POLSC323: European Politics

Course Syllabus for "POLSC323: European Politics"

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The study of Europe, and its role in the world today, is a story of both tragedy and triumph.  From the ashes of centuries of continental conflict through two World Wars and finally into integration by invitation, the European continent has taken what some have deemed the first tentative steps away from the jealously guarded system of sovereign independent states.  With each shaky step away from its near five-hundred-year-old origins in the bosom of Kantian ideals and the Westphalia system (see works cited for Perpetual Peace by Immanuel Kant; the Westphalia system will be discussed in Unit 1), the continent finds itself in conflict with the very nature of its original intent.  Over the past half century, we have seen Europe move away from the world of nation-states and embrace the still largely undefined and constantly evolving idea of member-states. Yet, Europe and the many states within her bounds also guard their position within the realm of international society.  With states flinching away from cultural encroachment and protecting traditional (and often nationalistic) values, the European experiment has many challenges ahead of it still.  Even as the debate between "pooled sovereignty" (the idea of sharing decision-making power between nation-states) and a "common market" (the idea of eliminating or reducing trade barriers and having a common approach to  external trade within a group of nation-states) winds itself to a shaky but predicted close, the idea of Europe has taken on new meaning with fast growing minorities, the inclusion of much of the former Soviet Eastern Bloc, the aging of social capitalism, and questions of what it means to be a European and how Europe positions itself in a globalized world. This course will examine the European experiment, paying particular attention to its process of integration into the most powerful supranational entity to have ever existed: the European Union.  We will look at this process and a sampling of its key component historical and political units with a few particular questions in mind: Why has this happened in Europe and not elsewhere in the world?  Why is it happening now?  How has this process impacted the way the world does business?  What possible conclusion can we expect? The course is divided into four broadly connected yet unique sections that will help us along our journey toward understanding how Europe works.  In Unit One, we will examine how Europe emerged from the Wars of Religion and developed into the system of sovereign states that eventually, through centuries of conflict, would become the Europe we know today.  This will provide important insight into why Europe willingly united despite numerous efforts to accomplish the goal by force.  In Unit Two, we will look at the broadening and deepening of the European Union in the post-World War II environment.  As part of this unit, we will touch on the key institutions that define the EU and the key policies from which European states have willingly pooled their sovereignty.  Unit Three offers a sampling of the major states that make up the EU, or, as in the case of Russia and Turkey, help define larger European dynamics.  We will divide this section into "Old" and "New" to delineate traditional centers of European power from emerging states within modern European politics.  Finally, in Unit Four, the course will take on a sample of important contemporary issues that the EU and Europe face.  From the graying of much of Western Europe to integration issues facing minority populations, this section hopes to tackle many of the challenges that stand in the way of the next steps in European Integration.  We will end this final unit, and the course, by examining the idea of European identity and asking how Europe’s post-modern ideals may challenge to the modern world.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Summarize the emergence of modern Europe and the challenge of competing European nationalisms and nation states to European peace and prosperity.
  • Describe the emergence of the post World War II European peace project that has taken primary form in the development of the contemporary institutions of the European Union while addressing the public and foreign policy issue areas of primary concern to Europeans, including economic, development, and security issues.
  • Assess the challenges confronting traditional national state identity among the political communities of West Europe since World War II, which has gained renewed focus with the end of the Cold War and the re-emergence of the question of the relationship of Western Europe to Eastern Europe.
  • Analyze the international and national public policy challenges that continue to determine both the policy agenda within the European Union and the institutional evolution of the European Union to meet these challenges. 

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer

√    Have continuous broadband internet access

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader of Flash)

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.)

√    Be competent in the English language

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed all courses listed in “The Core Program” of the Political Science Major 

Course Information

Welcome to POLSC323: European Politics. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.
Course Designer: Dr. Benedict E. DeDominicis
Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned material. All units build on previous units, so it will be important to progress through the course in the order presented.

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the assessments at the end of each unit in this course. 

In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again. 
Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 47 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit and assignment. These time advisories should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at the time advisories before beginning this course in order to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit. Then, you can set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you approximately 11.75 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete Subunit 1.1 (a total of 1.5 hours) on Monday night, Subunit 1.2 (a total of 4.5 hours) on Tuesday night and Subunit 1.3 (a total of 4.5 hours) on Wednesday night, etc.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.