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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Overview

As one of the liberal arts, Government - also called political science - teaches students how to think and communicate about politics. A Government major can dissect and evaluate actual or proposed courses of political action by analyzing the evidence for and against them, setting them in historical and comparative perspective, and relating them to ends that are prized or feared.

Government majors learn the philosophical and practical underpinnings of democracy, they study the causes and consequences of authoritarian and revolutionary political regimes, and are steeped in how constitutional orders, political party and electoral systems, government bureaucracies, judiciaries, militaries, and other institutions of governance affect political outcomes. Most simply, Government majors comprehend in a sophisticated way how the powerful and the powerless fare in the malestrom that is politics.

Concretely, a Government major is an intellectual jack-of-all trades who is fitted for any career that demands thought, analysis, reading, writing, and speaking about complex organizational and public matters. He or she can write a business memo, understand and evaluate a Supreme Court decision, analyze a chain of command, comprehend the impacts of government policies on public and private domains, and see how the private and the public are entwined in all modern societies. Armed with such knowledge and skills, Government majors go on to become leaders in many arenas - the law, a host of governmental and non-governmental organizations, academia, the media, the military, political parties, and a great many social and political movements.

Most of all and more directly than in other liberal arts disciplines, Government majors grapple with issues of life and death, for these, finally, are what politics deal with. In any modern society, and between all such societies, there are many conflicting interests that are more or less irreconcilably opposed. Pursuing their interests, persons and groups try to block each other, and this blocking invites retaliation. The blocking and retaliation readily take violent forms. In the end, politics are about finding ways to manage and restrain this struggle. Those who become expert on political issues, who advise political actors, or who themselves take leading roles in the political effort to maintain civility and peace engage in the highest of human callings.
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