Course Overview

Course description:

“Americans come to political thought,” suggest Isaac Kramnick and Theodore Lowi, “because ideas have consequences.” Unlike Europeans, who valued philosophical pedigrees and formal logic, Americans have preferred theories that actually do something.

This class considers two traditions in American political thought, liberalism and conservatism, as well as their post-modern variants. Along with primary texts, we'll look at how a group of young environmental activists in South Los Angeles stopped the construction of an electric power plant. Permission of instructor.


Isaac Kramner and Theodore J. Lowi, American Political Thought: A Norton Anthology (New York: Norton, 2009).

Karen Brodkin, Power Politics: Environmental Activism in South Los Angeles


Over the course of the semester, you’ll engage in two types of writing. The first are short efforts at exploring a passage from the text. The second are extended efforts at building an argument in which you use a theorist to help us see the political implications of a particular situation. I’ve provided instructions for both the one-pagers and the five-pagers on the Courses web page. Please let me know if I can provide any other assistance.

Both types of writing are central to the act of theorizing. The better you are at exploring a passage, the more precise you’ll be with your arguments. To use a as you go across the floor. Don’t postpone the one-pagers. Use them as exercises to keep your analytical and imaginative muscles in shape.

Due dates for the one-pagers and five-pagers are noted on the class calendar.

Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM