 15, Section 2: Government and the State: Functions of the State"

Observe that one of the key defining features of a state is the concept of “sovereignty.” States are sovereign if they are not dependent on or subject to the power of any other state. As we’ll learn in Unit 6, this characteristic of a state was established in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia and is especially critical when discussing international relations.

Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 15, Section 2: Government and the State: Characteristics of the State"

This reading defines some important terms in political science. After competing this reading, you should be able to define and identify:

  • A state
  • Sovereignty
  • Nation
  • Civil society

URL Wikipedia: "Nation state"

Read the introductory paragraphs and “Definitions” section. In everyday life, people usually use the words, “state” and “nation” interchangeably, but in political science, those terms have very different meanings. States are political entities; nations are cultural entities. A nation-state exists when state and nation coincide. What do you think happens when there is a mismatch between state and nation?

4.2: Origins of the State Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 15, Section 2: Government and the State: State Formation"

This article compares competing theories of state formation. Some propose that the institution of the state stemmed from developments in agriculture, was a response to the frequent waging of war, or came as a result of rationalization and bureaucratization. Which theory do you find most convincing?

Page Yale University: Steven Smith's "Constitutional Government"

Watch these lectures, in which Smith discusses Enlightenment thinker John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government, which was an extremely influential work that shaped political philosophy and provided a basis for later political doctrines, such as those set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

4.3: The Future of the State File InTech: Abderrahman Hassi and Giovanna Storti's "Globalization and Culture: The Three H Scenarios"

This article describes globalization as the increasing flows of “people, financial resources, goods, information, and culture.” As you read this article, consider the following questions:

  • How does globalization represent a threat “from above” to the traditional institution of the nation-state?
  • Do the growing influence of multilateral agencies and global governance erode state power? Why or why not?
  • What do you think are the cultural implications of globalization? How will this impact the power of the nation-state? 

5.1: Federal vs. Unitary Forms of Government URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 4, Section 4: Divisions of Power"

States can choose to arrange power in different ways. In a federal system, government power is shared between a central government and smaller subunits of government. For instance, in the United States, the federal government in Washington, D.C. shares power with each of the 50 states. As this article describes, most of the world’s governments are unitary, which means that the central government may delegate power, but does not share its power.

Page Lumen Learning: "American Government: Why Federalism Works (More or Less)"

States with federal systems include the United States, Australia, Germany, Canada, Russia, and India. All of those states are relatively large and geographically or ethnically/nationally diverse. According to this Lumen Learning section, why is federalism a logical choice for states with these characteristics? What are some of the drawbacks of federalism?

5.2: Legislatures vs. Parliaments URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 7, Section 1: Legislatures"

So far in Unit 5, we’ve learned about two ways for states to arrange power: in unitary systems power is centralized in a national or federal government, while in federal systems power is shared between a central government and subunits of government. In this section, we’re going to explore the different ways states arrange power among the three primary branches of government. Generally speaking, executive branches of government enforce laws, judicial branches interpret laws, while legislatures make laws. As this section explains, in presidential systems, the executive branch and legislative branches are separate. In parliamentary systems, the executive and legislative branches are fused.

Page Parliaments

This article expands on the unique features of parliamentary systems. Pay particular attention to the discussion of the supremacy of parliament over other branches of government, and the concept of a “divided executive.” What are some of the other key differences between parliaments and legislatures?

URL Congressional Research Service: R. Eric Petersen and Paul S. Rundquist's "Parliament and Congress: A Brief Comparison of the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives"

Almost every country has a legislature or parliament that is unique to that country. Read this report, which discusses some of the most common differences between the two systems, using the United States' legislature and Great Britain's parliament as examples.

5.3: Presidents vs. Prime Ministers Page Types of Democracy
Read the section “Systems of Democracy” to the end. This article further explains the difference between legislatures and parliaments, but it also describes the differences between presidents and prime ministers. Parliamentary styles of government have “split” executives, in which one person serves as the head of state, and another person serves as head of government. How is this different than a presidential system? What do you think are the benefits and drawbacks to each type of system?
URL Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 12, Section 3: The President’s Many Roles"

Read this full section to learn more about the many roles of the U.S. President. Pay particular attention to the “Chief Executive” section and the “Head of State” section. What are the differences between these two roles? Which type of system, parliamentary or presidential, has a more powerful executive?

Page Graham Allen's "Time to Elect the Prime Minister?"

This article explains the role and powers of the office of the Prime Minister in the United Kingdom. The author argues that directly electing the Prime Minister would lead to accountability and better separation of powers, because this would lead to “widely supported political institutions working together in partnership.” However, the U.S. has strict separation of powers, and this often leads to gridlock between the executive and legislative branches. Both presidential and parliamentary systems have unique strengths and weaknesses. Can you name an example of a strength and a weakness of each system?

