Political Science 310
Theories of American Politics

Course Syllabus
Spring 2001
TR 8:00 - 10:50 a.m. in C460 ESC

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 752 SWKT
Office Hours: R 11 a.m. - 12 noon, or by appointment
Phone: 378-9136
e-mail: goodliffe@byu.edu


Office Hours
Academic Honesty and Plagiarism
Other Notes

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Thursday 11 a.m. to 12 noon. I am also available at most other times if you make arrangements with me. I encourage you to come by for any reason whatsoever.

You should check your email regularly (as well as this syllabus web page) for updates, announcements, corrections, etc. You are responsible for any announcements made in class even if you did not attend. I suggest that you exchange phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses with other students in the class.


It is understood that students enrolled in this class will have taken at a minimum Political Science 110 (Introduction to American Politics) and Political Science 200 (Political Inquiry). Thus, I expect all students to have a working knowledge of American politics, and to know how to write a paper. If you have not taken both of those courses, take this course after you have. Without these prerequisites you will not be able to succeed in this course. It will also be of great benefit to have taken Economics 110.


This course is designed to serve as the intermediate theory course for the sub-field of American politics. In the first section of the course, we will study the major approaches to studying social science. Students should be able to identify and apply these approaches to various topics in American politics. In the second section of the course, we will select topics in American politics (one per week), and examine theories that attempt to explain political phenomena, often using seminal readings on the subject. Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to develop your critical thinking skills through writing assignments and a group presentation. At the conclusion of this course, you should have four distinct skills:

  1. the ability to identify the major research traditions that structure the study of politics;
  2. the capacity to use these theories to explain current practices in American politics;
  3. the capability to derive testable hypotheses from these theories; and,
  4. a refined ability to analyze and think critically.


The course will be conducted primarily as a seminar. Therefore, it is incumbent that you have read the material to be discussed during each class period prior to the class. It is expected that you will attend regularly and come prepared to participate in the discussion. You should anticipate that I will call on you to contribute your opinion. We will also have various in-class activities and exercises designed to stimulate interest and enhance learning.

I actively encourage questions, interruptions, cries for help, protests of disbelief, etc. You will never be penalized for participating--even when this takes the form of vague complaints like, "I've got no clue why we are reading this stuff!" I urge--indeed, I expect--you to take advantage of the chance to talk with me during office hours.


Quizzes and Class Participation


Preliminary Papers


Final Paper 25%
Group Presentation 20%
Final Examination 25%

Quizzes and Class Participation

To encourage reading before class, there will be a short quiz at the beginning of each class. You may use any notes that you have written yourself for the quiz (i.e., you may not bring anyone else's notes, the text, or any articles). The quiz will have (a) short-answer question(s) relating to the main point(s) of the reading(s) for that day's class. If you have done the reading, the quiz will be easy. If you come late to class or miss class altogether, you cannot make up the quiz--you receive a zero. However, since everyone has difficulties at one time or another, I will drop the lowest quiz for the semester.

Since this class is a seminar, students should be ready to engage one another in discussion. Of course, in order to participate, one needs to attend class. I am particularly interested in your participation when other groups make their presentations. Active, collaborative learning not only enhances your education, but is more interesting to both student and instructor.

Preliminary Papers

There will be four three-page papers (equally weighted) to help you develop your critical thinking skills and evaluate your understanding of the reading. I strongly encourage you to consult with me on your papers. The due dates are noted in the Schedule. If you cannot make it to class, please leave the assignment with the department secretaries (in the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. You may also submit your assignments via email (as an attachment). I will deduct 20 points per day (including weekends) for late assignments (on a 100 point scale). That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting an assignment when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement.

Final Paper

At the end of the semester, each individual must submit a 7-8 page paper that uses the theories in the section that he or she presented with his or her group (see below). The paper must explain a current practice in American politics using the theories that you covered in your section (and other sections). You will select one event, practice, or institution in American politics that you used during your presentation and specify how the theories explain its occurrence. I strongly encourage you to consult with me on your paper. More detailed instructions are found here.

