This course is about studying politics. We first examine different conceptions of the purposes of studying politics. Should political knowledge be valued for its role in forming an active political and civic life? Should it be a crucial means to achieve desired political and social ends? Of should political inquiry be a professional and scientific project that helps to sustain a democratic political and civic culture?
We then consider the aims of political inquiry – we focus on interpretation and explanation as alternative yet related efforts. Then we examine the development of political science in the U.S. - as an extended debate about the nature and purposes of knowledge about politics, and as a distinctive field. The final section of the course asks this question: given available resources (intellectual, methodological, practical), how should we study major questions about politics now? This section is guided by the research interests of participants.