PSCI 1101: The American Political System
University of Colorado
Department of Political Science
Professor E. Scott Adler
: Mon. 10-11, Thurs. 11-12 or by appointment
This course introduces students to the study of American Politics from the perspective of a
We will undertake an in-depth examination of some of the critical topics in
American politics, such as the foundations of government, its rules and institutions (Congress,
the courts, etc.), and variations in behavior of different actors in the political process.
I will try
to emphasize differing perspectives on why government acts the way it does, why political actors
(elected officials, bureaucrats, voters, interest groups, etc.) behave the way they do, and why
policies are the way they are.
An underlying theme to the course draws on an important set of
interrelated theoretical concepts of contemporary Political Science: that actors are rational and
strategic, and that structures and outcomes in politics are often a result of the need for many
individuals to act collectively
. Lectures will often be structured around current debates in
American politics (e.g. presidential power, partisan polarization, etc.).
While the subject of each
lecture will be related to the day’s readings, they will not necessarily cover the exact same
I will try to provide as much opportunity as possible for discussion and your
Thus, I expect that all students will be active participants in their own education.
While I feel it is important to emphasize an analytical approach to the study of politics, I also try
to focus on the important political issues of the day.
This means that all students must keep
informed of political events occurring throughout the semester.
At the end of the course students should not only understand much about the institutions and
actors that constitute the political process in the United States, but should also have some of the
basic intellectual tools necessary to do more advanced study in political science and other social
Updates to the syllabus, lecture slides, grades, and other course-related information will be
posted on the website (CULearn).
Supplementary material to the textbook (chapter summaries,
review questions, etc.) are available at the textbook website (
Like many courses in American politics, we tackle subjects that are sometimes viewed as
It is imperative that everyone (instructors and students alike) strives to maintain
an environment that is conducive to learning.
We should always remember that people bring
differences with them into the classroom and that these differences should be respected.
ask that each of us maintain civility when asking questions and making comments.
questions and comments by others should be treated with civility at all times.