To study politics is to study power: How does power position actors unequally? Who has it and who fights to get it? And how is power used and for what purposes? Students majoring in politics at Eugene Lang College study the relations and manifestations of power in many contexts, which range from the family to the transnational environment.

The politics major prepares students for careers in many fields, including national and international public service, education, journalism, activism, law, and entrepreneurship. Above all, it prepares them for a lifetime of critical and constructive engagement with their communities and the world.

Courses enable students to critically analyze power relations across political, social, and economic systems; ethnic groups; social classes; genders and sexualities; divisions of labor; citizenship; and species lines. They attend to the movements and struggles, historical and contemporary that shape power and define its possibilities. By exploring whether the exercise of power benefits a few or promotes the welfare of many and how struggles for power advance or obstruct the conditions for the possibility of a better world, the curriculum aims to help students become critical thinkers and passionate actors, to deepen democracy, and to promote global justice.

The major in politics emphasizes the following themes:

  • Civic engagement and political activism in the United States and elsewhere
  • Law, power, and political institutions in comparative perspective
  • Critical social, political, and democratic theory
  • Globalization, inequality, and international affairs
  • The politics of race, ethnicity, class, and gender
  • States and markets in international development
  • Critical perspectives on policymaking and policy development

The politics faculty comes from a tradition of critical social theory. The objective of rigorous analysis of politics is not just explanation and understanding but also social progress. In other words, the point is to improve the world as well as to explain it. The politics department therefore places a high premium on normative political theory, a field devoted to developing a vision of those ideals toward which we should be striving. Courses blend empirical, historical, and theoretical work as well as interdisciplinary perspectives. To study power, one must consider insights from other fields such as philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and economics.

The department’s location in New York City offers a rich opportunity for students to explore the major political issues of our time at close range. Contemporary political problems—including terrorism, civil liberties, immigration, popular protests, international institutions, the power of global finance and capital, the implications of socioeconomic inequality and cultural diversity, and the need for environmental protection—play out in and around this city. How these issues are handled and resolved here informs their evolution on an international scale.

Students majoring in politics will gain expert knowledge in areas such as civic participation, globalization, the spread of democracy, racial and ethnic politics, poverty and inequality, human rights, immigration, gender equality, and other topics. In addition to exploring theories about these processes, they will analyze how politics relates to certain contexts. Whether the examining the immediate context of New York City, the larger context of the United States, or the international and transnational context, students study history and pursue research grounded in the realities of particular times and places.

With the help of Project Pericles and Lang's Office of Civic Engagement and Social Justice, politics students may work with community organizations or other groups to contribute to the social capital, civic life, or activist networks of New York City. In addition, they may pursue internships with international institutions, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations in New York and Washington, D.C.. To broaden their horizons, students may enroll in exchange programs via New School programs abroad or universities in foreign countries. Finally, the politics department offers a speaker series where students meet and learn from leading scholars in the U.S. and around the world.

Students can study politics as a major (BA, Politics), as a minor, or as part of a self-designed program (BA or BS, Liberal Arts).