Political Economy in Historical Context

POLECON 160 Political Economy in Historical Context: States of Exceptionalism: Politics, Economics, and National Identity in Britain and the United States

Prerequisites: 100 and 101, or Political Economy of Industrial Societies 100 and 101, or consent of instructor

Class Number: 23410

Units/Credit: 4

Time/Location: TuTh 2:00-3:30pm – 242 Hearst Gym

Final Exam Group 5: Tuesday, 12/15/2020 – 8:00-11:00am

Instructor: Richard Ashcroft

Great Britain and the United States of America have deep-seated political, economic, cultural, and historical ties. As well as having both language and law in common, they share an intellectual heritage and distinctive commitment to individual liberty, free-market economics, and limited government. And at pivotal moments in modern history—most notably both World Wars, but also Korea, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the invasion of Iraq—they have been staunch allies. Yet this “Special Relationship” has also been marked by conflict and difference. Most obviously during the Wars of Independence and 1812, but also in their varying experiences of (and attitudes towards) religion, race, socialism, and imperialism. Curiously, both nations see themselves as “exceptional” even as they continue to articulate their national identities—in part at least—through comparison to the other. This course will examine the similarities and differences between Great Britain and the United States from the early modern period up until the current political, economic and cultural turmoil. It will do so through examining four key aspects of each country: (i) their overall history, including forms of nation-building, key domestic crises, and foreign entanglements; (ii) their politics, including the evolution of their intellectual traditions, political parties, institutions, and laws; (iii) their economic forms of governance, including domestic markets, welfare states, and foreign trade; and (iv) their national identities, including the ways these are articulated through political culture, public education, and their treatment of immigrants and other minorities. We will cover these aspects in turn, looking at each country separately before comparing them, trying to understand their relationships to each other, and thinking about possible ways forward. Approximately half of the class time each week will be spent on lecture, and the other on discussion of the assigned readings and lecture material. Assessment will be via a midterm exam, a final exam, class attendance and participation, and various forms of in-class tasks (including reading quizzes, short presentations, and peer-to-peer work).

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