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America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense Cover

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America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense

Scott Philip Segrest

From Aristotle to Thomas Jefferson, seminal thinkers have declared “common sense” essential for moral discernment and civilized living. Yet the story of commonsense philosophy is not well known today.
 
            In America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense, Scott Segrest traces the history and explores the personal and social meaning of common sense as understood especially in American thought and as reflected specifically in the writings of three paradigmatic thinkers: John Witherspoon, James McCosh, and William James. The first two represent Scottish Common Sense and the third, Pragmatism, the schools that together dominated American higher thought for nearly two centuries.
 
Educated Americans of the founding period warmly received Scottish Common Sense, Segrest writes, because it reflected so well what they already thought, and he uncovers the basic elements of American common sense in examining the thought of Witherspoon, who introduced that philosophy to them. With McCosh, he shows the furthest development and limits of the philosophy, and with it of American common sense in its Scottish realist phase. With James, he shows other dimensions of common sense that Americans had long embraced but that had never been examined philosophically.
 
            Clearly, Segrest’s work is much more than an intellectual history. It is a study of the American mind and of common sense itself—its essential character and its human significance, both moral and political. It was common sense, he affirms, that underlay the Declaration of Independence and the founders’ ideas of right and obligation that are still with us today. Segrest suggests that understanding this foundation and James’s refreshing of it could be the key to maintaining America’s vital moral core against a growing alienation from common sense across the Western world.
 
Stressing the urgency of understanding and preserving common sense, Segrest’s work sheds new light on an undervalued aspect of American thought and experience, helping us to perceive the ramifications of commonsense philosophy for dignified living.

America at Risk Cover

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America at Risk

Threats to Liberal Self-Government in an Age of Uncertainty

Robert Faulkner and Susan Shell, Editors

America at Risk gathers original essays by a distinguished and bipartisan group of writers and intellectuals to address a question that matters to Americans of every political persuasion: what are some of the greatest dangers facing America today? The answers, which range from dwindling political participation to rising poverty, and religion to empire, add up to a valuable and timely portrait of a particular moment in the history of American ideas. While the opinions are many, there is a central theme in the book: the corrosion of the liberal constitutional order that has long guided the country at home and abroad. The authors write about the demonstrably important dangers the United States faces while also breaking the usual academic boundaries: there are chapters on the family, religious polarization, immigration, and the economy, as well as on governmental and partisan issues. America at Risk is required reading for all Americans alarmed about the future of their country. Contributors • Traci Burch • James W. Ceaser • Robert Faulkner • Niall Ferguson • William A. Galston • Hugh Heclo • Pierre Manent • Harvey C. Mansfield • Peter Rodriguez • Kay Lehman Schlozman • Susan Shell • Peter Skerry • James Q. Wilson • Alan Wolfe Robert Faulkner is Professor of Political Science at Boston College. Susan Shell is Professor of Political Science at Boston College. "America at Risk goes well beyond the usual diagnoses of issues debated in public life like immigration, war, and debt, to consider the Republic’s founding principles, and the ways in which they have been displaced by newer thoughts and habits in contemporary America. A critical book for understanding our present condition." —Francis Fukuyama, Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies "In this penetrating book, the nation’s finest social and political thinkers from across the spectrum take a careful and no-holds-barred look at the dangers facing the American political system. The conclusions are more unsettling than reassuring---but that is because they are honest and real." —Norm Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute "In the midst of overwrought pundits, irate soccer moms, and outraged bloggers, it is difficult to distinguish genuine dangers from false alarms and special pleading. This book enables us to do so, in a way that helps us to actually think about, not just feel anxious about, threats to those features of American society that are worth cherishing. The authors range in ideology and expertise, but they are uniformly judicious, incisive, and informative. This is a fascinating book about issues that the political system usually ignores or exaggerates." —Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

America Works Cover

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America Works

Thoughts on an Exceptional U.S. Labor Market

The U.S. labor market is the most laissez faire of any developed nation, with a weak social safety net and little government regulation compared to Europe or Japan. Some economists point to this hands-off approach as the source of America’s low unemployment and high per-capita income. But the stagnant living standards and rising economic insecurity many Americans now face take some of the luster off the U.S. model. In America Works, noted economist Richard Freeman reveals how U.S. policies have created a labor market remarkable both for its dynamism and its disparities. America Works takes readers on a grand tour of America’s exceptional labor market, comparing the economic institutions and performance of the United States to the economies of Europe and other wealthy countries. The U.S. economy has an impressive track record when it comes to job creation and productivity growth, but it isn’t so good at reducing poverty or raising the wages of the average worker. Despite huge gains in productivity, most Americans are hardly better off than they were a generation ago. The median wage is actually lower now than in the early 1970s, and the poverty rate in 2005 was higher than in 1969. So why have the benefits of productivity growth been distributed so unevenly? One reason is that unions have been steadily declining in membership. In Europe, labor laws extend collective bargaining settlements to non-unionized firms. Because wage agreements in America only apply to firms where workers are unionized, American managers have discouraged unionization drives more aggressively. In addition, globalization and immigration have placed growing competitive pressure on American workers. And boards of directors appointed by CEOs have raised executive pay to astronomical levels. Freeman addresses these problems with a variety of proposals designed to maintain the vigor of the U.S. economy while spreading more of its benefits to working Americans. To maintain America’s global competitive edge, Freeman calls for increased R&D spending and financial incentives for students pursuing graduate studies in science and engineering. To improve corporate governance, he advocates licensing individuals who serve on corporate boards. Freeman also makes the case for fostering worker associations outside of the confines of traditional unions and for establishing a federal agency to promote profit-sharing and employee ownership. Assessing the performance of the U.S. job market in light of other developed countries’ recent history highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the free market model. Written with authoritative knowledge and incisive wit, America Works provides a compelling plan for how we can make markets work better for all Americans.

