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Political Science Department

Government 103 Critical Issues in World Politics



This course serves as an introduction to three of the most important and interesting sub-fields of political science-- political theory, comparative politics and international relations. Each of these subfields is examined by exploring a broad question which addresses the main themes of the subfield. By the end of the course, you should have a good idea about what types of questions in political science interest you the most, and thus a good idea about what other classes you might like to take in the future, what types of research projects you may want to pursue in the future, etc. Hopefully, you will also learn to approach media coverage of "world politics", "overseas events" and "international crises" with a more critical eye, applying your new knowledge and theoretical insight to help you understand the world around you in a more broad and fulfilling way.

In the first part of the course we examine how the subfield of political theory has sought to answer a fundamental question facing human beings: how do we balance our individual human existences with the fact that we must also live together on Earth as a community of people ? In this section, we explore how different political thinkers have addressed this fundamental problem of how we should live both individually and together. More specifically, we will address the following ISMS, or political theories: liberalism, conservatism, socialism, nationalism, feminism, anarchism and religious fundamentalism. Throughout this section of the course, you should be asking yourself how these ideas might actually be translated into political practice, or reality, and asking yourself to what degree you believe IDEAS about politics (political theory) actually influences political behavior or political life in the "real world", if at all.

In the second part of the course, we turn to the question of political practice by comparing different types of political systems. In this introduction to comparative politics we are addressing the extremes of political systems: democracies versus dictatorships. By using this opposition, we are able to examine the goals of different political systems, the institutions they establish to achieve those goals, and the implications of those political systems for the people that live under them. In this section we will use both theoretical articles about democratic and non-democratic political systems as well as personal memoirs from citizens in each of these systems to understand more fully how different political systems function.

In the final part of the course, with acknowledgments to Tolstoy, we examine another great opposition: war and peace. We look at the causes and varieties of war and peace, in the process gaining a broad introduction to the subfield of international relations. In this section, we cover some basic theories about international relations and what drives them, and then look at case studies of some of the major conflicts of the 20th century. We conclude by examining the forces of globalization and discussing whether the processes of globalization seem likely to bring more "war" or more "peace" in the 21st century.

Required Books Available For Purchase at the Skidmore Shop:

Leon Baradat, Political Ideologies
Alfons Heck, A Child of Hitler
Joseph Nye, Jr. Understanding International Conflicts

OTHER REQUIRED READINGS: Particularly during the section of the class on comparative politics, I will be handing out several articles and sections of books. These handouts are also mandatory reading.

In addition to class reading, you should keep informed about world events by subscribing to (and reading !) the New York Times or another newspaper with a strong international section, such as the Washington Post. I will often be referring to world events and NYTimes coverage of these events to illustrate points we are discussing in class--keeping up with these events will not only make class more interesting for you, it will enhance your class participation.

** COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND ASSESSMENT: The Skidmore College mission statement asks faculty to "create a challenging yet supportive environment that cultivates students intellectual and personal excellence, encouraging them to expand their expectations of themselves while they enrich their academic understanding". To do this in the context of this class, I have devised the following assignments. (EXPLANATIONS BELOW)

1) Class Participation 10 %. This encompasses a number of things, including scheduled quizzes. See below.

2) Three Short (3-4 page) papers, each worth 15%. Topics to be handed out a week before due date for each paper.

3) Three Unit Exams worth 15% each.

Explanation of Assignments:

1) ASSIGNMENT #1: CLASS PARTICIPATION, Including the Following Elements : (10%)

-- CLASSROOM COMPORTMENT: The mission statement of Skidmore College describes the student body as "a diverse population of talented students who are eager to engage actively in the learning process". While I find this to be true for the vast majority of Skidmore College students, there is unfortunately a small minority who need to be reminded gently of how "students who are eager to engage actively in the learning process" carry themselves in a classroom setting. Thus, :
--PLEASE DO NOT BE LATE : You will find that I have a tendency to lock the door after I take attendance and have begun class.
--PLEASE DO NOT TALK OR PASS NOTES DURING CLASS : This is rude, distracting junior high behavior.
--PLEASE DO NOT SLEEP IN THIS CLASS: This is rude, distracting pre-school behavior ! If you feel that you are so tired that you cannot participate in class enthusiastically, please stay home. If you sleep, I will wake you up and send you home to your bed which is, after all, a much more appropriate place to sleep.
--PLEASE DO NOT GET UP AND LEAVE DURING CLASS. This is transparent passive-aggressive behavior -- don't do it ! If it is a biological necessity that you leave class for some reason, please communicate that to me in some way. Otherwise, please respect the integrity of the classroom and respect your peers by not disrupting the class.

