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Learn about the GWU Off-Campus programs: Online Studies, Extension Courses and Statesmanship Seminars

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This program is closed to new applicants.

We are not currently accepting applications into the graduate program in Political Economy. We are however, continuing to service existing graduate students.  Existing students who fail to enroll in classes for two or more consecutive years must reapply once admissions is reopened. Readmitted students are subject to the graduation requirements of their program at time of readmission, which may have changed. Previously earned credit may no longer count towards graduation.

This liberal arts master's degree program immerses graduate students in the challenging questions that comprise the Great Conversation of the ages -- particularly understanding the nature of power, what it means to be human, the roots of human liberty and persistent questions surrounding moral virtue, relativism and absolutes, intuition and logic. This program spans the study of philosophy, history, government and economics. 45 Credit hours. Prerequisite: Bachelor's Degree.

Graduation Requirements


Credit Hours
Core Classes:      34 Credits
Elective Coursework:      10 Credits
Comprehensive Examination:      0 Credits
Total:      44 Credits




Part I. Complete the following courses. (35 credits)

ST5510 Principles of American Government (2 credits)

This course is an in-depth study of the principles and forms of American Government expressed in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights. The Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers and numerous other historical sources bring the American experiment in government into historical context--bringing into sharp focus the Greek, Roman, Hebrew, European and British roots of American order in its unique constitutional character.

  • Russell Kirk, Roots of American Order
    • Selections
    • Ralph Ketcham (editor), The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates
      • Madison, Hamilton & Jay, The Federalist Papers
        • Kurland and Lerner (editors), The Founders’ Constitution Vol I-V
          • Selections

        ST5520 Foundations of American Culture (2 credits)

        This course examines the origins of the distinct character of American culture, its early basis in religious liberty and unalienable rights, its dependence upon federalism for preserving regionally unique cultural identities as a vital element of its national fabric, and the trajectory that this unique cultural birth rooted in concerns over liberty and government has destined it to follow. The multitude of forces and events shaping American society since its origins will also be explored.

        ST5210 Political Economy: Classical, Marxist & Liberal (2 credits)

        This course combines basic principles of economics with the works of the great economic thinkers from 1776 though the mid-1800s. It includes micro and macroeconomics discussed in their historical context.

        • Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
          • Books 1 and 2
          • ISBN: 9780553585971
        • Karl Marx, The Portable Karl Marx
          • ISBN: 9780140150964

        ST5220 Political Economy: 20th Century (2 credits)

        This course compares the theories of the Keynesian School, Austrian School and Chicago School. Topics include: monetary and fiscal policy, banking, unemployment, inflation, and trade cycles.

        • Murray Rothbard, Man Economy and the State
          • ISBN: 9781933550275
        • John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money
          • Edition: 1948 Edition
          • ISBN: 9781891396687

        ST5310 Political Philosophy I: Classical & Medieval (2 credits)

        This course investigates the principles found in the key political writings of the early great philosophers up through the Middle Ages. These establish the foundation for the European and Scottish Enlightenments and the ideas that culminated in the U.S. Constitution. Writings include those of Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, Cicero, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

        • Plato, The Republic
          • ISBN: 9780465069347
        • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
          • ISBN: 0226026752
        • Aristotle, Politics
          • ISBN: 0226921840
        • ST5310 Reading Packet
          • Selections from Polybius, Cicero, Augustine, & Aquinas

        ST5320 Political Philosophy II: Enlightenment (2 credits)

        This course investigates the principles and ideas found in the political writings of great philosophers from the Renaissance to the mid-1800s. Special emphasis is placed on the influence and fruits of the European and Scottish Enlightenments. Writings include those of Hobbs, Locke, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Hume, Burke, Blackstone, Kant, Rousseau and Mill.

        • Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
          • ISBN: 0226500446
        • John Locke, Second Treatise on Government
          • ISBN: 0486424642
        • Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles on the Metaphysic of Morals
          • ISBN: 0521566738
        • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism & On Liberty
          • ISBN: 0486454223
        • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Basic Political Writings
          • ISBN: 0872200477
        • ST5320 Reading Packet
          • Selections from Hobbes, Montesquieu, Hume, Burke & Blackstone

        LD5510 Authentic Leadership and Effective Communication (3 credits)

        This course establishes the premise that habits of humility and sincerity are basic requirements for honest inquiry in a mature pursuit of truth and understanding. It enriches this foundation of authenticity with guidance and tools for understanding the best and worst of human nature, safeguards against corruption, plus additional verbal and non-verbal communication principles for effective persuasion as a messenger of the virtues and truths learned in a classical liberal arts education. Emphasis is also placed on considering our audiences, especially when very different from ourselves, and the habits and tools for evaluating our own blind spots, echo chambers and biases. Students examine principles of human nature and how to apply this knowledge in values-based public and media relations, exploring how to become more grounded and effective leaders for virtuous causes. In this course students ultimately learn how the virtues of the liberal arts are best applied in the real world of leadership; that genuine inquiry requires sincere a heart; and that such an intellectual pursuit must be grounded in a humble foundation, especially if one hopes to be of lasting influence for good.

        • Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio and Beyerstein, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology
          • LD1510 Reading Packet
            • Arbinger Institute, Leadership and Self-Deception
              • Stephen Covey, Principle Centered Leadership
                • Guth and Marsh, Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach
                  • Stephen Lucas, The Art of Public Speaking
                    • C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

                      ST6560 Moral Reasoning: Libertarian, Conservative & Progressive Tho (3 credits)

                      This course investigates the moral rationale and underpinnings of Libertarian, Conservative and Progressive thought through the writings of representative thought leaders and defenders. By comparing both their obvious and subtle nuances, the implications for humanity are further explored.

                      • Carey, Freedom and Virtue
                        • G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World
                          • Croly, The Promise of American Life
                            • C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
                              • C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
                                • C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock
                                  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
                                    • Ayn Rand & Nathaniel Brandon, The Virtue of Selfishness
                                      • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice
                                        • Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

                                          ST6570 Constitutional Law: Original Intent, Principles & Cases (3 credits)

                                          This course examines the original intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution as demonstrated by evidence found in original documents, correspondence, historical background, etc. This will be compared to the evolving doctrines of the Courts as they interpret and alter the Constitution’s application through case law.

                                          ST6550 World History V: The 20th Century (3 credits)

                                          This course explores the global and regional wars, ideological conflicts, cultural shifts and key events that reshaped the world in the 20th Century, setting the stage for our present day. Additional attention is given to the role of generational cycles of human behavior that trend respectively toward liberty and tyranny as history unfolds, as well as the role of cultural influences, plus exceptions to historical patterns.

                                          • Paul Johnson, Modern Times
                                            • Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence
                                              • Whittaker Chambers, Witness
                                                • Jung Chang, Wild Swans
                                                  • Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm
                                                    • Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism
                                                      • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago (abridged)
                                                        • Strauss and Howe, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny
                                                          • George Weigel, The Cube and the Cathedral

                                                            LT5520 The Family in Science, Policy and Literature (3 credits)

                                                            This course investigates the historical and present role of the family for societal well-being and prosperity, including both internal family dynamics and the external forces that lead to functional and dysfunctional outcomes. In addition to surveying current research, principles of morality and ethics in interpersonal relationships are also explored through great literature. All of these will inform our examination of the changing societal norms, political trends and policies that impact the family as we consider implications for the future.

                                                              ED6510 Capstone: Educational Philosophy, Culture and Policy (3 credits)

                                                              This course compares major approaches to home, public and private education from Ancient Greece to the present, the impacts on culture and society, and the politics surrounding education funding, functions and delivery. Additional attention is given to the public policy agendas and concerns arising from the beginning of the Progressive era to the present battles over Common Core, the special interests that shape education, pedagogies for particular outcomes, and the principle of parental choice and stewardship.

                                                              • Jacques Barzun, Teacher in America
                                                                • John Gatto, Dumbing Us Down
                                                                  • Christensen, Johnson and Horn, Disrupting Class
                                                                    • John Dewey, Experience and Education
                                                                      • Allan Bloom, Closing the American Mind
                                                                        • E. D. Hirsch Jr., The Schools We Need, and Why We Don’t Have Them
                                                                          • C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
                                                                            • Terry M. Moe, Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools
                                                                              • ST4530 Reading Packet

                                                                                MS5580 Psychology of Human Action and Decision (3 credits)

                                                                                This course explores the major theories of psychology and human development, giving special attention to the forces both within the individual and in his environment that bear upon human decision making, agency and happiness. Students will pull together the insights on human nature gained throughout their study of the liberal arts and add to the modern sciences of human behavior to the equation as introduced by Weber, James, Pavlov, Skinner, Freud, Jung, Piaget, Erikson, Maslow, Rogers, Bowlby, Bowen, and other key figures up to the most recent perspectives of cognitive neurobiology. To complete the picture, individual behavior will be ultimately placed and examined within the context of human families and societies in a comprehensive portrait and landscape.

