Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue, 2018–19

Bard College Catalogue, 2018–19

Political Studies


Omar G. Encarnación (director), Sanjib Baruah, Jonathan Becker, Roger Berkowitz, Kevin Duong, Simon Gilhooley, Samantha Hill, Frederic C. Hof, James P. Ketterer, David Kettler, Christopher McIntosh, Walter Russell Mead, Michelle Murray, Cassandra Sweet


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 overlap with one another and other fields. Students are encouraged to combine courses in political studies with relevant courses in sister or related disciplines, such as history, economics, and sociology.


Prior to Moderation, a student must have taken five courses in the program, including three 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 another 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

  • “Aloha ’Aina: The United States Military and Its Controversial Use of Hawaiian Land”
  • “Assessing the Theory of Demographics as Destiny and Patterns of Bloc Voting in the United States”
  • “Japan’s Reemergence as a Military Superpower: Assessing the East Asian Security Dilemma”
  • “The Stability of a Unipolar World Revisited”


Political Studies offers a core curriculum comprising the following courses: Political Theory, Comparative Politics, American Politics: Issues and Institutions, Political Economy, The Quest for Justice: Foundations of the Law, and International Relations. The program also offers a wide range of courses in area studies (Western Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East most notably) and thematic seminars on American foreign policy, international security, democratization, terrorism, civil society, development, and political methodology, among other topics.

The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.

International Relations
Political Studies 104
An introduction to competing theories about the structure, functioning, and transformative potential of the international system. The course begins with the traditional problem of international life: maintaining order among relatively equal states in a condition of anarchy. Part two calls the assumption of anarchy into question by looking at hierarchical power relationships in a variety of issue areas. The course concludes by addressing contemporary challenges to the state’s authority and the problems of governing in an increasingly global community.

Comparative Politics
Political Studies 105
The intellectual premise of comparative politics is that we can better understand the politics of almost any country by placing it in its larger, global context. This perspective allows us to address some of the most fundamental questions of politics. Students examine not only the key institutions of liberal democracies, but also democracies constructed after dictatorships (Germany, Japan) and federalism as an emerging trend in contemporary regional politics.

Political Economy
Political Studies 109
Political economy refers to the interrelationship between politics and economics. However, political scientists and economists do not always use the term in the same sense, and within these two disciplines the term has multiple meanings. This course reviews the ideas of major thinkers such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and John Kenneth Galbraith, and introduces two subfields: international political economy and the political economy of development.

Political Theory
Political Studies 115
In this survey of Western political thought, the class examines themes such as justice, freedom, and equality through the writings of thinkers from Plato to Malcolm X. In each case, students attend to the particular crises these theorists addressed in their work—e.g., civil war, revolution, democracy, capitalism—and learn how the authors used their concepts and ideas to address the problems of their day.

American Politics: Issues and Institutions
Political Studies 122
This course introduces students to the basic institutions and processes of American ­government. It aims to provide students with a grasp of the fundamental dynamics of American politics and the skills to be an effective participant in and critic of the political process. During the semester, students examine how the government works, interpret current political developments and debates, and consider how to influence the government at various levels.

Case Study in International Policy: Russia
Political Studies 124
Following an introduction to core concepts of U.S. global strategy, this 1-credit course uses Russia to explore the many factors that policy makers must take into account. These include Russian motivations and policies; the internal situation in countries like Ukraine and Syria; the role of actors like the European Union, Turkey, China, Japan, and Iran; the military equation; and the nature of American interests as they are affected by Russia. Students look at current U.S. policy and leading alternatives, and are challenged to propose an American strategy for Russia.

The Political Life of Mourning
Political Studies 142
Can we transform moments of loss into an opportunity for democratic politics? How are these formative moments of loss—the death of a son, 9/11, the murder of Eric Garner—constitutive of a collective politics? The class explores the political life of mourning within the tradition of Western political thought, drawing on texts from Sophocles, Freud, Derrida, Douglas, Du Bois, Morrison, Moten, and others.

Human Rights in Global Politics
Political Studies 145
This course addresses the main actors and debates behind the rise of human rights in global politics. The course is divided into three core sections: the philosophical foundations of the notion of human rights and its contested universality; the evolution of the so-called international human rights regime; and the shifts from “first generation” human rights (political freedoms) to “second generation” human rights (social and economic rights, such as housing, employment, and education), to “third generation human rights” and beyond (cultural self-determination, economic sustainability, and sexual freedoms, among others).