Students will be assigned to a group of three. Each student in the group will distribute his or her paper to the other two students for peer evaluation. (Students will evaluate two peers' papers, and return each of them with an evaluation sheet. Peers will also give grades to the instructor only. Finally, authors will give grades to their peers on how well they were able to constructively criticize authors' arguments, and give specific suggestions on how to strengthen those arguments.) After incorporating the appropriate suggestions and criticisms, students will turn in their final paper. Authors will also grade the peer reviewers. Twenty percent of your final paper grade is determined by your initial submission, 20% of your final paper grade is determined by how well you evaluate your peers, and the final 60% is determined by your final submission to me.

The paper is due at the beginning of class on the day designated in the course Schedule. If you cannot make it to class, please leave the assignment with the department secretaries (in the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. You may also submit your assignments via email (as an attachment). I will deduct 20 points per day (including weekends) for late assignments (on a 100 point scale). That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting an assignment when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement. The papers may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. The papers will be discarded at the end of the Fall 2001 semester.

Group Presentation

To facilitate discussion of the issues, each student will participate in a group presentation at some point during the semester. A group presentation should identify the one or two most important questions that the readings seek to answer, consider alternative explanations and answers from other theoretical approaches, examine recent occurrences in American politics and what the theories say about them, and analyze their importance for the future of American democracy. You can be as creative as you wish in your approach to the group presentation. You can use video clips from news programs or movies to illustrate a particular point. You may want to use music that expresses the same themes found in the readings. You are responsible for helping us to understand why these theories and the questions they raise explain such persistent patterns in American politics. The first presentation will be May 15th to give you time to think about what you might want to do. The groups will be small to minimize the "free-rider" problem. However, 40% of your grade for the group presentation will depend upon the evaluation of the other members of the group. If the other students do not think that you contributed significantly and meaningfully to the presentation, they can penalize you. After your presentation, you must turn in a self-reflection within 24 hours, as well as grades of your peers. More details on the self-reflection can be found here.

Each person in the group must apply a theory to a recent example in American politics during the presentation. Each person must use a different example; this example will be used in the final paper (see above).

Each group must meet with me before their presentation to discuss their plans, and to examine the readings.

More substantive details on the group presentation can be found here. Further suggestions on presentations generally can be found here and here.

Final Exam

There will be a final examination that will be comprehensive. The final exam will be administered in the Testing Center (265 HGB) June 20-21 (as noted on the final exam schedule). Do not ask to take the final examination early. It is against university policy to give final examinations outside of the scheduled time. You should not make any plans that interfere with the final exam schedule. Please do not ask for exceptions. I am not authorized to grant them.

You may bring any notes that you have written yourself into the exam (i.e., you may not bring anyone else's notes, the text, or any articles). There will be no time limit. The exam will consist primarily of short-answer questions and essay questions that assess the skills listed in Objectives. The examination will be difficult. I expect you to be able to apply the material that we have covered in class and to recall definitions. You have the opportunity to suggest questions for the exam here. A mock-up of a previous semester's final can be found here. The exams may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. The exams will be discarded at the end of the Fall 2001 semester.


I do not grade on a curve.

I include the following information from the BYU 2000-2001 Undergraduate Catalog which guides how I grade and determine workload:

"The grade given in a course is the teacher's evaluation of the student's performance, achievement, and understanding in that subject as covered in the class. The following adjectives indicate the meaning of the letter grades:
A Excellent
B Good
C Satisfactory
D Minimum passing
E Unacceptable
"Hence, the grade A means that the student's performance, achievement, and understanding were excellent in the portion of the subject covered in the class.
"There are prerequisites that qualify students to be admitted to the more advanced classes offered by a department. A senior has added experience, understanding, and preparation and, consequently, progresses in courses that would have been impossible when the student was a freshman. The level of performance, achievement, and understanding required to qualify for each grade that carries credit (any grade other than E, UW, I, IE, or WE) is higher in a more advanced class than in those classes that precede it, and the student is prepared to work at this higher level" (p. 34).
"The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (p. 32).

Putting these two statements together, the university expects an "average student" to work "much more" than 9 hours a week to receive an 'A' (= "excellence") in a 3 credit-hour course. This is my expectation as well.

