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 community-based 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 are 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, Koenig, Medvic, Schousen, Staff, 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, McNulty, Yen

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. 
Kasparek, Kibbe

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 or GOV 120 or PBH 251. Same as PUB 200.
Koenig, Meyer, Tripp

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.  

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.    

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.    
Datta, Whiteside

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 the first semester of junior year. Prerequisite: GOV 100, 120, or 130.    
Ciuk, Kasparek, Medvic, Schousen, 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.  Same as PUB 305.

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.    

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. 

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. International Environmental Law.
This course examines principles and instruments of International Environmental Law (IEL), beginning with the nature and sources of IEL and an introduction to the key actors and agencies involved in global environmental governance.  Focusing on the development of regimes addressing a range of environmental issues, the course also addresses implementation and state responsibility for environmental harm and dispute resolution. Topics explored include climate change and atmospheric pollution; the law of the sea and protection of the marine environment; international regulation of toxic substances; conservation of nature, ecosystems and biodiversity; and the intersection of international trade and environmental protection. Students will examine treaties and case law first-hand, and represent vested interests in a simulated negotiation of a multilateral environmental agreement. Prerequisite: ENE 216 or GOV 200.  Same as ENE 320.    
De Santo

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. Students will engage in a Reacting to the Past (RTTP) simulation.  Prerequisite: GOV 120. 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 and inequality. The rest of the course will be dedicated to a survey of the politics of several countries from different areas of Latin America.  Same as IST 327.

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. 

352. Global Justice. (H)
This course focuses on key ethical issues in international politics, with special emphasis on the question of what demands justice imposes on institutions and agents acting in a global context. In addition to theoretical approaches to global justice, we will also read and discuss what justice requires in relation to five issues of international concern - poverty, climate change, immigration, warfare, and democracy.  

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: ENE/ENV 216 or permission of instructor. Same as ENE 314.    
Bratman, Cann, De Santo

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 course investigates domestic and global health policy issues. We will survey health care and health systems, focusing on health care spending, insurance, and health outcomes. Students will also examine ethical dilemmas and debates within health policy. We will ask what role health policy can play in addressing health disparities. Two questions infuse our deliberations: what can government do to shape the health of individuals and what should it do?  Same as PBH 410.
Meyer, Everett, Tripp

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.  

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.     

425. Human Rights-Human Wrongs (NW) (S)
This course is a senior seminar course on human rights. Students  will  be introduced to the theory and practice of human rights through the examination of human rights documents,  key  theoretical  readings  in the field and special guest lectures by human rights activists. A major component of this course will involve community-based learning (CBL). Students, working with attorneys, will be required to work on a asylum, Withholding of Removal, or Convention Against Torture (CAT) case. Students will work in teams of three.      

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.     

450. Political Psychology.
Political psychology, as an interdisciplinary pursuit, applies psychological concepts and methods to test theories about elite and mass political behavior. In essence, political psychologists go “inside the mind” of elites and members of the mass public to explain various aspects of political behavior. Class topics include attitude formation, organization, and recall; cognition and information processing; values and ideology; emotion; personality; ethnocentrism; authoritarianism; and polarization.  

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

Topics Courses & Seminars Expected to be Offered in 2020-2021


300 Level Topics Courses Expected to be Offered in 2020-2021

  • Race, Gender and the Law.
  • East/West and Decolonial Theory.
  • Tyrants, Hypocrites and Champions.
  • Public Opinion and Political Behavior.
  • Comparative Political Economy of Asia.
  • Dissent in America.


Senior Seminars Expected to be Offered in 2020-2021

Fall 2020

  • Hannah Arendt.
  • Political Biography.

Spring 2021

  • Secrets, Spies, Satellites.
  • Political Identity and the 2020 Election.
  • Political Theory and Racial Injustice.