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PSC 201: American Government

Serow (ed) Lanahan Readings in the American Polity, 4/e

Part 1: American Ideology,  Student Outlines

compiled from student contributions (thanks); revised 11 Sep. 2011 by Jeremy Lewis

1: Alexis De Tocqueville, "Democracy in America" NEW
2: James, Lord Bryce, "American Commonwealth"
3: Louis Hartz, "Liberal Tradition in America"
4: Theda Skocpol, "Diminished Democracy"
OLD 4: Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone” [discontinued]
5: Cornell West, "Race Matters"
OLD 5: Everett Carl Ladd, Ladd Report [discontinued]


Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"
by Amanda Wineman, Fall 2011 (and others below)
Alexis de Tocqueville
A French aristocrat who came to America to study the “new democratic ideals”
Wrote Democracy in America
Most intriguing part of the new world was that “Americans are equal”
As opposed to the highly prevalent class system in most of Europe based on many medieval ideals
Main Point : “”The idea of equality was America's identifying mark”
Tocqueville and the Baby
He compares a new nation to that of a new baby
The way the “baby nation” is based on the influences and circumstances upon which it was raised!
Every nation bears some marks of it's origins
If we look at America's “national character”, we can see the customs and laws that formed this nation with some slight variances
Unlike most other countries, everything that happened and still happens in America can be traced back to the origin of our country
We are still heavily influenced by the ideals of our roots
Immigrants and Equality
All had different beliefs and reasons for coming to the New World
They had two main things that brought them together that helped become “one”
Language – though a minor aspect of the beginning steps of unifying a country, it still played a role
Democracy – this was one of the greatest ideal that these men has in common
They did not want superiority over one another
Had come from an oppressive “class system”
Established laws to “establish a gradation of ranks”
Unlike the class system, the farmer and the servant both had equal rights and abilities to succeed in the New World
The “Land” of Old and the “Land” of New
Democracy makes sense?
Old World ? broke land into small parts. Owned and passed down in families
New World ? broke land into big and small parts. Owned and passed down by anyone who wanted to sell and purchase the land
Conclusion
America has been and still is highly democratic
American perhaps is the most equal in “point of fortune and intellect”
Alexis de Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"
By Kelsey Stone, Fall 2005
   * May 1831 arrived in US to study the “social and political phenomenon” of “American democracy”.
   * Traveled America for 9 mos interviewing Americans from different backgrounds
   * Returned to France to write Democracy in America
   * Tocqueville saw US as unique because, at least “from the start, Americans were all equal.”
   * Idea of equality was America’s identifying mark
   * “Entire man is, so to speak, to be seen in the cradle of a child”
   * Development of countries similar to this- all bear some semblance of their origins; conditions/circumstances that contributed their birth and rise affect the rest of their future
   * Founding elements of states and early history behind them lead to the primal cause of the prejudices, habits, ruling passions, and national character
         o there rest the explanations of customs, laws and opinions that happen to, now, go against the popular consensus
   * US is only country where its been possible to witness the natural and tranquil growth of society and where it is possible to clearly distinguish the influence of its origins on the future state of country
   * Emigrants who came over all had different backgrounds and came for different reasons, however their language and customs provided were the same, and this helped to unite them
   * On leaving the mother country emigrants also had no ranking system, which allowed for the provision of equal opportunity for
     everyone to start from scratch—“The happy and the powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guaranties of equality among men than poverty and misfortune”
   * Land is basis of aristocracy b/c it is handed down generation to generation, constituting an aristocracy and unless fortunes are
     territorial there is no true aristocracy
   * Law of partible inheritance has a tendency to perpetual diminuation
   * In the US inherited wealth usually lasts no more than two succeeding generations whereas in Europe
   * “Men there are seen on a greater equality in point of fortune and intellect, or, in other words, more equal in their strength, than
     in any other country of the world, or in any age of which history has preserved the remembrance”
   * Eventually equality will find its way into the political world b/c people cannot be viewed unequal on one point, but equal on all the rest"

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1. Alexis De Tocqueville, "Democracy in America (on Equality)".
Tiffany Holley, 2002

