Course Descriptions

Not all of the courses listed below are offered in any given year.  Please check the current lecture schedule for current course offerings.

5000 Level Courses

GS POLS 5810 3.0 – Social Justice and Political Activists

Integrated Course: AP POLS 4410 3.0

The focus of this course is on what political directions and strategies are needed to move us closer to the goal of social justice, primarily within the context of advanced capitalist democracies with a focus on Canada. We will explore different conceptions of social justice and its relationship to the goals of individual liberty, capacity development, equality, inclusion, solidarity and democratic participation; examine the relationship between liberal capitalism and social justice; assess to what extent we moved closer to social justice in the era of social democracy, and away from it in the era of neo liberalism; examine the political economy of social justice and injustice in contemporary Canada; critically assess contemporary political and social movements advocating for social justice; and explore to what extent moving towards the goal of social justice requires fundamental changes to our economic and political institutions.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course offerings

6000 Level Courses

GS POLS 6000A 3.0 – The MA Colloquium

The purpose of this course is to familiarize students with graduate study in the Department of Political Science, to examine areas of common concern to students, and to prepare students to write their Major Research Paper (MRP). Seminars will include introductions to faculty members and their research, workshops on research preparation and proposal writing, and information on well-being and graduate life.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6010 6.0 – Symposium in Political Theory (Core Course, PhD students only)

An intensive survey of selected political thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche designed to give  students a broad background in the history of political thought. The course will also expose students to different methodological tendencies in the study of the history of political theory.

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GS POLS 6021 3.0 – The Return to Political Philosophy in Contemporary French Thought

This advanced seminar seeks to understand the origins, ideas, and problems of the return to political philosophy in contemporary French thought. This multifaceted intellectual phenomenon presents a particularly rich and intense debate on the fundamental issues of political life such as freedom, democracy, conflict, domination, and social division.

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GS POLS 6030 3.0 –Theory and Practice of the State in Historical Perspective

This course is about the history and transformation of the Western state in its changing social and economic contexts from antiquity to modern capitalism.  The course will also deal with paradigmatic ideas of the state as they appear in the classics of Western political thought, and with contemporary debates surrounding the theory and history of the state.

A central theme of the course is the historical specificity of capitalism and its distinctive political forms.  One of our main objectives will be to define the specific historical processes that give rise to capitalism.  This means challenging some influential theories of the state and its development, conventional conceptions of the relation between the "economic" and the "political", and theories of history, both Marxist and non-Marxist, which tend to mask the specificity of capitalism and the very particular conditions of its development.  With special emphasis on the problem of "transitions" -- from antiquity to feudalism, from feudalism to capitalism, and from early capitalism to its industrial form -- we shall focus on the differences among various European states, and their divergent historical paths, notably in England, France and Italy.

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GS POLS 6045 3.0 – Gramsci and Contemporary Political Theory

Cross Listing: GS SPTH 6039 3.0

Part I:  The course will begin with a careful examination of the work of Antonio Gramsci.  Two main purposes are to be achieved in this part of the course.  The first is a clear understanding of Gramsci's contribution to political theory, in particular his theories of hegemony and civil society, his conception of the state, and his overall view of society as historical bloc.  The second one is the analysis of the general assumptions that guided Gramsci's thinking in general.  These assumptions are the constitutive principles of his historicism, a concept that embodies a general theory of social explanation, a theory of history, and a general epistemology. Part II:  Gramsci's thought is often considered to be a radical critique of Marxism, one that does not reject Marx's original thought but seeks to revitalize and update it.  Most of his original theories, however, have been of considerable influence among many political thinkers, some of whom would not consider themselves Marxist.  This broad appropriation of Gramsci's ideas has led to a complex web of influences that has grown along with many of the contemporary positions within political theory.  Thus, Gramsci's vocabulary can clearly be detected in works on feminism, postmodernism, the new political economy, and even in the work of some liberals and communitarians.  Although the vocabulary is of Gramscian inspiration, the concepts and the theoretical assumptions behind them are often of a very different character.  In the second part of the course some of these new treatments of the topics developed in the first part of the course will be carefully examined.  The purpose is again twofold.  First, an appreciation of some of the new conceptual frameworks (the specific topics can differ from year to year, a fact that may be identified by the subtitle following the colon) will be carefully examined and their differences from Gramsci's original thought carefully noted.  The second task will be to trace the differing philosophical assumptions and to confront them with Gramsci's.  This comparison will no doubt result in a heightened appreciation of the complexity of political theory and a greater understanding of political analysis.

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GS POLS 6060 3.0 –Appropriating Marx’s Capital I

This course involves a systematic reading of Marx's life work, Capital (volume one). Major theoretical issues concerning method, dialectics and critique are attended to, alongside detailed discussion of concepts central to Marx's critique of political economy.

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GS POLS 6087 3.0 – Politics of Aesthetics

The Politics of Aesthetics develops an aesthetic framework from eight Continental
philosophers who have an aesthetic theory as part of their philosophy. The philosophers include Hegel, Heidegger, Badiou, Ranciere, Bataille, Baudrillard, Virilio and Deleuze. These are selected because their philosophy facilitates the artwork surpassing the aesthetic theory.

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GS POLS 6095 3.0 – Marxism, Culture and Film

This course explores the Marxist tradition in cultural and aesthetic theory and practice with a particular focus on film history.  Readings will be selected from classic thinkers including Marx and Engels, Lukacs, Gramsci, Trotsky and the Frankfurt School, and from more contemporary writers, such as Debord, Althusser, Williams, Jameson and Said.  The theoretical and artistic contribution of major artists such as Eisenstein, Vertov, Brecht, Godard, Bunuel, Loach and Alea will be discussed.  Particular controversies may be highlighted, including debates about Soviet culture, the role of avant-gardes, cultural imperialism and Global Hollywood, socialist realism and modernism, the representation of class and gender and the rise of postmodernism.  The course will go on to consider creative practice related to the Marxist and socialist movements in films selected from the Soviet twenties, Surrealism, The French Popular Front, the Hollywood Reds, Italian neo-realism, the Third Cinema of the “third world’, May 68 and the movements of the 60s.
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GS POLS 6110 6.0 –Canadian Government and Politics (Core Course, PhD students only)

This course surveys the major approaches and issues in the study of Canadian politics and engages students in the contemporary debates in the field. Through a critical discussion of articles and books, the course evaluates the major theoretical paradigms and methodological approaches that have dominated the study of Canadian politics. The course is designed to prepare students to write the qualifying exam in Canadian politics and also to teach in the field.
Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6125 3.0 –Theories of Contemporary Capitalism

The period of neoliberalism has been witness to the remarkable ability of capitalist social relations and institutions to restructure and project themselves anew - from new forms of production to unprecedented global financial innovations to new political alliances. The processes of neoliberal globalization had placed into question, for some, the analysis
of socialists of the economic dynamics and social transformations of capitalism.  And while the economic crisis since 2008 is revealing even deeper flaws in the banking and financial systems, and suggesting we are in the midst of the fourth great crisis of capitalism, the signs of ant-capitalist political movements remain barely evident. These developments signal the need for a close examination of our conceptual understanding of modern capitalism. Several questions are raised. What had been the central features of capitalism and what has transformed in the dynamics of contemporary capitalism?  How have these transformations affected corporate structures, power and the state?  What is the political
economy of contemporary neoliberal globalization?  What are the central strategic issues for socialists seeking to reform and establish an alternate economic analysis and transformative socialist project? In Theories of Contemporary Capitalism, the focus is on the key texts and schools of post-WW II radical political economy that have signalled new departures in the theoretical understanding of capitalism and provided essential reference points for researchers and political activists. The authors covered include Galbraith, Mandel, Baran and Sweezy, Lipietz, Harvey, Arrighi, Bellamy-Foster, Lapavitsas, Panitch, Castells and others.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6130 3.0 –The State and Society of Canada

A never-ending economic crisis, declining living standards across western countries, increasing inequalities of wealth and opportunity, the exhaustion of the post-war compromise as embodied in the welfare state, and a seeming lack of clear alternatives to the capitalist status quo: all these conditions suggest there is no better time to explore the intersections of society and the state in Canada to examine how such inequalities are either furthered or challenged. This course will critically examine three arenas of political struggle: civil society, the state, and the institutional means by which they are linked to each other. The state and society are seen here as mutually constitutive; in myriad ways, each helps to shape the other. For instance, inequalities in civil society mean that some have considerably more power to influence the state than others. At the same time, the state plays a crucial role in helping to shape and maintain those inequalities through policies, regulations, institutions, and actions taken by state actors.

