Power and Participation 2003
Fall 2003 Requirements and Readings
The goals of this course are to examine 1) the concept of political power, 2) the structure of power in the United States, 3) the pathways by which ordinary citizens participate in the political process other than in elections, 4) the obstacles that must be overcome in order for that participation to be effective, and 5) the analysis of particular political movements. The course does not focus on electoral participation. The organization of the course will be along the lines of a research seminar.
In the first half of the course we will read some theoretical works on the concept of power and review the classic controversy between the pluralist and elite views of power in the United States. This period will initiate the debate which will run throughout the course: How concentrated or diffuse is the distribution of power, how is that power exercised, and what, if anything, should be done to reform the power structure. In the second half of the course we will focus on the analysis of political movements in general while examining a number of particular movements. We will debate whether or not mobilization or institution building is a more effective strategy, whether or not individuals are motivated to participate by instrumental or expressive goals, and what sorts of tactics seem most effective in achieving those goals.
Grades will be based on the following:
1) A 10-15 page paper analyzing some aspect of research on the U.S. power structure. This paper can be either theoretical or empirical. Examples of possible topics include, but are not limited to, assessing the various theories of power such as pluralism, state autonomy, power elite, etc.; the impact of wealth on the practice of democracy; the extent to which the elite is permeable; the social institutions supporting the political elite; media inattention to labor, the poor, corporate crime, and political corruption; and so forth. The paper is due October 15 and will constitute 40% of your final grade.
2) A 10-15 page paper analyzing some aspect of research on political participation in the U.S. (not including electoral participation). Possible topics might include assessing the relative importance of mobilization versus institution building; the relative importance of professional versus amateur organizers; tactics for movement building; the comparison of two or more different political movements; the origins of oppositional consciousness; and so forth. The paper is due December 10 and will constitute 40% of your final grade.
3) A Self Evaluation reflecting how well you did in the course. On September 10 each student will submit a statement of goals for the course which explains why you ar taking the course, what you hope to achieve, and how you will go about achieving those goals. Then on December 10 you will turn in a final evaluation in which you assess how well you met your goals and what grade you believe your efforts merit. The Self Evaluation will constitute 10% of your final grade.
4) Each member of the course will belong to a "Task Force" which will make a formal presentation to the entire class on the topic around which the Task Force is organized. We will work out what topics will be covered and the number of task forces in class, but possible topics might be political surveilance, elite formation, common movement failures, political domination, grassroots alternatives, and so forth. Task Force performance will constitute your participation grade and will make up 10% of your final grade. That ten percent will be determined by two processes. First, the entire class will give the Task Force a grade based on the presentation to the class, and second, members of the Task Force will grade each of the members of the Task Force based on their contribution to the group.
The following texts are available for purchase at Huntley Bookstore:Bagdikian, Ben, The Media Monopoly (6th Edition)
Domhoff, G. William, Changing The Powers That Be
Dye, Thomas, Who's Running America (7th Edition)
Freeman, Jo and Johnson, Victoria, Waves of Protest
Mansbridge, Jane and Morris, Aldon, Oppositional Consciousness
Palast, Greg, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Piven, F. and Cloward, R., Poor People's Movements