POL 1000 – Introduction to Political Science
Years Taught: 2010-12
“Man,” Aristotle informed us, “is by nature a political animal.” Gender inequity aside, this is a very telling observation. We are, after all, much like any other creature. Humans adopt strategies of hierarchy and dominance, specialization and cooperation, just as do ants and elephants. Indeed, tests of strength and power, hard-fought competition, and mutually-beneficial collaboration are hallmarks of both the human and natural worlds. What makes humanity different, however, is the sheer complexity and scale of the mechanisms and methods adopted in pursuit of these efforts. Moreover, the stakes are much higher, for humans excel at the procurement of material substance. Thus not only do we create elaborate institutions, but so too do humans appear innately gifted in the matter of accumulating ‘stuff.’ Note how one of the chief characterizations of human communities is the relative abundance of goods in excess of a person’s immediate need. Such concern with wealth is not a fluke, but rather the reflection of a decidedly unique trait. And it is the one of the things that makes us so very interesting.
But what to do with this wealth? Who gets what, when, and how? Here now is the stuff of politics. As Aristotle knew, within any political community the interaction of wealth and power will impact material outcomes greatly. How they do provides the fundamental pillars of any political association. Everything from institutions to ideology rest upon conclusions about how these matters can—and should—be resolved. The foremost concern of Politics 1000 is therefore to impart a toolkit that can be used to explore these basic building blocks of any community. How is surplus distributed, and to what degree are individuals free to pursue their own accumulation? Who gets to decide, and how has this come to be? We ask these questions because they expose the very roots of power, the sinews of which run through our societies still.
POLST 2224 – War in Human History
Mount Saint Vincent University, Nunavut Arctic College.
Years Taught: 2008, 2015
From Assyrian chariots and the Roman legion, to aircraft carriers, Navy SEALs, and the atomic revolution, the implements of war have changed radically over time, even while human biology—if not
human nature—has remained unchanged and enduring. The question for this course is straightforward: what has such technological and institutional change meant for both the conduct and
resolution of violence throughout humanity’s long history? Moreover, what can be said about these dynamics as they relate to humanity’s evolution from an exceedingly violent past, where
war, or the expectation of war, was the norm, to today’s (relatively) pacific state of international affairs? In short, has war become so dangerous that it has become obsolete, or has the
recourse to violence remained a plausible option? C’est plus ça change…or does peace finally now sit on the horizon?
POL 2300 – Introduction to Comparative Politics
Dalhousie & Memorial Universities
Years Taught: 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10
Standing on the cusp of the 21st century, some commentators contended that grand forces of political transformation were driving the global homogenization of political institutions. The world, they argued, was about to become universally similar: democratic, liberal, vanilla plain. Political diversity would be a thing of the past. Events of recent years, however, have demonstrated that the world around us is neither orderly nor benign. Global politics remains tempestuous, and such turbulence affects every actor in the international system as never before. As such, careful analysis of the political systems around us remains a prudent strategy.
POL 2300 surveys the broad field of comparative politics, providing the student with a theoretical toolkit that enables independent evaluation of the relative merits and detractions of disparate political bodies. The course will also examine the key political, social, and economic institutions that underpin the modern state. In addition, a diverse set of developed countries will be examined as case studies in order to provide a practical understanding to these abstract theoretical concepts. Ultimately, the student will better comprehend the dynamics behind political coherence, economic success, and social stability. Understanding what processes lead to the formation of affluent, stable societies, and what obstacles prevent their development—or perhaps even foster their collapse—will be critical in a new century that promises considerable tumult.
POL 2520 – Introduction to International Relations
Dalhousie University. Years Taught: 2007-12
There are fundamental forces at work every day in the international system, movements that have a tremendous impact on our daily lives. Security and trade deeply affect issues ranging from military expenditures to third world development. Unfortunately, public knowledge of these matters remains minimal. A sophisticated understanding of these complex issues is often limited by ignorance of the work performed by professional scholars. All too frequently, influential commentators offer untempered opinions, visceral statements that reflect little grounding in the academic literature. Critically, the public is often too ill-informed to reject such claims. POLI 2520 aims to rectify this predicament by providing a thorough overview of the knowledge and understanding that the field of international relations (IR) has accumulated by the early 21st Century.
POL 2600 – Introduction to Public Policy and Administration
Memorial University. Years Taught: 2011
Without some form of collective governance community living would be impossible. Indeed, some problems cannot be satisfactorily addressed by a single individual or entrepreneurial firm. Instead, they require resolution through processes of communal decision-making. Issues of the commons—from air to roads, from political organization to taxation—leave no one untouched, and thus disagreements regarding them cannot be resolved independently. Critics of government therefore tend to miss the point. Public policies are not usually ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but are simply a reflection of inevitable tradeoffs between alternatives. Policies that encourage government interventionism—the welfare state, for example—come at the expense of those that maximization of individual freedoms. The existence of public policy is inescapable, and their form is simply a matter of preference.
While there is generally no right or wrong way of choosing and implementing public policy, there are useful methods to anticipate and quantify the prospective costs and benefits of the alternatives considered. The microeconomics-infused techniques of policy analysis are particularly useful when considering public policy issues and their prospective resolution. This course therefore aims to survey these methodologies, providing a basic toolkit for students to rigorously evaluate both the formulation of public policy and its administration. Course work includes a 5-page public policy issue review, a 2-page research paper outline and 10-page finished product, as well as a final exam.