This workload has been affirmed by President Bateman in two of his recent devotional addresses. On 7 September 1999, he stated, "It takes approximately three hours of study outside class for every hour in the classroom. If you take 15 hours of credit, you should allocate upward of 45 hours for study per week." On 19 September 2000, he advised, "Study daily--at least three hours for every hour in class."

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

From the Academic Honesty section of the BYU Honor Code: "The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to `be honest.' Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. `President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education' (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim.

"BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct." Read the full version here (parts attached to the original syllabus).

A colleague (Professor Mitch Sanders of Florida State University) has already explicated these issues specifically for political science. Please read here (also attached to the original syllabus).

If you write a paper for another course (past or present) that uses the same topic as a paper for this course, you need to approve it with me first, and then you must turn in to me a copy of the paper from your other course.

Other Notes

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU’s policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 378-2847.

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (378-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the SSD office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895, D-282 ASB.


The text for the course is

It is available through the BYU Bookstore (or any number of on-line bookstores; see TextbookLand.com or AllBookStores.com for a listing of bookstores and comparison of prices).

The other readings are either available through JSTOR or Electronic Course Reserve in the Lee Library. They are also on regular reserve. You may access JSTOR from a BYU computer, or off-campus through this link. To print from either JSTOR or the Electronic Course Reserve, the computer must have the Adobe Acrobat reader (downloadable free here). Where possible, I have linked the article/chapter directly to this syllabus. The other readings are also in a packet available through the BYU Bookstore.

You should read a national newspaper daily. Knowledge of current events will help you in your group presentation, preliminary and final papers, and active participation in class. I suggest subscribing to a national paper, or at the very least, reading on the web the national news of The New York Times (free with registration), The Washington Post (free), The Los Angeles Times (free), or The Wall Street Journal (not free).

I may add or subtract readings during the semester.

Introduction (May 1)

Neal A. Maxwell, "The Disciple-Scholar," in Learning in the Light of Faith, ed. Henry B. Eyring, Bookcraft, 1999. [questions]

Theories of Social Science (May 3 - 10)

Terence Ball, "Is There Progress in Political Science?" in Idioms of Inquiry, ed. Terence Ball, State University of New York Press, 1987. [questions]

Daniel Little, Varieties of Social Explanation, Chapters 1-8, Westview Press, 1991. [ch. 1 questions] [ch. 2 questions] [ch. 3 questions] [ch. 4 questions] [ch. 5 questions] [ch. 6 questions] [ch. 7 questions] [ch. 8 questions]

David Easton, "The Future of the Postbehavioral Phase in Political Science," in Contemporary Empirical Political Theory, ed. Kristen Renwick Monroe, University of California Press, 1997. [questions]

Susan J. Carroll and Linda M.G. Zerilli, "Feminist Challenges to Political Science," in Political Science: The State of the Disipline II, ed. Ada W. Finifter, American Political Science Association, 1993. [questions]

Applications of Theories to American Politics

Power (May 15) [questions]

G. William Domhoff, "Who Governs America Today?" in Primis Sociology database, eds. Craig Calhoun and George Ritzer, McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Nelson W. Polsby, "How to Study Community Power: The Pluralist Alternative," Journal of Politics 22:474-484 (1960).

John Gaventa, "Power and Participation," in Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley, University of Illinois Press, 1980.

Constitution (May 17) [questions]

Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (excerpts), Macmillan, 1954 [1913].

John P. Roche, "The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action," American Political Science Review 55:799-816 (1961).

John B. Londregan, "Deliberation and Voting at the Federal Convention of 1787," (1999).

Political Culture (May 22) [questions]

Louis Hartz, "The Concept of a Liberal Society," in The Liberal Tradition in America, Harcourt, Brace, 1955.

Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, "An Approach to Political Culture," in The Civic Culture, Little, Brown, 1965.

Robert D. Putnam, "Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital," Journal of Democracy 6:65-78 (1995).

Voting (May 24) [questions]

Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes, "Theoretical Orientation," in The American Voter, University of Chicago Press, 1960.

Anthony Downs, "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy 65:135-150 (1957).

Morris P. Fiorina, "An Outline for a Model of Party Choice," American Journal of Political Science 21:601-625 (1977).

