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POL S 544 A: Problems in Comparative Government

Meeting Time: 
Th 1:30pm - 4:20pm
SMI 109
Prof. Anthony Gill
Anthony Gill

Syllabus Description:

A draft copy of the syllabus is available (as of August 22, 2022).  

Anarchy?! Why would students in a political science department that focuses on government want to study “not government?” By golly, that’s a good question. The answer may be that human beings have more ways of coordinating their behavior than relying upon organizational entities that write legal codes and enforce those rules with coercive violence or the threat thereof. As such, understanding how people engage in governance without government may help us understand the origins, scope, and limits of “the state.” And while “anarchy” (i.e., governance sans government) may be seen as an alternative substitute to “the state,” it may also be the case that anarchic governance of communities coexists with states. And if you are a scholar who is interested in how governments work (or don’t), why various public policies seem to go astray, or why social conflict may erupt (or not), it would be wise to keep an eye on how subjects of a government actually govern their daily lives – it may not be because of government!


This class will explore several topics and questions related to anarchy, anarchism, and self-governance, including:

  • What is governance versus government?
  • Under what conditions is anarchy (self-governance) possible?
  • Can (and does) anarchic self-governance exist side-by-side government? If so, how does that impact our understanding of what government can or cannot do effectively?
  • What cultural conditions are necessary to make self-governance effective?


We will examine these questions through both a theoretical lens and with empirical case studies, along with throwing in some self-reflection on how we run our own lives as individuals and within groups. Finally, it should be admitted that this course is pulled together because it is currently a topic interest of the professor. My longstanding interest in religion, along with a newfound interest in the political economy of culture, has led me to this point of inquiry because it seems interesting and fun. And shouldn’t that be what scholarship is about?


Calvin Anarchism.JPG

Catalog Description: 
Selected problems in the comparative analysis of political institutions, organizations, and systems.
Last updated: 
May 4, 2022 - 10:04pm