2017-18 General Catalog

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Faculty | Course Descriptions

Program Description

In describing the department and major at UCSC, the term politics (rather than political science or government) is used because the study of political life requires a far more inclusive approach than that which is associated with conventional political science methods, and because politics happens in places other than governments. More specifically, the study of politics is the study of the way human communities shape and share a common life through their institutional practices, ideas, interests, and expectations. It looks at the way collective decisions are made and at the obstacles citizens meet as they try to forge a shared and just life. Courses address issues central to public life, such as democracy, power, freedom, political economy, social movements, international law and conflict, institutional reforms, and how public life, as distinct from private life, is constituted.

A major in politics is appropriate for students interested in careers in law, journalism, or teaching; in political and governmental work from local to international settings; in non-governmental organizations; and in corporations dealing with global issues. Many UCSC politics graduates have also gone on to do advanced work in distinguished graduate and professional schools. Others have found active and challenging careers in business and community organizing. Still others have turned to scholarship and writing. But regardless of career direction, the most significant purpose of the politics major is to help educate a reflective and activist citizenry capable of sharing power and responsibility in a contemporary democracy.

The study of politics is a critical part of a liberal arts education. Since political issues and practices are embedded in and reflective of the whole experience of a community, the study of politics can constitute the center of a broad-based course of study drawing on history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, literature, science, and law.

The programs offered by the UCSC Politics Department are designed to acquaint students with a broad range of issues studied by those in the field. The department offers an undergraduate major, a minor, a combined Latin American and Latino studies/politics major, and a doctoral degree. The Politics Department also houses the legal studies (program (see the legal studies statement for details).

UCSC politics students have many opportunities for field work and for internship placements. Students are encouraged to develop their own extensive independent research projects.
Politics faculty members give students individual attention to help them in their studies. Faculty members are firmly committed to the value of a liberal arts education, but they are also actively engaged in programs of research and writing. The research interests of the faculty range from the theory of justice to the problem of war, from campaign strategy to relations between the rich and the poor countries of the world.

The Politics Department also encourages students to pursue additional academic opportunities while at UCSC. Possible programs include: the UCDC program, a one-quarter program at the UC campus in Washington, D.C. that includes coursework and an internship, UCSAC, a one-quarter program at UC Center in Sacramento, the UCSC/UC Hastings Law School 3 Plus 3 program in which students earn B.A. and J.D. degrees in six years, and the Education Abroad Program (EAP).

No specific courses at the high school level are required for admission to the major in politics at UCSC. Courses in history, literature, philosophy, and the social sciences, whether taken at the high school or college level, are appropriate background and preparation for the politics major.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the major, students will have met the following objectives:

  1. understand the origins, development, and nature of political institutions, practices, and ideas;
  2. place particular political phenomena in broader context (national, historical, cross-cultural, and theoretical, etc);
  3. demonstrate familiarity with various theoretical approaches to the study of politics, and their application in different geographic and substantive areas;
  4. critically evaluate arguments about political institutions, practices, and ideas based on logic and evidence;
  5. develop and sustain coherent written and oral arguments regarding political phenomena, theories, and values based on appropriate empirical and/or textual evidence and logic.

Requirements of the Major

Two lower-division politics courses. All students are required to complete and pass two courses from those numbered 1 through 79, as a prerequisite to upper-division courses in politics and prior to declaring the major. These courses are normally taken during the student's first year.

A student who has not been able to satisfy the pre-declaration requirement (a passing grade in two politics lower-division classes) may petition the department for an exception. The letter of petition must explain and document the circumstances that might justify an exception. The department will consider the request and notify the student of its decision within two weeks of receiving the petition or within 10 days of the start of the following quarter, whichever is later.

Four upper-division politics core courses. The following four groups of courses constitute the core of the politics major. Four courses are required: two courses from one group, one course from a second group, and one course from a third group. In general, upper-division courses are not recommended for freshmen.


105A Ancient Political Thought

105B Early Modern Political Thought

105C Modern Political Thought

U.S. Politics

120A Congress, President, and the Court in American Politics

120B Society and Democracy in American Political Development

120C State and Capitalism in American Political Development


140A European Politics

140B Comparative Post-Communist Politics

140C Latin American Politics

140D Politics of East Asia


160A International Politics

160B International Law

160C Security, Conflict, Violence, War

160D International Political Economy

Four upper-division politics electives. Four additional upper-division politics courses (five, if you’re planning to choose the 12th course option for the senior comprehensive requirement.), selected from 101-190, one of which may satisfy the comprehensive requirement described below (see the "Course Description" page for details about these courses).

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major’s upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement for politics majors is satisfied by completing any three of the four required core courses. . The politics core course list is detailed above in the major requirements.

