UPCES Political Science Courses

Here you'll find the full list of UPCES courses related to Political Science. Please note that course offerings are subject to change or cancelation based on faculty availability and student enrollment. All course subjects must be approved by your home institution for departmental credit.

Each course includes a detailed description, any cross-listed subjects, and a downloadable syllabus.

Central Europe and its Transitions: The Czech Lands


This course aims to introduce students to the historical, as well as the contemporary, issues of Czech Society and Culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. Based on several ethnographic case studies, among other literary, academic and visual sources, we will make connections between memory and history, narrative and experiences, change and continuity, and past and present. By the end of the course students will be able to: recognize and analyze the most important events, symbols, and personalities of Czech history, demonstrate how myths, symbols and traditions make the identification of people as members of the Czech nation, describe the characteristics of life under the Socialist system in former Czechoslovakia, and explain how this system has been transformed into its present-day form in relation to the process of Europeanization and Globalization and what kind of anthropological research these changes have stimulated  (traditions, situation of minorities,consuming habits, food, family structure, the media, gender roles…).

Czech Culture and Society: Literary Perspective


The objective of this course is to help students understand Czech culture and society from 1918 to the present. Students will learn about history and culture of this era from the perspective of life and work od Václav Havel (1936-2011), Czechoslavak and Czech president (1989-2003), the most important and influential personality of modern Czech history and culture. Using my extensive experience as an editor of Václav Havel´s Collected Writings and also my personal contacts with him and with many important Czech writers and artists of modern era, I have prepared a series of thirteen lectures on twentieth-century Czech culture and society, based on Václav Havel’s life and cultural and political activities, friends, family, and associates, and wide range of interests. Together these themes present modern Czech culture in its complexity, with its many links to world literature, culture, and politics. They provide a deeper and broader understanding of modern Czech culture and society in the historical and cultural perspective. In this course, lectures are combined with interactive discussions and tutored readings from essential texts. Further contact with the subject matter will be provided through excursions to places of direct relevance for our topic and through historical documents (musical recordings, photos, films). A further aim of the course is to bring students into personal contact with important figures of Czech public life (writers, critics, politicians, artists, translators) whom I have known and worked with for decades.

Economic History of Central and Eastern Europe
3 credits]


Our economic lives are constantly changing: Technological change, economic and political crises shaped the world since the industrial revolution during the last 200 years. Countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) in particular experienced several upheavals during the last 150 years: The collapse of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, weak political and economic institutions after World War I, ethnic cleansing after World War II, a centralized planning economy and the transition towards a market economy after 1990 are partially still visible in socio-economic figures today. A long-term perspective on the evolution of economic figures can also help to understand changes and obstacles today. The course bases on a broader understanding of economic development. Despite classical economic measures like GDP, inflation or population growth, we will also discuss so-called soft economic variables such as norms, culture, trust and social capital.

Environmental Economics in the Central European Context


The aim of this course is to introduce students to some basic economic principles and theories explaining environmental issues and problems today and to explore existing policies at the national, international, and global level. Students will learn about concepts such as externalities, the tragedy of the commons, enforcement as a public good, interventionist solutions to the externality problem such as taxes and marketable pollution permits, as well as non-interventionist solutions to the externality problem such as the Coasian solution and self-regulation. Students will also review the debate over the environmental Kuznets curve. Because experimental evidence nicely complements theoretic insights, field data, and simulating models, we will conduct in-class experiments and also review some research articles that draw on the experimental methodology.

European-American Relations in the 21st Century


This course explores the history and the current state of political, economic and cultural relations between the United States and Europe. Ever since the end of World War II, the cooperative relationship between these two parts of the world, often described as "the West“, has been a bedrock of international stability, security and prosperity. After the end of the Cold War, this relationship has undergone changes, along with the whole system of international relations. Recently, on both sides of the Atlantic, the talk has been about a crisis of the Euro-American relationship. We will examine the validity of these claims, the causes of the current problems and possible ways of overcoming them. Throughout, we will emphasize the overwhelming nature of common values and interests on both sides of the ocean as well as the risks stemming from a potential rift for both Europe and America. We will examine the compatibility of current European and U.S. policies with respect to third countries or regions, such as Russia, China and the Middle East. We will also analyze the specific role played in this relationship by countries of Central and Eastern Europe as relative newcomers to democracy, to the Atlantic Alliance and to European Union.