5.4: Bureaucracy and Public Administration URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 7, Section 5: Bureaucracy"

After reading this section, you should be able to describe these key features of bureaucracy:

  • Hierarchical structure
  • Defined chain of command
  • Adherence to established rules
  • Specialization of labor

5.5: Law and the Courts URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 7, Section 3: Courts"

So far, we’ve explore legislatures (where laws are made) and executive branches (where laws are enforced). In this section, you’ll read about judiciaries, which is the branch of government responsible for interpreting laws. Pay close attention to the description of the term “judicial activism” and “judicial review.” While this section focuses primarily on the U.S. judicial system, consider the judicial systems of other countries while you read. How do you think judiciaries in non-democracies compare to the U.S. judicial system? Judiciaries, like legislatures, can either act to protect democracy or promote oppression.

URL Wikipedia: "Judiciary"

According to this article, the judiciary “is the systems of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state.” While most judiciaries are responsible for interpreting and applying the law, the extent of judicial power varies from state to state. Do you think it is important for the judiciary to be a co-equal branch of government, along with the executive and legislature?

6.1: The International System URL New World Encyclopedia: "Peace of Westphalia"

In Unit 6, we will explore international politics. Before you begin Unit 6, refer back to the very first reading in the course, and re-read the section entitled “International Relations.” As this section describes, international relations is the study of relationships between countries and international organizations. Most international relations courses will begin with a discussion of the Peace of Westphalia, which is regarded by some scholars as marking the beginning of the international system we have today. The “Westphalian System” refers to the fact that the international system is composed of sovereign nation-states. As you will discover in the next readings, state sovereignty is a key feature of the international system.

URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 9, Section 1: The Challenges of the State System"

As Section 9.1 describes, because states are sovereign, no overarching “world” authority exists, and consequently, the international system can be characterized as “anarchic.” This section also describes some of the ways in which states interact: international law, diplomacy, and war. We will explore each of these forms of interaction through the lenses of cooperation and conflict.

URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 9, Section 2: Theories of International Relations"

This section compares and contrasts the various theories of international relations. These theories provide a framework for understanding how states interact with each other in the international system and can be used to help explain situations and actions. Realism, liberalism (also called idealism), and constructivism are the three most prominent theories in international relations. Which do you find most convincing?

6.2.1: International Institutions and Actors Page Boundless U.S. History: "Chapter 24, Section 2: An International System: The United Nations"

One possibility for state cooperation involves participation in international organizations. The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization, which means that all of its members are the states themselves. Nearly all states are members of the United Nations, which makes it particularly noteworthy in the international system. What are the current roles of the United Nations, and how does it potentially contribute to a cooperative international system?

URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 9, Section 4: Post-Cold War International Relations"

This section expands on the discussion of the mission and roles of the United Nations, and also introduces a few other international organizations, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the European Union, and ASEAN. Familiarize yourself with the general purpose of each of these organizations. This article also discusses non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations, both of which have significant influence in the international system.

Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 18, Section 5: Modern Foreign Policy: Collective Military Force"

This section describes collective security and collective defense, which are other avenues for cooperation among states in the international system. How would realists and idealists explain the formation of collective security or defense organizations?

6.2.2: Diplomacy URL U.S. Department of State: "Diplomacy Is..."

Watch each of these ten short videos. The videos should cycle automatically within the playlist. You can navigate the playlist on the right had side of the screen. Each video is comprised of a short interview with a U.S. foreign diplomat describing his or her work and perspective on diplomacy.

File MIT Open Access Articles: Peter Krause and Stephen Van Evera's "Public Diplomacy: Ideas for the War of Ideas"

As you read this report, study the definition of “public diplomacy” beneath the heading, “Current Public-Diplomacy Programs.” How does this definition compare to the definition you just wrote? According to this definition of public diplomacy, diplomacy involves a wide range of activities, and this article offers practical examples of diplomacy in action. How powerful do you think diplomacy is in creating a cooperative international system?

6.2.3: Treaties and International Law URL Wikipedia: "History of Public International Law"

This article describes the development of international law. If you recall, the international system is characterized by “anarchy,” which means that no overarching government or authority exists. As you read this article, consider these questions: How does international law work in an anarchic system? What were some of the major events in the development of the body of international law?

URL Foundations of Business Law and the Legal Environment: "Chapter 33, Section 2: Sources and Practice of International Law"

This section specifically describes the sources of international law, which include treaties and conventions, court decisions, and resolutions and decisions of international organizations. Pay particular attention to the definition and explanation of treaties, as this is an important tool of international cooperation.

6.3.1: National Security and Thomas Hobbes Page Jonathan Mott's "Thomas Hobbes and John Locke"

This article presents a philosophical perspective on the existence of governments within the international system. Compare the views of Locke and Hobbes. Think back to the reading “Theories of International Relations” from subunit 6.1. Do you see any connections between Locke’s views, Hobbes’ views, and the perspectives of realism and liberalism?