-The idea of equality was America's identifying mark.
-Must study an infant to see the germ of his vices form
    -See the first images which the external world casts upon the dark mirror of his mind.
-The entire man is, so to speak, to be seen in the cradle of the child.
-Growth of nations presents something analogous to this :they bear some marks of their origin.
-America is the only country in which it has been possible to witness the natural & tranquil growth of society.
-The emigrants who came to occupy America were different in many ways, but they had some things in common. Language is the strongest & the most durable that can unite mankind.
-2 causes that led to a complete democracy
    -On leaving the mother country the emigrants had in general no notion of superiority over one another.
    -Laws were made to establish a gradation of rank.
-Land is the basis for aristocracy
    -Unless fortunes are territorial there is no true aristocracy.
-The Law of equal division exercises its influence not merely upon the property itself, but it affects the minds of the heirs, & brings their passions into play.
    -These indirect consequences tend powerfully to the destruction of large fortunes.
-Family pride is often founded upon an illusion of self-love.
    -A man wishes to perpetuate & immortalize himself.
    -When family pride ends, individual selfishness begins.
-In America men are seen as more equal in their strength, than in any other country of the world.

1: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
(Melissa Burkett, 2000)

~ An aristocratic Frenchman who came to the U.S. in 1831
~ only 25 years old
~ spent nine months traveling throughout the U.S. in search of America's essence
~ recorded his thoughts and observations on America's social and political institutions, and reported meticulously on the structure of government and the judicial system. Democracy in America, the book that resulted from his journey, set the stage for discussions about democracy that are still being carried on today (I.e.... issues like religion, the press, money, class structure, racism, the role of government, the judicial system,etc)

~America in 1831
a rapidly growing population of just over 13 million people, America was still a predominantly ruralcountry, consisting of 24 states and a largely unsettled territorial claim stretching west to the Pacific Ocean.

Tocqueville felt that a countries' origin ultimately influenced the development of its government. Therefore, he viewed the virtue of Equality of Opportunity as America's greatest asset. Toqueville argued that from the start all Americans were equal, if not indentured or inslaved. People who entered the US had different reasons for leaving their countries and different goals once they were here. But, their language, and their common English background united them. Toqueville also assumed that the emigrants in general had no feeling of superiority over each other; because he reasoned that the happy and the powerful do not flee their countries. You could come from an aristocracy, but the harshness of toiling the land to make it prosperous affected everyone. The products of the land weren't enough to feed master and farmer at the same time..small plots were needed to get the most production.Toqueville believed that Americans were equal because they all started out with nothing and had to work, they all had the same chance and EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY. He felt that this had undoubtedly also show up in the political arena in the form of the American democracy.

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James Bryce, "The American Commonwealth"
By Maegan McCollum, Fall 2006
  • Also known as Lord Bryce/1st Viscount Bryce
  • Born in Belfast, Ireland May 10, 1838
  • Attended high school and college in Glasgow, then went on to Trinity College, Oxford.
  • Practiced law for a few years in London
  • Became head professor of civil law at Oxford
  • Gained reputation as historian early on…due mostly to his works/studies dealing with the Holy Roman Empire
  • 1870 was his first trip of many to the U.S.
  • He was an ardent liberal—elected to Parliament in 1880 and served for a number of years.
  • In 1886, he was made Under-Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs.
  • Two years later his most important work, The American Commonwealth was published.
  • In it, Bryce focuses on Equality in America
  • When American began there were no big corporations or high dollar industries—virtually no poverty.
  • However, Bryce states that in 1870, gigantic corporations exist—poverty exists.
  • Most people have a good general education/Some have exceptional education
  • Equality has diminished by this time and will even further.
  • Most of his emphasis is focused on social equality.
  • In America, no one is to think himself better of anyone else—no one has any special consideration shown to them except for the governor, chief justices, president…etc.
  • Despite this, Americans worship wealth. They "make a fuss" over the rich, their doings, the speculation of their intentions, and gossip about their private lives.
  • At the time, building a fortune made you a hero because you accomplished what so many strived for and failed.
  • However, an immoral or vulgar person of wealth might find societies doors closed to him. The wealth of a man did not change the laws that applied to him.
  • There is no rank to be bought in America.
  • The American public is full of curiosity and wonder when it comes to the rich rather than of respect.
  • People with titles of importance are few, even those of highest official rank do not broadcast the score of their position.
  • Equality of Estimation – the idea which men form of other men as compared with themselves—Bryce says this is the real sense of equality.
  • Americans hold everyone at the bottom along with themselves.
  • If a man is enormously rich, or a great orator, soldier, writer, even President he is an object of interest, admiration, possibly even of reverence, but he is deemed to be still of the same flesh and blood as other men.
  • Lord Bryce went on to write more studies in the following years, but none reached the status that Commonwealth reached.
  • Bryce went on to serve various prestigious positions one of those being the British Ambassador to the United States (1907 – 1913)
  • Following the outbreak of the 1st World War, Lord Bryce was appointed to report on alleged German atrocities in Belgium, proving them true. His reputation convinced Americans and his report influenced their opinion toward Germany before entering the war.
  • During the last nine years of his life, Bryce served in the International Court at the Hague, supported the establishment of the League of Nations, and published his final work Modern Democracies in 1921.
  • Died Jan. 22, 1922
  • 2. James, Lord Bryce, "American Commonwealth".
    Tiffany Holley, 2002

