Introduction to Political Science

David Last, PhD

Introduction to Political Science in four parts:

  • Social science disciplines
  • Ideologies (politics as ideas)
  • Institutions
  • Interests

Course Description

This introduction addresses the discipline, fields, concepts, and methods of political science, the ideologies that have shaped politics, and the institutions through which politics is conducted.

Note(s): Core Course for students of the First Year taking Arts. Equivalent to the course offered by RMC St. Jean, Ideologies and Political Regimes, 385-033-ST

Contact Hours: 3 – 0 – 6

Credit(s): 1

Where this course fits in the degree program

This is a junior course to provide students in their first or second year with the basic conceptual tools, definitions and frameworks to discuss political phenomena: ideologies, institutions, interests, and the nature of the discipline.  It is a prerequisite for more advanced courses in political science. Understanding of writing skills and methodologies necessary for future success within the discipline and for baccalaureate study in general is integrated across the four modules. The delivery is through both lectures and participatory seminars, and includes online and personal support provided by the instructor.

In rethinking some of the material for 2015, I was influenced by critiques of neo-liberalism (Losurdo, Mirowsky), by a re-examination of the secular rejection of religion in public life (Calhoun, Mahmood, Bhargava, Ruthven, Kahn), and by other summer reading. What was missing last year was an examination of political socialization, hence the imperative to begin the course with a personal examination of the lenses through which the other information will be viewed.

We will also be experimenting with a revised pedagogy, which gives students more control over what and how they learn. I’m excited by the possibilities that this opens up, with your cooperation.  Please have a look at the pedagogy and organization pages of this web site.

Learning objectives

Students will understand and apply key social science concepts and methods to the study of political science as ideas, institutions, and interests.

Students are expected to demonstrate understanding of:

  • The fields within the discipline of political science
  • The major ideologies that shape political systems
  • The institutions through which states are governed
  • The ways in which interests are aggregated and articulated in democratic political systems

Students will understand and apply:

  • Basic research tools and methods appropriate to the social sciences
  • University level writing skills
  • Critical awareness of current events – this means being aware of what is happening, why it matters, and what it means for security professionals


In 2016-2017 this course is expected to be taught in two sections—one in the fall term and two in winter term. The marking scheme is the same for all sections, although assignments and marking rubrics may vary:

  • Participation20% due each week
  • Assignment 1:20% due in week 6, addressing concepts and ideologies
  • Assignment 2:20% due in week 12, addressing institutions and interests
  • Final Exam:40% in hall, during exam period

Academic regulations 7.4 and 10.2 are in effect for all sections of this course

7.4 For each course a student must complete term work and all assignments to the satisfaction of the department concerned.

10.2 The instructor may refuse a student permission to write a final examination in a course if the requirements with regard to course work have not been met.

The course outline for all sections is the same, but order of delivery may vary. The final exam for all sections will be drawn from the same question bank, and will take the same form.  Section instructors have latitude in the form, delivery method and evaluation of lectures, participatory seminars, and assignments.


Textbooks for all sections are:


Common outline

(13 weeks):

  1. Intro 1: What is politics?
  2. Intro 2: Why a science?
  3. Ideas 1: Ideologies and religions, Ideological spectrum, fairness, freedom, justice, liberalism
  4. Ideas 2: Conservatism, neo-conservatism, elite theory
  5. Ideas 3: Class, socialism, Marxism, communism, fascism, anarchism
  6. Ideas 4: Feminism, environmentalism, modernism, post-modernism
  7. Institutions 1: the state, violence, concepts of state
  8. Institutions 2: branches and functions of government, presidential and parliamentary democracy
  9. Institutions 3: constitutions, unitary and federal systems, power and constitutional design, extractive and inclusive institutions
  10. Institutions 4: Regimes—civil society, democracy, autocracy, corporatism, consociationalism
  11. Interests 1: parties, elections, mobilization
  12. Interests 2: cleavages, nationalism, fundamentalism, challenges to the state
  13. Review


This version of POE102 was developed by David Last without compensation as part of a normal teaching load to support delivery of an on-site course. It is neither the property nor the responsibility of RMC Division of Continuing Studies.  It is housed on a private web site paid for by Dr. Last.  Any requests for use of the course material must be referred to the authors or copyright holders.  The web site is for the use of students enrolled in the course or supervised by Dr. Last or other professors assigned to the course, and copyright material is made available to these students under “fair use” rules as in a classroom.

David Last, updated August 2016, lastdav@gmail.com