The Quest for Justice: Foundations of the Law
Political Studies 167 / Philosophy 167
As the novelist William Gaddis writes: “Justice? You get justice in the next world. In this world, you have the law.” This course explores the apparent disconnect between law and justice. Through readings of legal cases as well as political, literary, and philosophical texts, students grapple with the problem of administering justice as it emerges in the context of contemporary legal institutions. Texts include Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Melville’s Billy Budd, and selections from Dostoevsky, Twain, and Plato.

American Political Thought
Political Studies 181
Drawing upon material from across the entire span of American history, the course attempts to develop an understanding of concepts such as democracy, liberty, individuality, and republicanism, and to discuss how understandings of these concepts have influenced political and social choices in the United States. Readings include works by Jefferson, Lincoln, Du Bois, and Goldman.

Radical Political Thought
Political Studies 202
Tracing the historical development of radical thought from the German tradition of critical theory in the so-called Frankfurt School through the emergence of poststructuralism in France, students examine questions of power, critique, and reason as well as the relationship between political action and critical thinking. Readings include works by Marx, Horkheimer, Adorno, Foucault, Habermas, and Butler.

Gender and the Politics of National Security
Political Studies 206 / GIS 206
See GIS 206 for a full course description.

Global Citizenship
Political Studies 207
What does it mean to be a global citizen? This question has gained increasing salience as the world has become more globalized, and new problems surface that cut across national borders and fall outside the jurisdiction of individual nation-states. In response, new forms of political organization have emerged that challenge the state as the primary locus of political authority and individual rights. This course critically examines the conceptual and theoretical foundations of the concept of global citizenship and investigates how the idea might work in practice.

U.S.–Latin American Relations
Political Studies 214
An overview of U.S.–Latin American relations from the early 19th century (and the advent of the Monroe Doctrine) to the present. The course is divided into three sections: the years between 1821 and 1940, with an emphasis on American military interventions intended to establish economic and political hegemony across the region; the Cold War era, during which perceived threats from Marxist-inspired revolutions led to covert U.S. actions in several countries; and post–Cold War issues such as economic integration, narco-trafficking, immigration, and the War on Terror.

Western European Politics and Society
Political Studies 215
Today, the nations of Western Europe are involved in a common project of transnational government, although they each possess their own governance systems, economic priorities, and political cultures. Focusing especially on France, Germany, Italy, and Britain, the class explores how each state was formed; how they were transformed by experiences of continental war and revolution; how nationalism intersects with transnational government; and how Europe is struggling to cope with new challenges like immigration, xenophobia, and the decline of the welfare state.

The Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement
Political Studies 221
The 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act provides an opportunity to reflect on the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. The course explores the domestic, international, and ideological origins of the movement; the structures and actions of organizations such as SNCC, SCLC, NAACP, and CORE; and the consequences and legacies of the “classical” period of 1954–66. Also considered are the effects of the movement on subsequent mobilizations, contemporary American society, and the modern American political landscape.

Latin American Politics and Society 
Political Studies 222
The course is organized in three main sections, beginning with a broad overview of patterns of political development in Latin America from the independence period to the present. The second part highlights theoretical approaches to Latin American political development drawn from cultural analysis, Marxism, and state-centric perspectives. The final section examines democratic development in six countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Tragedy and Political Theory
Political Studies 228
In ancient Greece, going to the theater was understood to be part of a democratic, civic education. This seminar examines how the classical tragedy provides ways of thinking through fundamental political questions—How can we uphold justice in uncontrollable, unpredictable circumstances? Is obeying the law more important than doing the right thing?—and considers “tragic thought” within political theory. Readings include ancient and modern texts by Sophocles, Thucydides, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Arendt.

Humanitarian Military Intervention
Political Studies 231 / GIS 231
See GIS 231 for a full course description.

International Politics of South Asia
Political Studies 233
This course provides a historical overview of South Asia, a region that has 21 percent of the world’s population. It covers the British colonial period, the Kashmir conflict, the war in Afghanistan, India-Pakistan relations and the regional nuclear arms race, the politics of outsourcing, and the United States and South Asia, among other topics. Students are expected to keep up with current developments and relevant policy debates by reading South Asian and U.S. newspapers online.

Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa 
Political Studies 237
An introduction to the major questions and theoretical approaches involved in the study of comparative politics as applied to the states of the Middle East and North Africa. Topics include state formation and consolidation, the persistence of authoritarianism, nationalism and identity, civil society and democratization, uprisings and revolutions, the role of oil, political economy of the state, gender, and Islamist politics. The course covers core literature in the field, relevant case studies, and pressing issues facing policy makers.

