Introduction to American Government and Politics


The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO.
In the field of Political Science, there are no fewer than six subfields: American Political System, Law and Legalism, Normative Theory, Methodology, International Relations, and Comparative Politics. PLS 121 focuses on the first two subfields, although the others are used to illustrate aspects of the American political system.
Students taking American Government should seek to study the power structures existing in America. These structures include formal governmental agencies and structures, such as the Congress and the Presidency, along with informal structure, such as the bureaucracy, interest groups, and the media. Special attention will be given to the foundations of the constitution, the political culture of the US, the paradox of democracy, and political socialization.

Required Texts

The following three books are required for this course. The first two weeks will be spent with The Communist Manifesto. As such, you need to acquire it quickly. It is in the public domain. This means that you can download it from numerous sites, or you can purchase it from the bookstore. The primary textbook (Schmidt, Shelley, and Bardes), is available from the bookstore and from Finally, the Sandra Day O’Connor book is also available from both the bookstore and from As we will not be using that book until approximately mid-way through the semester, you may want to think about purchasing it online.
  • Schmidt, Steffen W., Mack C. Shelley, II, and Barbara A. Bardes. 2005. American Government and Politics Today, Brief Edition (2004–2005) . New York: Thomson. (ISBN: 0-534-63180-0)
  • O’Connor, Sandra Day. 2003. The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice. New York: Random House. (ISBN: 0-812-96747-X)
  • Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and Martin Malia, ed. 1998 [1848]. The Communist Manifesto. New York: New American Library (Signet Classic). (ISBN: 0-451-52710-0)
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