Field Seminar in American Politics
This course surveys and critically assesses the field of American politics. How have political scientists analyzed politics in the United States? How should we assess their accounts? We look at major contributions by political scientists (most, but not all of them, from the United States) and examine the political processes they have attempted to explain. The course focuses on four main topics: political culture in the United States, how power is organized and distributed, the shape of political institutions and relations among them, and the character and extent of political participation. In each area, we focus on a central question or set of questions. In what sense and to what extent should American political culture be regarded as liberal? Are observed inequalities in the distribution of power compatible with a normatively acceptable model of democracy? What, if anything, produces sufficient order within and across political institutions to sustain a constitutional regime? How do we understand the simultaneously low rates of voting in the United States and robust forms of civic engagement and interest group and movement activity?