Division of Social Studies

Political Studies


Politics can be understood in many ways: as a struggle for power over other people, groups, and nations; as a social process that determines who has what kinds of authority and how this affects particular communities; as a series of conversations or disputations about what counts as a “public problem” and how to address public problems; or as an art or science of institutional design, especially the design of governments and international institutions. However it is defined, politics matters. Political outcomes shape the choices we can make as individuals and the fates of communities, nations, and states.

The Political Studies Program at Bard welcomes students who care about politics and want to reason critically about political outcomes and debates at the local, national, and international levels. The program intends to inform responsible participation in American and global public affairs. It also prepares students for work and/or further study in political science, international affairs, public policy, law, cultural studies, and related fields.

Areas of Study

At Bard, six broad clusters of political studies are identified: political theory, American politics, comparative politics, political economy, public law, and international relations. The clusters necessarily overlap one another and other fields. Students are encouraged to combine courses in political studies with relevant courses in other disciplines, such as history, economics, sociology, and literature.


Prior to Moderation, a student must have taken at least four courses in the program, including two from the core curriculum (see “Courses”). After Moderation, students are required to take three politics seminars. Depending on the interests of the student, and with the approval of the academic adviser, one of the seminars may come from a related social science discipline, such as economics or sociology; from study abroad; or from Bard’s Global and International Affairs (BGIA) Program in New York City. All students are required to complete a Senior Project that examines a political problem/puzzle or that synthesizes the political science literature on a major subject, such as democracy, development, or war.

Recent Senior Projects in Political Studies

  • “Aid Yes, but for Whom? To Do What? Understanding Chinese Foreign Aid”
  • “Combatting Terrorist Financing after 9/11”
  • “Legal Shadows: An Examination of Evidence in State v. Zimmerman”
  • “Power and Dominion: Strategy and Political Science in Hannibal’s War”


Political Studies offers a core curriculum comprising the following courses: Introduction to Political Thinking, Comparative Politics, American Politics: Issues and Institutions, Political Economy, Foundations of the Law, and International Relations. In addition to this curriculum, the program offers a wide range of courses in area studies (Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and the Middle East), and thematic seminars on American foreign policy, international security, democratization, terrorism, civil society, development, and political methodology, among other topics.