American Campaign, Second Edition Cover

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American Campaign, Second Edition

U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote

By James E. Campbell

Reporting data and predicting trends through the 2008 campaign, this classroom-tested volume offers again James E. Campbell’s “theory of the predictable campaign,” incorporating the fundamental conditions that systematically affect the presidential vote: political competition, presidential incumbency, and election-year economic conditions. Campbell’s cogent thinking and clear style present students with a readable survey of presidential elections and political scientists’ ways of studying them. The American Campaign also shows how and why journalists have mistakenly assigned a pattern of unpredictability and critical significance to the vagaries of individual campaigns. This excellent election-year text provides: a summary and assessment of each of the serious predictive models of presidential election outcomes; a historical summary of many of America’s important presidential elections; a significant new contribution to the understanding of presidential campaigns and how they matter.

American Conservatism Cover

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American Conservatism

Thinking It, Teaching It

Paul Lyons

This book offers a rare opportunity to read about how a scholar's teaching informs his research, in this case an examination of the nature of American conservatism. It is based on an interdisciplinary senior seminar Lyons taught in Spring 2006. His teaching log, including student comments from an electronic conferencing system, gives a vivid sense of the daily frustrations and triumphs. Lyons reflects on some of the most difficult issues in higher education today, such as how to handle racism and political passions in the classroom, as well as how a teacher presents his own political convictions.

Lyons begins with the premise that most universities have been negligent in helping undergraduates understand a movement that has shaped the political landscape for half a century. In addition, in a series of essays that frame the teaching log, he makes the case that conservatives have too often failed to adhere to basic, Burkean principles, and that the best of conservatism has often appeared as a form of liberalism from thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Reinhold Niebuhr, and George Kennan. The essays also cover the history of conservatism, conservative use of the city-on-a-hill metaphor, and an examination of how the promise of Camelot sophistication was subverted by a resurgence of right-wing populism.

American Culture in Peril Cover

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American Culture in Peril

edited by Charles W. Dunn

Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan rode a wave of patriotism to the White House by calling for a return to what he considered to be traditional American values--personal liberty, free markets, and limited government. After the cultural struggles and generational clashes of the 1960s and 70s, it appeared that many Americans were eager to abide by Reagan's set of core American principles. Yet, despite Reagan's continuing popularity, modern America remains widely perceived as a nation weakened by its divisions. While debates over cultural values have been common throughout the country's history, they seem particularly vitriolic today. Some argue that these differences have resulted in a perpetually gridlocked government caught between left and right, red states and blue. Since the American Founding, commonly shared cultural values have been considered to be the glue that would bind the nation's citizens together. However, how do we identify, define and interpret the foundations of American culture in a profoundly divided, pluralistic country?

In American Culture in Peril, Charles W. Dunn assembles top scholars and public intellectuals to examine Reagan's impact on American culture in the twenty-first century. The contributors assess topics vital to our conversations about American culture and society, including changing views of the family, the impact of popular culture, and the evolving relationship between religion, communities, and the state. Others investigate modern liberalism and the possibilities of reclaiming a renewed conservatism today. American Culture in Peril illuminates Reagan's powerful legacy and investigates whether his traditional view of American culture can successfully compete in postmodern America.

Contributors

Hadley Arkes

Paul A. Cantor

Allan Carlson

Jean Bethke Elshtain

Charles R. Kesler

Wilfred M. McClay

Ken Myers

American Dictators Cover

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American Dictators

Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine

Steven Hart

One man was tongue-tied and awkward around women, in many ways a mama's boy at heart, although his reputation for thuggery was well earned. The other was a playboy, full of easy charm and ready jokes, his appetite for high living a matter of public record. One man tolerated gangsters and bootleggers as long as they paid their dues to his organization. The other was effectively a gangster himself, so crooked that he hosted a national gathering of America's most ruthless killers. One man never drank alcohol. The other, from all evidence, seldom drank anything else.