POL 3290 – The Modern Security Environment (Seminar)
Years Taught: 2011
War is not simply a matter of politics and power. Indeed, even the tamest of battles instill fear, apply violence, and draw blood. At their most extreme, the costs exacted stagger the imagination. So how best can we deal with these tragedies? It has been, at least since the interwar period, the position of political science that only by improving our knowledge and understanding can we hope to keep such capricious forces at bay. This class will therefore use the seminar format to critically evaluate the main approaches to the study of violent conflict. The material covered will include not only the various theories that suggest the causes of war and peace, but also the basic strategies that underpin the employment of organized violence. These theories will then be followed by a series of 20th and 21st century case studies, which will allow us to compare theory with practice. Finally, the course will end with an evaluation of current security issues, such as NBC weapons proliferation, terrorism, and guerilla insurgencies.
POL 3560 – Canadian Foreign Policy (Seminar)
Years Taught: 2011
Canada’s place in the world is not always an easy one. Great powers have costly international responsibilities, but so too can they afford a measure of policy freedom. Small nations have little choice but to bandwagon or buck-pass, but at least their strategic options are clearly laid out for them. In contrast, middle powers such as Canada find international politics a difficult game to play. This is largely because their not-inconsequential power provides sufficient means to consider themselves worthy of policy freedom, yet at the same time their relatively limited means they can never stray too far from a hegemonic benefactor. In POL 3570 we examine post-World War II Canadian foreign policy (CFP) in two parts. The first is an analysis of ‘landmark’ policy developments, using the case study approach. The second is an investigation of the general factors that help explain the form and content of foreign policy more broadly. The latter will pay particular attention to the institutions and processes through which policy decisions are made. Cases to be discussed include the ‘invention’ of peacekeeping, Pierre Trudeau’s ‘peace initiative,’ the Mulroney government’s involvement in the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, the negotiation of the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA), Canada’s non-participation in the US-led war against Iraq in 2003, and the country’s prolonged participation in Afghanistan.
POL 3600 – Canadian Public Policy (Seminar)
Years Taught: 2012
Canada is a fascinating case for the study of public policy. We are rich and capable enough to address the problems of modern society in a purposeful and meaningful way. We are divided enough, however, as to be somewhat uncertain how best this should be done. The aim of POL 3600 is to examine what it is like to live in such circumstances, and also consider the reasons how and why policy makers adopt policies. In so doing, the class will offer not only a survey of the various issues under discussion, ranging from the context of public policy-making in Canada, to economic and social affairs, aboriginal policy and environmental matters, and dealing with foreign policy and national unity. It will also offer a chronological framework to consider how policies in each of these areas have changed over time—sometimes substantially so. The aim of such a historical approach is to provide insight into the enduring elements of Canada’s ‘public interest’, but also to give an appreciation of the difficulties faced by policymakers straddling competition visions of what policies should be adopted, or if such concerns are even worthy in the first place.
POL 4360 – Contentious Politics: Social Movements, Revolutions, & Terrorism (Seminar)
Years Taught: 2012
POL 4360 will use the seminar format to critically evaluate the three main pillars of popular mobilization by the ‘dissatisfied’: protest movements, revolutions, and terrorism. While each subject offers a distinct literature, the aim here is to try and bridge the separate approaches under a common purpose: how and why do dissatisfied political actors behave as they do? It is nonetheless useful to think of this course as divided into three (admittedly somewhat unequal) parts. We will begin first with a discussion of contentious politics and the various ways and means social movements take to the streets in an effort to advance their members’ interests. Second, we will look to examine not only some of the classic theories offering explanations for why individuals and groups feel revolution is their best means of achieving political success. Lastly, we will examine not only the motivations of terrorists, but also the current means at their disposal, the implications that has on a modern liberal, democratic society, and what can be done to counteract such indiscriminate threats.
HIST 2203 – World War I
Years Taught: 2007, 2009
The importance of the First World War is often overlooked, and Canada’s contribution’s to this cataclysmic struggle is often ignored. As a result, the chief aim of this course is to provide a thorough survey of the conflict’s main events, as well as the key military, political, social, and economic dynamics that underpinned Europe’s descent into mechanized slaughter. HIST 2203’s material will range from the breakdown of pre-war diplomacy, to the war’s conclusion at the Treaty of Versailles, as well as its immediate aftermath. Theatres as diverse as the North Sea and Gallipoli will be discussed, including battles on land, at sea, and in the air. Similarly, military strategy and planning will be examined, as will the battlefield effects of technological and tactical innovation. Finally, both the exorbitant cost of the war and its impact on the rest of the 20th century will be considered.
HIST 2213 – World War II
Years Taught: 2007, 2008
Not only did World War II fully incorporate the Great War’s techniques and strategies of industrial warfare—mobilizing millions of soldiers and factory workers to the banner of national violence—but when combined with science and xenophobic megalomania, these tools of war wrought unsurpassed devastation. Indeed, the war was accompanied by methodical genocide; entire communities were erased by means of bullet and gas. Similarly shocking was the 20th century’s physics revolution, which brought the power to destroy entire cities with a single bomb. Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki proved not only the tremendous destructive potential of this technical innovation, but also that humanity was willing to employ it. HIST 2213 provides a macroscopic survey of World War II, focusing on the strategic, technological, and social aspects of the war. Course material ranges from an examination of the international conditions at the start of hostilities, to the key battles and events of
the conflict, as well an assessment of the impact of total war on the mid-20th century world.
 Aristotle, Politics, trans. With an introduction by Ernest Barker, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946).
 See, for example, E.O. Wilson’s Sociobiology.