The point of the course will be to highlight how many of the seemingly mundane links between society and the state are in fact highly complex and contested terrains of social control and struggle. For instance, events like elections or instruments for gauging public opinion like polling do not merely reflect or register public aspirations but represent important opportunities to shape and control them. Even the institutions themselves can be the site of political struggle as different forces attempt to shape them to produce the results they prefer. This ‘critical institutionalist’ approach will be developed with attention to a divided Canadian civil society, techniques of public mobilization, debates over the capitalist state, and struggles over institutions and the left’s imagined alternatives.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings


GS POLS 6133 3.0 –Law, Politics and the Judiciary

This course critically assesses scholarship in the area of law and politics. Its focus is on the role of courts as both an institution of governance and as an instrument of societal change. It compares and contrasts varying explanations of judicial behaviour by addressing a range of issues clustered around the nature, scope and impact of decision-making by courts.

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GS POLS 6145 3.0 –Indigenous Politics: Decolonization or “Development”?

This course explores indigenous development experiences in Canada and throughout the world, in comparative perspective. It draws on theories of development and underdevelopment and examines the sociology, politics and economics of development as well as environmental and cultural implications.

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GS POLS 6155 3.0 –Democratic Administration

This seminar aims to enhance students’ knowledge of democratic administration as a field of empirical investigation, theoretical inquiry, and political practice.  The first objective is to situate the study of democratic administration in historical perspective. The second goal is to build knowledge of different schools of democratic administration thought, as well as the kinds of political interventions they have inspired. The third aim is to provide students with an opportunity to pursue their own research by drawing upon, assessing, and extending key concepts from the field of democratic administration. The fourth purpose is to experiment with democratic administration in course development. Through reading, interpreting, and reflecting upon key texts, through written and oral assignments, as well as by discovering the potential of democratic administration through action, students will complete the course with 1) an understanding of core concepts in the field of democratic administration, 2) the ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of major debates and approaches, 3) the competency to apply a democratic administration lens to contemporary political and governmental issues, such as the Occupy Movement, Idle No More, Black Lives Matter, the right to the city, participatory budgeting, etc.; and, 4) the ability to identify and assess the challenges and benefits of enacting democratic administration in a concrete setting. Students enrolling in the class are encouraged to consider pursuing the Diploma in Democratic Administration.

GS POLS 6175 3.0 –Politics and Policies in Aging Societies

This course analyzes how the aging of the population in Canada, as well as other nations, impacts and shapes political debates, conflicts and public policies. This course critically explores, drawing on several literatures and traditions, how population aging influences the politics and policies related to retirement and pensions, employment, and health care. Some international comparative analysis will be undertaken especially of the United States, Europe and East Asia. The central theme of the course is that demographic conditions must be considered in seeking to understand and account for developments in the welfare state. A secondary theme is that the aging of the population impacts not only policies for the elderly, but also policies for youth and ‘working-age’ citizens. Students have the option to expand their research interests within the context of the course to include topics such as long-term care, disability, housing, and transportation.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings


GS POLS 6200 6.0 – Advanced Study in International Relations (Core Course, PhD students only)

This course is intended as the final preparation for the qualifying examination in
International Relations for Ph.D. students with a major or minor in that field. The course  will cover the core material in four subfields: (1) global political economy; (2)multilateralism; (3) conflict and security; (4) foreign policy analysis.

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GS POLS 6221 3.0 – World Politics and Popular Culture

What can we learn about world politics from popular culture? Most scholarly
representations of world politics present an image of a ‘higher’ realm of politics, one peopled by elites such as diplomats, heads of state, military officers or, more abstractly, by states-as-actors. Such representations of world politics are typically reproduced in popular culture, such as in spy fiction. However, by virtue of being ‘popular’, popular culture also presents the possibility of a politics that is not abstracted and insulated from the concerns and experiences of ‘ordinary’ people. Thus, world politics in popular culture can be both the reproduction of alienated or elite versions of world politics and the critique of that politics. This course explores the intersections of popular culture and world politics, through a reading of selected popular culture artefacts and scholarly literature, to ask what are the analytic and political possibilities of these sites. The course is held jointly with a similar course at he University of Newcastle (UK), with seminars joined by video conference.

