Is American Democracy Broken? Perspectives and Debates

Key challenges to American democracy in today's volatile political climate
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  • Lectures 25
  • Length 5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 2/2012 English

Course Description

A Faculty Project Course - Best Professors Teaching the World

American democracy seems in crisis, as we face legislative gridlock, soaring deficits, negative campaigns awash in donations from anonymous sources, growing public distrust of government, and protest movements on the right and left on the political spectrum. This class provides an overview of competing views on contemporary American democracy and a fresh look at some key issues facing our polity, including campaign finance, the War powers, the politics of deficit spending, and the proper policy-making role of the courts.

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Course Introduction
Section 1: Overview

In this lecture, I will give you an overview of the course and frame the questions and structure of our class.

Lecture Slides
3 pages
Glossary Of Key Terms
1 page
Section 2: What is American Democracy?

In this lecture, we develop working definitions to get the lay of the land and create a foundation to build a more systematic understaning of competing images of American democracy. In particular, we will look at "direct" democracy, "representativte" democracy, and majority rule.

Lecture Slides
9 pages
Substantive Definitions of Democracy
Lecture Slides
4 pages
What is American Exceptionalism?
Lecture Slides
9 pages
Section 3: Competing Images of American Democracy in Practice
Stratificationism: A Closer Look
Lecture Slides
7 pages
Pluralism: A Closer Look
Lecture Slides
6 pages
Hyperpluralism: A Closer Look
Lecture Slides
6 pages

This lectures sums up our discussion on stratificationism, pluralism, and hyperpluralism.

NOTE: Please forgive the audio! At some points, the audio becomes distorted but you should still be able to hear what I am saying.

Lecture Slides
6 pages
Section 4: Contemporary Issues in American Democracy
Campaign Finance
The Deficit
Judicial Review
The War Powers - Concluding Lecture

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Instructor Biography

Jeb Barnes, Associate Professor of Political Science - University of Southern California

After receiving his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, Jeb clerked for a federal bankruptcy judge and then practiced as a commercial litigator in Boston and San Francisco. In 1994, he left the practice of law to pursue a doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. His research centers on the intersection between law and politics and how policy emanates from interactions among the various levels and branches of government.

His research has been published peer-reviewed articles in a variety of journals, including Political Research Quarterly, Law & Society Review, Law & Social Inquiry, and Annual Review of Political Science, and three books: Dust-Up: Asbestos Litigation and the Failure of Commonsense Policy Reform (2011), Overruled? Legislative Overrides, Pluralism, and Contemporary Court-Congress Relations (2004), and a co-edited volume, Making Policy, Making Law: An Interbranch Perspective (2004). He has been invited to present his work in a wide range of academic and professional settings, including Oxford University, Northwestern University, the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the Aspen Institute, and the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

At USC, he is a Distinguished Dornsife Faculty Fellow and has won numerous awards, including a departmental teaching award, a general education teaching award, the Gamma Sigma Alpha Professor of the Year Award, and the Raubenheimer Award for outstanding junior faculty.

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