    -Americans regard one another as fundamentally equal as human beings.
    -US said all over the world to be preeminently the land of equality.
    -Some philosophers say that distinctions of rank are
    so inevitable, that however you try to expunge them, they are sure to reappear.
    -Legal equality
        -Passive or private equality
            -Equal possession of civil rights by all inhabitants.
        -Active or public equality
            -Equal possession by all of rights to a share in the gov't.
        -Both exist in America
    -Equality of material possessions
        -Wealth and all that wealth gives
    -Equality of Education & intelligence
    -Equality of social status or rank
    -Equality of estimation   -of the value which men set upon one another.
    -America now has some poverty & many large fortunes & a greater number of gigantic fortunes than in any other country.
    -There is no rank in America.
    -No man is entitled to think himself better than his fellows.
    -The fault which Americans are most frequently accused of is the worship of wealth.
    -In America, if his private character be bad, openly immoral, personally vulgar, or dishonest, the best
    society may keep its doors closed against him.
    -In America, men hold others to be at the bottom-exactly the same as themselves.
     
     

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    3. Louis Hartz, "Liberal Tradition in America"
    Tiffany Holley, 2002

    -Hartz says that America, which is considered in many ways the most revolutionary nation in the world, never had a revolution to attain the goal of equality.
    -America was settled by men who fled from the feudal & clerical oppressions of the old world.
    -America skipped the feudal stage of history meaning it lacks a genuine revolutionary tradition.
    -Even though America is known as being liberal, there has never been a liberal movement or a liberal party.
    -Liberalism is a stranger in the land of its greatest realization and fulfillment.
    -The basic ethical problem of a liberal society is the danger of unanimity.
    -Americans were not in truth world revolutionaries.
    -Traditionalism of Americans often bore amazing marks of antihistorical rationalism.
    -Americans were not either rationalist or traditionalists.
    -America is conservative, but the principles conserved are liberal and some are radical.
    -Simplicity of manners was the mark of the revolutionary colonist.
    -Freedom in the fullest sense implies both variety and equality.
    -American political thought is a veritable maze of polar contradictions:
        -pragmatism & absolutism
        -historicism & rationalism
        -optimism & pessimism
        -materialism & idealism
        -individualism & conformism
     
     

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    3. Louis Hartz, "Liberal Tradition in America"
    by Harvey Munshaw, 2001

          Background
    • American scholar of the 1950’s
    • Authored the book Liberal Tradition in America
    • Agrees with deTocqueville and Locke
    • Feels that the liberal way of life in America is full of oxymoron
    State of America circa 1950’s
    • USA locked head to head in the bloodless Cold War with CCCP
    • Leader of the “free world”
    • Most wealthy and industrialized nation on earth
    • Just beginning the baby boom
    • Mostly urban, and we had forty eight states
    • Majority of population had freedom and equality
    • Conservatism was the dominant force, exemplified by mother stays home, church attendance, and electing Ike for two terms
          Hartz’s Theory
    • Feels that America has never had a revolution for equality, and thinks that although the USA is a revolutionary state it has no revolutionary thought
    • Feels that The USA benefited from never really suffering oppression even during the colonial era
    • Feels that the US never really had a revolutionary tradition, because it never went through feudalism
    • Feels that America’s non-feudal tradition is the root of American liberalism
    • The first paradox he sees is that the US devotion to rationalism is so irrationalism that it is the root of liberalism
    • Although liberalism is a common theme in America there has never been a truly “Liberal” party
    • The five greatest paradoxes that Hartz sees in America are pragmatism vs. absolutism, historicism vs. rationalism, optimism vs. pessimism, materialism vs. idealism, and individualism vs. conformism
    • Sees the main danger to liberalism in the USA as unanimity for an idea
    • Feels that not having a democratic revolution here has opinionated us against many of those in Europe
    • Views France as the model for the Democratic revolution
    • Views US constitution as being the capstone of a long line of democratic documents
    • Feels that we did not go through an equality revolution because the majority of the population was in the realm of middle class

    • Feels that ignorance in the majority can limit American liberalism

            Discussion Questions
    • Why does Hartz feel that the oxymorons in America exist the way that they do?
    • Do You feel that the Situation domestically and abroad affected Hartz’s view of Liberalism in America in the 1950’s?
    • What do you feel Hartz would think about the 2000 presidential election?
     
