Liberal Arts and Management Program | Inequality and the American Dream
L216 | 8936 | Pamela Walters


The United States has long been known – or at least idealized – as a
land of equality, a place where one’s life opportunities are
determined by ability and achievement rather than, as in most of the
rest of the world, the circumstances of one’s birth. We often refer
to this belief as “the American Dream.” And yet the United States
allows greater economic, social, and political inequalities than
most other prosperous, democratic countries. In order to gain a
better understanding of this apparent contradiction, this class will
explore the history of ideas about the political philosophy we today
know as “The American Dream” alongside the history of the political,
economic, and social realities about inequalities in American life.
We will examine the ways in which American culture, schooling,
politics, and employment opportunities support versus undermine the
American Dream, and we will take stock of the current American
commitment to and belief in the promise of the American Dream. In
particular, has the current economic crisis caused us to revisit or
abandon the Dream? What kinds of political, economic, and social
changes would be required for us to more fully realize the American
Dream?

The course work will consist of a moderate amount of reading that
will draw from a broad range of academic disciplines that speak to
either American ideas about mobility and equality or the empirical
record about the degree to which we have met these ideals.  Those
disciplines include philosophy, political theory, political science,
economics, and the instructor’s home discipline of sociology. We
will also examine the changing depiction of the American commitment
to equality in popular culture, particularly novels and film; as
such, there may be an occasional film screening held outside of
normal class hours. There will also be a good bit of writing,
including short essays on each week’s readings (to be completed
prior to the class meeting) and a longer end-of-term research paper.
This class meets the College intensive writing requirement.

Above course limited to LAMP students - must obtain permission.