312L-Intro-spring_12-syll - GOV 312L Unique 38570 MWF 1-2...

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GOV 312L Kurt Weyland Unique 38570 BAT 4.126 MWF 1-2 pm in JGB 2.324 Issues and Policies in American Government: The U.S. in Comparative Perspective This course analyzes the United States as a prototype of liberal democracy and contrasts the U.S. model with other versions of democracy and with alternative types of political regimes, especially Communist totalitarianism and authoritarian rule. The basic assumption of the course is that we can only appreciate the distinctive nature of the U.S. political system by contrasting it with other ways of organizing politics. Thus, one needs a comparative perspective in order to understand one’s own country. Such a comparative analysis also raises an obvious question: Which one of those different ways of organizing politics is best suited for advancing the variegated goals that people pursue in and through politics, especially political freedom, social justice, and economic development? To perform such comparative analysis and assessment in a systematic fashion, we will first clarify the concept of democracy and examine some of its different versions on a theoretical level. Then the course will contrast the two most influential models of democracy in the contemporary West, namely liberal democracy (as practiced in the U.S.) and social democracy (as practiced in Sweden); we will also analyze Great Britain as a country that moved from social to liberal democracy. In the second half of the course, we will analyze alternatives to modern democracy, namely the Communist system of the former USSR and the authoritarian system prevailing until recently in Mexico. After analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of those regime types by contrast to Western democracy, we will examine the recent transitions to democracy in both of these countries, examining their causes and assessing the future prospects of these fledgling democracies—or nascent authoritarian regimes, as in contemporary Russia. Thus, by starting at home and then venturing out into the world, the course will make you familiar with the major types of political rule prevailing in the contemporary world and provide a broad overview of politics in the advanced industrialized countries, the previously Communist countries, and the Third World of “developing” countries. Such a wide-ranging comparative perspective will give you a better understanding of politics in today's increasingly interdependent world. For citizens of a country as deeply involved in world politics as the U.S., such knowledge is indispensable. This course will train you to think independently and critically about politics. Politics is by nature controversial. The course deliberately covers issues and discusses readings that are controversial. We will first see that there are several different models of democracy that may diverge considerably from the form of democracy established in the U.S. We will analyze the major models in theory and practice, and then assess and compare their advantages and disadvantages. In the second half of the course, we will
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This note was uploaded on 01/19/2012 for the course GOV 49320 taught by Professor Lazaro during the Spring '11 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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312L-Intro-spring_12-syll - GOV 312L Unique 38570 MWF 1-2...

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