American Political Development
Political Science 6431, Fall 2007
"The past is never dead;
it's not even past."
-- William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Office: 801 Tower; Phone 314-516-5855, Fax 314- 516-5855; e-mail: email@example.com
Office Hours: 9:00-12:00 am Tuesday; 7-8 pm Monday; and other times can be easily arranged
1. The Course Agenda
What makes American politics so unique? American government is harder to use than governments in other places. American political parties are weaker and interest groups more fragmented than in comparable nations. Many political scientists have tried to understand these patterns by tracing the path of American politics over time. The field of American Political Development focuses on the ways that political culture, ideology, governing structures (executives, legislatures, judiciaries, and subnational governments) and structures of political linkage (political parties and organized interests) shape the development of political conflict and public policy. Such studies emphasize that the decisions of the past establish recognizable paths and affect contemporary political strategy, institutional design, and policy outcomes.
This course introduces the subfield of American political development. It combines several features of the "new institutionalism" in the study of politics: longitudinal (that is, across time) comparison, the use of developmental evidence to validate hypotheses, the examination of counterfactuals, the effect of rules and structure on political conflict, and the "state" as an independent political force. We will ask how political strategy, political structure, and public policy affect one another. We will examine enduring questions about structure, leadership, culture, gender, race, class and religion.
2. Required Books
Six books are required for the course. These are or will be available at the University of Missouri - St. Louis bookstore.
q Richard Franklin Bensel, The Political Economy of American Industrialization, 1877-1900 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000); ISBN 0-521-77604-x
q James Morone, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003); ISBN: 0300105177
q Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek, The Search for American Political Development (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004) ISBN: 0521547644
q David Brian Robertson, The Constitution and America's Destiny (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005); ISBN: 0521607787
q Stephen Skowronek, The Politics Presidents Make: Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1997); ISBN: 0674689372
q Richard M. Valelly, The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004); ISBN: 0226845303
In addition to these books, several articles and documents are also required. These will be available through My Gateway.
All royalties from the Robertson book will be dedicated to the political science graduate student fund.
You are encouraged to use the
readings in your area of interest and additional research resources.
Political Development Website at the Miller Center is a great resource for
The American Political Development Website at the Miller Center is a great resource for further information.
q Participation: 15%
q Two critical book analyses: 15% each
q One critical issue analysis: 15%
q Final Exam: 20%
q Research Design: 20%
You are expected to participate in all seminar sessions and to contribute thoughtful and informed questions and comments to the discussion. If you do so you will receive an "A" for this part of the grade. Remember, this seminar will succeed only to the extent that you participate. Its success depends on you.
5. Area of Interest or Specialization
Each student should select an area of interest or specialization.. This
area of interest could be a government institution (the House of
Representatives, the Senate, the Presidency, a federal agency, or the Supreme
Court); a linkage institution (the Republican or Democratic party, business or
labor groups, newspapers or television), a policy area (tariffs, education,
environmental policy), or some cultural force that affects politics (religion or
social movements). You need to indicate this interest to me in an email
message by September 6. Your papers and research design will deal with the area of
interest you select. Your work in your area of interest will connect your
substantive interests to the more general material we will cover in seminar
Ph.D. students can take advantage of this opportunity to develop a dissertation
topic, or to refine a topic they've already chosen.
Ph.D. students can take advantage of this opportunity to develop a dissertation topic, or to refine a topic they've already chosen.
6. Critical Book and Issue Analyses
There will be three short (6-10 page, typed) analytical papers for the course. Two of the papers will critically examine books that are relevant to each student's area of interest or specialization; these are intended to help you beef up your reading list. These books may be selected from the American Political Development Bibliography or some other source. The instructor must approve the student's choice of in advance. You should devote no less than three pages to summarizing the book's argument and evidence; this material should include a summary of the book's key questions, the author's argument for their significance, the evidence (qualitative or quantitative) she uses to answer the question, and the conclusions she reaches. You should devote no less than three pages describing its place in the literature and providing a critical analysis of its strengths and weaknesses; the critical analysis should examine the quality of the questions, the evidence, and the logic of the argument. These two papers are due September 26 and November 7.
The final short paper is a "think piece" about your of interest. This think piece involves two important tasks. First, your paper should identify and define the key concepts and the important, researchable questions in your area of interest. Specify how you know these concepts when you see them. Some of these questions should derive from the larger questions for American political development identified in seminar, in Orren and Skowronek, and in other writings. You developing an inventory of questions worth asking in your area interest, and you need to explain explicitly (1) why these questions are merit research and (2) how in general they can be researched (is the research doable?). Your paper should demonstrate an ability to think politically about public policy and government. The purpose of the assignment is to develop the ability to ask good, answerable questions and to decompose large questions into smaller, manageable questions. It will provide the basis for your research design. This paper is due November 14. I will be happy to read earlier drafts.