                                                                                ST5590 Trends, Mass Communication and Societal Shifts (3 credits)

                                                                                This course examines the cultural and political changing of society. It considers how public opinion is altered both organically and due to planned strategic actions. Changing demographics, human nature, communication strategies, media influences, election dynamics and their political implications all factored in light of one another.

                                                                                LT5510 Government Principles in Literature (2 credits)

                                                                                This course investigates governmental themes found in great literature. It is designed to complement and enrich the American government, culture and leadership classes taken during the same semester. Important themes include: individual freedom vs. societal interest, due process, majority rule vs. rights of the dissenting minority, private virtue and public leadership, mercy vs. justice, natural law vs. positive law, persuasion vs. compulsion, among others.

                                                                                  ST5570 Domestic and Foreign Policy: Freedom and Politics (2 credits)

                                                                                  An exploration of historical and current issues in both Domestic and Foreign Policy, including their implications for freedom. The complications of human nature and societal differences are also explored within the sphere of politics. Discussions will also consider future indications for the U.S. and the world.

                                                                                  • Kevin Freeman, Secret Weapon: How Economic Warfare Brought Down the U.S. Stock Market
                                                                                    • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
                                                                                      • Walid Phares, The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid
                                                                                        • Vaclav Smil, Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate
                                                                                          • Charles Hauss and Melissa Haussman, Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges
                                                                                            • ST4540 Reading Packet

                                                                                              ST6590 Reason and Faith in Philosophy (3 credits)

                                                                                              In this course, students will engage in searching the questions of “What is Knowledge?” and “What is Truth?” by discussing and examining many of the discussions and writings that have captured the great thinking and ideas on these topics from the Western Tradition. Students will examine the truth systems of Correspondence, Coherence, Pragmatism, Empiricism and Post Modernism. They will also explore how knowledge and truth systems are foundational to not only themselves but how they are tied to every aspect and element of a society: social, physical, scientific, artistic, governmental, etc.

                                                                                              • Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics
                                                                                                • Selections
                                                                                              • Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
                                                                                                • Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?
                                                                                                  • Aristotle, Metaphysics
                                                                                                    • Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
                                                                                                      • Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
                                                                                                        • Selections
                                                                                                      • ST6590 Reading Packet

                                                                                                        WR5510 The Judeo-Christian Tradition (2 credits)

                                                                                                        This course introduces students to the historical and doctrinal differences and similarities between the major sects of both Judaism and Christianity and their influence upon Western Civilization. It also provides opportunities for spiritual enrichment while studying the Old and New Testaments alongside historical documents, from which students gain an understanding of different interpretations of foundational doctrines and perspectives. The course ultimately paints a broad, rich landscape of the Judeo-Christian world while mapping those nuances important for diplomatic and collaborative relations between various sects.

                                                                                                        MS5530 Biological & Environmental Controversies & Policy (0 credits)

                                                                                                        This course explores the theoretical and physical understanding of organic life from Aristotle through modern times. Landmark developments that gave birth to scientific and philosophical controversies surrounding evolution and the environment will receive special attention. Students will gain a rich understanding of all sides of these issues both in historical and modern contexts in order to consider their future implications for society at large.

                                                                                                          ST5110 American History: 1600-1850 (3 credits)

                                                                                                          This course is a comprehensive study of U.S. History from the early Colonial period through the American Founding up to the final years before the Civil War. In addition to major events of historical importance, emphasis is also placed on patterns within history and the personal relationships between key figures, especially the lessons to be learned.

                                                                                                          ST5120 American History II: 1850-1989 (2 credits)

                                                                                                          This is a comprehensive study of U.S. History beginning with events surrounding the Civil War up to the present day. In addition to events and trends of sweeping historical importance, emphasis is also placed on the personal relationships between key figures and the lessons to be learned. Students will also examine the enormous amplification of societal influences that began with modernization, such as revolutions in media, communication, transportation, medicine and other technologies. By attending closely to the resulting shifts in demographics, cultural and political trends, students will more fully understand modern challenges to the values and principles of the American founding, as well as future prospects in light of the emerging world stage.

                                                                                                          ST6530 World History III: Renaissance and Reformation (3 credits)

                                                                                                          This course explores the driving forces and key events that shaped Western Civilization through the Renaissance and Reformation, continuing through the first European ventures in colonization that reshaped the cultures and governments of the world.

