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Political Studies

Parliamentary sessionPolitics is about power: its use, abuse, function, operation, effects, and most importantly, how others have written or spoken about it. In political studies we study the role and operation of power in relations between people, within states, and between states.

There are few things in society and between societies that cannot be subjected to political analysis. Despite the breadth of the subject matter, most of the time political scientists study the politics of the state focussing on "big questions" such as:

  • Why do revolutions occur?
  • What are the best conditions for a stable democracy?
  • Why do countries go to war?
  • What are the effects of a free-trade regime on African countries?

The Department covers a wide range of research and publication interests with particular focus on the areas of South African politics and policy analysis, civil-military relations, comparative politics, political ethics, intellectual history and local government. Members of the Department have published widely, both in scholarly and research journals and in more popular publications, on aspects of the South African transition from apartheid to democracy. This continues to be a major interest, with special attention to problems of the consolidation of democracy, the role of the armed forces in democratisation and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but there is an emerging trend towards empirical research and surveys as well as policy analysis.

The Department is closely linked to the new Centre for Social Science Research with some staff members having joint appointments. Based on expertise developed in research, members of the Department have made contributions to a range of government activities especially in the areas of defense, development, education, local government, mediation, policing and voting.

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