Political Science | Intro to the Study of Politics
Y570 | 9854 | Isaac
Y570 is the “core” seminar in the graduate program in political
science. Its purpose is to acquaint students with the discipline of
political science, with the kinds of approaches characteristic of
this discipline, and with the diverse ways in which political
scientists typically think about the vocation of political science.
The central theme of the course is that political science, as a
discipline, is an evolved and evolving set of understandings and
practices, and that each individual political scientist is both
implicated in this discipline and responsible for making his or her
place in it. The course is designed to sensitize students to the real
differences, methodological and otherwise, that characterize the
discipline, but also to the common themes and objects of study shared
by political scientists.
The course is divided into three parts: (1) an overview of the
discipline as a discipline with a distinctive history; (2) an
overview of diverse understandings of what it means to study
politics “scientifically,” and (3) a synthetic discussion of the way
different methodological orientations approach a common topic—the
study of democratic citizenship—and the way each of these approaches
brings something unique and valuable to the study of politics. This
section will begin with Alexis de Tocqueville’s class work Democracy
in America, and then examine the way a number of current political
and social scientists develop Tocquevillean themes. Books to be
discussed will include Robert Bellah, et al, Habits of the Heart;
Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone; Susan J. Pharr and Robert Putnam, eds,
Disaffected Democracies: What’s Troubling the Trilateral Countries?
and Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons.