Courses by semester

Courses for Summer 2024

Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .

Course ID Title Offered
GOVT1616 Introduction to Political Philosophy
This course offers a survey of Western political Philosophy. We will be reading and discussing the spectrum of great canonical theorists that include Plato, Aristotle, Christ, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, J.S. Mill, Burke, Marx, Fanon, Malcolm X and M. L. King. Our approach will be both historical and conceptual, as we explore the nature of justice, freedom and equality—their presence and absence--in the Western Tradition.

Full details for GOVT 1616 - Introduction to Political Philosophy

Winter, Summer.
GOVT1817 Making Sense of World Politics
An introduction to the basic concepts and practice of international politics with an emphasis on learning critical thinking.  The course is divided into two parts. In the first half, we will learn about different explanations.  In the second half, we will apply these explanations to a set of international events.  

Full details for GOVT 1817 - Making Sense of World Politics

Fall, Summer.
GOVT3071 Enduring Global and American Issues Fall, Spring, Summer.
GOVT3141 Prisons
The United States stands alone among Western, industrialized countries with its persistent, high rates of incarceration, long sentences, and continued use of the death penalty. This "American exceptionalism" -- the turn to mass incarceration -- has been fostered by the use of sharply-delineated categories that define vast numbers of people as outlaws and others as law-abiding. These categories that are based on ideas of personal responsibility and assumptions about race are modified somewhat by a liberal commitment to human rights.   Our purpose in this course is to understand how such ideas have taken root and to locate the consequences of these ideas for policy and practice. 

Full details for GOVT 3141 - Prisons

Winter, Summer.
GOVT3150 The American Legal System
This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the American legal system, its roots in natural and common law, the purposes/values it serves (e.g., resolution of private grievances; punishment of offenses against the polity and individuals; preservation, development, and limitation of individual and group rights; and facilitation of commerce and private agreements), and the roles of the judiciary, legislature, and private parties. The course is taught using the Socratic method employed at most US law schools and introduces students to fundamental concepts and techniques used by attorneys and courts in analyzing cases, interpreting statutes, and determining disputes. As in law school, students are expected to read assigned materials before each class meeting and to participate actively in class discussions. For additional information, see the Summer Session website.  

Full details for GOVT 3150 - The American Legal System

GOVT3313 Middle East Politics
What explains authoritarian resilience in the Middle East? What are the causes and consequences of Islamist political attitudes and behavior? What is the historical legacy of colonialism and empire in the Middle East? This course will offer students the opportunity to discuss these and other questions related to the political, social, and economic development of the Middle East and North Africa.

Full details for GOVT 3313 - Middle East Politics

Fall, Winter, Summer.
GOVT3686 What Makes Us Human? An Existential Journey Amidst Crises
"What's true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves," wrote Albert Camus in The Plague. It is not just the current pandemic: climate change, warlike politics, polarization, tribalism, raging anxieties, AI advancement – these are just some of the many existential troubles and challenges we all, and our very "human nature," now face. This is our time to realize our humanity: find out what sets us apart as humans, and live up to it. This course invites you to an existential odyssey into the human condition and politics. Are we truly different from animals and machines? What does it mean to "be yourself"? What's the difference between freedom and liberty? Should we pursue happiness? Why do we yield to fear and anxiety? Is the search for meaning meaningless? Do we live in a post-truth era? What are the roles of morality in our society and politics? Why is God dead, but religion alive? Can we defeat alienation? Is love all we need? How much can, and should, we hope for? In this course, utilizing the award-winning edX HOPE (Human Odyssey to Political Existentialism; see, we will address these questions, and then some more. We shall examine a dozen themes, entwining each with critical reflections, both personal and political, amidst the current crisis: Human/nature, identity & authenticity, freedom, reflection, happiness, death & dread, meaning, morality, truth & trust, God & religion, alienation & love, and finally – hope.

Full details for GOVT 3686 - What Makes Us Human? An Existential Journey Amidst Crises

Winter, Summer.
GOVT3796 Freedom
What does it mean to be free? What does freedom require? How do capitalism and neoliberalism shape the way we think about freedom, and the possibilities for freedom?  These are some of the questions we will consider together over the course of this class. We will begin with early modern and influential accounts of government by consent and the relationship between the individual and the state (Hobbes, Locke); we will then reflect upon the origins of inequality and the possibility of self-rule in modern society (Rousseau) and consider whether and how capitalism and neoliberalism threaten or support freedom (Marx, Brown, Tolentino). In the final week of the course, we turn to the American case, and examine the competing visions of freedom that inform the American imaginary. We will study thinkers who attend to the legacies of slavery and to the contradictions at the heart of the American project and interrogate the role of prophetic language and the idea of redemption in American political thought and practice (MLK, Morrison, Baldwin).

Full details for GOVT 3796 - Freedom

GOVT3887 International Human Rights in Theory and Practice
This course will introduce students to the law, theory, and practice of international human rights. Students will think critically about the effectiveness of the international human rights system by examining its successes, failures, and dilemmas in preventing and responding to human rights abuse. Topics covered will include the origins and foundations of international human rights; the role of international, regional, and domestic institutions and actors in enforcing human rights; critiques of the human rights movement; and the relationship of the United States to the international system for the protection of human rights. The course will also explore issues such as the death penalty, women's human rights, migration, climate change, global poverty, racism and xenophobia, and responses to mass atrocities. During in-class activities, students will have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a human rights advocate and work with their classmates to address simulated human rights problems.

Full details for GOVT 3887 - International Human Rights in Theory and Practice