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Politics for Rocket Scientists: An Introduction to Political Science for Non-Political Scientists

Module POL00011

This Module is offered by Department of Governance.

This module handbook serves to describe contents, learning outcome, methods and examination type as well as linking to current dates for courses and module examination in the respective sections.

Module version of SS 2020

There are historic module descriptions of this module. A module description is valid until replaced by a newer one.

Whether the module’s courses are offered during a specific semester is listed in the section Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature below.

available module versions
SS 2022SS 2020SS 2018WS 2016/7

Basic Information

POL00011 is a semester module in English language at Bachelor’s level and Master’s level which is offered in summer semester.

This Module is included in the following catalogues within the study programs in physics.

  • Catalogue of soft-skill courses
Total workloadContact hoursCredits (ECTS)
180 h 60 h 6 CP

Content, Learning Outcome and Preconditions


This course provides a broad introduction to the systematic study of politics and policy from the local to the global level. We will study the sources of political preferences, as well as various forms of articulating those preferences (from public opinion polls and voting to political violence). We compare how legislative institutions translate public preferences into law and policy in democratic and non-democratic regimes--and we will examine the role of executives and courts in the political process. Addressing these issues requires empirical analysis but also raises fundamental questions of political philosophy, such as: What is the nature of power and how is it related to expertise, authority, legitimacy, and ethics? And what does democracy mean in international politics or global governance? We will also examine the relationship between politics, economics, law, and technological innovation, asking questions such as: Why is government intervention in the development of new technologies or elsewhere in the economy sometimes considered essential and other times the source of severe problems? What are the political consequences of various kinds of inequality in a democracy? Why are technically or scientifically optimal policies often passed up for sub-optimal policies that are no more than "second-best"? Are there ways to improve upon those second-best outcomes? And why is the realization that war makes everyone worse off no guarantee against the military escalation of interstate disputes? Approximately 2/3 of each week's class will be devoted to the conceptual, theoretical and empirical-methodological tools of political analysis; during the remaining 1/3 of each class, we will explore the application of those tools to contemporary issues at the intersection of science, technology, economy and society.

Learning Outcome

The course is designed to expose students from across the TUM (especially those in the natural sciences and engineering but also students at the TUM School of Health and Medicine and the TUM School of Management) to different ways of thinking systematically about politics and public policy. Students will gain an understanding of the foundational questions of Political Science, acquire knowledge of key concepts, theories and core methods of political analysis, and learn how to apply some of the conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools of the social sciences to important contemporary policy questions for science, technology, economy and democratic societies.


Open to TUM students in any field of study; no prerequisites. This is an introductory course geared toward students without prior university-level training in political science or related social sciences, who seek an understanding of the systematic, scientific study of politics and public policy.

Courses, Learning and Teaching Methods and Literature

Courses and Schedule

Learning and Teaching Methods

The module consists of a single 3 hours/week highly interactive lecture, accompanied by weekly reading assignments. Close advance reading of the assigned texts for each week's lecture will be expected, but lectures will go well beyond the readings, and the exam will assume familiarity with both the readings and lectures.
In early May, in early June, and again in the week before the final exam, there will be optional tutorials ("Übung") to learn how we read texts and study in the social sciences. These sessions are offered at different times to ensure that anyone can attend at least one session - and I strongly encourage every student to attend one.


Various (readings, slides, etc.)


Required readings are taken from various books (including Aristotle's The Politics; The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy; International Political Economy: Perspectives on Global Power and Wealth (Frieden, Lake & Broz, eds.); and The New Global Rulers: The Privatization of Regulation in the World Economy (Büthe and Mattli), as well as
academic journals (such as the American Political Science Review, Antitrust Bulletin, International Organization, and West European Politics) and occasionally from popular magazines and online publications. Final list to be announced at the beginning of the semester

Module Exam

Description of exams and course work

Form of examination ("Prüfungsleistung"): Closed book final exam ("Klausur"), predominantly in multiple choice format ("Multiple Choice mit Einfachauswahlausgaben"). The exam will provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of the course materials and the learning objectives, such as their familiarity with different ways of thinking systematically about politics and public policy, by answering a series of questions addressing the full range of topics covered in the course.
Subject to pandemic conditions and the law and regulations of the state of Bavaria applicable at the time, both an in-person and an online (remote) version of the exam will be offered.

Exam Repetition

The exam may be repeated at the end of the semester.

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