What are the foundational political principles of the United States? How do these shape political institutions and behavior? How does power function and what determines how political decisions get made in the United States? How have conceptions of citizenship and democracy changed over time? This course will grapple with these questions through an introduction to American politics and public policy. While the course is focused on political institutions, behavior, and change in the United States, it will also introduce students to core concepts in political science, such as rationality, collective action, power, citizenship, and democracy.

This course is organized into three sections. The first focuses on the foundations of American democracy both historically and analytically. In addition to studying the United States’ founding documents and principles, we will also survey the analytic foundations of political science, including the concepts of rationality, institutions, and power. The second turns to the problem of collective action and how American political institutions, both formal and informal, serve to both resolve and intensify them. The final section turns to the slow and uneven resolution of the contradiction between universal claims of the United States’ founding documents and the exclusions and inequalities it sustained, through an analysis of slavery, reconstruction, the expansion of the suffrage, and civil rights.