--ATTENDANCE: I expect you to be here every day, ready to participate. After all, this classroom face time is what differentiates your Skidmore learning experience from a "big state school" one -- so make it worth your while. Or rather, it is my job to help (force ?) you to make it worth your while. Thus, absences are keenly noted and adversely affect your grade. Sport-related absences must be requested in writing and all classroom work must be made up. Some INVALID excuses for missing class include: doctor's appointments (I don't' schedule mine during class, you shouldn't either), missing flights (ditto), vague "family emergencies" (those family emergencies that are acute enough to involve the Dean's Office are valid). In general, documentation is useful, but not always sufficient, for absolution of absences.

--READINGS and NOTES: You will be expected to read the assignments for each given class day carefully and completely. These readings and your thoughts about them will be the basis for most of our group discussions.

You should take careful notes on these readings (many of which are quite difficult), paying special attention to the author's arguments / main ideas and the evidence the author provides to bolster their argument. A useful way to review and make sure tha t you understand the reading you are working on is to try to put the author's argument into your own words, and to think of questions you'd like to ask the author about how to clarify or defend her or his argument.

To help you understand and take notes on the readings more effectively, I will be circulating questions for each reading via the class email list.

--QUIZZES / In-Class Writing Assignments: While reading the assignments is a required and expected part of the class, as an incentive to make sure you complete the readings on time, there will be 5 scheduled in-class writing assignments and quizzes. You will be able to use your NOTES from the readings fo r these assignments, although NOT the readings themselves. If you are keeping up with the reading, these will not be a problem for you. There will not be any make-ups on these quizzes.

--DISCUSSION PARTICIPATION: While all academics love the sound of their own voices, I'd rather listen to you than myself. In fact, if I don't hear from you voluntarily, you may find yourself called upon…..

--PARTICIPATION IN SMALL GROUP ACTIVITIES IN CLASS : Occasionaly we will break down into small groups in class. This is also factored in to your overall grade. When we do small group activities in class, I expect you to be working on the assignment at hand eagerly and enthusiastically. The first of these activities will be a simulation on the Northern Ireland Peace Talks, which will be held on

2) ASSIGNMENT #2: THREE SHORT 3-4 Page Papers. 15% each.

Papers are due at the beginning of class, on time, on the day indicated in the syllabus. If your paper is going to be late, it is INFINITELY better for you to come to class that day and then turn in the paper later. Skipping class on the due date to finish a paper will result in a larger reduction in your grade than had the paper simply been delivered late.

Because a main goal of this and indeed, I presume, all of your classes here at Skidmore is to help you become more elegant, creative, effective and grammatical writers, I have a rewrite policy on papers. However, this policy is not unlimited -- there are guidelines, as follows :

--The re-written paper is due ONE WEEK after original papers are handed back
--ALL written comments on the paper must be addressed ; both grammatical / style and content / logic issues must be addressed.
--You must hand in BOTH the old and the new copy of the paper.
--Rewriting does NOT guarantee your grade will go up, however in my experience for most people this turns out to be the case.


a) ALWAYS include a TITLE PAGE, please double-space your papers, and please NUMBER YOUR PAGES!

b) Rough drafts are accepted and encouraged.

c) Common grammar and punctuation errors(CONSIDER YOURSELVES WARNED !):

--possessives (the country's weather, the city's budget , the state's crime policy, the people's will) versus plurals (the countries of the world, the cities of New York, the states of Russia, the peoples of South Africa). If you aren't sure, check a writing manual.

--LED is the past tense of the verb TO LEAD. LEAD is the bad stuff in paint. Nelson Mandela led S. Africa out of apartheid. Don't eat the lead in paint, it will make you confuse your possessives and plurals !

--BORDERS (the things between countries) versus BOARDERS(the people who pay you money to live in your house)

--Make sure you make every effort to get proper names right. If you are writing a whole paper on Russia, learn how to spell Putin, Yeltsin, etc.

--Watch your tenses. If you are relaying historical information, it is always better to use the PAST tense. Using the PRESENT tense (ie, "Gorbachev takes over, launches a radical reform program, and screws up everything.")
is usually too colloquial for a formal research paper.

3) Three Unit Exams : Exams will combine essay and short answers. 15% each.


Class Email List:

I will be sending out reading and discussion questions on the class email list before every class. It is TRULY in your best interest to use these questions to help guide your reading and your preparation for class EVERY DAY. Thus, please make every effort to check your email regularly and to send your questions, reactions, et. to me over email. Also, sometimes, if I think your question has broader relevance, I may post it and the answer to the whole list so everyone can benefit from it.

Grading Policies:

As noted in the Skidmore College Catalogue on page 51, Grades are assigned on the following basis:

A -- Distinguished work
A-, B+, B -- Superior work
B-, C+, C --Satisfactory work
C-, D+, D--Passing but poor quality work

**SCHEDULE OF READINGS AND ASSIGNMENTS: Readings are to be completed FOR THE DAY THEY ARE LISTED. Subject to revision, though hopefully not too much !

Week 1: Introduction to course: Syllabus

What is ideology and how should we live ?

Baradat book , p. 1- top of p. 30

Week 2: Liberalism and Conservatism : QUIZ

Baradat book , p. 64-103

Marxism , Socialism, and Variations on the Two

Baradat book , p.159-207

Week 3: Continue Marxism, Socialism, etc… : QUIZ

No Class : Professor Graney in DC -- READ

Baradat book, p. 141-158, 291-306,
Samuels article, "Notes from the Underground"

Week 4: Anarchism, Feminism and Ecologism

Finish reading listed under 2/7

Religious Fundamentalism

Heywood article, "Religious Fundamentalism"
Juergensmeyer article, "Terror in the Name of God"


Start Unit Two : What is a Democracy ? Is Democracy a Universal Good ?

Karl and Schmitter Article, "What Democracy is..and is not"
Sen Article, "Democracy as a Universal Value"
--Begin reading Heck book, A Child of Hitler

Week 6: Problems in Crafting Democracy: Latin America, Africa and the Arab World : QUIZ

Dominguez , "Latin America's Crisis of Representation"
Monga article, "Eight Problems with African Politics"
Talbi article, "A Record of Failure"
--Continue Reading Heck Book

The Rise of Illiberal Democracy

Zakaria Article, "The Rise of Illiberal Democracy"
--Continue reading Heck Book

Week 7: Fascism / Nazi Germany and Italy under Il Duce

Baradat book , p.237-272
Heck book , Ch. 1-5


Week 9: Fascism Continued: Life under Hitler

Heck book , Ch. 5-10

Finish Discussion of Fascism and Totalitarianism

Week 10: Tu 3/26: SECOND UNIT EXAM

Begin Section 3: War and Peace / IR / Levels of
Analysis in International Relations

Nye book , Ch. 1 and 2

Week 11: Explaining World War 1 : QUIZ

Nye book Ch. 3

Interwar Failures and Road to WW2

Nye book Ch. 4

Week 12: Origins of the Cold War and Korea

Nye book , p.108-top 125
Stoessinger Handout on Korea

Nuclear Politics and Vietnam : QUIZ

Nye book bottom 131-142
Stoessinger Handout on Vietnam

Week 13: End of the Cold War and the Post-Cold War World

Nye book p. 127-131 and
Nye book , Ch. 7

Post-Cold War Visions : Optimism and Pessimism

Nye book , Ch. 8
Huntington article, "The Clash of Civilizations"
Week 14: Explaining 9/11

Crenshaw article, "Why America ? The Globalization of Civil War "
PLUS other short articles to be determined

After 9/11: A New Cold War ?

Daalder and Lindsay article, "Nasty, Brutish and Long: America's War on Terrorism"
Klare article, "Waging Post-industrial Warfare on the Global Battlefield"

Week 15: Wrap-Up / Review