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Why study politics?

What makes us different?

Our Approach to Studying Politics

In our department, we explore how power and authority permeate almost every aspect of our lives: from the state to the courtroom, board room, workplace and the family. For us, politics is not only about power and authority and how these are exercised; politics is also about holding power accountable, about exercising democratic rights and about active citizenship which attempts to change the world for the better. Our goal is to bring to our students a Political Science that is living, relevant, dynamic – something that profoundly shapes the lives we live – but can also be shaped by us – with our knowledge and actions.

Our Curriculum

From the beginning, we've made consistent efforts to lead by example in the field of political science. Over 30 years ago, we were responsible for launching the first Women and Politics graduate program stream in Canada, which in turn has led to the introduction of our new Gender and Politics undergraduate stream today. In addition to this specialization, our courses cover a wide range of other areas in depth – including Political Theory, Political Economy, International Relations, Canadian Politics, Public Policy, and Politics of specific areas such as the Middle East, Europe, India, China, Russia, Africa and Latin America.

In the first two years of their undergraduate training, our students receive a thorough grounding in the key concepts and ideas in politics. Our most distinguished teachers teach these first and second year classes. This prepares students for an exciting array of elective courses in the following years. Depending on their interests and future plans, students can acquire specialized knowledge in many different issues/areas. We also offer a specialized Honours degree in Global Political Studies. Head to our Courses page to explore our diverse selection.

Our Student Body

With our location in one of the fastest growing and most diverse places in the globe, we attract a student body that is also as diverse. They bring with them a wealth of experiences and worldviews that create a unique learning environment, where we learn not only from books, but also from the society in which we live.

Our Commitment To Democratic Education

Democratic education requires a dialogue in which students and teachers critically assess their own assumptions and beliefs about politics and society. Since none of us has all the answers, this dialogue must take place within a community where everyone’s ideas are taken seriously and critically. This is what happens in a true ‘community of scholars’. This is what we have tried to create in York University’s Department of Political Science.

Goals of the Undergraduate Program

Critical Skills

In all courses, and throughout the period of their participation in the program, students will be learning a set of critical skills necessary to do effective work in any of the social sciences, not least in political science. In particular, they will be encouraged to understand what it means to think theoretically, to self-consciously abstract from the flux of social events in order to produce plausible interpretations and meanings.

In doing so they will learn how to identify the different assumptions, core concepts, methods, and values that underlie diverse analytical approaches and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these various approaches for the study of particular issues and themes. Students will also learn how to obtain and assemble data relevant to supporting their own arguments and validating their own approaches. Here a growing capacity to process written materials and to exemplify a high level of numeracy, media literacy and collaborative skills will be encouraged.

In addition, all courses will allow students to develop a range of communication skills, including the ability to effectively communicate ideas and research findings in appropriate written form, and the ability to participate actively and appropriately in discussions.

Political Analysis

Students will learn to conceptualize and to think critically about crucial dimensions of political life, both values and processes, especially those linked to such issues as the uses and abuses of power; the articulation of rights and responsibilities; and the intersections of community and nation-state with more globally-defined realities.

Students will also explore the importance of connections between politics and social life, including trends in the spheres of class formation, gender relations and ethnic, racial and cultural diversity. Each course will focus on several of the following themes, allowing students make course choices that reflect an interest in one or two of the following areas:

  • Global politics
  • Politics of diversity and inclusion
  • Canadian Democracy in the North American Context
  • Public policy and administration
  • Parties, media and elections
  • Social justice, ethics, law and democracy
  • Political economy and political power
  • Violence and security
  • Development and inequality in the third world
  • Political thought

Democratic Awareness

Our program seeks to free up space for our students to engage in the open discussion of the most contentious of political issues, examining the premises that underlie both public discourse and the exercise of power while also evaluating the evidence offered to support such premises. This is, in and of itself, a subversive and democratic exercise, our major contribution to the effective empowerment of our students. Our program is also committed to teaching students that politics is not only concerned with studying how power and authority are exercised but also with identifying the possibilities of acting politically to bring about change.

Students will develop an understanding both of the forces that sustain consensus and of those that can work to open up alternative possibilities. They will thus be further equipped to participate meaningfully in public life and even to pursue the enhancement of social justice. Our curriculum was developed in light of the above goals. Meetings will be held during the year to consult with students about the program. We welcome and encourage your input throughout this process through student representatives and general meetings.