Areas of Study

Political Science courses are arranged into five areas of study:

Political Theory

Political Theory is concerned to clarify the purposes of political arrangements, the functions of political institutions, or the uses of political power. The core courses in Political Theory, POL 200Y and POL 320Y, present a historical sequence of the major texts in political thought. With the background of these courses, students may proceed to courses at the 300- and 400-level in twentieth century political thought or specialized areas of political theory (such as psychology and politics, Marxism, liberalism, politics and morality, ancient and medieval political thought, theories of revolution). Some courses in philosophy are closely related to these same concerns.

Canadian Government

The courses in this area are designed to take students from a general introduction to the subject to more advanced study of special topics, notably policy-making, public administration, party politics, federalism and the constitution, provincial and local government and politics, the Canadian-American relationship, and political ideas and ideologies. The material covered in these courses is placed in a comparative perspective as far as time permits so as to enable students to understand both unique and general characteristics of Canadian political life. In addition, several courses in other areas have an important Canadian content and will contribute substantially to a student’s understanding of the Canadian scene.

International Relations

This area of Political Science deals with relations among states, sometimes referred to as international actors. Recently a school has developed which regards as international actors not only states but other, non governmental institutions, units or groups. The main emphasis, however, still remains on states as international actors. There are two fundamental approaches to the subject, one which may be called a macro or systemic approach looking at the multitude of states as a system, and one which may be called a micro approach looking at the subject from the vantage point of the individual foreign policy of each state.

The Department offers a wide variety of courses in the area ranging from a survey course dealing with the general problems and principles to more specialized courses at the 300- and 400-levels. Most upper level courses require POL 208Y as a prerequisite.

Comparative Politics

An outgrowth of the study of foreign government, the area of comparative politics aims at developing generalizations about government and politics through cross national and other kinds of comparisons. Under the rubric of “Comparative Politics” are courses dealing with the governments of the USA, USSR and its successor states, Japan, and of the countries of Eastern and Western Europe.

First and second-year courses introduce students to the governments of particular countries and to the various types of political systems (e.g., presidential, parliamentary, single party, authoritarian). Third-year courses are more concerned with explicit comparisons, since they either deal with a number of countries (or a non-Western country) or are organized around topics or issues of analysis. Fourth-year courses are specialized seminars. Some of the courses deal with the history of government and politics in industrial countries as well as with contemporary events and are therefore relevant to students interested in the relationship between modernization and political affairs.

Useful preparation for advanced courses in “Comparative Politics” includes not only the more basic courses in the area but also courses on Canadian politics, on political behaviour, and on the modern history of industrial nations.

Development Studies

Countries in the “Third World” (often called less developed countries) include close to three quarters of the world’s population. They are important suppliers of much of the food and raw materials used in the industrialized West and have an important role in international politics. The purpose of the courses offered in the “Development Studies” section, is to give students a basic exposure to the contemporary patterns of politics in these countries. Higher level courses are more specialized and deal with questions of theory in a more sophisticated fashion.

The “Third World” courses offered in this Department involve both the traditional study of “areas” (i.e. Asia, Africa, Latin America) as well as the study (in third and fourth years) of more specialized topics (such as economic development, comparative administration, and urbanization) that cut across all Third World areas. The theories that are applied to this vast range of countries include the “historical institutional approach”, various Marxist analyses of dependency and class formation in peripheral capitalist societies, “political development” and “modernization”, and a whole range of middle range analyses which help to explain particular countries, or why certain choices (such as the choice between socialism and capitalism) have been taken in typical examples. POL 201Y may be regarded as a useful introduction to all the later courses in the field.