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Spring PS Course Offerings

Click here for a printable list of Political Science courses and course descriptions for Spring term 2012.


PS 201                              INTRODUCTION TO U.S. GOVERNMENT & POLITICS                            4 credits

CRN 52105                                                                                                                                      MW 10:00-11:50

Instructor:  Rob Sahr                                                                                                                                                


Description and analysis of American politics and government, including such topics as interest groups, parties, elections, media, the presidency, Congress, the Constitution, and the courts.


PS 204                                    INTRODUCTION TO COMPARATIVE POLITICS                                  4 credits

CRN 53447                                                                                                                                          TR 12:00-1:50

Instructor: Tamas Golya


Major concepts of comparative politics applied to various political settings; the United States, Western Europe, Communist regimes, and developing countries.



PS 205                                INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS                              4 credits

CRN 50350                                                                                                                                          MW 2:00-3:50

Instructor: David Bernell


Analysis of the international system and factors affecting world politics.


PS 206                                       INTRODUCTION TO POLITICAL THOUGHT                                     4 credits

CRN 55009                                                                                                                                           WF 8:00-9:50

Instructor:  Andrew Valls


Introduction to political philosophy. Major ideas and issues of selected political thinkers.



PS 365                                               AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT                                             4 credits

CRN 58532                                                                                                                                          MW 4:00-5:50

Instructor:  Philipp Kneis


The course provides an overview of basic trends in American political thought from colonial times till today. Readings include legal documents (Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, etc.), political philosophy (by John Locke, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau et al.), foundational texts of social movements (by W.E.B. Du Bois, Margaret Fuller, Martin Luther King Jr., Vine Deloria Jr. et al.) and theory (by Frederick Jackson Turner, David Riesman, Edward Said, Francis Fukuyama et al.). Students will have to hold two presentations, the first focusing on an assigned text, and the second based on their own research. Writing tasks include a midterm response paper and a final research paper, and participation on Blackboard.  PREREQS: PS 201 and PS 206




PS 371                                                     PUBLIC POLICY PROBLEMS                                                   4 credits

CRN 58534                                                                                                                                          MW 2:00-3:50

Instructor:  Rob Sahr


Public policy is the “payoff” of American politics—what really counts in affecting all of us.  This class attempts to develop a framework for examining public policy processes and the content of policy actions.  The course will examine mainly national policy but with refernce also to Oregon policy.  In addition to analyzing traditional public policy topics, this course will give major focus to several policy areas that are receiving much current attention.  Tentatively those policies are global climate change, health, and one other, possibly energy or another policy based on student preferences. The course will use no exams but instead “response papers” and possibly brief quizzes or similar to provide feedback.  A paper analyzing a current policy issue also is required.

After completing the course students should:

  • have gained a sense of the policy process, in all its “messiness” and complexity, mainly at the national level
  • understand basic features of several national government policy areas, mainly domestic but also national defense
  • have developed “minor-league” expertise about one current policy issue
  • gained enhanced skills in analyzing political information and a framework for analyzing policies and policy issues

Students with questions about the course should contact Professor Sahr in Gilkey Hall 306A, or via e-mail (, or by phone ([541] 737-6238.)  PREREQS: PS 201


PS 399 Section 001         CURRENT PROBLEMS IN POLITICS: POLITICS OF OIL                           4 credits

CRN 58533                                                                                                                                            TR 4:00-5:50

Instructor:  Tamas Golya


“The American Way of Life is not negotiable.”

Dick Cheney, Former US Vice President


“The species Homo sapiens is not going to become extinct. But the subspecies Petroleum Man most certainly is.”

Colin Campbell, Founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil


The world’s economic and political developments of the last century played out against the backdrop of a steadily rising supply of energy, especially oil. There are signs that this period of “easy energy” is coming to an end, turning energy into a major economic and political issue in its own right.


Peak Oil is a term used by geologists to describe the point in time at which the world’s annual conventional oil production reaches a maximum after which it inevitably declines. Recent evidence suggests that we may pass this peak in this decade. In a broader sense, Peak Oil also stands for the economic, political, and societal effects of a dramatically changing energy supply. These effects will create unprecedented problems, risks and opportunities for policy makers as well as for consumers and businesses. In part due to higher oil prices, the US has begun to catch up to this issue, as evidenced by the founding of a Peak Oil Caucus in the House of Representatives in 2005 and by the demand of former President Bush to find ways to cure “America’s addiction to oil”.


This class explores the events that may be ahead of us, and what they mean. We will evaluate different policy options, including support for alternative energy sources, efficiency and conservation measures. 

Which ones are short-term fixes, what are long-term solutions? Are resource wars around the corner? Have they already begun? We’ll find out about the vital role petroleum has played in the last 100 years in foreign policy. We will understand the role of oil prices for economic growth and recessions and what regions and industries will fare better than others in an environment of high energy prices, which relates to issues such as where you may want to live, or what you may want to invest in. This class also seeks to put the coming energy crisis into a larger context of environmental changes, questions of sustainability and the workings of our economy. Are globalization, SUVs or suburbia only temporary phenomena? We will see that even though Peak Oil may be inevitable, many hypothesized effects are highly contingent. In the end, the way political and economic systems will work, and what every single citizen decides to do regarding energy use, will make a difference. For this and other reasons, this class will be just as valuable to students of social sciences, geography, or business, as indeed to anyone interested in his or her future.




