Political Science | Pol Parties & Interest Groups
Y301 | 3410 | Wolf
Politicians and commentators increasingly blame our nation's
political ills on "partisan politics" or "special interests." Perhaps no
other political topics elicit such negative reactions from citizens. The
distrust Americans have toward parties and interest groups did not develop
yesterday, however. While arguing for ratification of our Constitution,
James Madison railed against the evils of such "factions." This antipathy
has continued throughout our history. If we have always had a distaste for
parties and interest groups, why did they ever develop in the first place?
Why have they continued?
In considering these question, we will keep an eye on how parties
and interest groups help American democracy to function. The two-party
system provides more than the smoke-filled rooms of party bosses and
interest groups do more than place politicians in the pockets of "fat-cats."
Parties and interest groups serve as important linkage institutions - each
helps to link the interests of citizens with their government. Given our
pluralistic society, parties and interest groups translate our social
diversity into political expression.
Therefore, the class focuses both on understanding the history and
nature of parties and interest groups as well as judging how effectively
each performs in postmodern democracy. Comparisons will be drawn with the
functioning of parties and interest groups in other democracies as well. We
will also keep an eye on how these dynamics currently play out, with special
attention paid to the 2000 elections.
In order to help students of politics hone skills they will need as
graduates, the course provides a mixture of lectures, discussion, and
outside materials. Specifically, the student will take four to five smaller
exams throughout the term, critique different scholarly approaches, and
perform group work. The scholarly debate, lively topics, and timely events
will challenge and entertain both the students and the instructor.