The University of Newcastle, Australia
Not currently offered
Course code



10 units


3000 level

Course handbook


This course will survey U.S. politics and international relations, with special attention to the interplay between domestic and international issues. It will cover the institutions and processes of U.S. politics with a primary focus on foreign relations. Some of the major 20th century events in U.S. relations with the rest of the world will be used as examples, with special attention to their causes and their social and political impact. The enduring contradictions between ideals and power will be emphasized in the examination of covert action and other policies. Whether extant understandings in political science are challenged by the dynamics of U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy after the September 2001 attacks will also be discussed.

The 20th century has been called the American Century and some have predicted that the 21st century will be the Second American Century. It is true that the U.S. was centrally involved in major events such as the two world wars, the global depression of the 1930s, the creation of major international organizations after World War II, the Cold War (including the Korean and Vietnam conflicts), and the subsequent era of globalization attributed by some to a Washington consensus. Contrary to the predictions of many in the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. influence does not seem to be declining. Understanding why the U.S. behaves the way it does in relations with other states is therefore important for most countries in the world. It is also important for understanding the functioning of the international system as a whole.

Lectures and readings will examine prominent concepts and theories that have been developed to explain why the U.S. political system operates as it does and why the U.S. behaves the way it does internationally. Frameworks, concepts, and theories are the basic components of political science, and students will learn about some of the most interesting and powerful explanations of U.S. politics and foreign policy decision making. Students should develop a firm grasp of both fact and theory in this module.


Not currently offered.

This Course was last offered in Semester 1 - 2019.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic institutional structure of the U.S. political system, with special focus on the federal executive and legislative institutions.

2. Demonstrate an understanding of how the political culture of the U.S. population has been characterized and how it differs from that of other developed democracies.

3. Demonstrate an understanding of how the patterns and recurring themes in U.S. domestic politics, especially regarding elections and interest groups.

4. Demonstrate an understanding of the connections between domestic politics and foreign policy in the United States.

5. Use a range of concepts and theoretical frameworks to analyze and explain major events of domestic politics and foreign policy, especially since 1945.

6. Critically analyse existing concepts and debates in political science about U.S. politics and foreign policy, such as the ability of voters to make meaningful choices, the role of the mass media, agenda setting dynamics in representative democracy, and the relative power of the federal executive.


The topics in this course include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Introduction to US Politics and International Relations
  2. The structure and culture of the American Political System
  3. The Presidency I (Presidential power and leadership)
  4. The Presidency II (Presidential management in the Executive branch)
  5. The Limits of Presidential Power: Presidential failures from Wilson to Clinton
  6. The Bureaucracy I (State Department)
  7. The Bureaucracy II (Military and Intelligence communities)
  8. Democracy within the beltway (elite politics, checks and balances)
  9. Democracy beyond the beltway (mass politics, public opinion)
  10. Communications Media, Civil Society, and Foreign Policy
  11. Decision Making and Policy Outcomes
  12. Who Sets the U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda?
  13. Conclusions and Review


Students must have successfully completed POLI1010 or POLI1020. This course has similarities to POLI2190. If you have successfully completed POLI2190 you cannot enrol in this course.

Assessment items

Presentation: In-class presentations

Written Assignment: Essays / Written Assignments