Curriculum Overview 

The Government major is designed to prepare and enrich students for their professional lives and their roles as active citizens and leaders. The department has a long tradition of encouraging its majors to think conceptually about politics and to immerse themselves in their political environment through internships, civic activism, study abroad and service learning.

Students in Government study the processes by which societies make collective decisions, explore the theoretical and ethical foundations of political action, raise critical questions about the nature and use of power, and examine how societies and international systems attempt to address basic problems of liberty, equality and order. As a complement to coursework in the major, students develop skills in language, economics, mathematics or philosophy.

A major in Government consists of ten courses in Government and a three course Cognate. At least nine (9) of the Government courses, including the 400-level seminar, must be completed at Franklin & Marshall College. Requirements are:

  • GOV 100;
  • GOV 120;
  • GOV 130;
  • GOV 241 or 242;
  • GOV 250;
  • four electives, of which at least two must be at the 300-level or above;
  • one 400-level Government seminar.

Also required is the completion of one of the following Cognates:

  • PHI (three courses, at least two of which must be at the 200-level or higher);
  • MAT (any three courses not counting 105 or 116);
  • Foreign Language (three courses in a new language or three courses beginning where the student is placed);
  • ECO (100, 103, plus any 200-level course); or
  • One full semester of study abroad at a College-approved program.

Prospective majors are encouraged to begin planning for the major by the first semester of their sophomore year. To declare a major, students must have taken at least one Government course and have taken or be planning to take one Cognate course by the first semester of junior year. GOV 250 should be completed no later than the first semester of the junior year.

Students considering study abroad should contact the Office of International Programs.

For students completing the Government major, BIO 210, ECO 210, BOS 250, PSY 230 or SOC 302 may be substituted for GOV 250.

Students intending to major in both Public Health and Government may not apply more than three Government courses toward the second major.

To be considered for honors in Government, students must have a major GPA of at least 3.50 at the end of their seventh semester, complete a two-semester Independent Study project and defend it in an oral exam. The project must include an original argument that is placed in the context of other scholarship. An award of honors will be made by the committee for projects that demonstrate originality, intellectual engagement and depth of understanding of the topic.

Please note as well, that the numbering system for Government courses corresponds to the following subfield divisions: x00 – x19 (American Politics); x20 – x29 (Comparative Government); x30 – x39 (International Relations); x40 – x49 (Political Theory); x50 – x59 (Political Research).

Majors in Government have participated in the following off-campus study programs in recent years: Washington semester, American University, Washington, D.C.; Butler University and other programs in London and Oxford, UK; Parliamentary Internship program at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland; International Education of Students (IES) in Barcelona, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina; School for International Training (SIT) in Amsterdam, Jordan, Kenya, and Australia. See the International Programs section of the Catalog for further information.

Courses Offered 

A list of regularly offered courses follows. Please note the key for the following abbreviations: (A) Arts; (H) Humanities; (S) Social Sciences; (N) Natural Sciences with Laboratory; (LS) Language Studies requirement; (NSP) Natural Science in Perspective; (NW) Non-Western Cultures requirement.

100. American Government. (S)

Political power within the framework of American national government. Current governmental and political problems are explored. 

Ciuk, Friedrich, Medvic, Stephenson, Wilson

120. Comparative Politics. (S)

Introduction to the theory and method of comparative politics. The course analyzes the government and politics of both developed and developing countries, encouraging students to apply the comparative method to draw conclusions about political processes and phenomena across nations and continents.

Dicklitch-Nelson, Hasunuma, McNulty

130. International Politics. (S) 

The theory and practice of international politics; the major actors in the international system and their various objectives; the interplay of power and principle in diplomacy; the causes of war and the prospects for peace. Theoretical principles are illustrated with case studies from various historical periods with emphasis on the major conflicts since World War I.

Kibbe, Kollars

200. Understanding Public Policy. (S)

Focus on government activity in a variety of public policy areas, the structural and political contexts of debates over alternative policy strategies and approaches to understanding public policy. Policy areas examined include the national budget and entitlements, science and technology and education. Prerequisite: GOV 100.


208. The American Presidency. (S)

Evolution of the Presidency to an office that is the focal point of politics and leadership in the American political system. Emphasis on the constitutional and political roles played by the chief executive in shaping public policy. Prerequisite: GOV 100.


211. Citizen Politics. (S)

How and why ordinary citizens participate, individually and collectively, in American politics and what difference it makes. Topics include elections and voting, political parties and interest groups, unconventional participation, the institutional and legal context for participation and the impact of participation on public policy. Special attention to contemporary political issues and controversies, such as the decline of civic culture and racially based redistricting. Prerequisite: GOV100. 


219. City and State Government. (S)

This course will focus on the interrelationships between the political, historical, legal, economic, social and demographic aspects of governing cities. In addition, the relationship of state governments to city governments will be explored in some depth. Particular attention will be paid to the problems facing cities, and possible solutions to those problems will be discussed. Among the many issues we will examine will be the ways in which state governments can be of assistance to city governments. Prerequisite: GOV 100.


