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May 10, 1999

UCSC launches new doctorate program in politics

By Jennifer McNulty

In the midst of rapid global change, the study of politics in the 21st century will be a dramatically different endeavor than it was when the field was born 100 years ago. To meet the challenges of a new era, UCSC is launching a new doctoral program in politics that is unlike any existing graduate program in the United States.

The new program is based on an integrative and interdisciplinary approach that will emphasize three areas: political and social thought; social forces and political change; and states, political institutions, and global political economy. Graduates will be prepared for careers in academia, government service, nongovernmental organizations, and social activism, said Michael Urban, professor of politics at UCSC and chair of the Politics Department.

"Our approach is broader and, we think, deeper than traditional political science departments," said Urban. "We call ourselves a politics department, as opposed to political science, in order to draw attention to the fact that we don't endorse those conventions of our discipline that give short shrift to the study of politics in its many dimensions for the sake of employing some allegedly 'scientific method.'"

Likewise, the organizational structure of the program avoids the traditional divisions that reduce the study of politics into separate, weakly related subfields, like American politics, theory, international politics, and comparative politics. "This method of slicing up the discipline has always been problematic, and it has become increasingly so today," said Urban. "The world has changed enormously during the last century, and the study of politics requires a new conceptual basis."

The doctoral program will involve faculty from several other departments on campus, including sociology, economics, Latin American and Latino studies, community studies, women's studies, history of consciousness, and philosophy. "The best work being done in political science these days is interdisciplinary," said Urban. "The big questions today overlap the fields of politics and other disciplines, and we have faculty from all over campus who will be working with us."

On the eve of a new century, the department's approach is particularly timely, noted Urban.

"Events that occur in one part of the world have quicker and deeper and stronger impacts on the rest of the world than ever before," he said. "And although the world still exists in the form of nation states, other forms of organization are competing with them." Urban cited as examples the organizations active in the Kosovo crisis, including NATO, the Kosovo Liberation Army, and the United Nations.

"It doesn't make sense to study what's happening today through lenses that were created at the beginning of the century," said Urban.

Recruitment of students is getting under way, with the first class expected to enroll in fall 2000. The department hopes to attract about eight doctoral students per year until it reaches a maximum enrollment of about 40 students.

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