Research

Just as the Canadian political community is a varied mosaic of different cultures and ideas, the study of politics encompasses many perspectives and topics.

Each of these distinct fields is well represented at Brock, with several professors each specializing in a particular kind of political study. We invite you to investigate these different areas of political science, and see what aspect of politics most interests you.

Areas of study

Political scientists who specialize in Canadian Politics study the people, ideas, institutions, laws and policies that have shaped this country.  

Canadian Politics affects our everyday lives, and while a background in Canadian Politics naturally leads to careers in government, law, education, journalism, political parties, non-governmental organizations, business and the non-profit sector, there are other important reasons why all Canadians should learn about the government and politics of their country.

Canada has faced dramatic events and difficult challenges to its sovereignty and unity, to emerge as one of the world’s most prosperous, peaceful and democratic states a place where millions of people around the world want to live. Yet there are enormous challenges that threaten this coveted status, including growing economic inequality, environmental degradation, cultural and racial conflict, and public apathy. Familiarity with our history and political system are essential to help understand these issues, and to recommend and assess possible responses.

Brock’s Canadian Politics curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including the constitution and rights protection, elections and political parties, the parliamentary system, federalism, courts and the justice system, public involvement in political affairs, Indigenous issues, immigration and diversity policy, the representation of women in politics, and the impact of the digital media on news reporting and political participation. We look forward to discussing these issues with you in our lectures and seminars.

The core undergraduate course in this area is The Government and Politics of Canada (POLI2F12), a survey course that introduces the topics listed above, and is a prerequisite or strongly recommended for 3rd and 4th year Canadian politics classes. From there, students can take more specialized upper-year courses.

Students contemplating a career in government are strongly encouraged to enrol in courses dealing with federalism, provincial and local politics. For those considering a career in law or the justice system, we have certificates and an Honours concentration in Public Law, as well as collaborative programs in Policing and Criminal Justice with Niagara College and in Paralegal with Seneca College. As with other areas of Political Science, there are co-op, internship and service learning opportunities, such as with law firms, government offices, and Indigenous, environmental and anti-poverty organizations.

Canadian Politics Faculty:
Nicole Goodman
Matthew Hennigar
Livianna Tossutti

Other faculty who may offer courses on Canadian Politics include: Hevina Dashwood, Juris Dreifelds, Tim Heinmiller, and David Siegel.

Political scientists who specialize in comparative politics usually study aspects of political life in countries other than Canada, or they draw comparisons between Canada and other parts of the world.

There are several different reasons for studying politics in other places. The main scholarly reason for studying politics comparatively is that it can help us to identify patterns: economic development and democracy seem often to go together; or countries with ethnic cleavages often experience political instability. By comparing Canada with other countries, we may develop a better understanding of the options available to Canadians. By improving our knowledge of other countries, we may also become better qualified for careers that take us abroad. Some people start with personal experience or a family tie with a particular country that motivates them to study its political life. Many of us also find politics in other countries intrinsically interesting, just because they are different – there is the appeal of the exotic.

Students who take courses in comparative politics become more knowledgeable about the world around us, which can be an advantage in many careers. An extensive background in comparative politics is particularly useful for careers in foreign affairs, international organizations or agencies, international NGOs, and companies that do business in more than one country.

The core undergraduate course in comparative politics is POLI 2F30, Dictatorship to Democracy: Politics in the Contemporary World. It introduces students to the politics of several developed democracies, several former communist systems, and a number of developing countries, and to some of the main concepts, theories, and issues in the field. POLI 2F30 is strongly recommended as a prerequisite for 3rd and 4th year comparative politics courses.

Some of our comparative courses deal with specific states, such as China, Russia or the United States. Others deal with groups of countries, such as the advanced democratic states, the member states of the European Union, developing nations, and the Arab states. Finally, some courses focus on particular topics or issues, such as nationalism, human rights, political economy, media, judicial systems, political change, or political elites.

Comparative Politics Faculty

There are four faculty members whose research interests are primarily in comparative politics. Charles Burton studies issues of economic and social justice and human rights, primarily in the politics of China and other North Asian countries. Juris Dreifelds studies the politics of the Baltic republics, and environmental policies in Russia and Canada. Paul Hamilton’s main research interests are nationalism, identity, and environmentalism in North America and Western Europe.

Several additional faculty members whose primary areas of research are in Canadian or international politics, also sometimes do comparative research. They include Charles Conteh (economic development and governance in developing countries), Hevina Dashwood (politics in Africa), Tim Heinmiller (environmental governance in developed countries), Matt Hennigar (comparative law and judicial systems), Pierre Lizee (politics in Southeast Asia), and Livianna Tossutti (public opinion in Canada, the US, and other advanced democratic systems).

Political theory is the study of ideas as they relate to politics. Political theorists look at ideas in their origin and historical development and they inquire into questions pertaining to such matters as power, justice, nature, property and conflict.  Political theory provides an analytic foundation for all subfields of political science, equips students with the tools to critically assess political norms and values, and solicits students to imagine new possibilities for political institutions and ideas.

