Soc 226: Political Sociology (2023)

University of California-San Diego
Spring 2022-23
Tu 9:00-11:50, SSB 101

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours:, M 2:00-3:00 and by appointment
Tel: 858-860-6124

This course will explore obstacles to progressive policy change in the United States and other rich democratic countries: things that make it difficult for progressive parties to get elected, that make such parties unwilling to enact or improve policies when they do get elected, that prevent such parties from doing so when they get elected and are willing, that impede implementation of enacted policies, or that threaten democracy itself. What are these obstacles? Have they increased? If so, why?


Week 1
April 4

  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Life in the Good Society.” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Do Elections Outcomes Matter?” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Democracy.” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Voters, Groups, Parties, and Elections.” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Toward the Good Society: An American Path.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Social Democratic Capitalism.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “A Better America.” The Good Society.

Week 2
April 11
Money in politics and economic inequality

  • Page, Benjamin and Martin Gilens. 2017. Democracy in America? University of Chicago Press. Chapters 1-5.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. “Capitalism, Inequality, and Democracy.” The Good Society.
  • Optional: Gilens, Martin. 2012. Affluence and Influence. Princeton University Press.
  • Optional: Bartels, Larry M. 2016. Unequal Democracy. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press. Chapter 8.
  • Optional: Ferguson, Thomas, Paul Jorgensen, and Jie Chen. 2017. “Fifty Shades of Green: High Finance, Political Money, and the U.S. Congress.” Roosevelt Institute.
  • Optional: J. Alexander Branham, Stuart N. Soroka, and Christopher Wlezien. 2017. “When Do the Rich Win?” Political Science Quarterly 132, 43-62.
  • Optional: Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Henry E. Brady, and Sidney Verba. 2018. Unequal and Unrepresented. Princeton University Press.

Week 3
April 18
Organized interest groups

  • Hacker, Jacob S. and Paul Pierson. 2010. Winner-Take-All Politics. Simon and Schuster. Chapters 4-6.
  • Hacker, Jacob S. and Paul Pierson. 2018. Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality. Liveright. Introduction and chapters 1-3.
  • Optional: Hicks, Alexander. 1999. Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism. Cornell University Press.
  • Optional: Streeck, Wolfgang and Lane Kenworthy. 2005. “Theories and Practices of Neo-Corporatism.” In Handbook of Political Sociology, edited by Thomas Janoski et al, Cambridge University Press, 441-460.
  • Optional: Burstein, Paul. 2014. American Public Opinion, Advocacy, and Policy in Congress: What the Public Wants and What it Gets. Cambridge University Press. Chapters 4-7.
  • Optional: Domhoff, G. William. 2014. Who Rules America? The Triumph of the Corporate Rich. 7th edition. McGraw Hill.
  • Optional: Young, Kevin A., Tarun Banerjee, and Michael Schwartz. 2020. Levers of Power: How the 1% Rules and What the 99% Can Do About It. Verso.

Week 4
April 25
Modern capitalism: globalization, financialization, economic troubles, and neoliberal ideology

  • Kuttner, Robert. 2018. Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? W.W. Norton. Preface and chapters 1-9.
  • Optional: Hall, Peter A. 1989. “The Politics of Keynesian Ideas.” In The Political Power of Economic Ideas: Keynesianism Across Nations, edited by Peter A. Hall, Princeton University Press, 361-391.
  • Optional: Steensland, Brian. 2006. “Cultural Categories and the American Welfare State: The Case of Guaranteed Income Policy.” American Journal of Sociology 111, 1273-1326.
  • Optional: Jacobs, Lawrence R. and Desmond King. 2016. Fed Power: How Finance Wins. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Mudge, Stephanie L. 2018. Leftism Reinvented: Western Parties from Socialism to Neoliberalism. Harvard University Press.
  • Optional: Iversen, Torben and David Soskice. 2019. Democracy and Prosperity: Reinventing Capitalism Through a Turbulent Century. Princeton University Press.
  • Optional: J. Bradford DeLong. 2022. Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century. Basic Books.
  • Optional: Gary Gerstle. 2022. The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order. Oxford University Press.

Week 5
May 2

  • Abrajano, Marisa and Zoltan L. Hajnal. 2015. White Backlash: Immigration, Race, and American Politics. Princeton University Press. Chapters 1, 2, 6.
  • Mutz, Diane C. 2018. “Status Threat, Not Economic Hardship, Explains the 2016 Presidential Vote.” PNAS 115, E4330-39.
  • Abramowitz, Alan and Jennifer McCoy. 2019. “Racial Resentment, Negative Partisanship, and Polarization in Trump’s America.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 681, 137-156.
  • Optional: Edsall, Thomas Byrne and Mary D. Edsall. 1991. Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics. W.W. Norton.
  • Optional: Gilens, Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare. University of Chicago Press.
  • Optional: Alesina, Alberto and Edward L. Glaeser. 2004. Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe. Oxford University Press. Chapters 6-7.
  • Optional: Putnam, Robert D. 2007. “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-First Century.” Scandinavian Political Studies 30, 137-174.
  • Optional: Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 2016. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New Press.
  • Optional: Polakow-Suransky, Sasha. 2017. Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy. PublicAffairs.
  • Optional: Pastor, Manuel. 2018. State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America’s Future. New Press.
  • Optional: Kaufmann, Eric. 2019. Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future of White Majorities. Abrams Press.

