American Politics in a Nutshell

imagesI am a comparativist by training and so it is not particularly surprising that I am fond of  T. S. Eliot’s famous quatrain from Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

And I am therefore extremely grateful to Michal Kovacs of the Introduction to North America class at the Economics University of Bratislava for the chance to reverse the normal equation and talk about my own country using the tools that I usually use to talk about Slovakia.  Thanks, too, to the students who paid close attention and asked excellent questions (but I’m still not telling whom I would vote for if I were a citizen of Slovakia).  For those students who participated and for anyone else odd enough to care, a hasty, non-annotated (and therefore probably incomprehensible) .pdf of the talk is available here:

Since this is in many regards just a highly abbreviated version of lectures in my Citizenship class, the truly foolhardy can find a more extensive treatment at http://waynehonorsgold.pbwiki.com (login: waynehonorsgold@yahoo.com, login: abercrombie)

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  • [...] Voters’ answers to political questions tend to form a limited number of reasonably well-defined clusters, (in which case an individual’s answers each of the questions is, theoretically, fairly closely related to the answers o the others).  The content of these clusters varies from country to country and from one decade to the next, though most countries have long-lasting oppositions between pro-market and pro-state clusters on economic questions and many have similar clusters on cultural and religious questions, questions of foreign policy, regional and language policy and other sets of issues (for far too much detail on this question, see http://www.la.wayne.edu/polisci/kdk/papers/cleavage.pdf).  In some countries all the major political questions are more or less reducible to a single cluster, so that we can speak of  one-dimensional political competition.  In most, however, knowing voters’ or a parties’ position on one did not help guess positions on the others, producing two or three relatively independent dimensions.  (One of the core messages in my own courses on American politics is that despite our obsession with the all-out war between “liberal” and “conservative,” there are at least two dimensions in American politics: one economic and the other cultural.  For far to much detail on that question see http://www.pozorblog.com/2010/03/american-politics-in-a-nutshell/). [...]

 

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