The United Nations and Model UN
Political Studies 239
The first part of this two-semester course explores the history of the United Nations, providing an introduction to its structure and principal aims. It examines the role of specialized agencies and how alliances impact on the UN’s day-to-day operations. The second part of the course focuses on an assigned country whose history, politics, and economics are studied. The course concludes with the writing of position papers that reflect that country’s approach to issues confronting the UN.

Constitutional Law: Theory and Comparative Practice
Political Studies 243 / Human Rights 243
An introduction to constitutional theory and practice in comparative context. The first part of the course looks at the history of the idea of constitutionalism in Ancient Greece, 18th-century England, France, and the United States; the remainder is devoted to a critical examination of the contemporary workings of constitutional law, focusing primarily on decisions of the highest courts of the United States, India, and South Africa relating to human rights issues. Beyond legal cases, readings include Aristotle, Montesquieu, Bodin, Arendt, and the Federalist Papers.

The Politics of Central Asia
Political Studies 246
Caught in the middle of such neighbors as Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Iran, the countries of Central Asia present a mix of problems in comparative politics. This course, anchored on the theme of state building, takes up a range of issues salient for the region: the Soviet legacy, informal politics, authoritarianism, corruption, identity politics, and geopolitics. The course also specifically posits the question of the possibility of democracy and the challenge of democratization in a difficult geopolitical context.

What Is Democracy?
Political Studies 252
What is democracy? What are its benefits and perils? Who ought to be included in “the people”? These questions have preoccupied political theorists since ancient times. In recent years, they have also taken on urgency as democracy has become conflated with individual liberty and the free market. The course examines classical accounts of democracy by canonical theorists and looks at the way American and European radicals—socialists, feminists, black nationalists—transformed democracy into a fighting creed for greater political inclusion, participatory citizenship, and economic equality.

Security and International Politics
Political Studies 254
Security is one of the foundational concepts in the study of international politics. As the principal rationale for war, the quest for security influences the behavior of states both internationally and domestically. This course interrogates the concept of security in an attempt to denaturalize the ways in which security is taken for granted. Students consider critical approaches to the politics of threat construction, alternative conceptualizations of security, and the ethics of conducting torture and suspending civil liberties in the name of national security.

Russian Politics: Origins of Contemporary Russia
Political Studies 255
In the 1980s and 1990s, Soviet and Russian society underwent catastrophic turmoil, simultaneously experiencing a democratic revolution, the dissolution of an empire, and societal collapse. The end of the communist project in Russia did not lead to a standard normalizing “transition” to liberal democracy, but instead produced an increasingly authoritarian regime. Why did the Soviet Union collapse? Why did the democratic revolution fail? How did the most left-wing country in the world become one of the most right-wing countries? The course explores these and other question.

Nations and Nationalism
Political Studies 257 / GIS 257
From the election of Donald Trump to the rise of ethnonationalist parties across Europe and beyond, nationalism has become a driving force in international politics. Nationalism, of course, is not a new phenomenon. Throughout the 20th century, it was a central factor in domestic and international politics, with the concept of the nation-state becoming the dominant ordering principle in world politics. This course examines the emergence of nations, their social and political construction, and the intersection of nationalism and race, ethnicity, culture, gender, postcoloniality, and subjectivity.

Race and Political Theory
Political Studies 262
Topics addressed include the political production of the excluded; the relations between race, nation, and class; imperialism and anticolonial liberation struggles; the relations between racism, secularism, and religion; intersections of antiracist politics and feminism; multiculturalism as a reality and as ideology; and the concept of dispossession. Texts by Hannah Arendt, Aimé Césaire, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Frantz Fanon, bell hooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Talal Asad, Mahmood Mamdani, Athena Athanasiou, Angela Davis, and Drucilla Cornell.

Campaign 2016
Political Studies 265
This course integrates the experience of campaigns within a broad study of the nature of democracy and the mechanisms of modern campaigns. Topics include the role of campaign finance, the idea of “the permanent campaign,” the invisible primary, the role of media, and the potential for activist organization within the modern political system. Students design and undertake a collective project engaging local electoral campaigns.

All Politics Is Local
Political Studies 270
Students meet with local, county, and state officials; attend sessions of local government bodies; and read primary and secondary sources concerning the issue of local governance. Fieldwork allows them to contextualize their in-class study. Several sessions occur at night to accommodate public meetings of local governing bodies.