American Dictators is the dual biography of two of America’s greatest political bosses: Frank Hague and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Packed with compelling information and written in an informal, sometimes humorous style, the book shows Hague and Johnson at the peak of their power and the strength of their political machines during the years of Prohibition and the Great Depression. Steven Hart compares how both men used their influence to benefit and punish the local citizenry, amass huge personal fortunes, and sometimes collaborate to trounce their enemies.

Similar in their ruthlessness, both men were very different in appearance and temperament. Hague, the mayor of Jersey City, intimidated presidents and wielded unchallenged power for three decades. He never drank and was happily married to his wife for decades. He also allowed gangsters to run bootlegging and illegal gambling operations as long as they paid protection money. Johnson, the political boss of Atlantic City, and the inspiration for the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, presided over corruption as well, but for a shorter period of time. He was notorious for his decadent lifestyle. Essentially a gangster himself, Johnson hosted the infamous Atlantic City conference that fostered the growth of organized crime.

Both Hague and Johnson shrewdly integrated otherwise disenfranchised groups into their machines and gave them a stake in political power. Yet each failed to adapt to changing demographics and circumstances. In American Dictators, Hart paints a balanced portrait of their accomplishments and their failures.

American Federalism in Practice Cover

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American Federalism in Practice

The Formulation and Implementation of Contemporary Health Policy

Michael Doonan

American Federalism in Practice is an original and important contribution to our understanding of contemporary health policy. It also illustrates how contentious public policy is debated, formulated, and implemented in today's overheated political environment.

Health care reform is perhaps the most divisive public policy issue facing the United States today. Michael Doonan provides a unique perspective on health policy in explaining how intergovernmental relations shape public policy. He tracks federal-state relations through the creation, formulation, and implementation of three of the most important health policy initiatives since the Great Society: the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), both passed by the U.S. Congress, and the Massachusetts health care reform program as it was developed and implemented under federal government waiver authority. He applies lessons learned from these cases to implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

"Health policymaking is entangled in a complex web of shared, overlapping, and/or competing power relationships among different levels of government," the author notes. Understanding federal-state interactions, the ways in which they vary, and the reasons for such variation is essential to grasping the ultimate impact of federalism on programs and policy. Doonan reveals how federalism can shift as the sausage of public policy is made while providing a new framework for comprehending one of the most polarizing debates of our time.

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American Foundations

Roles and Contributions

edited by Helmut K. Anheier and David C. Hammack

Foundations play an essential part in the philanthropic activity that defines so much of American life. No other nation provides its foundations with so much autonomy and freedom of action as does the United States. Liberated both from the daily discipline of the market and from direct control by government, American foundations understandably attract great attention. As David Hammack and Helmut Anheier note in this volume, "Americans have criticized foundations for... their alleged conservatism, liberalism, elitism, radicalism, devotion to religious tradition, hostility to religion —in short, for commitments to causes whose significance can be measured, in part, by the controversies they provoke. Americans have also criticized foundations for ineffectiveness and even foolishness."

Their size alone conveys some sense of the significance of American foundations, whose assets amounted to over $530 billion in 2008 despite a dramatic decline of almost 22 percent in the previous year. And in 2008 foundation grants totaled over $45 billion. But what roles have foundations actually played over time, and what distinctive roles do they fill today? How have they shaped American society, how much difference do they make? What roles are foundations likely to play in the future?

This comprehensive volume, the product of a three-year project supported by the Aspen Institute's program on the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy, provides the most thorough effort ever to assess the impact and significance of the nation's large foundations. In it, leading researchers explore how foundations have shaped —or failed to shape —each of the key fields of foundation work.

American Foundations takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour, evaluating foundation efforts in education, scientific and medical research, health care, social welfare, international relations, arts and culture, religion, and social change.

American Gandhi Cover

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American Gandhi

A. J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century

By Leilah Danielson

When Abraham Johannes Muste died in 1967, newspapers throughout the world referred to him as the "American Gandhi." Best known for his role in the labor movement of the 1930s and his leadership of the peace movement in the postwar era, Muste was one of the most charismatic figures of the American left in his time. Had he written the story of his life, it would also have been the story of social and political struggles in the United States during the twentieth century.

In American Gandhi, Leilah Danielson establishes Muste's distinctive activism as the work of a prophet and a pragmatist. Muste warned that the revolutionary dogmatism of the Communist Party would prove a dead end, understood the moral significance of racial equality, argued early in the Cold War that American pacifists should not pick a side, and presaged the spiritual alienation of the New Left from the liberal establishment. At the same time, Muste committed to grounding theory in practice and the individual in community. His open, pragmatic approach fostered some of the most creative and remarkable innovations in progressive thought and practice in the twentieth century, including the adaptation of Gandhian nonviolence for American concerns and conditions.

A political biography of Muste's evolving political and religious views, American Gandhi also charts the rise and fall of American progressivism over the course of the twentieth century and offers the possibility of its renewal in the twenty-first.

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