Courses in Political Science

Within the broad discipline of Political Science, the department offers courses in four distinct subfields:  American Politics, Political Theory, Comparative Politics and International Relations.  Note that all courses are not offered every year. See Classfinder for current offerings.  Anticipated course offering for AY 2019-2020 are available here:

Fall courses

Winter courses

Spring courses

Please note that course offerings are subject to change.



100 Level

101 Government and Politics in the Modern World (5)

Introduction to concepts of politics; types of governments and political problems in the world today.


200 Level

250 The American Political System (5)

Consideration of the system and process of American politics and government with primary focus on the national level.

261 Introduction to Political Theory (5)

Major concepts of Western political theory -- thematic or historical approach.

271 Introduction to International Relations (5)

The politics of war, peace and international economic relations.

291 Introduction to Comparative Politics (5)

Basic structures, functions and sociocultural environments of foreign political systems; methods of comparative study.

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300 Level

301 The British Parlimentary System (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 250 or 291.  The British parliamentary political system: analysis of British state and political structures and functions; analysis of British political parties; examination of the British service state.

302 Western Europe (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 291.  Governments and politics of selected western European states.

307 Government and Politics of East Asia (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 291. Survey course covering China, Japan and Korea since the mid-19th century.

308 African Political Systems (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 291.  Post-colonial political development in Africa focusing on ideologies and strategies for achieving legitimate government and improved living standards. Several country studies are included to illustrate outcomes associated with different strategies for development.

309 Globalization from Political, Economic, and Social Perspectives (5)

Prereq: PLSC 271 or 291 or IBUS 370. This course examines the political, economic, social, and cultural causes and consequences of globalization. In particular, the course explores the complementarities and contradictions between the different aspects of globalization.

310 The International Security of East Asia (5)

Prereq: Sophomore status or instructor permission.  The issues of national and human security in the East Asia region.

311 Introduction to Law and the Legal System (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  This course gives students a basic understanding of the structure and operation of legal systems in the U.S. by introducing key legal principles, doctrines, and procedures common to U.S. jurisdictions.  Students will read and discuss cases to learn legal reasoning and writing—applying general rules to specific cases to make judgments based on relevant facts.  Upper division standing recommended.

312 International Relations of South Asia (4)

Prereq: PLSC 271.  A survey of the security relations between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The course will also relate these countries to US foreign policy goals and interest.

313 Law, Courts, Politics, Society: Non-legal Perspectives of Law (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or instructor permission. An introduction to how law interacts with and is applied to different social and cultural contexts. Covers how societies create law, and how law, in turn, affects societies. Specific topics covered may change quarter to quarter and may include: the role of law and courts in maintaining and reforming society; how changes in society lead to changes in its laws; how different groups use law and courts to advance their social and political agendas; and the concepts, assumptions, and methods used by social scientists to study these law-related activities and processes. This course does not presume any knowledge of the legal system beyond what is commonly known by persons educated in industrial or post-industrial societies.

314 The U.S. Supreme Court: Law & Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or instructor permission. Introduction to the U.S. Supreme Court as a unique legal-political institution within the American political system. Topics covered include: Court procedures and decision-making, constitutional history, the nature of its judicial power, the Court's changing role in American politics and society, and the divide between "legal insiders" and political scientists in terms of how each group studies and views the Court's decision-making. No prior knowledge of the Supreme Court is presumed.

315 Why We Fight (4)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or PLSC 271.  In this class, we will explore different facets of political violence.  Why do states go to war with each other?  What, if anything, can the international community do to prevent or stop civil wars?  Under what conditions is international humanitarian intervention justified?  How have trends in conflict changed in recent years?  The course has significant reading and writing components.  Students are expected to be familiar with international relations theories and the study of comparative politics.

321 Queer and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or ACS 242 or permission.  Examines how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens have organized to achieve social change. Focuses on how LGBT movements have engaged in electoral, judicial, legislative, protest, and other forms of politics.

323 African American Politics (4)

Prereq: Sophomore status or instructor permission. An examination of the political strategies the African American community has undertaken to combat myriad barriers that exist in its quest for inclusion.

