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American Politics and Society / Edition 7

American Politics and Society / Edition 7

by David McKay
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American Politics and Society is a clear and concise introduction to US politics which explains, analyses, and interprets the processes of US government and, crucially, appraises them from a non-US perspective.

This completely revised new edition takes in the many changes which have occurred in US politics and explores the ‘political and ideological polarization’ which some commentators see as a significant characteristic of US politics and society today. Engaging with such issues as the rapidly changing balance of support for the Democrats and Republicans, and the continuing decline in the global reputation of the United States, the book provides an up-to-date survey of the views and criticisms of leading political commentators, including commentary on the 2008 presidential election.

Written in an accessible style and packed with illustrations and pedagogical features, this book offers a fresh look at the social background to American political and economic life, the institutions and processes of government, and the most recent and dramatic events in the political arena.

An accompanying website containing additional support for lecturers and students is available at

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781405188425
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Series: CourseSmart Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 528
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

David McKay is Professor of Government at the University of Essex. He is the author of numerous books and articles on American and comparative politics, including Designing Europe: Comparative Lessons from the Federal Experience (2001, winner of the Political Studies Association WJM MacKenzie prize for the best book published in 2001). He is the co-author of The New British Politics (2007).

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Table of Contents

List of Plates.

List of Figures.

List of Tables.

Preface to the Seventh Edition.

1 Government and the People in a Polarized Society.

The Chapters to Come.

2 Beliefs, Values and American Society.

The Nature of American Beliefs and Values.

Values and American Society.

Social Structure.

3 Constitutional Government.


The American Constitution.


The Adaptive Constitution.

Assessing the Constitution.

4 Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.

Federalism in Theory and Practice.

The Evolution of American Federalism.

The Changing Federal Role.

A Changing Court Role?

The Future of American Federalism.

5 American Political Parties in Transition.

The Functions of Parties.

Crisis and Change in the American Party System.

The Decline and Rise of Political Parties.

Changing Party Ideology: 1970–2010.

Explaining Party Change.

Political Parties Redux.

6 Elections and Political Participation.

Patterns of American Electoral Behaviour.

The ‘American Voter’ Model and the New Deal Coalition.

The Decline of the New Deal Coalition and the Rise of a Divided Electorate.

Non-Electoral Political Participation.

7 The Media and American Politics.

Media Structure and Organization.

Organization and Ownership.

How Biased? The Media and the Political Agenda.

Controlling the Media.

The Media and American Democracy.

8 Congress I: The People’s Branch?

Representation and Congress.

Congressional Elections.

Legislators as Rational Actors.

The Work of Member of Congress.


9 Congress II: Functions and Powers – The Broken Branch?

The Functions of Congress.

The Structure of Power in Congress.

Congress Under Fire.

Reform and Change in Congress.

Is Congress the Broken ‘Branch’?

10 The Presidency I: Powers and Selection.

Formal Sources of Power.

Informal Powers.

Presidential Selection.

Presidential Selection: Faults and Foibles.

11 The Presidency II: The President as Chief Executive.

The Presidency in a Changing America.

Presidential Abuse of Power and the Congressional Response.

Presidential Resources.

Assessing the Presidency: Presidential Power at Home and Abroad.

12 Bureaucratic Power: Federal Departments and Agencies.

The Federal Bureaucracy: Organization and Function.

The Bureaucracy: How Uncontrollable?

The Inherent Power of Bureaucracy.

The Bureaucratic Hydra: A Uniquely American Phenomenon?

Reform Attempts.

Concluding Remarks.

13 The Security State.

The Rise of the Security State.

9/11, the Patriot Act, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Threats to Civil Liberties.

The Security State and American Values.

14 Organized Interests: The Real Power?

Interests, Groups and Lobbyists.

Economic Groups.

Professional Groups.

Promotional Groups.

Political Action Committees.

The Washington Lobby.

Interest Groups: For and Against.

15 The Supreme Court and Judicial Politics.

The American Legal System.

The Supreme Court: Decision-Making.

The Supreme Court and Political Power.

The Polarized and Activist Rehnquist and Roberts Courts.

Conclusions: The Court and American Democracy.

16 Regulating Morality: Civil Rights, Liberties and the Conscience Issues.


Regulating Public Morality.

Civil Liberties.

Equality and Civil Rights.


17 Social Policy in America: Self-Reliance and State Dependence.

The Federal Government and Social Welfare in America: The Reluctant Provider.


Social Security, Medicare and the Electoral Connection.

The Continuing Importance of Self-Reliance.

Health-Care Reforms.

The Federal Government and Education.


18 Managing Economic Change.

State and Economy in the United States.

Ideology and Economic Policy.

Institutions and Economic Policy.

Conclusions: Economic Policy in an Age of Uncertainty.

19 Environmental Politics.


The Emerging Environmental Agenda.

Policy Actors and Institutions.


Political Parties and the Environment.

Conclusions: The Future of Environmental Politics.

20 The American World Role.

The Institutional Context.

American Foreign Policy in the Post-9/11 World.

Conclusions: Bound to Lead or Bound to Fail?

21 The American Political System in an Uncertain World.

Assessing the American Polity.

Reform and Renewal.



Appendix: The Constitution of the United States.


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"American Politics and Society gets better with each edition. The breadth of its coverage and the depth of its analysis make it an unsurpassed introduction to the U.S. political system. This new version brings the text and the statistical data right up to date and provides the essential context to understanding the current crisis of American government and its political institutions."—John Hart, Australia National University

“Combining beautifully clear information with magisterially lucid analysis, David McKay’s survey of American Politics and Society has been a model textbook for 30 years. This new edition has been comprehensively updated and rewritten to take account of the leading developments of recent years. The balance between continuity and change is here admirably depicted and reviewed, renewing our fascination with the patterns and surprises of US civic and political life.”—James Dunkerley, Queen Mary, University of London 

“David McKay’s essential text continues to serve as the building block upon which the current generation of scholars and students can learn about the political system of the United States. McKay’s work has always been lucid, concise and informative; but now with even more graphs, data and briefing sections, the latest edition is twice as expansive, informed and intricate. A triumph of detail and deliberation, McKay’s book reaffirms its central role in the teaching of American politics. An indispensible read.”— Ian Scott, University of Manchester

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