File U.S. Army War College: Colonel Nico W. Tak's "Hobbes versus Locke: Redefining the War on Terror"

Like the previous article, Colonel Tak compares the philosophical viewpoints of Locke and Hobbes; in this instance, however, they are examined through the lens of national security and, specifically, the War on Terror. While the liberal perspective of international relations posits that states prefer to cooperate when given the chance, realists are more inclined to believe that conflict is unavoidable. In subunit 6.3, we look at various aspects of conflict in the international system. How can the perspectives of Locke and Hobbes explain and direct our understanding of conflict in the international system?

6.3.2: War and Terrorism Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 15, Section 6: War and Terrorism: War"

This section describes war as “an organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict that is carried out between states, nations, or other parties.” Because of the potential for chaos, suffering, and destruction, war is a critical concept in the study of international relations. Pay close attention to the different types of war described in this section.

Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 15, Section 6: War and Terrorism: Peace"

This section defines “peace” as “a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict or war.” To understand “war” in the international system, we also need to understand what peace looks like. As you read this section, consider your own definition of “peace.”

URL A Primer on Politics: "Chapter 9, Section 5: The Nuclear Question, Revisited"

The development of nuclear weapons changed the dynamics of war permanently. Winston Churchill once said that, “Peace is the sturdy child of nuclear terror.” Some argue that when two states have nuclear weapons, war is no longer a rational foreign policy option for those states, as the level of destruction would mean the costs will exceed the benefits. As you read this section, consider how nuclear weapons have changed the security environment and influenced the balance of power in the international system.

Page Buchholz and Sidor’s "Just War Theory"

The realist perspective on international relations argues that war is inevitable. Indeed, even with all of our modern advances in science, culture, and education, war and conflict still occur. The Just War Theory was developed as an attempt to codify the ethics of war. Do you think it is important to discuss and consider the morality of war? Do you agree with Just War Theory’s given criteria? Do you think war can ever be considered “just”?

Page Boundless Sociology: "Chapter 15, Section 6: War and Terrorism: Terrorism"

This section defines terrorism. Terrorism refers to violent acts committed for a religious, political, or ideological goal in which the targets are noncombatants. Why do terrorists specifically target noncombatants?

6.3.3: Huntington's Clash of Civilizations File Dauletbek Raev and Mukan Saken's "Critique of ‘Clash of Civilizations"

Samuel Huntington's controversial "clash of civilizations" theory posits that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. His theory has fallen under the stern critique of various academic writers. Since this article is short, read through it twice. The first time you read it, identify and consider the main points of Huntington’s argument. Then, when you read it for a second time, identify and consider the authors’ critiques of Huntington’s argument. Particularly, refer back to Unit 1.3, which explored political science as a “science.” How do the critiques found in this article reflect the principles of “scientific” social science research?

Page Stefanie Knoll and John Wihbey's "Small Worlds and the Clash of Civilizations"

This article also explores Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” and discusses his argument in light of recently gathered data regarding online interactions among regions. Do you think the data provided in this article supports Huntington’s claims? Why or why not?

6.3.4: Democratic Peace Theory Page Gillian Ritcey's "The Ethical Dilemmas of the Democratic Peace Theory in Relation to Copenhagen"

According to the democratic peace theory, a pattern exists in international relations: democratic states are unlikely to go to war with one another. While many scholars argue that the democratic peace theory is an observable, statistically-identifiable trend, this article critiques the theory and argues that societal attitudes and perceptions of democratic countries greatly influence the acceptance of this theory. Do you agree?

6.4.1: Human Rights Page International Justice Resource Center: "Overview of the Human Rights Framework"

As this article describes, human rights “protect individuals from government action that would threaten or harm certain freedoms thought to be fundamental.” This article explains the basis for international human rights law, which includes non-binding declarations (like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), treaties, monitoring organizations, and individual experts.

Page Stephen Hopgood's "Human Rights: Past Their Sell-By Date"

This article critiques the concept of human rights in the international system. Why does this article argue that the concept of “human rights” is no longer relevant in the international system? Do you agree?

6.4.2: Humanitarian Aid and Intervention Page Boundless Political Science: "Chapter 18, Section 1: Foreign Policy: International Humanitarian Policies and Foreign Aid"

When atrocities are being committed or suffering is occurring within a state, sometimes other, more powerful states feel a responsibility or obligation to intervene. This intervention can take the form of humanitarian intervention or foreign aid. After reading this section, you should be able to define and explain both of these terms.

Study Guides Page Unit 1 Study Guide: Foundational Concepts of Politics
Page Unit 2 Study Guide: Participation
Page Unit 3 Study Guide: Ideologies
Page Unit 4 Study Guide: The State
Page Unit 5 Study Guide: Political Institutions
Page Unit 6 Study Guide: International Politics
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