From the Desk of the Head of Department



I was drawn to politics at a young age. By the age of five I was politically aware. I remember more than a thousand worshippers being evacuated from our synagogue in London on Yom Kippur in 1973 because of a bomb scare (false alarm). I remember people talking outside the synagogue about Israel being under attack. Then I got my first dose of British politics, major strikes causing power cuts for hours at a time. I remember asking my parents, why? Why was there no television? Why would anyone want to bomb a synagogue? Why was Israel attacked? 

What I learned from an early age is that politics matters. It is important to understand politics, because politics has consequences. 

And politics cannot be avoided. The inescapable presence of diversity of opinion and identity (we are not all alike) and scarcity (there is never enough to go around) ensures that politics is an inevitable feature of the human condition. Indeed, politics is often defined in terms of:  Who Gets What, When & How?  

To that question, the academic study of politics adds another: Why?  

Actually this is two questions, one empirical, one normative. 

First, why do certain political outcomes occur and others not? What are the main forces driving politics? Why are some governments democratic and others authoritarian? Why are some policies successful and other a failure? 

Second, what is the best way to organize politics? What are the values that should inform politics? Who should be counted as a member of our political community?

In both instances, our academic discipline seeks to answer these questions by developing broad-ranging theories that apply to a large variety of cases across time (history) and space (geography). 

I think the study of politics is both fascinating and important. I hope, that after studying in our department, you will reach the same conclusion. 


Prof. Jonathan Rynhold