325 Québec Politics and Québec-US Relations (4)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or C/AM 200 or permission.  This course offers an introduction to Québec politics and Québec-U.S. Relations. Part I uses a historical-institutionalist approach to present the main conceptual and theoretical elements on Québec politics and offers an overview of recent evolution in Québec’s political life. Part II discusses three crucial themes in contemporary Québec politics: the evolution of Québec’s identity; the future of Québec’s independence movement; and the road ahead for Québec’s international relations. Part III shows how Québec and the United States are integrated and offers an overview of the actors and issues in Québec-U.S. relations. Also offered as C/AM 325.

327 Urban Politics and Policy (4)

Prereq: ENG 101 or instructor permission. This course introduces students to major actors, institutions, processes, and policies of substate governments in the United States.

330 Politics of Education (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or PLSC 250 or EDUC 115 or instructor permission.  This course focuses on the American school system as a political institution, considering how interests, actors, and ideas shape policy-making and implementation.  Students will analyze current education policy debates and their histories to understand some of the challenges facing public education in a democracy.

345 Women and Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 250.  The history and ideas of the women's movement; investigation of the changing role of women in American politics including legal status, economic position and political behavior.

346 Politics of Inequality (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  Survey of the causes and consequences of inequality, particularly economic inequality, and the political, social and economic institutions and processes supporting group subordination, racism, sexism and poverty.

347 Race, Politics and Public Policy (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or equivalent.  The historical and political bases of contemporary racial conflict in the United States.

348 Environmental Justice (5)

Prereq: Sophomore status. Dimensions of social justice as they relate to environmental policies, practices, and movements.

353 State and Local Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  Politics of states, urban regions and suburbs. Inter-jurisdictional conflict over growth or development. Federal relations, direct democracy and state policy making.

355 Bureaucratic Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  This is an introductory examination of the principles, structure, functions and the processes of federal administrative agencies of the United States Government.

357 Health Policy (4)

Prereq:  PLSC 250 or instructor permission.  This course explores current health care reform proposals, in the context of a movement away from employers' provision of health care and the pressure of an aging society.

361 Classical Political Thought (4)

Prereq: HIST 111 or LBRL 121 or PLSC 261 or equivalent.  Exploration of emerging themes in classical political thought, such as Greek, Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Islamic traditions.

362 Political Theory: Renaissance and Modern (4)

Prereq: HIST 112 or LBRL 121 or PLSC 261 or equivalent.  Exploration of developing themes in Renaissance and Modern political thought, with particular focus on the nature of freedom, right, individuality, communal obligation, and the rise of the nation-state.

364 Contemporary Political Theory (4)

Prereq: PLSC 261.  Examines central thinkers and themes in contemporary political theory. Topics may include: radical democracy, liberalism and rights, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, cultural diversity, post-colonial and de-colonial struggles, power, revolution, and modern citizenship.

366 Research in Politics (5)

Fundamentals of research design, including basic methods for the collection and statistical analysis of political and administrative data.

370 Global Issues in International Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 271 or 291 and any economics course or IBUS 370.  Problems of global dimensions (population, food, resources, environment, nuclear proliferation, terrorism) and international efforts to solve them.

372 International Political Economy (5)

Prereq: PLSC 271 or 291 and any economics course or IBUS 370.  The politics on international trade, investment, lending and economic development.

374 Comparative Foreign Policy (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or PLSC 271.  Discussion and critical analysis of the process by which political elites formulate foreign policy with a specific emphasis on variables that influence foreign policy behavior. The course takes a comparative case study approach to highlight the importance of context in foreign policy behavior by individual states. This is an ‘active learning’ course which requires students to participate in simulations involving foreign policy crisis.

376 American Foreign Policy (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or 271.  Background and organization of American foreign policy; the conduct of diplomatic relations with other states; current issues and problems in foreign affairs.

383 Political Geography (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or PLSC 250 or PLSC 271 or PLSC 291.  Discussion and analysis of the geographical basis of power in political decision making. Topics include: territoriality and the state system; geographical bases of political power; spatial perceptions, arrangements and fragmentation; and political districting and electoral systems.

385 Nationalism, Genocide and Global Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 271 or PLSC 291.  In this course, students will examine the problem of genocide from the perspective of various global political actors and apply contemporary international and comparative theory.   Drawing on paradigms of nationalism, geopolitics, international law/laws of war and political history, students will explore the context of foreign policy formulation in response to genocide, femicide, and democide.  Additionally, we will examine and compare approaches to commemoration and justice seeking in states and communities which have experience as victims or perpetrators of genocide, with a particular emphasis on the role of traumatic history in contemporary mobilization of ethnic and identity groups.