Comprehensive Requirements

The comprehensive requirement in the Politics Department can be satisfied in any of the following methods:

  • Senior Seminar: Successful completion of a politics senior seminar (190-series) that includes the writing of an extensive paper (no less than 15 pages) with a substantial research content. To enroll in a specific 190 seminar, students must have successfully completed the prerequisite courses listed in the seminar’s catalog course description.
  • Additional Elective: Successful completion of one additional politics upper-division elective that includes a substantial writing component comparable to a paper for a senior seminar, either as part of the existing course requirements or added with the approval of the instructor. The student must receive prior approval from the instructor and enroll in a two-credit independent study, Politics 199F as part of this option.
  • Graduate Seminar: Successful completion of a politics graduate seminar (enrollment is contingent on the written recommendation of two politics faculty) that includes the writing of an extensive paper (no less than 15 pages) with a substantial research content.
  • Thesis (2-3 quarters): Successful completion of a senior thesis (Politics 195A-B-C) of a minimum of 50 pages. This option is for students interested in working on original research and writing under the supervision of a politics faculty member.

Independent and Field Studies

Students may petition the department to substitute only one upper-division independent study or field study toward the elective requirement in the Politics major. UCDC and UCSAC internships are exempt from this limit.


Honors in the politics major are awarded to graduating seniors, based primarily on a review of grades, whose academic performance is judged to be consistently excellent by a committee of politics faculty. Highest honors in the major are reserved for students with consistently outstanding academic performance.

Requirements of the Minor

All students are required to complete and pass one lower-division politics course from those numbered 1 through 79 prior to declaring the minor. Additionally, five upper-division politics courses are required. Of these, four are to be selected from the core courses: two from one subfield and two from another subfield; these courses are listed above. The fifth course is to be selected from courses numbered 101-199.

General Undergraduate Information

Combined major. The Politics Department offers a combined major with the Latin American and Latino Studies Department. Requirements may be reviewed in the Latin American and Latino Studies section of the catalog.

Double majors. The department accepts proposals for double majors. A student pursuing a double major meets the full requirements of the politics major as well as the full requirements of the other major subject.

Advising. Declaring the major in politics is a three-step process: 1) complete and pass two lower-division politics courses (numbered 1-79) with a grade of C or better; 2) attend a declaration orientation workshop, and 3) bring completed Declaration of Major worksheet and Politics Major worksheet to Politics Advising Office to officially declare. Each student meets with a faculty adviser to discuss an intended program of study, including its breadth and purpose. The faculty adviser may suggest additional courses so that the student can achieve greater breadth or concentration. Students are encouraged to select related courses from other departments, which complement their interests in politics.

Course credit from other institutions. Courses from another institution may be considered only if they appear on the student’s Transfer Credit Summary. Students who wish to substitute courses taken elsewhere for the Politics Department’s requirements should discuss the procedure with the department adviser.

Transfer students. A student transferring to UCSC must meet with the politics undergraduate adviser as early as possible to discuss declaring the major and course enrollment. This will ensure a smoother transition. Students should bring a copy of their UCSC Transfer Credit Summary which may be printed from the student portal.

A junior transfer student may satisfy the requirement for one of the two lower-division courses by completing an equivalent course in a political science or equivalent department with a grade of C or better. Courses from another institution may be considered only if they appear on the UCSC Transfer Credit Summary.

Graduate Program

The Faculty

The work of the UCSC Politics Department’s faculty has led the field toward interdisciplinary and engaged research, and represents the diverse cutting edge of U.S. and international political research. A group of affiliated graduate faculty extends the program’s intellectual breadth and the range of the course offerings.

The department enjoys several areas of special strength, including American political development, the social foundations of democratic politics and democratization; political economy; politics of the developing world; the politics of language; sub-national politics; post-colonial theory and nationalist discourse; early modern political thought; and informal and translocal political organization.

The Curriculum

The Politics Department is impressed by the fact that many of the best studies of politics today disregard the conventional boundaries of the political science’s disciplinary subfields. Therefore, the core graduate curriculum and qualifying examination process are structured around four interrelated themes central to political inquiry. Each of these areas of emphasis focuses, in a different way, on the relations among material life, institutional authority, collective mobilization, and political vision at all levels of politics.

Political and Social Thought. Brings together the history of political thought; contemporary social and critical theory; and the contributions of legal and institutional analysis of various kinds. This area of inquiry emphasizes the critical study of political practices that are experienced or understood as in some way limiting, oppressive, or wrong. The work of political and social theory as we see it is to transform our understanding of these practices; to see their contingent conditions; and to articulate the possibilities of governing ourselves differently.

Political and Social Forces. Concerns the interaction of social forces and political forces, drawing upon the work of scholars focused on social mobilizations and histories. Accordingly, this area of inquiry focuses on the articulation and organization of political interest and identities. This area studies the mutual interaction of these interests and identities with structure (states, discourses, public policy, and the law) uniting substantive and theoretical concerns across regional, national, and global politics.

States and Political Institutions. Emphasizes the international study of political institutions as instruments of collective decision-making and action. This area of inquiry focuses on the state and on transnational, subnational, and regional political institutions. In this area, we emphasize historical patterns of institutional development in relation to domestic political conflict and the changing contours of international political economy and patterns of conflict and cooperation among states.

