lecturenotes1.1 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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LECTURE NOTES UCLA Department of Political Science Winter 2010 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz Hunk 1 Introduction Welcome - - to PS 40, to Political Science, and in some cases to UCLA. Subject . This class is about American politics , of course, but it is also about political science - - about how one goes about the scholarly and scientific study of politics. American politics provides a good setting for the latter because the most sophisticated methods of inquiry were first tried in American politics. Most attention will be given to the nuts and bolts of our political system, to its parts and how they are connected and how they interact – what you see when you read the owner’s manual and look under the hood. So we lay more emphasis than others might on institutional (or procedural) mechanics – and a bit less on individual attitudes, social values, and public policy. But we do not downgrade history : we shall ask how and why the engine was put together one way rather than another. To emphasize institutions , as we shall do, is to emphasize the most durable part of American politics. We shall begin with some political theory and ask: Why have government? We shall touch a bit on comparative politics . That is unavoidable. To explain to a Martian what a dog is, you’d have to say something to distinguish dogs from cats and goats, and we shall likewise have to 1
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say what distinguishes our President from Britain’s monarch minister and from France’s president. In thinking about politics we shall play scientist more that politician, pundit, or lawyer. We shall not promote or criticize policies or ideologies, only explanations, and even then we shall always look for and critically evaluate alternative explanations, or rival hypotheses , about how politics works. But because of our emphasis on institutions, we shall especially look for institutional opportunities and incentives that explain political choices. Typical analysis (for the sake of illustration). At the First Continental Congress in 1774, radical revolutionary (and failed brewer) Sam Adams counted noses and found that conciliatory conservatives outnumbered radical revolutionaries overall but revolutionaries were a majority in a majority of colonial delegations. He then proposed unit rule : each delegation would cast one vote
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lecturenotes1.1 - LECTURE NOTES UCLA PS 40 Department of...

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