East Asian Security
Political Studies 272
East Asia has always been imagined as an important area of concern for those studying international security, and the potential for instability animates much of American foreign policy. Topics discussed include intraregional concerns, such as the proliferation and development of nuclear weapons and the potential remilitarization of Japan; regional maritime disputes; tensions between China and Taiwan; multilateral security institutions; and potential areas for security and cooperation within the region as well as with major players internationally.

Diplomacy in International Politics
Political Studies 273 / GIS 273
See GIS 273 for a full course description.

American Protest: Disobedience, Dissent, and Resignation
Political Studies 284
What does it mean to engage in political protest? What motivates us to move into the public sphere of politics? What does it mean to act from a moral center? This course, part of the Courage to Be series, strips down conventional notions of political protest within the American context to critically inquire after what motivates us to engage or disengage with politics. Texts by Paul Tillich, Erich Fromm, Hannah Arendt, Henry David Thoreau, Theodor Adorno, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Paine, Martin Luther King, and others.

Privacy: Why Does It Matter?
Political Studies 285
Edward Snowden’s revelations inaugurated a national discussion about the right of privacy. Over 50 percent of Americans still support the National Security Administration (over 60 percent of those under 30). We share our private lives on social media sites and think little of leaving digital signatures as we shop, read, and drive. We willingly trade privacy for the promise of both increased security and convenience. Privacy is being lost and few seem to care. Students read material on privacy by Hannah Arendt and others.

International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa
Political Studies 289
While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continues to be a site of conflict, developing trends, emerging actors, and competing explanations are often overlooked. Major themes in this course include the nature of the state system and causes of conflict within the region; the roles played by outside powers; and the causes and effects of transnational forces such as Arab nationalism, Islamic radicalism, criminal networks, media, and global economic actors.

Political Studies 290
“Totalitarianism” is a conceptual lodestar of 20th-century politics. It is supposed to point to everything that contemporary American and European political culture is not—terroristic, homogeneous, authoritarian, ideologically manipulative, and unfree. Yet critics have used the concept to describe regimes as different as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Maoist China, ISIS, and occasionally even the United States. What is totalitarianism? The class engages this question by studying specific cases—especially Nazi Germany, Vichy France, and Mussolini’s Italy—alongside theoretical works.

Revolutionary Constitutionalism
Political Studies 295
In the United States and around the world we are experiencing a radical loss of political legitimacy. On the most existential political questions of war, taxes, corruption, and trust, there is a credibility gap—not only are those in power not believed, they are held in contempt. It is in periods like these when the possibility of new political systems emerges. These are revolutionary times. But what makes a successful revolution? The class reads Arendt’s On Revolution with a focus on the constitutional aspects of her argument.

Rationality and The State: From Enlightenment to Climate Change
Political Studies 313
The course looks at competing theoretical designs aimed at ensuring that state policies attend to the findings of science. The class begins with Francis Bacon and the Enlightenment in France (the Encyclopedists) and Scotland (Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson); considers Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and John Stuart Mill as representative 19th-century thinkers; and works through a number of 20th-century writers, including Walter Lippman, John Dewey, Karl Mannheim, and Charles Lindblom.

Political Economy of Development
Political Studies 314
This Upper College seminar examines the economic development of the “Third World” through the lens of several generations of scholars. After reading representative authors of competing theoretical traditions, students move on to concrete cases.

The U.S. Constitution as a Political Text
Political Studies 321
In place of a traditional constitutional law course that covers the accepted and contested meanings of the law derived from the Constitution, this course considers the influence that the Constitution has had on American society. Students are introduced to the debates within political thought about the nature of the Constitution and to the Constitution as it now exists in contemporary political life, specifically with regard to the first two amendments of the Bill of Rights, which deal with free speech and firearms regulation, respectively.

Critical Security Studies
Political Studies 324
As the principal rationale for war, the quest for security influences states’ behavior in the international system as well as the structure of state and society relations in domestic politics. Too often, however, the meaning of security is taken for granted in the study of international relations, with individuals, societies, and states homogenized into one coherent model that focuses exclusively on the threat, use, and control of military force. This seminar interrogates this narrow concept of security by engaging with a diverse literature termed “critical security studies.”

Global Crisis of Democracy
Political Studies 330
This seminar examines what is ailing democracy around the world, after decades of expansion. It begins with the so-called third wave of democratization, which brought democracy to some three dozen nations between 1974 and 1992 in Western Europe, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa, and then looks at the postwar economic boom, international human rights regime, globalization, the failure of democracy to reach the Middle East, the uneven legacy of the third wave, and challenges to democracy in the developed West.

