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Politics and Government

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The undergraduate major in politics and government is the study of policy, government, and law. Its object is understanding of the processes by which power, authority, influence, control, freedom, wealth, and other political resources are competitively pursued, captured, and distributed; the conversion of these political resources into public policies; the institutionalization of these policies into government; and the authoritative statement, administration, and enforcement of policies by government as law. The balance struck by any political system, between the distribution of sacrifices or costs it exacts and its distribution of benefits, affords a basis for evaluating the legitimacy or justice of its policies.

Politics is the competitive pursuit of scarce social values in the public, as opposed to the private, sector. Government emphasizes the common interests of a citizenry and the means for solving collective problems through formal decision-making institutions.

From ancient Athens to the present, politics and government has been taught to kings and princes to enable them to rule others. It has been taught to free citizens to enable them to govern themselves. It is, therefore, one of the oldest keys to understanding the alternatives of human subjugation or freedom and, as such, is essential to truly liberal (liberating) education.

Political scientists ask not only 'what is' but also 'what ought to be.'  Combining considerations of fact and values, the study of politics and government is thus valuable as a training in citizenship, indispensable as a training for government. It also prepares for careers in teaching, politics, journalism, law, and in the representation of public or private interest at all levels of policy making.

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Katharine Owens, assistant professor of politics and government in the College of Arts and Sciences, talks about sustainability efforts on campus.