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GS POLS 6222 3.0 – Writing and Text in International Relations

This course is intended to introduce students to critical narrative methodologies in international relations.  Long recognized as a mainstay of feminist, indigenous, and postcolonial studies, narrative approaches seek to situate scholarship in thelived experiences of researchers and research subjects.  The course will introduce students to critical narrative and autoethnographic approaches to the study and writing of international politics, with special consideration of what these approaches enable.


Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6245 3.0 – The Global Politics of Health

This course examines ‘health’ at the intersection between global and national political terrains. It explores the impact of extensive biomedical development, national competition, and international trade on both the ‘reality’ and delivery of health for populations. It challenges students to consider health from a variety of angles and intellectual perspectives, encouraging a distinctly political understanding of health across a range of contexts.

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GS POLS 6265 3.0 – PostColonial Theory and I.R. AGamben

One of the past century’s most profound transformations was decolonization: the end of direct European rule over vast areas of the earth. The worlds of cultural and political analysis have both contributed and responded to this shift, producing a significant body of writings we name colonial and postcolonial critique. The emergence of postcolonial theory rests on the idea of coming after colonialism. Colonialism though does not necessarily end with the end of colonial occupation. This course traces the emergence of postcolonial theory, its relationship to IR by focusing on a set of questions spatial, economic and political experience of colonial occupation raises for modern liberal and neo-liberal political projects, laws and legal regimes.

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GS POLS 6275 3.0 – Ethnonationalist Conflicts and World Politics

Widely considered to be among the most intractable and bitter of intergroup encounters, ethnonationalist conflicts increasingly confront the contemporary world with the dilemmas of its own political imagination.  This course proceeds from the basis that state formation and international relations present us with a framework for political community that is inherently rooted in identity-based conflict - that is, in the ideal Westphalian relationship of contiguity between sovereign, people, and territory.  It is thus that ethnic conflict might be seen not as a 'primitive' aberration of international political life, but rather as one of its historical cornerstones.   The purpose of this course is to explore the ways in which ethnonationalist conflict permeates and reflects the international order in both contemporary and historical contexts.


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GS POLS 6280 3.0 – Topics in Political Economy: Comparative and International I

The purpose of this course is to review critical debates and literature in Global Political Economy, a field that is taken to include issues addressed by both international and comparative perspectives and links to social and political theory.  The course will be taught by faculty and student-led seminar discussions, focusing on a range of major works and issues within the field.  The course will address power, governance and resistance in the global political economy, including potential future alternatives – in light of the changing relations between rulers and ruled.  It will discuss selected issues which each year will include some of the following: market civilization, power of capital, inequality and social stratification, the offshore world and progressive taxation, disciplinary neo-liberalism, new constitutionalism, surveillance and panopticism, livelihood and dispossession, food security/sovereignty and sustainability of the biosphere.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6404 3.0 – Critical Urban Theory

This course examines the critical urban theories and theoretical debates that have informed research questions and political orientations in the field of urban studies since the 1960s.  Readings will include major texts from feminist, post-structural/colonial and Marxist approaches, and debates over the changing natures of local states, political organizations, justice and subjectivities, generated both in Western and non-Western contexts.  Students are expected to develop faculties of comparing and critically assessing different theoretical approaches.


Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6410 6.0 – The Study of Comparative Politics (Core Course, PhD students only)

The purpose of this course is to survey major approaches and issues in the study of
comparative politics and engage students in the contemporary debates in the field. Students (especially majors) are expected to acquire in-depth knowledge of their principal area of specialization in other courses. Weekly readings are chosen so as to address central themes and introduce students to the diversity of theoretical approaches that constitute the field. In addition to keeping up with weekly readings and participating actively in seminar discussion, students will be required to submit two short papers (ten pages) in each term.