Interest Groups (May 29) [questions]

David B. Truman, "Group Politics and Representative Democracy," in The Governmental Process, 2nd edition, Alfred A. Knopf, 1971.

Mancur Olson, Jr., "The Logic," in The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities, Yale University Press, 1982.

Richard L. Hall and Frank W. Wayman, "Buying Time: Moneyed Interests and the Mobilization of Bias in Congressional Committees," American Political Science Review 84:797-820 (1990).

Social Movements (May 31) [questions]

Lewis M. Killian, "Social Movements," in Handbook of Modern Sociology, ed. Robert E.L. Faris, Rand McNally, 1964.

Doug McAdam, "The Political Process Model," in Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970, University of Chicago Press, 1982.

Verta Taylor and Nancy E. Whittier, "Collective Identity in Social Movement Communities: Lesbian Feminist Mobilization," in Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, eds. Aldon D. Morris and Carol McClurg Mueller, Yale University Press, 1992.

Bureaurcracy (June 5) [questions]

James Q. Wilson, "The Bureaucracy Problem," Public Interest 6:3-9 (1967).

Fred Block, "Beyond Relative Autonomy: State Managers as Historical Subjects," in Revising State Theory, Temple University Press, 1987 [1980].

Roger D. Masters, "Why Bureaucracy?" in The Nature of Politics, Yale University Press, 1989.

Representation (June 7) [questions]

Richard F. Fenno, Jr., "U.S. House Members in Their Constituencies: An Exploration," American Political Science Review 71:883-917 (1977).

James A. Stimson, Michael B. MacKuen, and Robert S. Erikson, "Dynamic Representation," American Political Science Review 89:543-565 (1995).

Julie Dolan, "Support for Women's Interests in the 103rd Congress: The Distinct Impact of Congressional Women," Women and Politics 18:81-94 (1997).

Congress (June 12) [questions]

J. McIver Weatherford, "The Ritual of Legislation," in Tribes on the Hill, Rawson, Wade Publishers, 1981.

Barry R. Weingast and William J. Marshall, "The Industrial Organization of Congress; or, Why Legislatures, Like Firms, Are Not Organized as Markets," Journal of Political Economy 96:132-163 (1988).

Keith Krehbiel, "Informational Theories of Legislative Organization," in Information and Legislative Organization, University of Michigan Press, 1991.

Critique (June 14)

Gerald H. Kramer, "Political Science as Science," in Political Science: the Science of Politics, ed. Herbert F. Weisberg, Agathon Press, 1986. [questions]

Theodore J. Lowi, "The State in Political Science: How We Become What We Study," American Political Science Review 86:1-7 (1992). [questions]

Daniel Little, "Toward Methodological Pluralism," in Varieties of Social Explanation [Chapter 11], Westview Press, 1991. [questions]

Schedule (subject to change)

Date Topic Assignments
May 1 Introduction Maxwell
3 Progress; Causal Analysis Ball; Little 1-2
8 Rational Choice; Interpretivism;
Functionalism; Marxism
Little 3-6
10 Anthropology; Statistics;
Behavioralism; Feminism
Little 7-8; Easton; Carroll and Zerilli
Writing #1 Due
15 Power Domhoff; Polsby; Gaventa
17 Constitution Beard; Roche; Londregan
Writing #2 Due
22 Political Culture Hartz; Almond and Verba; Putnam
24 Voting Campbell et al.; Downs; Fiorina
Writing #3 Due
29 Interest Groups Truman; Olson; Hall and Wayman
31 Social Movements Killian; McAdam; Taylor and Whittier
Writing #4 Due
June 5 Bureaucracy Wilson; Block; Masters
7 Representation Fenno; Stimson, MacKuen, and Erikson; Dolan
Peer Paper Draft Due
12 Congress Weatherford; Weingast and Marshall; Krehbiel
Peer Reviews Due
14 Critique Kramer; Lowi; Little 11
Final Paper Due
19 Reading Period  
20-21 Final Exam  

Jay Goodliffe's home page

This page is http://fhss.byu.edu/polsci/Goodliffe/310/syllabus.htm