Political Science | Political Theory and Policy Analysis
Y204 | 23404 | McGinnis

	Is religion rational? Does it contribute to good public
	This course begins by introducing students to "institutional
analysis," a multi-disciplinary mode of analysis developed by
political scientists, policy analysts, economists, and other social
scientists. This approach is controversial because it treats
rationality as the core component of human choice in all areas of
endeavor. It asserts that tensions between individual self-interest
and collective goals can be ameliorated (but never entirely
eliminated) through the careful design of institutional mechanisms of
social choice, rule-making, monitoring, and dispute resolution.
	After surveying the basic tools of rational choice theory as
applied to policy analysis, the bulk of the semester will be devoted
to critical evaluation of its application to the study of religious
belief, behavior, and organizations, and the consequences of religion
for public policy more generally. We will consider such questions as:
What private and public goods are enjoyed by religious believers? Do
faith-based organizations have any advantages in providing domestic
welfare services or international humanitarian aid? How do religious
groups handle conflict among their own members, and why do schisms
occur so frequently? How can religious leaders and organizations be
so effective at both justifying political violence and facilitating
peacemaking and post-conflict reconciliation? Are religious
institutions an essential foundation for democratic governance, or
are they a dangerous source of intolerance?
	Students should not expect to arrive at definitive answers to
any of these questions, but they should learn how to appreciate and
critique a wide range of perspectives on these important
controversies. Grades will be based on class participation, exams,
and a few brief paper assignments. Readings will include Public
Policy Analysis by Bickers and Williams and The Ambivalence of the
Sacred by Appleby as well as several articles or papers available on-
line. This course is required in the interdepartmental major in
political science and economics, but is open to all students. There
are no prerequisites.