Professor Peter Woll

Brandeis University

Politics 112b

Democracy in America

Spring, 2015

Democracy in America

Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy in America
Bookmark and Share

Alexis de Tocqueville

Edited and translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop
722 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2000
Cloth $54.00ISBN: 9780226805320 Published November 2000
Paper $22.00ISBN: 9780226805368 Published April 2002
E-book $18.00About E-books ISBN: 9780226924564 Published October 2012
Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) came to America in 1831 to see what a great republic was like. What struck him most was the country's equality of conditions, its democracy. The book he wrote on his return to France, Democracy in America, is both the best ever written on democracy and the best ever written on America. It remains the most often quoted book about the United States, not only because it has something to interest and please everyone, but also because it has something to teach everyone.

Research Links

PowerPoint Links

Text and research assignments will be given as we go along.

The course requires a final paper and presentation to the class on selected topics that define democracy in America. The paper and presentation count for 65 per cent of the final grade.

Class participation will count for 10% of the final grade. A mid-term examination will be given and count for 25 per cent of the final grade.

Weeks 1 and 2

An examination of the meaning of democracy in political theory, in the Anglo-American political heritage.

The Lockean social contract

John Locke, Second Treatise, Of Civil Government

Overview of John Locke's Philosophy

Parliamentary Supremacy, the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

The American Revolutionary experience

Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America

Review: Hartz on American Liberal Tradition

Author(s) of Review: Ralph H. Gabriel

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Chapter 13:


Chapter 14:


Week 3 & 4

Democracy and the Constitution

• Balanced government

James Madison, The Federalist, papers 47-51

• Representative government

James Madison, Federalist Paper 10

James Madison, Federalist Papers 52-58

Bernard Yack review, A Fresh Look at Representation

• The role of the Senate

The Supreme Court, Judicial Review, and Democracy

• The Rule of Law and the Higher Law

• Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Week 5. & 6

Political Parties and Democracy

Nineteenth century expansion of the franchise

Rise of Political Parties

Parties in the American Constitutional System

Parties as conduits of popular participation

The Party Model of Government

Barker Reflections on Government-government by discussion

APSA Committee on Political Parties 1950—need to strengthen parties for effective democracy

Constitutional Protection of Parties

Theories of Elections in American Democracy

Functions and Types of Elections

Classification of Elections

Week 7

Interest Groups and the Group Theory of democracy

Arthur Bentley, The Process of Government (1935)

Overview of Bentley's Scholarship

Bentley's Group Theory in a Contemporary Context

Pendleton Herring, Group Representation Before Congress (1928)

*Constitutional and Historical Context of Lobbying

Robert Dahl's Theory of Democracy

Roberto Michels, Political Parties (1911) and the "iron law of oligarchy"

David Truman, The Governmental Process (1951)

Money and Interest Group Power

Democratic Theory and Campaign Finance Reform

Should There Be Public Financing of Congressional Campaigns?

Linking Knowledge and Action: Political Science and Campaign Finance Reform

Constitutional Context of Interest Group Regulation’

Buckley v. Valeo (1976)

FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (2007)

Governmental Institutions and Democratic Effectiveness

Week 8.


Overview of the constitutional and political context of Congress.

Evolution from citizen legislators to professional politicians

Wilson Congressional Government

• Fragmentation of Congress-nineteenth century

Democratic "Reforms"-- The Revolt of 1910

• Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946

Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974

The Congressional Initiative in Budget Making

Conclusion: How democratic is Congress? Democratic effectiveness and Congress

Interest Groups, Congressional Reform, and Party Government in the United States

Does Congress Work?

Week 9 & 10

The Presidency

Edmund Burke

“To execute laws is a royal office; to execute orders is not to be king. A political magistracy, though merely such, is a great trust.

Perspectives on the Presidency

The Imperial Presidency

Hamiltonian Vision-The President as Statesman

Hamilton, Federalist 70

The Presidency, Democratic Reform, and Constitutional Change

Presidential governance v. campaigning

Presidential incentives

Leadership and Democracy

The President and Party Politics

The President as Party leader

• Issues

Critical elections

Weeks 11 &12

The Administrative Branch and Constitutional Democracy

Hamilton's View of Government and Administration

Congressional Attempts to Control Administrative Agencies

Administrative procedures and democracy

Rule making and democratic participation

Policy constituencies and Negotiated Rule-Making

The Courts and the Agencies :The Administrative Procedure Act

Administrative Responsibility and Accountability

Administrative presidency

• Federalist 72

Week 13

The Supreme Court and the Judiciary

The Role of Judicial Review in a Democracy

Caroline Products footnote 1938

Judicialization of Politics in the United States

John Hart Ely's thesis:Democracy and Distrust

Doctrine of standing and access to the courts

• Taxpayer lawsuits—keeping government responsible

Weeks 14

Summing Up

Increasing Democratic Effectiveness—Reform of the System

Elections, the electoral college

Campaign practices reform

Reforming Congress

Presidential Leadership

The Responsibilities of a Free Press