Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-1:45 PM Dr. Kevin Parsneau

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Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-1:45 PM Dr. Kevin Parsneau
POL 470/ 570
Political Power and Citizens
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-1:45 PM
Dr. Kevin Parsneau
Office: Morris Hall 204 B
Office Hours: Tues. 2:00-4:00 PM or by appointment
Telephone: (507) 389-5232
Email: [email protected]
Course Description:
This course provides students a closer look at the relationship between citizens and political
power. It addresses citizens’ relationship with power and the extent to which ordinary citizens
have power and how they might exercise it. It examines how power is used by those with
institutional or formal power, as well as those who lack traditional forms of power. The first half
of the class introduces the issues of legitimacy, authority and representation, as well as the nature
of political power. It then covers different interpretations of the meaning of power in its various
forms. Some authors have argued that power is not always what we initially perceive it to be. The
second section of the class examines political choices and the exercise of power through
traditional and non-traditional means, with a focus on leadership and presidential power. While
power is exercised by many different actors in many different settings around the world, much has
been written about the formal and informal powers of U.S. presidents, most students are familiar
with presidents as political leaders and theories about presidents can broaden our understanding of
other leaders. The course is taught through lecture and discussion, and it is the responsibility of
the students to read and come prepared to contribute to the class in group discussions. A
background in political science is helpful but not necessary. There will be short in-class
assignments (i.e. “feedback” worth 10%), a short written assignment (10%), a writing assignment
(20% with a draft worth 10%), a midterm (25%) and a final exam (30%).
Text Books:
Saul Alinsky. Rules For Radicals. 1971.
Eric Hoffer. True Believer. 1951
Steven Lukes. Power: A Radical View. 2005. (optional)
George Orwell. 1984. 1949.
Gary Wills. Certain Trumpets. 1994.
Your final grade will be based upon 2 in-class exams and a research paper that will be written over
the course of the semester. Each will be weighted as follows:
Short Assignment:
Mid-term Exam:
Final Exam:
Writing Assignment:
Grades are not based upon a curve, but rather upon reasonable expectations for learning and
understanding for an upper-division course. As of the first day of class, I am willing to give
everyone in the class an A, provided each person earns one. That said, students should recognize
that a C represents an average score that meets basic requirements. To receive an A, students must
have achievement that is “outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements.”
Do not assume that you will get an A unless you are willing to put in the work necessary to reach
that standard. This course uses the following grade scale:
Grade Scale:
below 60
Class policies:
Students are expected to take the exams on the dates listed. If you can not take an exam on the
scheduled date, you must make arrangements with me at least a week in advance. Do not assume
that you have made arrangements unless I have responded and agreed in person, by phone or via
email. I will not give make-up exams, and will make exceptions only in unusual circumstances, so
it is up to you to notify me as soon as you know there may be a conflict.
Other assignments are due on the date scheduled at the beginning of class. Late papers will be
penalized one letter grade per day that they are late. Except in unusual circumstances, I will not
accept emailed assignments. Students are responsible for keeping all returned copies of their
assignments in case of errors, so that they can produce a graded copy of returned assignments.
Unless otherwise noted, all written assignments must be typed and double space in 12-point,
Times New Roman font with 1" margins. Any paper that fails to meet this requirement will be
graded down. This policy is not meant to be punitive, but rather to ease the task of grading. It
becomes difficult to grade papers of the various fonts, font sizes and margins, and it feels insulting
when people try to deceive me by changing spacing, fonts and margins. If this requirement
presents a problem for you or your computer, talk to me in advance.
I am highly skeptical of using computer problems as an excuse for late assignments, and will not
accept this as a valid excuse. Students should take all reasonable precautions, make multiple
backups of any notes or assignments, and print hard copies of work as a protection against
computer malfunction. Furthermore, in general, email has proven not to be a reliable form of
communication, so please be sure to communicate any important information to me in person
rather than sending it via email.
Readings are listed on the syllabus and you are expected to read the material prior to class so that
you can participate in class discussions. Anything in the assigned readings is fair game for the
tests, because I will not cover everything in course lectures.
Attendance is expected. Students are not specifically graded on class attendance, but there will be
information presented in the class that is not available elsewhere and it will be on the exams. I am
willing to discuss and clarify the contents of class discussions and lectures, but not as a substitute
for class attendance. Furthermore, there will be some in-class activities designed to measure
students’ understanding, and prepare students for tests. Students who find that they must miss
class should arrange to get notes from another student.
In-Class Discussions:
Given the nature of the topic of politics, I encourage in-class questions and discussion, but require
courtesy. Be civil and respectful to your classmates and recognize that often people must agree to
disagree. Sometimes, I may have to end a discussion for the sake of time. If you have concerns
about in-class discussions, please bring them to me after class or during my office hours.
Questions about Grading:
I do not use surprises on tests to measure students’ knowledge of the course materials. I make the
contents of the tests and the requirements for papers as clear as possible. If students have attended
each class and done the assigned readings, they should do well on the test. If you have any
questions about expectations, please ask as soon as possible.
Because I am clear about the contents of tests, my test questions are straightforward and
requirements for papers are clearly stated, I am confident in the fairness of my exams and assigned
grades. However, if you feel that you have been graded unfairly, I will personally re-grade your
test or paper.
