Department of History and Political Science

Description of Major

Political science is the study of how and why human beings live together in society. This study is centered on the great questions animating political life: What is justice? Who should rule? What is the best kind of society?

As history shows, there are different kinds of political societies with distinct characters or regimes. For example, modern societies have democratic institutions and a way of life based on ideas of equality and freedom. The difference between political societies naturally leads to the comparative question of which one is best. This question–What is the best regime? –is the highest theme of political science; for it is only with knowledge of the best society that we can understand and adequately evaluate the variety of actual societies and ways of life. To pursue that question, we must identify and describe the forces, needs, and desires which bring human beings together and then explain how these things account for all the various regimes and forms of political life such as the city, the nation-state, or the empire. One fundamental way is to study the works of the greatest political thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, Locke, or The Federalist.

At the same time, we also must study the world of political action: laws, governing institutions, relations between countries, and the words and deeds of statesmen who practice political art at its highest, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Winston Churchill. This combined study of political philosophy, political institutions, and statesmanship makes up political science in all aspects.