Putting US politics in context
Theories and comparisons
in US politics today (fourth edition)
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This chapter considers the reasons why theoretical frameworks should be employed in the study of US politics. Such theories make the assumptions underpinning particular arguments or claims explicit. The chapter also makes the case for comparative study so as to test propositions effectively. On this basis, it introduces and assesses structural theories which focus on the ways in which economic factors or institutional structures shape, constrain, and empower political actors, cultural theories that seek to explain political behaviour through the prism of shared beliefs and cultural traditions, and rational choice approaches that draw attention to the architecture of incentives and disincentives facing individuals and groups.

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