     

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    Theda Skocpol, "Diminished Democracy"
    By Chanley Rainey, Fall 2006

  • Observations:
  • recently, huge shift in type of groups and organizations participating in American govt. / civic life
  • from 1800s through 1950s and 60s (over a century), groups consisted of ordinary people
  • a mixture of different business associations
  • varying membership groups governed representatively & joined voluntarily
  • since 60s, the organizations for the common man have been replaced by new breeds
  • groups funded by & in charge of distributing money given by wealthy supporters
  • professionally led groups acting on the behalf of the "poor and vulnerable"
  • citizens’ groups now organized and run by professionals and experts
  • noticeably missing from the picture
  • voluntary, nation-spanning membership associations
  • especially those with
  • popular membership (average citizens)
  • cross-class membership (rich and poor included)
  • Questions Raised:
  • Why the shift? What led to this change in approach?
  • Is the new American public, especially its newest members (us!), simply uninterested in participating in government?
  • Was the generation of WWII just extraordinarily involved and concerned, making their successors seem less participatory?
  • Argument:
  • So What Happened?
  • After 1960, changes in racial ideals and gender relationships opened many new avenues for political leaders to explore
  • centrally managed lobbying became the favored form of tackling these new issues
  • Shifts in class structure and elite careers made available experts and specialists to professionally organize the civic associations
  • With all the resources, activists, technology, and funding pooled, members were no longer needed in large numbers
  • Civil leaders were no longer committed to mobilizing vast numbers of fellow citizens into ongoing membership activities
  • So What’s the Problem?
  • Can voluntary membership associations be restored in the wake of 9/11?
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    4: Robert Putnam, “Bowling Alone”
    by Adena Cosby, 2003

    1) Social Capital
    a) Connections among individuals, social networks, and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.
    b) Social Capital has two faces:

    i) Private – which includes friendship, networking, and lending others or receiving a helping hand
    ii) Public – which includes clubs and various organizations
    c) The definition of reciprocity is what one receives for doing something for someone else.
    i) Specific reciprocity – “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me”
    ii) General reciprocity – “I’ll do this for you without expecting anything specific back form you.”
    (1) General reciprocity works well due to the fact that when you have to balance everything equally before moving on, you don’t get as much accomplished.
    d) 2 types of Social Capital:
    i) Bridging – (inclusive) whether by choice or necessity involving inward looking and tend to reinforce exclusive identities and homogenous groups.  (examples: ethnic fraternities, a fashionable country club).  Or simply put, just “getting by”.”
    ii) Bonding – (exclusive) outward, and encompasses people across diverse social cleavages.  (examples: civil rights movement, youth service groups).  Or simply put “getting ahead.”
    iii) Both Bonding and Bridging are dimensions along which we can compare different forms of social capital.


    2) Why the Decline in Social Capital
    a) Time and money pressures, usually as a result of a two career family (10%).
    b) Suburb nation, comminuting, and sprawl (10%).
    c) Electronic entertainment (25%).
    d) Generational Change – the slow replacement of the civic generation by the less involved children and grandchildren (about 50% of overall decline).

    3) Does Social Capital Really Matter
    a) Research suggests that civic connections make us healthy, wealthy, and wise.

    i) Allows citizens to resolve collective problems more easily.
    ii) Allows to easier community advancements by instilling more confidence and trustworthiness.
    iii) It widens the awareness that we have towards others as people, and allows better understanding of each others situations.
    iv) Provides better networking for jobs and help.
    v) Psychologically and biologically it improves peoples lives.  Evidence shows people with a lot of social capital cope better with trauma and recover from illness faster.  It is a compliment or in some a cases a substitute for certain medications such as prozac
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    Cornel West, “Race Matters”
    By Mollie Adams, Fall 2008
    • Cornel West-
    o Born 1953, Scholar, Pastor, civil rights activist,
    o Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University,
    o Known for his contribution to civil rights post 1960s
    o Attended Harvard, magna cum laude in Near Eastern Languages, o Ph. D from Princeton, o Yale Divinity School
    o Longtime member of Democratic Socialists of America, o Considers himself a non-Marxist Socialist
    • Race Matters
    o Written in 1993, Analyzes moral authority and racial debates concerning skin color
    Book begins with West’s outrage over racial prejudice restating Du Bois’, “The problem of the Twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”
    • West focuses much of his racial argument on the African American class verses “White European descent Americans”
    • Government
    • Liberal- solves racial problems economically: Blacks are to be “included” and “integrated” into “our” society
    • Conservative- Solves racial problems through highlighting punishments of immoral actions.  Blacks are to be “worthy of acceptance” and “well behaved” by “our” way of life
    Common Denominator of both governments is that each sees the African Americans as “Problem People”
    • West believes that only certain Americans define what it means to be American and the rest of the Country must “fit in”
    • Believes Black Nationalist groups go against “fitting in” and argues that each rests on a fundamental truth: White America has been historically weak-willed in ensuring racial justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of blacks.
    • Believes in order to fix our problem and capture a new spirit we must
    1- Admit that the most valuable sources for help, hope, and power consist of ourselves and our common history.
    2-Focus our attention on the public square (common good)
    3- Well being of our children
    4- Large scale access to basic social goods (food, housing, health care)
    Meet the need to generate NEW leadership!
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    5. Everett Carl Ladd, Ladd Report
    Tiffany Holley, 2002