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GS POLS 6435 3.0 –Capitalism and Social Provisioning

This course is concerned with coming to a better understanding of the challenges posed to social policy, and to social provisioning more generally, by neo-liberalism and most recently, the period of economic crisis and austerity. In order to do so, the course first examines methodological and historical perspectives, including the forces that resulted in the establishment of welfare states, and pressures that have led to their transformation. The course then discusses how the role of the state in general in social provisioning has changed, as well as transformations within specific programs and sectors. Topics to be examined include privatization of social services, workfare and approaches to income security, growing inequalities and migrant labour. A major underlying concern is to examine not just the constraints on social policy but also the possibility for alternative directions. A theme running throughout the course is how hierarchies of gender, race/ethnicity and class both formed part of the transformations that have taken place and created differential impacts.

Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6515 3.0 – The Making of the Modern Middle East: Politics, States and Societies

This is a comprehensive graduate seminar about the Making and Re-making of the Middle East, of its politics and economy, its multiple histories (imperialism, colonialism, class, gender, state etc.), ideological discourses and practices (nationalism, socialism, communism etc.). The course will familiarize graduate students with theoretical, historical, and methodological issues that are of relevance to the study of Middle East Politics and Economy. The complexity, contradictory nature, and multilayered make-up of the subject - the concepts, over different histories up to specific topics and current multiple developments - makes a multidisciplinary approach compulsory. We will approach these issues in the context of various disciplines: comparative politics and International Relations, (international) political economy, state theory, political thought, ideology critique, and discourse analysis.

*  Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6570 3.0 – Advanced Topics in the Politics of the Global South : Developmental States in the 21st Century

This course seeks both to theorize and to examine empirically the interactions between the state, society (class, race, religion, gender, nation, ethnic) and the global economy in a range of “Third World” settings, highlighting questions of development, equity and democracy.


*  Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6625 6.0 – Political Economy and Economic Diplomacy of the BRICS

This course examines the rise of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the so-called “BRICS” – in the shifting world order.  The focus will be on analyzing the political-economic evolution of these rising states and societies, and questions of their “models of economy and development”, and the BRICS as a grouping, from the perspectives of comparative-international political economy, and global governance.  Special attention will be given to the considering whether, and if so, how, these states, and influential economic actors of the BRICS countries, are reordering the global economy, global development, global society, or the balance of power in the world.


*  Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6656 3.0 – Politics and Policies of European Integration

This advanced comparative politics seminar addresses specific policies of European integration. Course topics will include such policy areas as foreign and security policy, environmental policies, social policies, gender and identity politics. The course will attempt to offer an understanding of the various policy areas of the European Union. It furthermore aims to question who the key actors in the EU policy making are and analyses who benefits from the process of integration in Europe.

*  Please see Lecture Schedule for current Course Offerings

GS POLS 6700 6.0 – Advanced Studies in Women and Politics (Core Course PhD students only)

This course provides a comprehensive survey of the theoretical and empirical literature in the fields of feminist theory, feminist epistemology, and women and politics broadly defined.  The course reviews the major streams in feminist theory including liberal, socialist, radical, lesbian, postmodern and postcolonial theory. It also explores the methodological and epistemological critiques of these different theoretical approaches to the study of women, power and social relations. The course contextualizes these theoretical foundations through a detailed consideration of gender and the changing global order. Topics include: gender and restructuring, citizenship, nationalism, migration, security and organizing through human rights discourse.

*  Please see Lecture Schedule for current Current Offerings

GS POLS 6900 3.0 – Contemporary Research in Politics of Memory

How has Germany dealt with the Holocaust? How has South Africa confronted its legacy of Apartheid? How have Canadians reckoned with their own history of genocide and discrimination? The course explores the politics surrounding the public remembrance of the past and their impact. Memory politics are understood here to mean political processes of dealing with formative, often traumatic, collective experiences (e.g. war, genocide,
persecution). We will discuss some of the classics of the interdisciplinary field of memory studies, as well as tap into contemporary debates about memory policy -making and management, the mobility and migration of memories across various boundaries (national, generational, discursive), grassroots vs. top-down memories and more. We will examine examples of memory politics in different media (including monuments, official pronouncements, institutions, film and literature), different places from across the globe, and different eras.

*  Please see Lecture Schedule for current Current Offerings