Political Science seeks an understanding of power — Power which is embodied in social and economic relationships; in the links between individuals, groups, and the state; and in the internal workings of government. The field of inquiry can range from an analysis of global international relations to the study of individual behaviour; from the examination of institutions to reflection on broad philosophical questions.
Much of the course work in Political Science focuses upon governmental institutions, but the sizeable offerings in political theory reflect the Department’s traditional strength in that area. In addition, a number of political scientists here attach particular significance to the relationship between the economic and the political; “political economy” is embodied in several of this Department’s courses. There are also a number of courses employing sociological, psychological and historical modes of analysis.
The discipline is sub divided into a number of fields. At the core are courses in political theory, embracing the classic writings of political philosophers as well as more contemporary analysis. The more empirical courses cover the political systems of Canada and a large number of foreign countries, and the relations between those countries. Often political scientists focus their inquiry not on any particular society but on political institutions (supra-national governing bodies, national governments and governmental bodies, parliaments, political parties, courts and constitutions); a policy area (foreign policy or economic policy, for example) or on particular dimensions of the political process (urban politics, social movements and interest groups, elections and voter behaviour), or on political issues (the environment, minority rights, ethnic conflict, social policy).
The study of Political Science can illuminate an important dimension of human experience and makes graduates better prepared for intelligent participation in the political community. The study of politics can provide a useful background for work in government organizations of all kinds (administrative and research positions); educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities); political organizations (parties, movements, groups); and the media. It provides a good foundation for further study in law, international relations, public administration, community planning, urban studies, environmental studies, and the like.
In the Fall of 2014, the Department held a series of orientation sessions for incoming students. Below, you will find a link to our YouTube channel that streams videos from each of the presentations. This overview will give you a good feeling about what life is like as a political science student at the University of Toronto.