American Politics and Society 8e
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Now in its eighth edition, this popular introduction tackles the most recent trends in American politics and society through explanation, analyses, and interpretations of government processes – adding valuable context for students by considering these procedures and developments from an international perspective.

Fully updated to take account of the many recent developments in American politics and society – exploring one of the most turbulent political arenas witnessed in decadesFeatures new chapters on environmental politics and the Obama presidencyShifts its focus from the gap between public expectations and government performance to the increasingly divisive ideological climate of America’s political systemBenefits from a student-friendly style and design with numerous illustrations and a range of helpful pedagogical features, including chronologies, biographies, and definition boxes highlighting key concepts and controversial issuesOffers thought-provoking insights into the social background to contemporary politics in America, while fully embracing the latest developments and considering these from a non-U.S. perspective


David McKay is Professor of Government at the University of Essex. He is the author of numerous books and articles on American and comparative politics, including Designing Europe: Comparative Lessons from the Federal Experience (2001), which won the Political Studies Association W. J. M. MacKenzie prize, 2001. He is also co-author of The New British Politics (2007).


List of Plates xiv

List of Figures xvii

List of Tables xx

Preface to the Eighth Edition xxii

1 Government and the People in a Polarized Society 1

2 Beliefs, Values and American Society 6

3 Constitutional Government 41

4 Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations 63

5 American Political Parties and the Politics of Polarization 86

6 Elections and Political Participation 111

7 The Media and American Politics 146

8 Congress I: The People’s Branch? 160

9 Congress II: Functions and Powers – The Broken Branch? 183

10 The Presidency I: Powers and Selection 212

11 The Presidency II: The President as Chief Executive 232

12 Bureaucratic Power: Federal Departments and Agencies 256

13 The Security State 278

14 Organized Interests: The Real Power? 291

15 The Supreme Court and Judicial Politics 315

16 Regulating Morality: Civil Rights, Liberties and the Conscience Issues 345

17 Social Policy in America: Self-Reliance and State Dependence 364

18 Managing Economic Change 377

19 Environmental Politics 397

20 The American World Role 411

21 The American Political System in an Uncertain World 425

Websites 433

Glossary 437

Appendix: The Constitution of the United States 449

Index 469


"American Politics and Society gets better with each edition. The breadth of its coverage and the depth of its analysis make it an unsurpassed introduction to the U.S. political system. This new version brings the text and the statistical data right up to date and provides the essential context to understanding the current crisis of American government and its political institutions."—John Hart, Australia National University

“Combining beautifully clear information with magisterially lucid analysis, David McKay’s survey of American Politics and Society has been a model textbook for 30 years. This new edition has been comprehensively updated and rewritten to take account of the leading developments of recent years. The balance between continuity and change is here admirably depicted and reviewed, renewing our fascination with the patterns and surprises of US civic and political life.”—James Dunkerley, Queen Mary, University of London 

“David McKay’s essential text continues to serve as the building block upon which the current generation of scholars and students can learn about the political system of the United States. McKay’s work has always been lucid, concise and informative; but now with even more graphs, data and briefing sections, the latest edition is twice as expansive, informed and intricate. A triumph of detail and deliberation, McKay’s book reaffirms its central role in the teaching of American politics. An indispensible read.”— Ian Scott, University of Manchester