    -Americans are more active than ever in joining together for civic, religions, and political goals.
    -U.S. is an individualist democracy
       -dependent on harnessing collective or cooperative energies.
    -America's ideal is of active civic & social organizations, churches, philanthropies & voluntarism
    -The great social debate
       -Are we spending down our supply of social capital?
    -Hard to sort America's trends b/c it's associational life is extensive, diverse, & decentralized.
    -Tocqueville saw political democracy growing out of experience acquired in the great variety of civil associations.
    -Individualist democracy requires that many people be trained to participate & accept responsibility for social outcomes.
    -Political parties provide democratic education for narrowly based community organizations.
        -Teach that people must join w/ many others of diverse views if they are to succeed in advancing general programs.
    -American's civic engagement was spurred by the strength of their individualism.
    -Civic engagement in America is high & increasing.
    -America a post industrial society is organized around knowledge.
    -Key developments defining post industrialism
        -exponential growth & branching of science
        -rise of a new intellectual technology
        -creation of systematic research through R&D budgets
        -codification of theoretical knowledge
    -Post industrialism extends the resources for civic participation.
        -increases the proportion of the public given advanced educational skills & new communications
         tools.
        -frees broad segments of the populace from grinding physical toil.
        -widens the range of individual choice.
        -invites millions to explore civic life in ways previously out of reach for them.
    -The parents didn't stop participating in parent/teacher groups, they joined other groups.
    -Huge numbers of local parent-teacher groups disaffiliated from the national PTA & became a part of PTO.
    -one reason for the PTA's decline is some say it became a lapdog of the teachers unions.
    -Contemporary America hasn't dissipated the country's historic reserve of social capital.
     
     

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    5. Everett Carl Ladd, Ladd Report
    by Jamie Jordan, 2001.

    Ladd is the executive director of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut.  He uses poll data to assess the  popular thesis found in the work of Robert Putnam--who wrote "Bowling Alone"--and the theories within it and of others who believe that there is less civic envolvement in the U.S. and that the reason behind it is individualism.

    Americans Worry About...
    *  Civic decline
    *  Social capital running low

    Why Are We "Going the Wrong Way?"
    *  Crime
    *  Family breakdown
    *  Weakening religious commitments
    *  Standards

    What Ladd Believes...
    *  That the trends show civic envolvement extending, not contracting
    *  It is easier to be an engaged citizen in the Information Economy than in an Industrial *  Economy
    *  The belief that civic envolvement is losing ground is based on the decline of older groups
    *  The scale of responsibility to the collective whole and individualism is not "out of whack"

    What Others Believe...
    *  Vigorous citizenry addressing social needs is simply "Tocqueville romanticism" (Theda Skocpol)
    *  Contemporary individualism is the villain behind the surge in rates of violent crime and drug abuse, divorce and abortion

    Is There Trouble In the Schools?
    *  PTA membership drops significantly
    *  Other areas of envolvement within the schools have gone up considerably
    *  Less than 1/4 of all schools now have a PTA, but is all hope lost for the rest?

    Ladd does not see the problem as being as great of one as does Robert Putnam and others.  He believes that Americans associational life is extensive, diverse, and decentralized.  This he believes is the reason that it is hard to see trends.  If the public showed signs of abandoning its historic inclination to join with others to meet common needs then there would be a crisis of American citizenship.  However there are documented here millions of involved children and parents in physical training, competition, soccer leagues, natural environment, school programs religious life; etc showing that the "nation of joiners, volunteers and givers" is not a myth, but still strong in the America of today.
     
     

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