Department of Political Science

“Everything is political.” Or it can be. Politics is the process of settling upon the aims and goals of a political community, deciding who belongs, and making the arrangements by which we govern ourselves. And because the institutions and practices of government are not natural, humans continually make and remake them and the boundaries of political community. Students learn about how and why government is constituted the way it is, how the people who run it are chosen, and many other issues.

The political science major approaches these topics in five subfields: American politics, public policy, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory.

  • In Political Theory, students learn about the formation of political will, and political communities and government. In this subfield, students explore the questions that have animated political communities for centuries—for instance: Who should be included? On what basis do we decide their rights? And what makes a state democratic?
  • In Comparative Politics, students learn about the different forms of government humans have made throughout the world. Why do societies have the political institutions they have? How do they compare? Students explore such issues as the difference between proportional representation and winner-take-all elections; how authoritarian states transition to democracies; and why some places seem to have more political violence than others.
  • In American Politics, students focus on the American institutions, such as the courts and the legislative and executive branches of government. Students may learn about why social movements arise and sometimes “win”; they can explore the influence of race, class, and gender on agendas and elections or focus on the role of media in politics.
  • In International Relations, students ask about the formation of the world order and processes of change. For instance, why has the world become characterized by vast inequalities in wealth? What are the causes of war? How, if at all, do international institutions moderate conflict?
  • In Public Policy, students learn about the policy process. Specifically, why do governments at all levels make the policy choices they do? What are the consequences of those choices?

The program offers students the flexibility to sample those subfields early via five “core” courses that introduce them to critical issues in those fields. Courses beyond the introductory level allow students to explore topics in greater depth. In their senior year, majors take a small-enrollment research seminar to explore a topic more fully.

Political science majors also have opportunities to undertake internships while studying abroad or in Washington, D.C., through BU’s Study Abroad and Internship Programs.

The political science major curriculum provides training in critical skills. Our courses require extensive writing, analytical thinking, and quantitative reasoning. Not surprisingly, political science majors succeed in diverse fields including business, journalism, political campaigns, and government. A substantial proportion of our majors go on to graduate school, and in particular to law school, for which a political science major is ideal preparation.