GOVT-520 Approaches/Topics in American Politics
Spring for 2006-2007
Approaches and Topics in American Politics
What do political scientists know about American politics? How do political scientists study American politics? What are the main debates regarding theory, methods, and substance? What can we teach our students about American politics?
We have three main goals this semester. First, we will introduce you to the key readings in American politics across a wide range of political institutions, political behavior, and public policy. Second, we will explore the various methodological approaches used to investigate these topics. Third, we will enhance your ability to write, speak and teach across these topics.
A skilled political scientist will understand a broad range of theoretical, methodological and empirical literature; will be able to speak and write about the strengths and weaknesses of the literature; and will be able to convey the essence of the literature to other students and scholars. In this course I expect that you will begin to develop this broader understanding and will strengthen your ability to speak and write about American politics.
We will do LOTS of reading in this course. I mean ‘we’ literally. Some of the readings are new to me, or I read them last when I was preparing for my comps (in, ahem, the mid-1980s). I’m excited by the reading list, and I hope it will enthuse you also.
As you are preparing to become scholars, teachers, or practitioners, I have chosen to combine classic writings, current research, and textbook material in the reading list. As many of you will have the opportunity to teach an “Introduction to the American Political System” course, I have structured the readings along the lines of a typical textbook (except for the fact that I placed the Constitution, federalism, and civil rights and liberties at the end of the semester). Each week we will read chapters from two excellent American government texts, noting their differing approaches, common elements, and conventional wisdom. With this as a base, we will delve more deeply into the scholarly literature on these topics.
The seminar is not intended to provide a complete survey of the field. Students planning to sit for comprehensive exams in American politics are expected to master recommended readings on their own and also to study other texts from the comprehensive exam reading lists.
Other academic years
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