You may be asked to speak briefly about your papers during our class discussions.
7. Research Design
There will be a research design assignment of 12-15 pages. See below for more detail on this assignment. You will not have to turn in a completed research project - only a rigorous plan for such a project. This design is due on December 14.
8. Final Exam
You will write a 5-10 page typed essay in response to each of two questions. Take this opportunity to show how much literature you've mastered (if you like, you can bring in literature from other courses you've taken), and how well you can apply the literature and information from those courses. The Exam is due December 14.
- The Research Design Assignment -
The research design assignment requires a 12-15 page research proposal based on answers to the following questions. You will not have to turn in a completed research project -- only a rigorous plan for such a project.
Here are the key elements of the research design. Remember, the methods you use should be directly related to the question you are trying to answer. Qualitative methods may be more appropriate than quantitative methods, or the quantitative methods may be more appropriate. You might use rigorous analysis of archival sources, or you might model data. You might use some of both methods. The object is to frame an important, enduring, and open question about politics and write a plan for exploring information, including historical information (that is, information at least ten years old) to answer the question.
1. Topic. What is the central issue that will motivate your research? Explain precisely what topic you will examine. Explain why it matters (it may matter because it is central to scientific theory, because it is a central policy or political issue today, because it was a decisive turning point in political development, or because conventional wisdom about the topic may be wrong). There are many ways to get ideas for topics. Several are included in our readings. You can find others in key journals, such as The American Political Science Review or other general political science journals, or more specialized journals such as Studies in American Political Development. Your topic should be interesting to you.
2. Literature Review. What do we know about this topic? Who has written about it? What are their central arguments and assertions? What are the key concepts? What are the important open questions in the field? (Sources include bibliographies, literature reviews, computer-assisted references, and discussions with faculty).
3. Theoretical Question. Once you have chosen a topic, you have to specify the problem you want to study. You will have to try to isolate one precise question about the topic to answer in a discrete research project. Precisely what question will your research try to answer? This may take the form of a relationship between a dependent variable and several independent variables (that is, what caused something to happen? Factor A? Factor B? Some combination?). It also may take the form of the relationship between two non-recurring events (did slavery cause the Civil War?)
(a) - What
behaviors, event, or outcomes are you trying to explain?
(b) - What behaviors, events or outcomes can account
for (a), above?
(c) - What is the relationship between (a) and (b)?
(1) For (a) to occur, was (a) necessary and / or sufficient?
(2) Does (a) occur more frequently when (b) occurs?
(3) Does (a) occur more frequently when (b) occurs?
(4) Does (b) determine (a) (when a happens, b necessarily happens)?
(d) - What other factors may need to be taken into account?
4. Information. What information will you collect to answer the central theoretical question? Define 3 (a) and 3 (b) precisely. How do I know them when I see them (are they Congressional votes? If so, precisely which ones? Where can I find them?). Specify why historical information is required to answer the question.
5. Techniques. How will you analyze the question? That is, what is your proposed research strategy answering the question? How will you decide that a relationship between (a) and (b) is confirmed or refuted by the evidence? Will you statistically assess the relationship between variables? If so, how? If not, what qualitative methods will you use to rigorously assess their relationship? Will you use a mixture of methods? How will you assess the role of other factors (3 d).
6. Validity and Objectivity. How do you know that your conclusions will be valid? Are there flaws in your method that could cast doubt on your findings about the relationship of (a) and (b)? How do we know that the numbers and documents offer reasonably reliable measures of what you claim they measure? What explicit steps will you take to assure a reader that you are being fair-minded and objective in each step of the process?
7. What is the projected outline of the final written product?
8. What timetable will you have for the project? Give a realistic estimate of the time it will take to complete each step above.
9. Provide a bibliography.
August 22 (Wednesday): Course Introduction
August 29 (Wednesday): Class does not meet
September 5 (Wednesday): American Political Development Perspectives
September 12 (Wednesday): Founding
September 19 (Wednesday): Founding: Rules and Institutions
September 26 (Wednesday): Founding to Civil War
October 3 (Wednesday): The State of Courts and Parties
October 10 (Wednesday): The State of Courts and Parties
October 17 (Wednesday): Transitions to Modern American Politics
October 24 (Wednesday): Progressivism
October 31 (Wednesday): New Deal
November 7 (Wednesday): Cold War and the Garrison State
November 14 (Wednesday): Cold War Politics
1960s and 1970s
The 1960s and 1970s
December 5 (Wednesday): Fin de Siècle Politics in America
December 14 (Monday): EXAM & RESEARCH DESIGN DUE
Comprehensive Course Schedule
August 22 (Wednesday): Course Introduction
What kinds of questions are important to ask about the case of Chelonia mydas?