Meet the Europeans: Politics and Society in The European Union


Who are the Europeans and how did they create the European Union, a unique partnership of 27 states and an ever more important international actor? This course covers the main political, social and economic developments in Europe since the middle of the 20th century until the present day. We will study promises and achievements of European integration, including peace, democracy, economic prosperity and protection of human rights. Gender, migration and environment will be important cross-cutting themes. Our journey will start in 1945, when the post-WW2 destruction recasted debates about independence and interdependence of states and people. We will discuss how East and West Europeans, separated until 1989 by an almost impermeable Iron Curtain, created supranational institutions, of which those that emerged in the West proved more viable. The 1989 opened a new chapter in European politics. Demise of authoritarian structures in the East paved way towards deeper integration with the West and brought fascinating debates about catching up, belonging (identity) and possible futures. Our journey will take us through post-socialist transformations all the way to the themes shaping the most recent decade, including presence of women in public life, environmental degradation and new questions opened by refugee crises.  The course covers current events in European politics and EU’s role in the world and offers analytical lenses for thinking about them in historical perspective. Current affairs sections pay particular attention to gender, migration, climate change, as well as changing patterns of work and economic inequalities. Course reader consists of interdisciplinary literature in European Studies, including IR, Political Theory, Economics, History and Anthropology. After taking the course students should have an advanced understanding of key ideas and interests shaping European integration and the many ways in which Europeans and their neighbors negotiate their belonging and identity.  Classes are interactive, students are expected to be familiar with required reading and encouraged to critically engaged with the studied material.

Human Rights in Central and Eastern Europe

The course aims to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of the international human rights framework in Central and Eastern Europe where human rights system mirrors historical developments of the countries within the globalizing world. The course invites students from all disciplines to explore and make sense of current human rights issues, cases and problems in the region, contextualized in the broader challenges of human rights at the beginning of 21st century. We will discuss how current political crises (refugees and migration, housing issues, digital rights, LGBTQ* rights and alike) shape the debate about human rights in the CEE region and beyond. Rather than offering simple answers, the aim of the course is to allow for critical thinking and discussions. This course offers an immersion into the human rights system not only through theacademic prism but also through active engagement with human rights practitioners and activists. Discussions with civil society professionals and academics, as well as site visits, excursions, and film screenings, will be vital components of the courseIdeas behind Politics: Communism, Post-Communism, and Civil Society in Central Europe

Ideas Behind Politics: Communism, Post-communism and Civil Society in Central Europe



The post-communist countries of Central Europe - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - are struggling hard to overcome the legacy of the totalitarian regime and to establish liberal democracy and free market economy. The objective of this course is to help students better understand the history of Central Europe and the ideal resources that might enable it to succeed in the transformation from communism. The students will learn recent Czech and Central European political history and get familiar with the various ways in which the predicament of these countries was reflected upon in the thought of the most prominent political theorists from the region concentrating, in particular, on the idea of civil society. We will search in the Central Europe of the 20th century and in its unique historical experience for events and figures that shaped and articulated an understanding of politics that might be viewed as the specifically Czech and Central European contribution to political problems faced by mankind in general. An indispensable touch of reality will be added through excursions to places of relevance for our topics and through historical documents (musical recordings, films).