Political Economy. Focuses on the relationship between states, markets, and societies.  This area of inquiry explores the various understandings of political economy that have emerged within a number of different theoretical perspectives, including Marxism, realism, and liberalism. At subnational, national, and supranational levels, this area seeks to understand political economy outcomes as the result of the mutual interactions between political institutions, societal interests, and ideas and norms.

The politics graduate curriculum works critically upon and within conventional social science research and also ranges beyond its methods, drawing upon cultural studies, historical sociology, and history as they inform the study of politics. Students in the politics graduate program also work with faculty in other distinguished departments at UCSC, including literature, history of consciousness, history, Latin American and Latino studies, environmental studies, philosophy, international economics, and feminist studies.

Scholars and students in the program emphasize the articulation of important questions prior to the development of methods for grappling with them, while recognizing the importance of appropriate methodological tools for doing meaningful political research.

To support the growth of students as scholars, the department also offers a series of professional development sessions to introduce and help develop the skills of successful academic work. All graduate students are also expected to attend department events with notable visitors brought to campus for public lectures, presentation, and/or graduate colloquia.


Throughout its history, the department has been strongly committed to undergraduate teaching. The graduate program offers graduate students the opportunity to work closely with faculty and undergraduates as teaching assistants. The Politics Department’s faculty is committed to “the teaching of teaching”: its training of college educators emphasizes the importance of civic education in undergraduate instruction. All students who are teaching assistants will be required to attend a TA training program in which pedagogic and substantive issues will be considered.

See our web site for details about the policies for admission to graduate standing as well as the application, and information about financial-support opportunities. For more information, refer to the Graduate Division web site.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

All curricular requirements are aimed at preparing students for timely and successful completion of a doctoral dissertation. The graduate curriculum in politics includes seven stages: 1) three core seminars plus Politics 201, Logics of Inquiry seminar; 2) five other graduate-level Politics Department courses; 3) three additional graduate-level courses that may be from Politics or other departments, along with further training as appropriate in language and methodology; 4) teaching assistant seminar training; 5) a qualifying examination consisting of written and oral parts; 6) the research and writing of the dissertation; and 7) its oral defense.

Core Seminars and Logics of Inquiry Seminar

Required Core Seminars: During the first two years in residence, students are required to take three of the four core seminars that correspond to the areas of emphasis: Politics 200A, Political and Social Thought; Politics 200B, Social Forces and Political Change; Politics 200C, Political Institutions and States; and Politics, 200D Political Economy. The core seminars provide a broad foundation for research in politics and offer structured opportunities to foster a community of scholarship within the program.

Logics of Inquiry: The department also recognizes the importance of informed and critically engaged methodology. Logics of Inquiry, POLI 201, is a required course that investigates approaches to the study of politics and to the enterprise of social science in general.

Additional Courses 

Prior to the qualifying examination, a minimum of five additional politics graduate courses taught by Politics Department faculty or affiliated graduate faculty must be completed. Three additional graduate-level courses are also required, which may be taken from any UCSC department (including Politics).

Each candidate shall develop with his or her adviser language and method requirements appropriate to the student's project, graduate education, and career goals.

Politics Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination (QE) process is intended to demonstrate a student’s mastery of and engagement with a range of literatures, including a) core literatures in two of the program’s four areas of emphasis and b) specialized literatures relevant to her/his research trajectory. It is also intended to provide a forum for the student to specify and develop her/his research question and plan for the dissertation.

A student’s preparation for the QE process begins with the first core seminar and continues throughout the required coursework. The QE process itself is completed during a student's third year. It has three components: 1) two written examinations (take-home examinations or field statements); 2) the dissertation prospectus; and 3) an oral examination. The specific deadlines for each component are available from the graduate adviser.

We encourage students to consult with their politics faculty advisers regarding the two written examination options. Students must complete the QE process to advance to Ph.D. candidacy by the end of their third year in the program. If the student fails any component of the QE process twice, she/he will not be permitted to continue in the program. On this schedule, students are expected to complete the degree in five to six years.

Designated Emphasis

Graduate students in politics may obtain a designated emphasis on the politics Ph.D. diploma indicating they have completed an additional specialized course of study in another department that offers a designated emphasis. Please consult the department of interest for more information

To receive a designated emphasis in politics, graduate students from other departments must complete the following requirements in addition to degree requirements for the doctorate in their home (or coordinating) department.

  • The student must have a designated faculty adviser from among the politics core faculty. This adviser will be in addition to the faculty adviser from the student’s home department. The politics adviser must serve on the student’s qualifying examination committee and on the student’s dissertation committee.

  • The student must take four (4) graduate courses offered by the Politics Department. Two of these courses must be core courses (Political and Social Thought, Political Institutions, Political Economy, or Social Forces) and two courses may be electives appropriate to the student’s thesis research. No more than one of these two elective courses may be an independent study.

  • The student must prepare a significant piece of writing in the area of politics. This writing may take the form of a doctoral dissertation chapter or a paper to be submitted for publication.

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Revised: 09/01/17