Fields of Study

The undergraduate political science curriculum at Duke is divided into six fields of study.

Normative Political Theory and Political Philosophy (N)

This field interprets, critiques, and constructs philosophical conceptions and arguments concerning morally appropriate and prudent standards and purposes for political actors and regimes. Topics include historically influential theories, the genealogy of political ideas, democratic theory, and contemporary theories of legitimacy, identity, ethics, the good society, and social justice.

See our courses in Normative Political Theory and Political Philosophy

Political Behavior and Identities (BI)

This field is concerned with the formation and acquisition of political attitudes, beliefs, and preferences by individuals and groups; and how those beliefs, attitudes, and preferences, as well as various social identities map onto political behaviors and decision-making. Specific areas of study within this field include the origin, nature, and measurement of public opinion; voting and elections; mass participation; collective action; political parties; interest groups; and disruptive political action.

See our courses in Political Behavior and Identities

Political Economy (PE)

This field examines the reciprocal relationships between politics and markets, both within and among countries, using a variety of analytical tools, including those of economics. Its concerns include interactions among economic and political development; cooperation and conflict among nations, groups, and individuals; the distribution of material resources and political power; the effects of political actors and institutions on economic outcomes; the causes and consequences of technological and structural change, growth, and globalization; and regulation.

See our courses in Political Economy

Political Institutions (PI)

This field studies the formal and informal rules, practices, and regularities at both the domestic and international level that guide and constrain political choices and activities. It is concerned with the emergence, dynamics, and consequences of institutions in both authoritarian and non-authoritarian regimes. This focus includes constitutional design and how the organization of legislatures, parties, judiciaries, markets and other social structures shape relationships between individuals and states and, in turn, the factors shaping the emergence and evolution of those institutions.

See our courses in Political Institutions

Political Methodology (M)

This field focuses on scholarship directed at providing appropriate methodologies for investigating theoretically motivated political questions. Departmental activities in methods are organized around deductive/analytical, empirical/inductive, and computational approaches to modeling political phenomena.

See our courses in Political Methodology

Security, Peace, and Conflict (SPC)

This field is dedicated to the study of political violence – armed conflict both within and across state borders – and to the study of politics in the shadow of violence. We seek to understand the causes of armed conflict and violence, the conduct and consequences of the use of violence and coercion by state and non-state actors, and the conditions under which the peace and security of states, societies, groups and individuals can be protected. Toward these ends, we examine the policies and strategies used by states and other political agents – both domestic and international – to control, manage, contain or prevent the use of political violence.

See our courses in Security, Peace, and Conflict