PSCI 308
In Search of the American State Fall 2020
Division II
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When Donald Trump campaigned in 2016 to “drain the swamp,” he built on the idea held by Republicans since Ronald Reagan’s 1981 pronouncement that “government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Skepticism of government has deep roots and strong resonance throughout American political history. Despite this, national government has grown in scope and size for much of this history, including under both Democratic and Republican administrations. This tension over what government is doing and what it should be doing is only heightened in times of crisis, such as the moment the country is in now. This course explores the relationship between citizens and their government by examining the growth of the American state in various arenas over time, as well as the assaults on government legitimacy in recent years. We will assess traditional theories about the weakness of the American state in light of arguments about the state as: regulator of family and “private” life, adjudicator of relations between racial and ethnic groups, manager of economic inequalities, insurer of security, and arbiter of the acceptable uses of violence and surveillance.
The Class: Format: seminar; This course will be taught remotely, in a quasi-tutorial style with students meeting with the instructor weekly in small discussion groups.
Limit: 12
Expected: 12
Class#: 2596
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will be responsible for writing three 5-page papers and three 2-page papers, and will also be asked to take responsibility for managing discussion and presenting work at different points in the semester.
Prerequisites: at least one class in American politics
Enrollment Preferences: Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: POEC U.S. Political Economy + Public Policy Course
PSCI American Politics Courses

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