Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POC3096: American Democracy and the Challenges of the 21st Century

This module descriptor refers to the 2018/9 academic year.

Please note that this module is only delivered on the Penryn Campus.

Module Content

Syllabus Plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

1. The US Constitution

Its origins and the compromises that allowed its passage

2. US Federalism

The history of the federal system, how it has evolved, and why it is fundamental to understanding US politics

3. Ideology and Public Opinion

US political culture and how this manifests itself in public opinion over time.

Debates about polarization and its consequences

4. Political Parties

Reasons for the two party system, party competition, role of party identification

5. Voting and Elections

Recent national elections, voter turnout, understanding vote choice

6. Congress

How Congress is organized; congressional committees; Congress and the presidency

7. Presidency

The powers of the presidency

Presidential approval and its effects

The “two presidencies” thesis

8. The Supreme Court and the Lower Courts

Principle of judicial review

Activism versus restraint

The contemporary Court

Federal appeals courts and their importance

State courts

9. Issues in Public Policy

Economic policy and taxation

Morality policy, e.g., abortion

Gun control

Foreign policy

Learning and Teaching

This table provides an overview of how your hours of study for this module are allocated:

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

...and this table provides a more detailed breakdown of the hours allocated to various study activities:

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity22The module will be taught through 11 weekly 2 hour seminars (starting week 1) over one term, in which we discuss the topics and materials.
Guided Independent Study66Reading and preparing for seminars (around 6 hours of reading and note-taking per seminar)
Guided Independent Study50Researching, planning and writing the essay
Guided Independent Study12Researching, planning and writing the presentation

Online Resources

This module has online resources available via ELE (the Exeter Learning Environment).