The origin of political theory in the Western tradition lies in ancient Greece.  Homer’s epic tales, the great tragedies and comedies of Athens, and the trial and death of Socrates set the context for the questions that preoccupy political theorists. Why are we concerned with justice, and is justice ‘natural’ to us, or is it something that we create?  Can justice triumph over power? In what ways can reason aid us, or deter us, from achieving justice? Are we capable of self-improvement? Is there progress in history?  What is the significance of the term ‘human’ and how has it been shaped by its relations to the divine and the animal? Considering these questions through the tradition of political thought can aid us in the contemporary world sort out important matters that confront us now. especially as we consider the West’s encounters with other political traditions (Aboriginal, Eastern, African, Middle Eastern, South Asian) in the postcolonial context.  Are there limits to what human beings ought to do with biotechnology?  Should workers have the right to democratic control in the workplace? Do we owe respect to the ‘natural’ world, including animals and the habitat?  Do we have obligations to our fellow citizens that conflict with our obligations to humanity as a whole? Is equality between the sexes a universal good for all cultures?  Are there conflicting entitlements to property? Is national sovereignty under scrutiny in a globalized world? These are just some of the pressing questions that require the kind of reflection that political theory can provide.

Political theory is primarily concerned with cultivating students’ capacities for reflection and agency, especially those needed to negotiate the novel demands of 21st century global citizenship.  Students of political theory develop their abilities to reason critically and write coherently, and they find that these skills help them in any career that they pursue.  Former graduates with specialization in political theory at Brock are university professors, senior policy advisors at both federal and provincial levels of government, foreign service officers and executives in financial institutions.

All political science undergraduate students are required to take at least six credits in political theory, three of which must be at the second year level.  Second year courses are offered in ancient political theory, modern political theory and liberal democratic theory.  Third year courses are offered on themes such as citizenship, law and politics, and gender and politics. Fourth year seminars are typically capped at under twenty students and offer students the opportunity to investigate a particular theme, or thinker, in depth.

There are three faculty members with a primary research interest in political theory. Leah Bradshaw began her career with a focus on the work of Hannah Arendt, and more recently has developed comparative accounts of tyranny, empire, oligarchy and citizenship in the Western tradition. Stefan Dolgert has a specialization in ancient political thought, with specific attention to issues of sacrifice and justice. He has interests in environmental and animal justice. Ingrid Makus has worked on the treatment of women and children by modern Western political thinkers, and recently has focused on the political significance of Simone de Beauvoir.

International Relations is the study of the interactions across borders in a globalized world.

Our everyday lives are increasingly affected by economic, social and political events occurring outside of the borders of our country, such as the rise of China, the possible decline of the United States, rising global inequality, climate change and global economic crises. What’s more, International Relations is about more than just states: Non-state actors, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multinational corporations and even terrorist organizations, are increasingly making themselves felt on questions of war and peace, economic prosperity and social cohesion.

At Brock we focus on questions dealing with international security, international political economy and global governance. The security of states has long been a major focus of IR because there is no world government to provide collective safety and welfare.

International political economy is concerned with the impact of interdependence and globalization on global trade, finance and production. The global financial crisis is only the most recent example of the importance of the global economy to broader goals such as peace and stability.

Global governance studies the role and importance of international organizations in promoting cooperation between states. With the advent of globalization, this traditional approach has broadened to include collaboration between multiple actors such as states, NGOs and multinational corporations to solve complex global challenges such as global warming, poverty and preventing human rights abuses.

Brock students of IR have gone on to careers in a wide range of fields. Some have pursued careers in government, including foreign affairs and defence, Canada’s security agencies, and ministries with international responsibilities, such as agriculture, the environment, natural resources and transport. Other traditional professions open to IR students include law, teaching and business.  Internationally, our students have also found internship opportunities with international organizations such as the United Nations, and volunteer opportunities with international non-governmental organizations.

International Relations Faculty:
Hevina S. Dashwood
Blayne Haggart
Pierre Lizée

Public Policy & Administration is the study of how government works and how government can work better. It is the most ‘applied’ of all the sub-disciplines of Political Science and is very useful for students planning a career in politics or public service. Students of Public Policy & Administration at Brock study various aspects of government operations, from how governments make policy decisions to how policies are implemented. Some of the most prominent topics studied in public administration include: the style and structure of policy-making, the organizational design of government, the values and ethics of public service, the dynamics of policy implementation, and the preservation of democratic accountability, amongst others. Public Policy & Administration encompasses all three levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal) and it addresses the most important contemporary issues in economic, social and environmental policy.

Students who study Public Policy & Administration go on to a wide range of careers. Most commonly, Public Policy & Administration graduates gain employment in the public sector as an advisor, analyst, or administrator in government. Others gain employment in fields such as law, education, consulting, or business. Brock graduates in Public Policy & Administration can be found in various occupations and in all levels of government, many of them enjoying successful and rewarding careers.

Public Policy & Administration Faculty:
Timothy Heinmiller
David Siegel
Charles Conteh