Field Seminar in American Politics:Contemporary American Politics & the 2012 Election

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPOL

Course Number: 6332

This course analyzes the main forms and dynamics of politics in the United States.  The 2012 presidential election provides a compelling opportunity to look at political competition, policy debates, and political and cultural commitments.  Within this framework we look at five subjects: political institutions; economic policy; American foreign policy and the role of the U.S. in the contemporary world; political participation; and political culture.  

How do political institutions work (or not?).  What, if anything, produces sufficient order within and across political institutions to sustain a constitutional regime?  We will consider the widely-discussed polarization in recent American politics, both in terms of parties and public opinion.Why have government economic policies not produced a more rapid or significant recovery from the long and deep recession of the last few years in the U.S.?As the 2012 election campaign unfolds, what are the main continuities and discontinuities between the foreign policies of the Obama administration and its predecessor?How do we understand the low (though increasing) rates of voting in the United States alongside robust forms of civic engagement and interest group and movement activity?  In what sense should American political culture be regarded as basically liberal?  In what ways does the growth and influence of the Tea Party movement confirm or disturb this view?

This course is open to MA and Ph.D. students.  Its main subject is American politics – we also assess the academic field of American politics.  The course will provide a significant part of the necessary preparation for the American Politics Ph.D. field exam, both in its subjects and its requirements.


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