This introductory-level course aims to foster a critical sense for analyzing some of the most pressing issues in contemporary American politics. To that end, we will explore the historical and theoretical foundations of the American system of government as well as its major political institutions. The distinction between procedural versus substantive democracy will serve as an overarching theme for the entire semester, framing our discussions. We will consider the democratic virtues and practical limitations of American politics, its lofty ideals as well as its profound inequality. By assessing the distribution of power in American society, we will attempt to comprehend the myriad forces—including race, gender, and social class—that determine, in part, the material conditions of our existence and frame the range of political action available to us as citizens of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.
- Ira Katznelson, Mark Kesselman, and Alan Draper, The Politics of Power: A Critical Introduction to American Government, 7th edition (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013).