PSCI 412
Senior Seminar: Interpretations of American Politics Fall 2021
Division II

Class Details

American politics are in upheaval, and most Americans believe the country to be headed down “the wrong track.” Yet assessments of what is at the heart of the country’s problems vary. Many worry that the United States is threatened by anti-democratic actors intent on consolidating white nationalist power and corporate rule. Yet at the same time, others worry that the U.S. has abandoned the Anglo-Protestant traditions that made it strong and has entered a period of moral decay and decline. What are we to make of these different assessments? What do left and right see when they survey the nation, and why is what they see so different? Any diagnosis of contemporary maladies is premised on a vision of what a healthy functioning republic looks like. Our task in the seminar is to uncover and interrogate those visions. We will do this by exploring different interpretations of the American political order, each with its own story of narrative tensions and possible resolutions. We will then use our investigation of how different authors, and different traditions, understand the nation to help us assess contemporary politics and come to our own conclusions about what animates conflicts.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 12
Expected: 10
Class#: 1933
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: brief weekly writing assignments; three short essays; and oral examination
Prerequisites: at least one course in American politics
Enrollment Preferences: senior Political Science majors with a concentration in American politics
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PSCI American Politics Courses

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