Empirical analysis proposal #1 due week 6: Tuesday, May 9

Week 6
May 9
Postmaterialism, voters’ prioritization of social-cultural issues, cohort differences, and traditionalist backlash

  • Norris, Pippa and Ronald Inglehart. 2019. Cultural Backlash. Cambridge University Press. Chapters 1-2, 4-6.
  • Optional: Welzel, Christian. 2013. Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation. Cambridge University Press.
  • Optional: Inglehart, Ronald. 2018. Cultural Evolution. Cambridge University Press.

Week 7
May 16
Cohesive parties, political identity, negative partisanship, and oppositional politics: polarization and calcification in a two-party veto-point-heavy political system with a 50-50 electorate

  • Klein, Ezra. 2020. Why We’re Polarized. Simon and Schuster. Chapters 1-3, 6-8.
  • Sides, John, Chris Tausanovitch, and Lynn Vavreck. 2022. The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy. Princeton University Press. Chapter 1.
  • Optional: Mann, Thomas E. and Norman J. Ornstein. 2012. It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. Basic Books.
  • Optional: Leyden, Peter and Ruy Teixeira. 2017. “California Is the Future of American Politics.” Medium.
  • Optional: Mason, Lilliana. 2018. Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity. University of Chicago Press.
  • Optional: Kenworthy, Lane. “Is America Too Polarized?” The Good Society.

Week 8
May 23
Parties and party leaders

  • Bartels, Larry M. 2023. Democracy Erodes from the Top: Leaders, Citizens, and the Challenge of Populism in Europe. Princeton University Press.
  • Optional: Prasad, Monica. 2018. Starving the Beast: Ronald Reagan and the Tax Cut Revolution. Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Optional: Hopkin, Jonathan. 2020. Anti-System Politics: The Crisis of Market Liberalism in Rich Democracies. Oxford University Press.
  • Optional: Bonikowski, Bart. 2023. “Nationalism and the Rise of Radical‑Right Politics in the United States and Europe.” Future of Democracy Series. Canada School of Public Service and University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. YouTube,, minutes 1-31.
  • Optional: Meyer, Brett. 2023. “Repel and Rebuild: Expanding the Playbook Against Populism.” Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

Empirical analysis proposal #2 due week 9: Tuesday, May 30

Week 9
May 30

  • Caughey, Devin and Christopher Warshaw. 2022. Dynamic Democracy: Public Opinion, Elections, and Policymaking in the American States. University of Chicago Press. Chapters 1, 4.
  • Grumbach, Jacob M. 2022. “Laboratories of Democratic Backsliding.” American Political Science Review.
  • Grossman, Matt. 2020. “Limits of the Conservative Revolution in the States.” Political Science Quarterly 135, 377-407.
  • Optional: Hopkins, Daniel J. 2018. The Increasingly United States: How and Why American Political Behavior Nationalized. University of Chicago Press.
  • Optional: Grossman, Matt. 2019. Red State Blues: How the Conservative Revolution Stalled in the States. Cambridge University Press.
  • Optional: Hertel-Fernandez, Alex. 2019. State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States — and the Nation. Oxford University Press.

Week 10
June 6
Administrative rules as an obstacle to policy implementation

  • Bagley, Nicholas. 2023. “How Liberals — Yes, Liberals — Are Hobbling Government.” Interview with Ezra Klein. New York Times: The Ezra Klein Show, February 7.
  • Schuetz, Jenny. 2022. Fixer-Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems. Brookings Institution Press. Chapters 1-2, 4.
  • Optional: Bagley, Nicholas. 2019. “The Procedure Fetish.” Michigan Law Review 118, 345-401.
  • Optional: Dougherty, Conor. 2020. Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America. Penguin.
  • Optional: Sabin, Paul. 2021. Public Citizens: The Attack on Big Government and the Remaking of American Liberalism. W.W. Norton.

Empirical analysis proposal #3 due week 11: Tuesday, June 13


Readings. The required readings are available via the course Canvas page. They should be done before class (except week 1).

Class participation. I expect you to participate actively in class each week. There are lots of ways to do this: ask questions, comment, critique, explain, think out loud.

Presentation. Each student will make one in-class presentation during the quarter, on the readings for a given week. Use the standard conference presentation as your model: about 20 minutes, with slides. Don’t merely summarize the reading(s). Tell us how they speak to the questions addressed in the course, what limitations they have, and how they could have done better.

Three empirical analysis proposals. Identify a research question in one or more of the readings and suggest an empirical analysis that might shed light on the question. (You may propose more than one analysis if you wish, but don’t spread yourself too thin.) Explain how your proposal would help to answer the question. Be specific and detailed about data and methods. Avoid lengthy introductions and meandering summaries of the reading(s). You will write three of these proposals. The due dates are listed above. Word maximum: 1,500. If you need more words, put them in an appendix and/or footnotes. Formatting: single-space with 2-inch side margins. Upload your proposals to the Canvas course page.

Grading. Class participation 30%, presentation 30%, empirical analysis proposals 40%.