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Introduction to Political Science

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Political science is the systematic
study of government and politics. It is a social science just like sociology or psychology or
anthropology in that we are fascinated by human behavior, but in the case of political science we look
at political behavior in particular. Political science has often
been defined as who gets what, when, where, and how. Political science is
about power relationships. Why should one study political science?
Political science is fascinating! It’s about people.
Politics impacts our lives directly and indirectly whether we’re aware
of it or not. If there’s a crime that takes
place one calls the police. That’s government. If there’s a fire that takes
place one calls the fire department. That’s also government. The military is government as well. Our
civil liberties, our rights, that impacts us on a daily
basis, so if one happens to get pulled over by a police officer, for example, what are their
legal rights in that kind of situation? The question of textbook costs and so on and so forth, these are actually fundamentally
political decisions that are made by politicians, by elected officials. Political science is a very broad
discipline, but some of the subdisciplines include national, state, and
local government, so if one is taking political science courses in the United
States then they might take courses in American government, on the American presidency, the court
system. There’s international relations. That is
a discipline where we look at how all of the various actors
within the global system or the international system interact with one another. In an
international relations course one might learn about topics such as human
rights, such as globalization, such as
international relations theories that help us understand the world around us or at
least attempt to explain various international phenomena. Power,
military power, hard power, soft power. Another area that
one might study within international relations would
be foreign policy decision-making. And, in fact, one can take courses at most
American colleges and universities and colleges and universities, indeed, throughout the world in studying the foreign policy of particular countries. Another subdiscipline within political science is political theory and/or political philosophy. And, in those
courses one would study some of the great
thinkers throughout human history who have grappled with tough political,
philosophical questions about the nature of power, about the
nature of human beings, and also really get into discussing
various ideas and many of the “isms”: socialism, communism, Islamism, feminism and so on. Another subdiscipline of political
science is comparative government and politics. In comparative politics courses, we
discuss and analyze the various political systems around the world. And, there are two major
approaches to the study of comparative politics. The
first is the thematic approach where one would study the various broad
themes that would help us understand the
various political systems around the world, such as revolutions or nationalism, things of
that nature. Another approach is a country-by-country
approach where one studies the various countries around the
world and their political systems, and domestic politics, and domestic political issues within a
particular country. So, within comparative politics one can focus on
the various regions of the world. So, for example, Middle East
North African politics, or Latin American politics, or Asian and/or African politics, or European
politics. Another subdiscipline in the area of
political science would be research methodology or quantitative analyses courses, and
that’s actually sort of the science part of political science where one would utilize numbers to
understand, explain, and predict political behavior. There are many things that one can do
with a political science major in terms of career options. One could
work for government at the federal, state, or local levels. One
could work for the United Nations or other
international governmental organizations. One could work in the nonprofit sector
for non-governmental or nonprofit organizations, or one might actually become a Senator
or president or an elected official. In addition, one could teach with a political science background. One could be a diplomat and work as a
foreign service officer or work for the State Department. One can also work in business and/or
even in journalism, in the news media. A political science
background really prepares one for a wide range of possible career
options. I would say that one would want to study
political science because it’s fascinating. It’s about people, it’s about the story
of people. Political science will help you better
analyze current events. Anyone whose literate can read
newspapers or articles online, but political science will give you that
ability to analyze the current events that are going on. It’ll help you better formulate arguments, and strengthen your arguments,
and develop your critical thinking skills. It’s perhaps human nature to sort of look for easy answers and easy
solutions and kind of get into black-and-white thinking, but what political science will do for
someone is actually get you to understand that there are shades of grey, and that there’s nuance,
and that the world around us is not just black and white. And, again, political science is a social science, so it’s about people, and any social
scientist finds the study of people fascinating. If you’d like to learn more about your
legal rights, if you would like to learn more about the constitution, United States Constitution that impacts you
every day, then political science might be for you.

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