GOV 381L • American State Politics
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
The states are of central and increasing importance in the U.S. political system. The past thirty years have witnessed an unprecedented resurgence of the states in political power, policy responsibility, and institutional capacity. In addition, the U.S. states provide arguably the worlds most advantageous venue in which to test general propositions about political behavior and policy. The states represent fifty units of analysis with broadly similar political structures, cultures, and populations, but with significant and limited variation across a range of social, policy, and institutional traits that are directly relevant to many theories of politics. In this way, the states represent a natural laboratory for testing hypotheses derived from theories of American-style institutions. This course has two basic objectives. First, and most importantly, the course will teach students to think like political scientists. It is designed primarily for graduate students seeking to become professional political scientists, even if they do not intend to specialize in state politics. Class discussions will emphasize systematic and theoretical thinking about political phenomena, backed up with the best available evidence to test this thinking. Second, this course will introduce students to the rich body of theoretical and empirical research that has been done by political scientists using the states as a research venue.
Grading Policy (Tentative): Course grades will be based upon class participation, short writing assignments, a short research proposal, and a final paper that will be due at the end of the semester
Course packet Gray and Hanson, Politics in the American States: A Comparative Analysis (2004) Erikson, Wright, and McIver, Statehouse Democracy: Public Opinion and Policy in the American States (1993)