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This course focuses on the institutions and government of the United States. Topics include civil rights and civil liberties, the Courts, Presidential-Congressional relations, the national security establishment (e.g. the military and Central Intelligence Agency), the Trump Administration, and the 2020 Presidential election. We also consider key foreign policy issues such as the U.S.in the Asia-Pacific region, U.S.-China relations, U.S.-North Korea relations, and the global significance of the U.S. economy. Particular attention will be given to the dynamics of the 2020 Presidential election.
This course focuses on the core ideas and institutions of the United States political system, with specific reference to the contemporary period. It integrates insights from the Constitutional era (1789 – 1809) throughout the semester, in order to examine how ideas such as such as federalism, separation of powers, capitalism, freedom, and equality have shaped the American experience. We begin the course with the emergence of the United States as a global superpower following World War II and span major events from the Kennedy Administration (1961-1963) through the Trump Administration (which we will monitor over the course of the semester). Topics to be considered include: American foreign policy (particularly in the Asia-Pacific region), the war powers, civil rights and civil liberties, the role of interest groups and money in the U.S. electoral system, and the causes and effects of extreme partisanship between “blue” and “red” states and between progressives, liberals, establishment Republicans, and “Trump Republicans.”The United States is moving through a difficult period, characterized by a resurgent populism, the weakening of political consensus, rising geopolitical threats, and by public institutions that are under significant stress. Yet it is also the most powerful military and economic actor in the world system, one that is able to exert a consequential influence on world affairs. This course provides students with a platform from which to understand and analyse U.S. politics and to evaluate American actions both domestically and on the global stage. Some Initial Thoughts on a SuperpowerYou can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve exhausted every other option (apocryphal). – Winston Churchill (1874-1965)The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never yet melted. – D. H. Lawrence (author; 1885 – 1930)The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. –Walt Whitman (poet; 1819 – 1892)I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. – James Baldwin (author; 1924 – 1987)Americans may have no identity, but they do have wonderful teeth! -- Jean Baudrillard (theorist; 1929 – 2007)
Upon successful completion of this course, students will:attain a comprehensive foundation in the ideas, interests and institutions of the United States political system;be able to conduct either a historical analysis of a key event/individual or a threat assessment of a contemporary issue facing the United States;understand the evolution of U.S. politics since the 1960s and be able to explain both continuities and discontinuities;understand the complicated relationship between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government;be able to evaluate the Trump Administration with reference to historical context, statutes, and political institutions;be able to analyse and explain U.S. domestic and foreign policy from a critical and informed position;be able to evaluate the United States as a global economic and military superpower.
This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:
Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award
Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.
Any 15 points at 100 level from POLS, orany 60 points at 100 level from the Schedule V of the BA, orLAWS, GEOG, orthe Schedule V of the BCom.
Students must attend one activity from each section.
For further information see
Language, Social and Political Sciences Head of Department
Additional required readings should be available by clicking on the appropriate link in the syllabus posted on Learn. Over the semester, I may add a few (short) readings that are especially pertinent to current events.Note: you can also search the University Library catalogue, by journal title, to find the articles, if a link becomes outdated.I will post lecture notes on our Learn site, and provide links to sources that may be useful for background information and/or your research.
Domestic fee $777.00
International fee $3,375.00
* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.
For further information see
Language, Social and Political Sciences.