In Love with Power: Non-Democratic Regimes in Central and Eastern Europe After 1945


This course introduces traditional and modern theoretical views on non-democratic regimes in Central and Eastern Europe in the second half of the 20th century, as well as the historical and political experience of this part of Europe from the year 1945 until the present. Following the end of World War II and the drawing of the “iron curtain” across Europe, there started a period of Soviet Union domination in Central and Eastern Europe through the decades-long rule of communist regimes in this part of the world. Political scientists most often define these kinds of regimes as “totalitarian," however, the reality is more complex, with many variations and “specific paths” (Yugoslavia, Romania). The totalitarian “core” of most communist regimes during the whole period of Soviet dominance, including former Czechoslovakia, is questioned by some authors. However, the year 1989 (“annus mirabilis”), which marked the downfall of the Soviet Union and communistic regimes across Central and Eastern Europe, was not the end of non-democratic rule in the whole region. In those unstable times, when hopes were high and democracy was not established, new leaders came to power and created very specific non-democratic regimes; Meciar's short rule in Slovakia, autocratic regimes that played the main role in the Balkan wars in the 90's (Miloševic in Serbia, Tudjman in Croatia), Kuchma's rule in Ukraine, and Belarus under Lukashenka, one of the last and still surviving non-democracies in Europe. The theory of non-democratic regimes and its tools, combined with knowledge of modern history and the current realities of concrete countries, will help us to analyze and characterize these repressive and bizarre regimes, a rarity in today’s Europe.

Political Leadership in Central Europe


Being a good leader is a challenge under any conditions, but the qualities of great leaders are most visible under difficult circumstance. Central Europe has been through very demanding times in the 20th century and this course will examine role of its leaders in implementing (or failures to implement) crucial and often life-preserving policies. We will grasp responsibilities of a political figure, his or her role toward the governed, as well as assignments of guilt for failure to protect those who need to be protected. We will look at lives and deeds of several important political figures from Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. In doing so we will confront their autobiographical records with facts, learn quite a bit about the history of the region and understand important theories and distinctions in a general theory of leadership. In the end, students will achieve a complex picture on what distinguishing quality leadership, on theoretical preconditions to lead, as well as better appreciation of the region in which they study.

The Totalitarian Experience


For a contemporary young Czech, let alone a young American, it is exceedingly hard to comprehend what life was like under the communist rule in the Soviet-dominated part of Europe. It is not only that they miss the direct experience of the place and times. Their parents' experience cannot be of much help either because it differed so radically from that of their contemporaries on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain. History books cannot fully convey the totalitarian experience which was unlike anything people in the West encountered in their everyday lives. What made the totalitarian system unique was its holistic nature. It was not a world that was in some respects different from the normal world; it was a world that was different in practically every respect. And yet it was a world in which people managed to have lives, families, friendships and loves like in any other world. Thanks to the ordinary people it was a world that kept refusing to become what it was intended to be. In its later incarnations it was called the world of “real socialism” and there was really something real in its dreary ugliness. At the same time it was a world of total fiction, absurdity and make believe. The proposed course is designed to reflect this contrast. While it was being conceived, the topic has acquired more than just a historical relevance. The Russian aggression in Ukraine has revealed the long-hidden totalitarian tendencies in Russian politics and society. Without accounting for them, it is impossible to explain either the seemingly universal support for the aggressive war or the astonishing indifference to human suffering, wholesale destruction and, worst of all, disregard for the value of human life. By the same token, however, past experience would suggest that underneath the totalitarian monolith there continue to exist seeds of humanity, resistance and aspirations for freedom and dignity. We shall attempt to apply the lessons of the totalitarian experience, both in its most brutal form and in the period of “real” socialism, to hypothesize about the limits, the durability and the eventual vulnerability of the Putin regime or for that matter, any other regime of this kind.

Understanding Human Mobility: Flights, Adventures, Journeys (previously Migration in the 20th and 21st Century: Expulsions, Flights, Adventures, Journeys)


This course invites students to think about mobility as a fundamental human experience. Mobility can be a thrilling adventure and a rewarding learning journey, it can also be a tormenting ordeal. We will study the complex interplay of individual motivations and social/environmental factors that shape various types of movement. Course material takes us through essential keywords in contemporary debates in the field, including borders, passports, freedom, security and citizenship. Central Europe, a region that has lived through many forced displacements and joyful celebrations of free travel, is a particularly stimulating place and case for immersion into the theme. Our discussions will address current issues and analyze them in the context of region’s recent history. The course is designed as a conversation, sessions are interactive and consist of lectures, group work and individual writing assignments.