Chad Levinson

Political Scientist

Philosophy

I believe that our responsibility as teachers in higher education goes far beyond the transmission of facts.  Rather, we are called upon to help our students answer one fundamental question: what do you think?  We must give them the tools to answer this question critically, not simply train them to express opinion elegantly but to interrogate the very beliefs upon which their thinking is based.  I further believe that the best research serves as a model for learning, and we combine these two vocations in order to provide our students and colleagues with leadership by example.

Courses

Power and Policy in the US
Graduate Seminar

The study of politics is the study of power.  Understanding the consequences of policy and the means by which it comes into being requires a clear conceptualization of power itself.  Is power absolute or relative?  Is it atomistic or relational?  What are the sources of power?  What are its limitations?  How does the distribution of power explain policy, and how does policy affect the distribution of power?  The answers to these, and many other, relevant questions depend on the analytic choices we make describing the concept of power.  This course is intended to provide a framework for understanding the implications of those choices in the context of US politics.

Interest Groups and US Foreign Policy
Undergraduate seminar

This course explores the role of interest groups in US foreign policy, with an emphasis on national security.  The conventional wisdom says that special interests use campaign donations to buy policy decisions from elected and appointed officials (think “no blood for oil”), but the political science research shows that the story is not nearly so simple.  The course has three sections.  The first is an introduction to interest groups more generally.  We ask what is at stake, how we define interest groups, and what kinds of access do they have to policy-makers.  In the second, we look at theories of interest group influence in foreign policy.  What is different about foreign policy that affects how interest groups operate?  How much does money matter, and in what specific ways?  What other sources of influence do they have?  Third, we look at specific types of interest groups and explore the ways in they participate in the politics of foreign policy, domestically and also abroad on behalf of the US.  These include diaspora groups, business and labor interests, the military-(academic)-industrial-complex, pressure groups, and others.

International Security
Undergraduate lecture

This course explores the politics of international security.  States, sub-state actors, trans-national networks, and supra-state organizations all employ violence or the threat of violence to pursue political objectives.  The course is divided into three parts.  First, we begin with foundational theories of war, seeking to understand its causes, varieties, and implications.  Why do political leaders choose war?  How does the threat of war affect international politics?  What are the sources of power?  Second, we look at how states and non-state actors organize themselves to produce, control, and deploy the military power at their disposal.  How are soldiers trained, equipped, and commanded?  How do different types of governing institutions affect the likelihood and conduct of war-fighting?  What non-violent tools enhance the effectiveness of the military?  Third, we examine specific threats to international peace, from nuclear weapons to civil war to climate change.

Introduction to International Relations
Undergraduate lecture, with James McAllister

This course provides an overview of the central theoretical concepts and debates in the field of international relations. The first part of the course focuses on questions that have preoccupied scholars since the time of Thucydides: What are the implications of anarchy for order and justice in world politics? What are the conditions of peace and stability in world politics? What is the national interest? Is military power all that matters in determining politics among nations? Should statesmen follow the policy prescriptions of Realism or Liberalism? What role should moral considerations play in the conduct of international relations?  The second part of this course examines the historical development of great power politics. We will examine topics such as the origins of the First and Second World Wars, the Cold War, and the nuclear revolution. The third part of the course examines whether traditional conceptions of international relations continue to be relevant in the contemporary world.

The U.S. Presidency
Undergraduate seminar

This reading and discussion based course provides an understanding of the modern U.S. Presidency from an institutional perspective.  We cover the founding sources and scope of presidential power, the growth of the executive, interaction with rival political institutions, the president’s relationship with the public, and the special importance of war in understanding the presidency.

Perspectives on International Relations
Graduate lecture

This series of lectures introduces the craft of academic research to the cohort of Committee on International Relations masters students.  The material provides students with the conceptual and methodological tools to identify a research question, formulate a validation strategy, and complete a rigorous piece of original scholarship.