Democracy after Dictatorship
Political Studies 331
What makes democracy possible in the wake of dictatorial rule? This question serves as an entry point for the seminar. The first half examines concepts and issues in the study of democratization, such as the meaning of democracy and the factors aiding in the rise and consolidation of democratic governance. The second half explores the politics of democratization in five cases: Germany after the Nazi regime, Spain after the Franco dictatorship, Argentina after military rule, Russia after Communism, and Egypt after Mubarak.

The Politics of Globalization
Political Studies 334
Until the financial crisis of 2008, it was common for advocates of free markets to argue that globalization is a positive force that can generate employment and raise living standards. Critics argue that the transformations captured by the term “globalization” are best seen as a phase in the history of capitalist development. The course considers these arguments through discussion of texts by Arjun Appadurai, Eric Cazdyn, James Ferguson, Thomas Friedman, David Harvey, Karl Polanyi, Saskia Sassen, Joseph Stiglitz, Imre Szeman, and Karl Marx.

Humanism, Human Rights, and the Human Condition
Political Studies 341
In 1946, just after the defeat of the Nazis, a French schoolteacher wrote to the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, asking two questions: How are we, in the wake of the Holocaust, to restore sense to the word “humanism”? And how are we to understand the relationship between philosophy and ethics? Heidegger’s response, later published as “The Letter on Humanism,” is one of the great efforts to think through the ethical and philosophical significance of the human being. Texts by Heidegger, Sartre, Arendt, and Sloterdijk.

Ideology in America: From Jefferson to Trump
Political Studies 351
The successes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election cycle once again brought the issue of ideology to the fore. This course looks at Jeffersonian republicanism, antebellum slavery, abolitionism, Progressivism, Cold War neoconservatism, and neoliberalism, and considers whether any of these impulses amount to an ideology and what, if any, legacy they left for subsequent American political thought.

Political Studies 352
The September 2001 terrorist attacks irrevocably changed U.S. politics and foreign policy, giving rise to more than a decade of war, expanded surveillance domestically and abroad, the use of torture and indefinite detention, and a targeted killing policy through the use of drone strikes around the globe. This seminar examines terrorism as a political phenomenon, the role of religion and ideology in motivating terrorist groups, the importance of state sponsorship in supporting terrorist activity, and the challenges of counterterrorism.

Radical American Democracy
Political Studies 358
This seminar explores the essence of democracy as a specifically modern way of life, rather than a form of government. To do so, it turns to great thinkers of American democracy, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Ralph Ellison, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Hannah Arendt. The course seeks to understand the democratic spirit of radical individualism that has proven so seductive and powerful since its modern birth in the American Revolution.

Ethics and International Affairs
Political Studies 363
Current foreign policy debates have centered on drone strikes, civilian casualties, the targeted killing of Americans, and humanitarian intervention, with advocates on both sides citing moral and ethical justifications for their respective positions. Each of these debates begs the central question: What does it mean to be ethical in international politics? To whom are we responsible? Do ethical concerns cross borders? This course explores the issues and tensions informing these questions by engaging the underlying theoretical traditions.

Promoting Democracy Abroad
Political Studies 368
Almost alone among the world’s superpowers, the United States has made promoting democracy abroad a central objective of its foreign policy. This course explores three questions about this “mission” to spread democracy: What explains the genesis and persistence of the centrality of democracy in American foreign policy? How have American administrations tried to construct policies to advance democratic development abroad? Why have these attempts to promote democracy abroad so often fallen short of their intended goals?

Great Power Politics
Political Studies 369
This course explores the military, economic, and social sources of great power competition in international politics. Historical cases covered include the rise of U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, the Anglo-German naval race, World Wars I and II, and the Cold War. Contemporary topics include the emergence of new nuclear powers, the War on Terror, and the rise of China. Students gain an understanding of the relevance of great power politics to international order and learn the art of using historical research in international relations.

Grand Strategy from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz
Political Studies 377
The question of what war is and how wars can be won has exercised great minds from the dawn of recorded history. Students in this advanced seminar examine classic texts on conflict, from ancient China to modern Europe. Issues addressed include the nature of conflict, the role of chance in human affairs, the definition of power, and the development of strategic thought.

The American Presidency
Political Studies 378
An examination of the development of the U.S. presidency from the founding until the present day, with special attention given to the Jeffersonian and Progressive Eras; the expansion of executive power under Franklin Roosevelt; how modern presidents contend with multiple and, at times, conflicting roles and responsibilities (party leader, chief executive, commander in chief, media celebrity); and the problem of contemporary presidential power. Also considered is what role presidential power and leadership should play in the life of contemporary U.S. democracy.