390 Politics of Development (5)

Prereq: PLSC 271 or 291.  Political processes in developing countries, colonialism, nationalism, alternative models of political and economic development; problems of instability, military rule, population, famine, debt and other issues confronting developing nations.

399 Politics of Democratization (5)

Prereq: PLSC 271 or 291.  The domestic and international challenges of democratization.

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400 Level

402 Regional European Society and Politics (4)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 291.  Government and society in selected countries from the Scandinavian, Alpine, Benelux and Iberian European regions.

403 The European Union and the Process of European Integration (4)

Explores the process of European integration after World War II and the European Union. Topics covered include integration theories, the historical development of the EU, its institutional structure, as well as various policy areas.

406 Canadian Government and Politics (4)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or 291. Canadian social and political systems; governmental structures and functions; social, political, economic problems and foreign relations.

414 Constitutional Law: Separation of Power and Federalism (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 and one from: PLSC 311, PLSC 314, FAIR 211B or MGMT 271.  Critical analysis of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that interpret parts of the U.S. Constitution relating to horizontal separation of powers among the branches of the federal government and vertical separation of powers between the federal government and the states (a.k.a. federalism).

415 Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250 and one from: PLSC 311, PLSC 314, FAIR 211B or MGMT 271Critical analysis of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that interpret the Bill of Rights and the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

420 Environmental Politics (5)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 250.  Examination of contending perspectives on environmental problems. Focus on how these perspectives are rooted in political philosophy, their roles in the development of environmental movements, and the implications for public policy. Also offered as ENVS 458.

423 The American Presidency (3)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  The growth of presidential power; the institutionalized presidency and styles of leadership. The president as party leader, policy initiator, chief executive, commander-in-chief and head of foreign relations.

427 Policy-Making and Policy Analysis (4)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  Organizational and societal policy-making, and the nature and consequences of policy for various groups and sectors of the polity; the possibility and problems of objective analysis conducted from within the boundaries of the subject political system.

430 Modern Chinese Politics (4)

Prereq: PLSC 291 or equivalent.  An introduction to politics and society in modern China: state structures, political culture, state-society relations, policy-making and foreign relations.

431 Senior Seminar in American Politics and Public Policy (3-5)

Prereq: Senior status in political science and 30 credits in political science.  Capstone seminar in American politics and public policy. Topics vary but emphasis is on political institutions and processes and public policy. Repeatable with various topics to a maximum of 8 credits.

432 Senior Seminar - Political Theory (3-5)

Prereq: Senior status in political science and 30 credits in political science.  Capstone seminar in political theory. Involves reading and research in original sources on topics of central importance to politics. Emphasis is on critical examination and discussion of ideas. Repeatable with various topics to a maximum of 8 credits.

433 Senior Seminar in Comparative Politics (3-5)

Prereq: Senior status in political science and 30 credits in political science.  Capstone seminar in comparative politics. Topics vary but emphasis is on comparative issues and approaches. Repeatable with various topics to a maximum of 8 credits.

434 Senior Seminar in International Politics (3-5)

Prereq: Senior status in political science and 30 credits in political science.  Capstone seminar in international relations. Topics vary but emphasis is on the interactions of state and non-state actors across international boundaries. Repeatable with various topics to a maximum of 8 credits.

435 Special Topics in Environmental Politics (3-5)

Prereq: Senior status or permission of instructor.  Analysis of current topics related to environment and politics. Topics vary. Repeatable to a maximum of 8 credits.

436 Managing Environmental Commons (5)

Prereq. At least one upper-division course in political science or instructor's permission.  Explores how political, economic and social institutions affect the management and sustainability of shared environments, both local and global.

443 Legislative Internship (5-15)

Prereq: permission of department. Internship in the Washington State Legislature during winter quarter; assignment is primarily as research assistant to a legislator.  Enrollment limited to the number of internships allocated by the Legislature. Open only to juniors and seniors, competitively selected. No more than 10 credits of internship may be counted toward the major without the permission of the chair. Repeatable to a maximum of 15 credits.

444 Administrative Internships (3-15)

Prereq: Completion of the core field requirements for the political science major (PLSC 250, 261, 271, 291). Completion of at least one advance course in the field of study to which the internship most closely relates and permission of the department.  Internships in administrative agencies and other public service settings. Priority given to seniors. Requests for internships should be filed with the departmental intern coordinator one quarter in advance of registration. No more than 10 credits in internship or independent study may be counted toward the major. Credit may be divided over two quarters where the internship placement requires a commitment of more than 10 weeks. Repeatable to 15 credits.

