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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2010

GOV 384M • The American Welfare State

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39037 W
12:30 PM-3:30 PM
BAT 5.102

Course Description

This graduate course examines the politics of social policy in the United States. The first half of the course places the United States in comparative perspective. Scholars typically describe the United States as a "laggard" where social policies developed relatively late, grew relatively slowly, and are less generous than corresponding policies in the advanced industrial democracies of Europe. What are the sources of these differences? How have political culture, interest groups, political institutions, and other factors contributed to the unusual shape of American social policy? The second half of the course assesses the recent “historic turn” in the study of American social policy. In recent years, many political scientists have argued that policymaking is an iterative, historical process that can only be understood if scholars take time seriously. Concepts such as path dependence and policy feedback have gained greater currency as a result of their research. What are the analytical advantages of this approach to the study of social policy? What are its main disadvantages? Two consumer advisories are in order. First, this course will not evaluate existing social programs or engage in current debates over the future of American public policy. Second, this is not a course in the history of social policy in the United States. The main objective of this course is to teach students to think like political scientists. It is designed primarily for graduate students in political science, even if they do not intend to specialize in the study of public policy. Class discussions will emphasize systematic, theoretical thinking about political phenomena and the use of empirical evidence to test this thinking.

Grading Policy

Class participation--15% Take home midterm exam--30% Four short reaction papers, approximately 750 words each--20% Research Paper--35%


ALL Tentative Jacob S. Hacker, The Divided Welfare State (Cambridge, 2002) Christopher Howard, The Welfare State Nobody Knows (Princeton, 2007) Eric Patashnik, Reforms at Risk (Princeton, 2008) Paul Pierson, Politics in Time (Princeton, 2004) Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers (Harvard, 1992) Reading packet


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