226. Gender and Politics from a Global Perspective. (S) 

This course explores how gender impacts politics and how the political system impacts women’s equality in the United States and around the world. The first part of the course evaluates theories and evidence from the political science scholarship about the “gender gap” in women’s political participation, preferences, leadership, and policy influence. The second part of the course focuses on women’s access to health care, education, employment, and legal/political rights in the developing world. We also consider how globalization, migration, religion, and conflict/wars impact the status of women around the world. Same as WGS 226.


241. Classical Political Theory. (H)

Examines important texts in classical Greek and Roman political thought, including the writings of Plato, Aristotle and other relevant authors. Explores how ancient political theory sheds light on contemporary politics, including issues of democracy, citizenship, globalization and international relations.


242. Modern Political Theory. (H)

Examines the political theories of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx and one contemporary thinker, with emphasis on alternative views of the social contract, liberalism and radicalism.


250. Political Research. (S)

Empirical investigation in political science; scientific inquiry in political science; problems of logical induction; selecting and formulating a research problem; functions and types of research design; analysis of data, both qualitative and quantitative. Primarily for government majors; should be completed no later than first semester of junior year. Prerequisite: GOV 100, 120, or 130.  

Ciuk, Friedrich, Medvic, Yost

305. Public Policy Implementation. (S)                                                                                 

Focus on national government bureaucracy in the implementation of public policy, including exploration of the role of bureaucracies in contemporary political debate, organizational theory in the problems of governing and administrative politics and administrative due process. Prerequisite: GOV 100. 


309. The Congress. (S)

The informal and formal institutions and processes of the United States Congress, with specific attention to selected public policy issues. Prerequisite: GOV 100.


310. Campaigns and Elections. (S)   

Explores the structure of American campaigns and elections, including the nomination process and general elections. Gives special attention to the elements of the modern campaign, including campaign finance, research, polling, advertising and media use. Prerequisite: GOV 100. 


314. The American Constitution. (S)

Examines the Supreme Court as a political institution and custodian of the governmental system. Prerequisite: GOV 100.

Stephenson, Wilson

315. Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. (S)

Explores civil rights and liberties in the American system, with emphasis on current problems and recent Court decisions. Prerequisite: GOV 100.

Stephenson, Wilson

317. Trial Courts and the Justice System. (S)

Examines courts at the trial level, including organization of the judiciary, the selection of judges, the relationship between the public and the courts and the role of trial courts in administering justice in different contexts. Prerequisite: GOV 100.


318. Media and Politics. (S)

Examines the role of the mass media (including print, broadcast, and new media) in American politics, giving particular attention to the ways in which the media both influence and are influenced by political actors and the political process. Prerequisite: GOV 100. Same as TDF 318. 


320. Environmental Law. 

The course provides an overview of current U.S. environmental laws, beginning with the National Environmental Policy Act (1969). Students will be introduced to the origin and implementation of major environmental laws that safeguard public health and protect the environment, including the Clean Air and Water Acts, Safe Drinking Water Act, and the 1980s legislative agenda developed to address hazardous waste, including the Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Toxic Substance Control Act, and the Community Right-to-Know Act. Students study original legislation and explore landmark court cases by way of which political and economic pressures have influenced subsequent amendments to the original intent of these laws. Same as ENV 320.


324. Asian Politics. (NW) (S)

This course introduces students to the domestic and international politics of China, Japan, and the two Koreas.  


326. African Politics. (NW) (S)

An exploration of the socio-economic and political challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa since independence. This course will focus specifically on the prospects for socio-economic development and democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an investigation into foreign aid, corruption, and NEPAD. Prerequisite: GOV 224 or permission of the instructor. Same as AFS 326.


327. Latin American Politics. (NW) (S)

This course introduces students to Latin American government and politics. The course provides a brief overview of the region’s history and a discussion of some of the key issues shaping the region’s politics, including: authoritarianism and democracy; development and dependency; and revolution. The rest of the course will be dedicated to a survey of the politics of several countries from different areas of Latin America. 


330. Foreign Policy Analysis. (S)

Explores how U.S. foreign policy is made. Examines the roles played by the foreign affairs bureaucracy, Congress, public opinion, the media and individual policy makers in shaping foreign policy and then applies that information in analyzing past and present foreign policy decisions. Prerequisite: GOV 130.


334. 21st Century Security. (S) 

The transition from the 20th to the 21st century was accompanied by a dramatic shift in strategic priorities and perceived threats to nations. Beginning at the end of the Cold War the world’s unipolar military power stood prepared to reap the benefits of a hegemonic peace. Instead, a series of violent events, technological innovations, emergent environmental crises, and political upheavals put global leaders on their heels. In the process, analysts became increasingly aware that the 20th century definitions of state security (a healthy military force that can protect a country from invasion) appeared insufficient for dealing with drones, cyberspace, terrorism, wikileaks, and global climate change. This course asks students to begin developing that new definition through discussion, writing, and exploration of resources.  Prerequisite: GOV 130.   