447 Teaching Internship (2-5)

Assists faculty member in conduct of Political Science course. No more than 10 credits in internship or independent study may be counted toward the major.

448 Research Internship (2-5)

Student will work closely with one faculty member, providing assistance with research. Course is structured on an apprenticeship model. No more than 10 credits in internship or independent study may be counted toward the major.

449 Politics and Social Change (4)

Prereq: PLSC 101 or 250.  Theories linking social change and politics. The role of ideas and ideology, mass movements, political institutions, social disruption and violence in causing and directing change.

450 Parties, Campaigns and Elections (4)

Prereq: PLSC 250.  Political parties, voters and voting behavior, candidate and campaign strategy, the resources of politics; workers, money, and mass media.

452 Comparative Political Parties and Party Systems (4)

Prereq: PLSC 250 or 291 or instructor permission.  An examination of political parties and party systems in a variety of political systems.

453 Comparative Electoral Systems (4)

Prereq: PLSC 101, 291 or 450.  Examines how institutional rules affect party systems, electoral outcomes, prospects for small parties, and fairness in translating votes into seats. Survey of politics of electoral system reform in modern democracies.

462 The Rise of Modern Political Economy (4)

Prereq: PLSC 261 or Hist 113 and Econ 206 or 207 or equivalent.  An examination of the conceptual, ethical, and ideological underpinnings of political economy and the implications for contemporary public policy.

463 American Political Thought (4)

Prereq: PLSC 261 or Hist 103 or 104 or equivalent.  Major concepts in American political thought from the Colonial period to the present.

467 Philosophical and Ethical Issues in Law (5)

Prereq: PLSC 250, PLSC 311, plus one additional upper-division course in law or political theory.  Philosophical and ethical inquiry into legal issues and problems. Topics covered may include the philosophical and ethical foundations of law; law in relation to justice, morality, and equality; and philosophical and ethical inquiry into specific areas or current topics of law (e.g. tort, criminal, property, and/or constitutional law; capital punishment, affirmative action, same-sex marriage, and abortion).

469 Feminist Political Theory (4)

Prereq: PLSC 261 or any 400-level political theory course.  Early feminists to contemporary theoretical critiques and contributions. Topics such as feminist conceptions of philosophy of science, eco-feminism and post-modernism.

471 Race and Political Theory (5)

Prereq: PLSC 261. This course examines the role of race in political theory, with varying emphases, including but not limited to critical race theory, African-American political theory, the politics of decolonization, Latino/a political theory, Islamic political thought, Asian-American political thought, feminist and queer theory, post-racial, activist and intersectional approaches.

472 Comparative Political Thought (5)

Prereq: PLSC 261. A critical examination of the relationship between Western and non-Western political thought. The course may include examinations of Islamic, Chinese, South Asian, African and Latin American political thought.

473 Politics and Culture (5)

Prereq: PLSC 261. An analysis of the relationship between politics and culture with a focus on political theory. Course may include attention to film, television, public art, and /or photography.

480 Politics, Government and Religion (4)

Prereq: Permission of instructor.  How political activity and government structures relate to religious perceptions and organizations.

489 Protecting & Managing an International Ecosystem (5)

Prereq: Junior or Senior status.  A research seminar that examines how economic, environmental, social and political agendas affect the shared international ecosystem - Georgia Basin/Puget Sound. Course focuses on the interests of various stakeholders and the efforts taken to manage the cross-border environmental issues. The course involves cross-border travel and field work and thus participants require a passport.

491 Issues in Political Economy (4)

Prereq: Senior status in the political science/economics combined major or a political science major and economics minor.  Discussion and analysis of selected issues of significant political and economic content. (ECON 491).

493 Issues in Political Theory (4)

Prereq: PLSC 261 or any 400-level political theory course.  Discussion and analysis of specialized and timely issues in political theory. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: comparative political theory; Islamic political thought; toleration; cosmopolitanism; humanitarian intervention; race, gender, and sexuality; aesthetics and rhetoric. Repeatable up to 8 credits.

496 Honors Tutorial (2-5)

Repeatable to a maximum 10 credits.

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