What kinds of questions are important to ask about the American politics
Is history important for understanding American politics, and if so, why?
How is the U.S. similar and different from other nations?
What is a rule? Why do we have rules?
What is a political institution? Why do we have political institutions?
August 29 (Wednesday): Class does not meetREAD: James Morone, Hellfire Nation, 1-116
September 5 (Wednesday): American Political Development Perspectives
READ: Paul Pierson, Politics in Time, Introduction and Chapters
Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek,
The Search for American Political Development, 78-119
Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin,
"Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics" (*)
David Brian Robertson, The Constitution and America's Destiny, chapter 1
What's the difference between American political development and American history? What sets APD apart?
What do Orren and Skowronek mean when they say that politics may be "shaped by time" (page 12)?
What's the difference between progress and development (see Orren and Skowronek on Burgess, ch 2)
What is the realignment synthesis?
What is the "lost alternatives" and "multiple traditions" approaches to American political development? (see also Morone, 7-8)
Explain path dependence or positive feedback, using examples (1) from Morone and (2) contemporary politics. Be specific.
Explain why timing and sequence matters, using examples (1) from Morone and (2) contemporary politics. Be specific.
How has religion affected political change in America? State-building? What is the "Great Awakening" and who cares?
September 12 (Monday): Founding
David Brian Robertson, The Constitution and America's Destiny, chapters 3-7 (*)
The Federalist Papers 10, 51 (*)
1. How does the Constitution affect your area of specialization? (all)
2. What are the criteria a “bad” government (how do you know a “bad” government when you see one)? Did American government in the Confederation era meet the criteria for a bad government?
3. Counterfactual: What would have happened had the U.S. not altered the Articles of Confederation in 1787?
4. What lessons does James Madison teach us in general about achieving political success? About designing political institutions?
5. Counterfactual: What would have happened had the Constitutional Convention adopted the entire Virginia Plan?
6. What lessons does Roger Sherman teach us in general about achieving political success? About designing political institutions?
7. Describe the controversy over the role of the states and the way the framers came to agreement on it. Is American federalism fundamentally different today? Give both sides.
8. Give examples of the use of the Constitution as a political weapon. How have scholars used the Constitution as a weapon (see Orren and Skowronek’s discussion of Burgess, Ford and Beard for starters).
9. Does the U.S. Constitution meet the criteria for a technology that generates increasing returns (Pierson, page 24-26)? Explain fully.
September 19 (Wednesday): Founding: Rules and Institutions
1. If James Madison were called to testify before a Congressional subcommittee on “the Performance of the Constitution,” what would his testimony look like? Would he call for reforms?
2. If Roger Sherman were called to testify before a Congressional subcommittee on “the Performance of the Constitution,” what would his testimony look like? Would he call for reforms?
3. Explain the theory of federalism and policy development described in The Constitution and America’s Destiny. Explain how has & does American federalism affects public policy development in your chosen area of expertise.
4. (At least 2 people should sign up for this). What does Skowronek mean by "the institutional logic of political disruption" (p 15)? Explain the “recurrent structures of political authority” (table 1). Is this idea evident in the presidency of Bill Clinton and George Bush?
4. What are the explanations for the enduring dominance of the 2 major political parties in the United States? How much of this dominance does Constitutional design explain?
5. Are all “good” presidents creation of their political time? If so, how do individual humans make a difference in politics (see Orren and Skowronek, page 199).
6. How would Madison react to Skowronek’s description of presidential authority? Is the president the agent of the national interest? What kind of national interest will it represent?
7. Explain the significance of a “durable shift in governing authority.” Is the U.S. Constitution biased against “durable shifts in governing authority” or biased in favor of them? Give the best case for both sides.
8. Explain, illustrate, and specify the significance of this statement: “to the extent that one country’s politics differs from politics observed elsewhere, it is likely because of endogenous political relationships operating over time and through mechanisms similar to what we have described as historical construction.” (Orren & Skowronek, p. 189).
9. Under what scenarios have / would / will the American two party system experience a “durable shift in governing authority” (Orren and Skowronek)?
ALL: Is American politics and policy developing in a particular direction? What are the possible directions mentioned by Orren & Skowronek? What one or two other directions can you think of?