374. Global Environmental Politics. (S)

Analysis of environmental problem definition and policy solutions in different countries, with particular focus on the developing world. Effects of political drivers of air and water pollution, land cover change, and biodiversity conservation. Influence of political structures, power relations, cultural values, ecological dynamics, and social interactions on environmental politics. Roles of national and multilateral institutions, NGOs, and civil society in policy debates. Outcomes of multi-stakeholder negotiations over environmental governance of global commons, including North-South disputes. Counts as Human Environment core course for Environmental Studies.  Prerequisite: ENV 216 or permission of instructor. Same as ENV 314.

De Santo

388. Public Health Research: Pregnancy Outcomes in American Women. (S) 

In this interdisciplinary seminar, students explore women’s health and reproductive outcomes while learning how to conduct meaningful research on public health topics. Students will consider complex issues related to conducting research, then explore known and/or hypothesized relationships between behavioral, biological, sociopolitical, psychological, and environmental variables and pregnancy outcomes. Students will ultimately design research centered on pregnancy outcomes in American women. Prerequisite: Any course that includes methods of data analysis and permission. Same as PBH/PUB/STS/WGS 388.


390. Independent Study.

Independent study directed by the Government staff. Permission of chair.

391. Directed Reading. (S)

Exploration of a chosen topic in government, with reading directed by Government department staff. Assignments are typically short analytical papers. Permission of chair.

410. Health Policy. (S)

This seminar focuses on the health care system in the United States with attention to political structures shaping public policy on health and to substantive areas of health policy debate. The seminar explores the role of the presidency and the executive branch, Congress, and the states in the evolution of health policy. Biotechnology, health care disparities, and political struggles over providing health care are among the substantive areas the seminar examines from the perspectives of cost, access, and quality.


411. Presidential Character. (S)

This course examines the role that individual politicians, particularly American presidents, play in American politics. We examine concepts such as presidential leadership and presidential character. A primary goal of the course is to understand what types of individuals are likely to become president and which individual traits successful presidents are likely to possess.   


412. Political Parties. (S)

This seminar is designed to explore issues related to party politics, particularly in the United States but with some comparison to party systems in other democracies. Students will explore the role of parties in democratic systems of government, various models of parties and party systems, and the history of parties in the United States. The majority of the semester will be spent examining three aspects of parties that scholars have generally used to describe what political parties are and what they do—the party-as-organization, the party-in-the-electorate, and the party-in-government. After completing the course, students should have a better understanding, from both a normative and empirical perspective, of the role played by parties in the American political system.


416. Ideology in Contemporary American Politics. (S)

Liberal, conservative, libertarian, neoconservative, populist, progressive, green, Tea Party—these and many other ideological labels are tossed around with abandon in contemporary American politics. But what is a political ideology and what are all these various factions actually arguing about? Why do some people hold a particular ideology and others a different one—or no ideology at all? How does ideology affect the way people—both ordinary citizens and elites such as members of Congress, presidents, and Supreme Court justices—think and act politically? How do the political parties differ in their ideologies? Is the United States becoming more polarized ideologically? These questions will be explored through the study of contemporary American political discourse, opinion surveys, and campaigns and elections. 


420. Secrets, Spies, Satellites. (S)

This seminar highlights some of the major debates about the role, practices and problems of national intelligence and explores the issues facing the U.S. intelligence community in the 21st century. Topics include the role intelligence plays in support of policymaking, the sources of past intelligence “failures,” and the questions of congressional oversight and intelligence reform.


424. Post-War Japanese Politics and Society. (NW) (S)

In this seminar, we analyze the development of Japan’s political and economic systems from the Occupation era to the present day. Topics include: changes to the party system, campaigns, and elections; the aging crisis; gender; citizenship and immigration policies; recent reforms to the business sector and legal system; foreign relations; and the crisis of 3/11. Students take turns leading discussion each week, present their research on panels at the end of the semester, and maintain a writing portfolio.


428. The Politics of Development.

This course explores the theory and practice of international development, with an emphasis on political dynamics. The course begins with an overview of the most well-known and debated theories of development, such as modernization and dependency theories. We then discuss the politics of foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. Finally, the course explores several topics that are important to this area of study, such as gender, ethno-development, and participatory development. While not excluding other regions of the world, the course has a strong emphasis on the politics of development in Latin America.


490. Independent Study.

Independent study directed by the Government staff. Permission of chair.

Topics Courses & Seminars Expected to be Offered in 2016-2017



Fall 2016

371. U.S. Health Policy: Foundations and Controversies.

374. Global Environmental Politics.



Fall 2016

420. Secrets, Spies, and Satellites.

473. Political Psychology.


Spring 2017

412. Political Parties.

424. Postwar Japanese Politics and Society.

475. Democracy and Deliberation.