PS 399 Section 002 CURRENT PROBLEMS IN POLITICS: U.S. VIEWED FROM ABROAD               4 credits

CRN 58756                                                                                                                                        MW 12:00-1:50

Instructor:  Philipp Kneis


Throughout the course, we will be exploring writings and audiovisual materials which deal with the subject of “America” and are written from an outside perspective. We will be reading texts by Alexis de Tocqueville, Bernard-Henri Lévi, Edward Said, Edmund Burke, and others. Films to be discussed include Schulze Gets the Blues (Michael Schorr, 2003) and others.  Students will have to hold two presentations, the first focusing on an assigned text, and the second based on their own research. Writing tasks include a midterm response paper and a final research paper, and participation on Blackboard.



PS 419                  TOPICS IN AMERICAN POLITICS: COURTS AND SOCIAL CHANGE                4 credits

CRN 58539                                                                                                                                            TR 2:00-3:50

Instructor:  Rorie Solberg


The courts both play a prominent, if little understood role, in the American policy process. This course focuses on how courts interact with legislatures and components of the executive branch at both the state and federal levels (with a focus on the federal level) to shape policy. After a brief review of the judicial system, with a focus on the policymaking role of appeals courts, we will investigate the tools available to courts to shape policies and why stakeholders may choose to turn to the courts to shape public policy. We will discuss specific policy areas and review leading research on the circumstances under which courts play a role in shaping policy outcomes.  PREREQS: At least one upper-division course in American politics


PS 449 Section 001                        TOPICS IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS:                                          4 credits

CRN 58535                      INTERNATIONAL POLICY & gLOBAL gOVERNANCE                  TR 12:00-1:50

Instructor: Sarah Henderson


This course introduces students to some of the major political, economic, and social policy problems confronting the international community, such as the challenge of socioeconomic development, globalization, democratization, and ensuring human security. In addition, this course will provide an overview of the role of policy practitioners operating at the international level in addressing these problems. By the end of the term, students should have a solid grasp of current debates and research on pressing global issues as well as the varied efforts that the international community has made to address, and hopefully, alleviate the severity of some of these problems. As such, this class will focus primarily on the developing world, as the policy problems we will study often stem from the economic, political, and social ramifications of inequality.  PREREQS: At least one upper-division course in comparative politics



PS 449 Section 002                        TOPICS IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS:                                          4 credits

CRN 58537                   Comp Political Economy of the Welfare State                 TR 8:00-9:50

Instructor: Alison Johnston


This course will discuss the ideas and interests behind the formation of modern welfare states within Europe and the United States, as well as its institutional trajectory in the post-war era.  Students will learn different welfare state typologies (the Anglo-Saxon, Social Democratic and Continental European models), what types of interest groups and class conflicts led these systems’ emergence, and how they have been transformed under pressure from globalization, de-industrialization and the shift to a service-sector economy, the rise of neo-liberalism, and the recent debt crisis.  PREREQS: At least one upper-division course in comparative politics








PS 451                                                   AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY                                                  4credits

CRN 58541                                                                                                                                          MW 2:00-3:50

Instructor: Doug Clark


Overview of the role of the United States in the world since World War II and of the factors influencing the formation of our foreign policy. PREREQS: PS 201 or PS 205


PS 469              TOPICS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: Democracy and Education             4credits

CRN 58543                                                                                                                                         WF 12:00-1:50

Instructor: Andrew Valls


This course examines the role that education plays, and should play, in a democracy.  Among the issues to be discussed are: what are the purposes of education, and to what extent are they political in nature?  Should education aim to foster individual virtue or autonomy, or to create (a certain kind of) citizens?  What is the proper role of the state in determining the content of educational curricula, and how are these claims to be balanced with the legitimate interests of parents?  In a racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse society, what are the relevant claims of groups to education "their" children, and how are these to be evaluated and weighed?  Should racial integration be a goal of educational policy?  Should religious schools receive public support?  These questions, and more, will be explored through reading a number of recent books by political theorists and philosophers.  As a WIC course, there will be a substantial amount of writing expected, but no exams. PREREQS: At least one upper-division course in political philosophy


Course Readings:

Jennifer Hochschild, The New American Dilemma: Liberal Democracy and School Desegregation (Yale, 1984)

Amy Gutmann, Democratic Education, revised edition (Princeton, 1999)

Harry Bridghouse, School Choice and Social Justice (Oxford, 2003)

Stephen Macedo, Diversity and Distrust: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy (Harvard, 2003)

Eamonn Callan, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy (Oxford, 2004)

Meira Levinson, No Citizen Left Behind (Harvard, 2012)




OPEN-ENDED NUMBERED COURSES:  (i.e., 401, 402, 403, 405, 406, & 410)  Students who are planning to enroll