To provide the best environment for all students to be treated equally, I have two requirements
prior to reconsidering a grade. First, there is a 24-hour waiting period, so that the student can
reconsider their work rather than react out of anxiety or frustration. Second, students must provide
a written explanation of why their work fully meets the question or requirements. Asking to
change a grade because you simply want a better grade is insufficient justification to consider
changing a grade, and it is unfair to your peers.
Finally, whenever I re-grade, I reserve the right to raise or lower the grade if I feel it has received
an unwarranted grade. Remember, the most important result of any class at is the knowledge
gained from the class and not the grade received. Even if you are disappointed in a grade, it is
most important to learn the material and understand the subject of the course for your development
as a student, citizen and scholar.
Academic Honesty:
No cheating or plagiarism will be tolerated, and such acts of academic misconduct will be
punished according to established university policies. If you have any questions regarding
cheating or plagiarism, please discuss them with me or consult university policies.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:
I encourage and appreciate the contribution of students with disabilities in my courses. Whenever
necessary, I will provide, on a flexible and individualized basis, reasonable accommodations to
students who have disabilities that may affect their ability to participate in course activities or
meet course requirements. I encourage you to take advantage of support from the university.
Minnesota State University provides students with disabilities reasonable accommodation to
participate in educational programs, activities or services. Students with disabilities requiring
accommodation to participate in class activities or meet course requirements should first register
with the Office of Disability Services, (Memorial Library 132, telephone 289-2825, TDD 711) to
establish an accommodation plan and then contact me as soon as possible.
All other university policies are in effect in this class. Please ask me if you have any
Week 1 (August 23-27): Introduction, Power and Authority
Michael Pollan, “Town-Building is No Mickey Mouse Operation,” The New York Times
Magazine, December 14, 1997: p. 56-63, 76, 77, 81, 88.
Anthony Downs. An Economic Theory of Democracy. 1957: p. 114-141.
Week 2 (August 30-September 3): Elitism
C.W. Mills. The Power Elite. 1956. Excerpts
Other readings:
George Orwell. 1984.
Week 3 (September 7-10 ): Pluralism
Robert Dahl. Who Governs. 1961. p. 223-228.
Week 4 (September 13-17): The Second Face of Power
Peter Bachrach and Morton S. Baratz. “The Two Faces of Power,” American Political Science
Review (Dec., 1962): p. 947-952.
Week 5 (September 20-24): Beyond the Second Face of Power
John Gaventa. Power and Powerlessness. 1980: p. 3-32, 47-83, 137-164.
Optional reading:
Steven Lukes. Power: A Radical View. 2005: p. 1-60.
Week 6 (September 27-October 1): Power, Politics and Language
George Orwell. “Politics and the English Language” in A Collection of Essays. Sonia Brownell
Orwell, ed. 1954.
Jeffrey Nunberg “Interested Parties” NY Times Week in Review. September 14, 2003.
Week 7 (October 4-8): Catch up and Review
Midterm Exam October 12
Week 8 (October 11-15): Concepts of Leadership
James MacGregor Burns. Leadership: p. 1-46.
Gary Wills. Certain Trumpets. 1994: p. 11-22, 160-172. (i.e. Intro, Socrates, Wittgenstein)
Hanna Pitkin. The Concept of Representation. 1967: p. 1-13, 209-212.
Joseph Schumpeter. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. 1947. 2nd ed.: p. 269-297.
Week 9: (October 18-22): Choice and Social Action
Eric Hoffer True Believer. 1951: p. 13-24, 57-84
Saul Alinsky Rules For Radicals. 1971: p. 3-23, 126-164.
Gary Wills. Certain Trumpets. 1994: p. 39-52, 211-226. (i.e. Tubman, Douglas, King, Moses)
Week 10 (October 25-28): Choice and Social Action (Continued)
Week 11 (November 1-5): Political Leadership in Action
Gary Wills. Certain Trumpets. 1994: 102-116, 133-148. (i.e. David, Solomon, Washington,
Robert A. Caro. Master of the Senate. 2002: p. 384-419, 581-615.
George Orwell. “Essay on Gandhi” in A Collection of Essays. Sonia Brownell Orwell, ed. 1954.
Week 12 (November 8-12): Fundamentals of Presidential Leadership
Gary Wills. Certain Trumpets. 1994: p. 23-52 (i.e. Roosevelt)
Richard E. Neustadt. Presidential Power. 1960: p. 42-63.
Week 13 (November 15-19): Issues in Presidential Leadership
Presidency Handout
Week 14 (November 22-24): Controversies in Power and Choice
Gary Wills. Certain Trumpets. 1994: p. 132-147, 227-249 (i.e. John XXIII, Celestine V, Cesare
Borgia, Piero Soderini)
Michael Sandel, “America's Search for a New Public Philosophy,” The Atlantic Monthly , March
1996: p. 57-74.
Week 15 (November 29-December 3): To Be Announced
FINAL EXAM: Thursday, December 9, 10:15 AM-12:15 PM in our normal classroom.
Be sure to double check this date and time during the semester and be aware of any changes.
I reserve the right to change this syllabus as needed.
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