Introduction to Political Science
Fields of Study
The overall field of political science includes several major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political economy, and political philosophy. Most political science departments at universities encourage students to specialize or concentrate in one of these subfields.
The biggest subfield of political science in the United States, American government focuses on voting behavior, political parties, lawmaking, the Constitution, public administration, public policy, the role of the courts, and other facets of American government. Some departments refer to this subfield as “civics.”
Comparative politics compares systems of government in other countries. For example, a comparative political scientist might examine the impact of political parties on elections in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, or she might compare the constitutions of Argentina and Barbados.
International relations scholars examine the ways in which nations interact. Whereas comparative politics compare the internal workings of a state, international relations focuses on how states relate to one another, such as why and how states trade, cooperate, and fight.
Political economy is the study of how economics and politics affect each other. Political scientists in this subfield might look at the impact of economic power on international relations or how different economies develop within similar political systems.
Some political scientists study the tradition of political philosophies from Plato to the present. This subfield tries to answer questions and develop theories about such abstract issues as ethics, authority, the nature of liberty and freedom, the meaning of civil rights and civil liberties, and how governments should function.