                                                                                                          • Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
                                                                                                            • ISBN: 0375759263
                                                                                                          • Jaques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence
                                                                                                            • Part I
                                                                                                          • Hunt, Martin, Rosenwein and Smith, The Making of the West
                                                                                                            • Selections
                                                                                                            • Edition: Third Edition
                                                                                                          • ST3530 Reading Packet

                                                                                                            ST6540 World History IV: Enlightenment and Revolution (3 credits)

                                                                                                            This course examines the Age of Enlightenment, the contrasting forces behind the American and French revolutions, and how the aftershocks of these and other developments in Europe and its colonies up through the dawn of the twentieth century set the stage for the great global conflicts to follow.

                                                                                                            • Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence
                                                                                                              • Parts II and III
                                                                                                            • Hunt, Martin, Rosenwein and Smith, The Making of the West
                                                                                                              • Selections
                                                                                                              • Edition: Third Edition
                                                                                                            • Alexis de Tocqueville, Ancien Regime and the French Revolution
                                                                                                              • ST3540 Reading Packet

                                                                                                                FA6410 Art, Architecture & Music: Timeless Agents of Culture & Chng (2 credits)

                                                                                                                This course explores the arts as interpreter of history and shaper of societies. Whether ambassador of peace or agitator for revolution, the arts have historically been used as a potent agent of culture and change. From the earliest civilizations to the majesty of Rome, through the Renaissance and to the present -- the symbols, styles and aesthetics used in sculpture, architecture, paintings, music, theater and film evoke both visceral and cognitive responses, always for the aims of the artist. Examining artistic developments over the ages will reveal how societal change (and resistance) has nearly always depended on these cultural agents. In this course, our appreciation of their beauty will be enriched and informed, and finally intrigued with an expository tour of propaganda throughout history and the modern age.

                                                                                                                • Cumming, Art: The World's Greatest Paintings Explored and Explained
                                                                                                                  • Vasari, Lives of the Artists
                                                                                                                    • selections
                                                                                                                  • FA3510 Music Packet
                                                                                                                    • Aaron Copland, What to Listen For in Music
                                                                                                                      • Selections
                                                                                                                    • Jacques Barzun, The Use and Abuse of Art
                                                                                                                      • FA3510 Reading Packet
                                                                                                                        • FA3510 Visual Arts Packet
                                                                                                                          • FA3510 Historical Propaganda Packet

                                                                                                                            MS5310 Biology & Environment: Classical and Modern Perspectives (2 credits)

                                                                                                                            This course explores the theoretical and physical understanding of organic life from Aristotle through modern times. Landmark developments that gave birth to scientific and philosophical controversies surrounding evolution and the environment will receive special attention. Students will gain a rich understanding of all sides of these issues both in historical and modern contexts in order to consider their future implications for society at large.

                                                                                                                            • Aristotle, Parts of Animals
                                                                                                                              • ISBN: 1425077161
                                                                                                                            • Erwin Schrodinger , What is life?
                                                                                                                              • ISBN: 0521427088
                                                                                                                            • Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
                                                                                                                              • ISBN: 0451529065
                                                                                                                            • C.H. Waddington, The Nature of Life
                                                                                                                              • ISBN: 1166122301
                                                                                                                            • Francis S. Collins, The Language of God

                                                                                                                              LT5530 Literary Agents of American History and Culture (2 credits)

                                                                                                                              This course explores select literature that contributed to our understanding of American society as well as its shaping. The chosen literary classics represent key historic eras in American culture, ranging from Puritan New England to the Great Depression South. Students examine their influence on our understanding of these periods as well as their impact on society as agents of change both then and now.

                                                                                                                              MS5550 Physics and Chemistry: Classical and Modern (3 credits)

                                                                                                                              This course is an investigation of our physical world beginning from the perspective of the classical view up to the modern. Landmark discoveries in the physical sciences over the ages punctuate the course, and these continue to the present as students are exposed to some of the most recent insights in scientific and technological advancements. Students will consider the relevance of this knowledge in relation to current issues surrounding energy policy, medical ethics, and a host of other modern topics. Many concepts in Chemistry and Physics will also be introduced from the unique perspective of criminal forensics and evidence gathering.

                                                                                                                                ST6999 Comprehensive Examination (0 credits)

                                                                                                                                Each student must pass a comprehensive oral examination once all coursework has been completed.

                                                                                                                                * An asterisk next to a course's credit hours indicates that this course may be "swapped" for elective or transfer credit. Click here for more information on elective and transfer credit.

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                                                                                                                                Earn Your Degree From Home

                                                                                                                                Learn about the GWU Off-Campus programs: Online Studies, Extension Courses and Statesmanship Seminars

                                                                                                                                Click Here

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