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 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 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

  • “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 Question 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.