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Series: Politics Today
Author: Edward Ashbee

The book introduces the principles underpinning the US Constitution and, on the basis of this, surveys core federal institutions: Congress, the presidency, and the US Supreme Court and lower courts. The different chapters outline the defining features of each and introduce some of the core scholarly debates about their powers and performance. The book also considers processes of political participation through elections, parties, and organised interests. It looks, in particular, at the changing nature of voting behaviour, the reasons why electoral turnout levels are comparatively low, and the different reasons why Donald Trump secured the presidency in the 2016 contest. It also considers the character of the party system and claims that organised interests, particularly groups representing those at the highest ends of the income and wealth scales, play a disproportionate role in the US system. The book thereby offers a guide to debates about the democratic ‘health’ of the contemporary US. The final chapter places the study of US politics in a comparative and theoretical context. It suggests that comparative approaches are essential if political developments and processes are to be fully understood. It then considers the value of employing theoretical frameworks in the study of politics and explores the ways in which structural theories, approaches drawing upon representations of political culture, and rational choice perspectives can explain political outcomes.

Edward Ashbee

Constitutions invariably require interpretation. The broad principles upon which constitutions rest have to be applied to individual and generally complex disputes, grievances, and circumstances. Furthermore, constitutional principles often have an ambiguous character. The preamble to the US Constitution specifies that one of its purposes was to ‘promote the general Welfare’. How narrowly or broadly should the term be understood? There are many other examples. What does the ‘equal protection of the

in US politics today (fourth edition)
Open Access (free)
Lessons for the Conservatives?
Edward Ashbee

2 Edward Ashbee The US Republicans The US Republicans: lessons for the Conservatives? Edward Ashbee Both Labour’s victory in the 1997 general election and the US Republicans’ loss of the White House in 1992 led to crises of confidence among conservatives. Although there were those in both countries who attributed these defeats to presentational errors or the campaigning skills of their Labour and Democrat opponents, others saw a need for far-reaching policy shifts and a restructuring of conservative politics. This chapter considers the character of US

in The Conservatives in Crisis
Abstract only
Edward Ashbee

Relatively few Americans have an accurate knowledge of the US Constitution and its provisions. A study conducted in August 2017 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania revealed that only about a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents could identify all three branches of the federal government. More than a third (37 per cent) could not point to a single specific right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Meanwhile, 15 per cent asserted to pollsters that

in US politics today (fourth edition)
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William Camden and the making of history
Patrick Collinson

Chapter 9 . One of us? William Camden and the making of history I T he Royal Historical Society will not be startled to learn that one of the best-informed essays on William Camden was written by its quondam president, Sir Maurice Powicke: A great book might be written about Camden, his life and his works, his wide circle of friends and correspondents and his humanity. It would be a very difficult book to write, for its author would have to be steeped in the social history of the time and to be familiar with the personal life, the friendships and all the

in This England
Abstract only
Harley 2253 and the Jews of medieval Hereford
Daniel Birkholz

instructional fare, Harley 2253 proves useful as an outlying data-point, in the intersection of literary Jewish studies with medieval manuscript geography. Because the Harley manuscript departs from the norm as regards both its provenance (or historical/institutional location) and its textual line-up (the genres it includes, and what they do or don’t treat), this persistently overlooked codex allows us to test the regional extension and generic variation of prevailing takes on post-expulsion Jewish presence and absence. Harley 2253’s Jewish placements and figurations also

in Harley manuscript geographies
Theories and comparisons
Edward Ashbee

Popular commentaries often assert or at least imply that individuals can make a big difference to political outcomes. When looking at the presidency, we instinctively focus upon the personalities of successive office-holders and suggest that these personalities have the capacity to reshape the character of the US and change the course of world affairs. Many observers have, for example, drawn a contrast between President Obama’s seemingly consensual, calm, detached, and cautious style (which is why he was

in US politics today (fourth edition)
Two firsts and the greatest?
Ben Worthy

8 The US, Australia and India: two firsts and the greatest? This chapter examines the passage of three of the most influential pieces of FOI legislation: the world’s first modern law passed in the US in 1966, one of the first pieces of FOI legislation in a Westminster-style system in Australia in 1982 and the landmark Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 in India. Symbolically, the three laws involved passing a powerful ‘right’ to the ‘people’ and a deepening of democracy, bound up in ‘transformative’ narratives. Each was a case of small groups inside and outside

in The politics of freedom of information
Susan Strange

Chapter 3 Political underpinnings: the US–Japan axis The political foundations for international financial cooperation are weaker today than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. If we have worries about the stability of the international financial system, it is important to understand in what way these foundations are weaker and how this has come about. For, while the pace of technological innovation in finance (as in manufacturing) has accelerated, and while the size and salience of finance in the world economy have greatly increased, the political capability to

in Mad Money
Ordinary Intimacies in Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin
Prentiss Clark

This essay reads James Baldwin in conversation with two unexpected interlocutors from the American nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Ralph Waldo Emerson and W. E. B. Du Bois. What draws these historically distant and intellectually different thinkers together, their differences making their convergences all the more resonant and provocative, is a shared mode of attention they bring to the social crises of their eras. It is a mode of attention foregrounding how the often unobserved particulars and emotional registers of human life vitally shape civic existence; more specifically, a mode of attention provoking us to see how “a larger, juster, and fuller future,” in Du Bois’s words, is a matter of the ordinary intimacies and estrangements in which we exist, human connections in all their expressions and suppressions. Emerson names them “facts [. . .] harder to read.” They are “the finer manifestations,” in Du Bois’s terms, “of social life, which history can but mention and which statistics can not count”; “All these things,” Baldwin says, “[. . .] which no chart can tell us.” In effect, from the 1830s to the 1980s these thinkers bear witness to what politics, legislation, and even all our knowledges can address only partially, and to the potentially transformative compensations we might realize in the way we conduct our daily lives. The immediate relevance and urgency this essay finds in their work exists not in proposed political actions, programs for reform, or systematic theories of social justice but in the way their words revitalize the ethical question “How shall I live?” Accumulative and suggestive rather than systematically comparative or polemical, this essay attempts to engage with Emerson, Du Bois, and Baldwin intimately, to proceed in the spirit of their commitment to questioning received disciplines, languages, and ways of inhabiting the world.

James Baldwin Review