American Politics: Core Argument/Current Controversy (2nd Edition)

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9780130879196: American Politics: Core Argument/Current Controversy (2nd Edition)

This book helps readers become intelligent evaluators of American political dialogue by exposing them to high-quality classic and contemporary selections from presidents, philosophers, and political scientists and the great arguments of American politics. It shows readers how to 1) arrange—and rearrange—facts, 2) identify the core arguments of public affairs, 3) evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various theories of American politics, and 4) apply those theories to current problems. Combining both core readings in political science and recent arguments on current controversies in each chapter, it shows the continuity of political debates over decades and centuries and encourages readers to come to their own conclusions while evaluating evidence and arguing over theory. The selections are excerpted/condensed for accessibility and chapter overviews and summaries place the readings in context and link the various arguments together. Features essays, excerpts, and speeches--classic, contemporary, and very recent readings--by presidents, philosophers, and political scientists on: The American Political Environment (Theories of American Government; Political Culture and Ideology; The Constitution and the Tradition of the Founders; The Tensions of Federalism); The Process of Democracy (Public Opinion and the Media; Political Parties; Interest Groups); Governmental Institutions (Congress; The Presidency; The Bureaucracy; The Judiciary); American Politics and Public Policy (Civil Rights and Liberties; Government and the Economy; America's International Relations). For anyone interested in American Government or Politics.

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The rationale for this volume is twofold. The first is to expose students to some of the important arguments of politics that impinge on the great experiment in American government. Every chapter contains recent essays, excerpts, and speeches, but students should see that every current controversy has an ancestry of decades, if not centuries. We hope students will learn, first, to identify the great questions of public affairs in America and next to become familiar with some of the people and arguments that have over many decades or centuries addressed the persistent questions of public affairs.

Our second rationale is to provoke a discussion of American politics in the way that politics has, at root, been discussed for millennia. This discussion goes beyond merely describing the laws, the Constitution, the processes—that is, the facts. With these readings, the inquiry of students might be directed toward the proper arrangement of facts in order to test a theory of American politics, as well as to discuss the "ought" that Aristotle says is the true aim of politics. We like to frame our own introductory courses around the question, which theory of American government best describes politics as it is? (See Chapter 1:) Or which theory best describes how politics ought to be? Or which theory has the best explanatory power? Or which has the best predictive power?

Another rationale follows the first two: Instructors who wish not to evangelize in the classroom can structure their course around the competing theories of American politics, allowing students to evaluate the utility of those theories and to confront their own felt notions of political society.

The text presents several competing theories: pluralism, elite theory, and that perennial American favorite that we call civics book democracy. In subsequent chapters, the readings address the usual subtopics of American government but include competing viewpoints and evaluations. Thus, by studying an American government textbook, a student becomes aware of the basic details of American government and politics. But by using this volume of core readings as a supplement, the student also learns how to arrange facts, what the core arguments of public affairs are, what the strengths and weaknesses of various theories of American politics are, and how to apply those theories to current problems. At the end of a semester, the student should have the tools and practice to be an intelligent evaluator of American political dialogue.

We have done our best to excerpt, condense, or digest the pieces so that they can be read as easily as possible in a country where the language of common discourse changes rapidly—and where many students have been exposed to only the most watered down and oftentimes third-hand summaries of great controversies.

Each chapter includes several articles drawn from historical documents, as well as important scholarly works. These are the core arguments. Each chapter ends with two or more articles that address a current political topic. Judicial rulings and other primary documents are contained in the appendixes.

Each excerpt is preceded by an introductory paragraph that contains biographical information about the author and alerts the reader to the subject and perspective of the text. The reader then sets out on a journey with a road map that should help to identify important landmarks along the way and point to the ultimate destination: the author's conclusion.

We have discovered that our students prefer to be introduced to and acquainted with the writings of famous historical figures more than with relatively obscure or notorious journalists. And they equally prefer to draw their own conclusions on current controversies once armed with several good arguments. We hope this volume of collected readings will inform, educate, and arm students, whether they be political science majors, engineers, or auditors, for (and against) political debate throughout their lives.

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