The study of Politics explores many dimensions of political life, ranging from small groups to citizens’ organizations to cities, nation-states, and the international system. This includes basic information about government, law, and current events, and also examines issues of power, citizenship, and justice in broader and deeper context. Oberlin’s Department of Politics presents a variety of perspectives on politics, including economic, historical, philosophical, sociological, and behavioral orientations. The department encourages its students to develop sophisticated understandings of the conditions and uses of political power in the United States and the world, and to hone their analytical and critical abilities.
A major in Politics can be the focus of a liberal arts program in the social sciences. It can help the citizen to understand, and act more effectively in, the political realm. The major leads to careers in government service, international affairs, journalism, teaching, and organizations concerned with social change and public affairs. It also prepares students for graduate study in political science, other social sciences, international studies, law, and public policy.
The Department of Politics offers coursework in four fields: American politics (the analysis of politics, government, policy, and law in the United States), comparative politics (the study of politics in other countries), international politics (the study of political relations among countries), and political theory (the history, interpretation, and criticism of political ideas through texts).
We encourage prospective majors to explore course offerings in each of the four fields. The department offers regular courses, colloquia, seminars, private readings and honors projects. Introductory courses, numbered in the 100s (including colloquia), open into each of the department’s fields and do not have prerequisites. Intermediate courses, numbered in the 200s, normally require some previous preparation and constitute the core of departmental offerings for majors. Seminars, numbered in the 300s, generally require previous intermediate-level work. Students should consult members of the department before choosing courses at this level. Private readings on topics not specifically covered in courses may be arranged with individual faculty. They may involve reading and discussion, research, or fieldwork, are generally at an intermediate or advanced level, and are carried out largely independently.
Students with a score of 5 on AP examinations in American government, comparative politics, or general political science will be awarded credit towards graduation and the major. Such credit will count as an introductory course and will count as three hours toward general graduation credit.