Due to the Corona virus education methods or examination can deviate. For the latest news please check the course page in Brightspace.


nl en

Controversies in American Politics


Admission requirements



Across the world worries abound about the health of democratic politics. This seminar will use the United States as a case study for considering the nature of democracy and some of its current ills. In an attempt to answer the question of whether “American democracy is doomed”, we will consider a variety of important topics, including (but not limited to) the nature and influence of partisan polarization, the potential role of race and status in the ascendancy of the Trump administration, why people vote and why so few do in the United States, and the role of economic inequality in policymaking and mass dissatisfaction. Participation in this course will thus increase your knowledge both about the nature of politics in the United States as well as leave you better prepared to critically discuss important questions about other political systems as well.

Course objectives

The learning objectives for the course are as follows. By the end of the course, students should be able to:
1. Identify and explain dominant themes that shape the dynamics of American politics
2. Explain the institutional roles, origins, and functions of the Presidency, Congress, and main political parties
3. Apply theory and evidence from class readings to critically discuss research questions on other topics within American politics

Mode of instruction

Short lectures & seminar-style discussions

Course Load

Total course load: 280 hours
Seminars: 28 hours
Studying the literature: 125 hours
Preparation for assignments/assessment: 127 hours

Assessment method

Assessment will include the following:
1. Attendance and Class Participation
2. Short essays
3. An exam


Blackboard is used mainly for organizational purposes.

Reading list



See general info on tab 'Year 3'.






The seminar does not require prior knowledge about the US. Nevertheless, active parcitipation and clear interest in getting acquainted with this case is necessary. You should be proactive throughout the block in asking questions and clarifications when needed.