The American Politics and Public Policy subfield includes study of basic political and governmental institutions, major political processes, and important patterns of political behavior. Subfield specialists become familiar with each of these three broad areas, learning how the political system operates, why public policy emphasizes particular values and allocates certain resources to different groups and individuals, and who benefits and who loses in policy outcomes in policy areas such as housing, the environment, and the economy. The federal structure of American government and the diversity of the American population also require familiarity with state politics, urban and suburban politics, law and politics, African-American politics, and women and politics.
Comparative politics has two intertwined meanings at Clark:
- It means immersion in the study of politics in two or more countries other than the U.S., and
- It means deliberately comparing important factors, such as elites or policy-making processes in two or more countries.
Subfield specialists are given the chance to delve into politics experienced by elites and ordinary people inside other countries. While the U.S. is intentionally kept off center stage in comparative politics courses, most of them raise specific questions about American politics—its policies, experiences, and assumptions—as they are seen from the vantage point of people in other countries. The study of comparative politics alerts the specialist to the varieties but also the surprising similarities in how power is gained, and how it is justified and wielded in different countries.
Political Science majors who specialize in international relations address global politics at two intersecting levels:
- formal state-to-state behavior in terms of diplomacy, war and peace, intervention, law, and organization; and
- translation of global interactions in terms of trade, development, social movements, refugees, human rights, ecology, and media.
Subfield specialists engage in rigorous theoretical investigations of competing analytic traditions as they attempt to explain ongoing problems of world order. Some of these problems are local, such as boundary disputes; some are regional, such as regional economic integration; and some are global, such as poverty, the greenhouse effect, or militarization. Similarly, the actors in world politics are diverse: national governments, sub-national governments, international organizations, private interest groups, social classes, and religious movements.