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Department of Political Science

Arts Building

The McGill University Department of Political Science carries on a long and pioneering tradition in the study of politics in North America. Founded in 1901, the Department's distinguished faculty is actively involved in a wide variety of ongoing research projects, and is committed to achieving a high level of academic excellence in research, graduate, and undergraduate education.

Department News

Elisabeth Gidengil has been elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

Antonia Maioni and Stuart Soroka have been promoted to the rank of Professor effective February 1, 2014.

Megan Bradley will join the Department of Political Science and the Institute for the Study of International Development as an Assistant Professor in 2014-15.

Recent Publications

Stuart Soroka, Negativity in Democratic Politics: Causes and Consequences, Cambridge University Press: 2014

This book explores the political implications of the human tendency to prioritize negative information over positive information. Drawing on literatures in political science, psychology, economics, communications, biology, and physiology, this book argues that “negativity biases” should be evident across a wide range of political behaviors. These biases are then demonstrated through a diverse and cross-disciplinary set of analyses, for instance: in citizens' ratings of presidents and prime ministers; in aggregate-level reactions to economic news, across 17 countries; in the relationship between covers and newsmagazine sales; and in individuals' physiological reactions to network news content. The pervasiveness of negativity biases extends, this book suggests, to the functioning of political institutions – institutions that have been designed to prioritize negative information in the same way as the human brain.

TV Paul, The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, Oxford University Press, 2014. 

Seemingly from its birth, Pakistan has teetered on the brink of becoming a failed state. Today, it ranks 133rd out of 148 countries in global competitiveness. Its economy is as dysfunctional as its political system is corrupt; both rely heavily on international aid for their existence. Taliban forces occupy 30 percent of the country. It possesses over a hundred nuclear weapons that could easily fall into terrorists' hands. Why, in an era when countries across the developing world are experiencing impressive economic growth and building democratic institutions, has Pakistan been such a conspicuous failure? 

In The Warrior State, noted international relations and South Asia scholar T.V. Paul untangles this fascinating riddle. Paul argues that the "geostrategic curse"--akin to the "resource curse" that plagues oil-rich autocracies--is at the root of Pakistan's unique inability to progress. Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has been at the center of major geopolitical struggles: the US-Soviet rivalry, the conflict with India, and most recently the post 9/11 wars. No matter how ineffective the regime is, massive foreign aid keeps pouring in from major powers and their allies with a stake in the region. The reliability of such aid defuses any pressure on political elites to launch the far-reaching domestic reforms necessary to promote sustained growth, higher standards of living, and more stable democratic institutions. Paul shows that excessive war-making efforts have drained Pakistan's limited economic resources without making the country safer or more stable. Indeed, despite the regime's emphasis on security, the country continues to be beset by widespread violence and terrorism.

In an age of transnational terrorism and nuclear proliferation, understanding Pakistan's development, particularly the negative effects of foreign aid and geopolitical centrality, is more important than ever. Painstakingly researched and brilliantly argued, The Warrior State tackles what may be the world's most dangerous powder keg and uncovers the true causes of Pakistan's enormously consequential failure.

Victor Muniz-Fraticelli, The Structure of Pluralism,  Oxford University Press, 2014.

Pluralism proceeds from the observation that many associations in liberal democracies claim to possess, and attempt to exercise, a measure of legitimate authority over their members. They assert that this authority does not derive from the magnanimity of a liberal and tolerant state but is grounded, rather, on the common practices and aspirations of those individuals who choose to take part in a common endeavor.

As an account of the authority of associations, pluralism is distinct from other attempts to accommodate groups like multiculturalism, subsidiarity, corporatism, and associational democracy. It is consistent with the explanation of legal authority proposed by contemporary legal positivists, and recommends that the formal normative systems of highly organized groups be accorded the status of fully legal norms when they encounter the laws of the state.

In this book, Muniz-Fraticelli argues that political pluralism is a convincing political tradition that makes distinctive and radical claims regarding the sources of political authority and the relationship between associations and the state. Drawing on the intellectual tradition of the British political pluralists, as well as recent developments in legal philosophy and social ontology, the book argues that political pluralism makes distinctive and radical claims regarding the sources of political authority and the relationship between associations and the state.

Filippo Sabetti and Paul Dragos Aligica, eds., Choice, Rules and Collective Action: The Ostroms  and the Study of Institutions and Governance. Colchester, UK: University of Essex, ECPR Press, 2014.

Filippo Sabetti joins with Paul Dragos Aligica (George Mason University) in introducing, in one volume, the theoretical foundations of an important contemporary school of social science: the Bloomington School of public choice and institutional theory. The volume offers a set of texts representing the main analytical and conceptual vehicles articulated and used by Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences co-recipient Elinor Ostrom, the first woman and political scientist to be so recognized, and by Public Choice political economy co-founder Vincent Ostrom. Their endeavours sought to re-establish the priority of theory over data collection and analysis, and to better integrate theory and practice. These efforts are illustrated via selected readings organized around three themes: the public choice roots of their work in creating a distinctive branch of political economy; the evolution of their research program that led them to go beyond mainstream public choice, thereby enriching the study of institutions and governance; and, finally, the foundational and epistemological dimensions and implications of their research. The volume is introduced by the editors with a discussion of the theoretical and epistemic foundations of the Ostroms’ research programme.


Bruce Haddock and Filippo Sabetti, eds., Vincenzo Cuoco.  Historical Essay on the Neapolitan Revolution of 1799.Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.

For the first English language edition of Vincenzo Cuoco’s classic (1801) book, Filippo Sabetti joins Bruce Haddock (Cardiff University) in filling a gap in the study of comparative revolutions. The Neapolitan Revolution remains one of the most influential and important texts for understanding why and when violent “regime changes” succeed or fail, a topic as crucial as ever in our modern world.

In coming to terms with the dilemmas of regime change, Cuoco offered theoretical and political lessons that went beyond the case of Naples and the problems that his generation confronted. He showed how it was possible to criticize the political rationalism of revolutionaries without succumbing to either conservative (Burke) or reactionary (de Maistre) arguments. His bookwas soon translated into German and French and, with its reformist sympathies and subtle sensitivities to the decisive role played by context, tradition and culture, became a critical source of ideas throughout nineteenth-century Europe. In setting the terms of reference for subsequent discussions of revolution, reform and reaction, Cuoco’s analysis anticipated Tocqueville’s later critique of the old regime and the revolution in France and lent support to a moderate liberal current of the Risorgimento. Cuoco has continued to be read and admired by people holding quite different political views – from Manzoni to Giovanni Gentile, from Croce to Gramsci. The latter’s insistence on the importance of cultural hegemony was in direct response to the difficulty highlighted by Cuoco in imposing a revolution from above.

Megan Bradley, Refugee repatriation: Justice, responsibility and redress, Cambridge University Press, 2013

Voluntary repatriation is now the predominant solution to refugee crises, yet the responsibilities states of origin bear towards their repatriating citizens are under-examined. Through a combination of legal and moral analysis and case studies of the troubled repatriation movements to Guatemala, Bosnia and Mozambique, Megan Bradley develops and refines an original account of the minimum conditions of a 'just return' process. The goal of a just return process must be to recast a new relationship of rights and duties between the state and its returning citizens, and the conditions of just return match the core duties states should provide for all their citizens: equal, effective protection for security and basic human rights, including accountability for violations of these rights. This volume evaluates the ways in which different forms of redress such as restitution and compensation may help enable just returns, and traces the emergence and evolution of international norms on redress for refugees.