73292 - American Policy in The World Contemporary

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to provide an advanced knowledge of the U.S. contemporary political and institutional contexts. The course will focus on the political debate, the ideological conflict between conservatism and liberalism, as well as on the US post-cold war foreign policy. At the end of the course, the student knows the main aspects of the American political system, the institutional dynamics concerning the presidency and Congress, the political cultures as well as the analytical tools necessary to understand the role of the United States in the contemporary international context.

Course contents

The course is divided in three parts. The first one will concentrate on the constitutional system and in particular on the federal system, the presidency and the relationship between presidency and Congress. The second part will deal with the evolution of the party system with special reference to political polarization and the development of conservative and liberal political cultures. Emphasis will also be put on the emergence of the issues of gender, ethnicity race and class in terms of citizenship and recognition in the political arena. Finally, the third part will focus on the main trends in US post-cold war foreign policy.

The course will be organized in

  1. Lectures

  2. Seminars and active participation in discussion


For students who have not approached the history of the United States before, it is highly recommended the study of Arnaldo Testi, Il secolo degli Stati Uniti, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014

Suggested readings for students who will attend the course:

Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi, Margaret Weir, We the people: an introduction to American politics, New York, W.W. Norton, 2005

Thomas S. Langston, Ideology and Ideologues in the Modern Presidency, “Presidential Studies Quarterly”, 42, 2012

Abraham D. Sofaer, Presidential Power and National Security, “Presidential Studies Quarterly”, 37, 1, 2007

Daniel J. Galvin, Presidents as Agents of Change, “Presidential Studies Quarterly”, 44, 1, 2014.

Thomas A. Spragens, Getting the left right : the transformation, decline, and reformation of American liberalism, Lawrence, Kansas, University press of Kansas, 2009

David Ferber, Rise and fall of modern American conservatism: a short history, Princeton and Oxford : Princeton university press, 2010

John H. Aldrich, Why parties?: the origin and transformation of political parties in America, Chicago-London, The university of Chicago press, 1995

Hans Noel, Political ideologies and political parties in America, New York, Cambridge university press, 2013

Mario Del Pero, Libertà e impero, Laterza, 2017 (dalla presidenza di George H. Bush Sr. in avanti)

Mario Del Pero, Era Obama, Roma, Feltrinelli, 2017

Jussi M. Hanhimäki, The (really) good war? Cold War nostalgia and American foreign policy, “Journal of Cold War History”, 2014

Nicolas Bouchet, The democracy tradition in US foreign policy and the Obama presidency, “International Affairs”, 89, 1, 2013


Non-attending students are required to read:

a) compulsory reading: Mario Del Pero, Libertà e impero, Laterza, 2017 (update edition), from chapter V to the end.


one book to be chosen in the following list

Fred I. Greenstein, The presidential difference: leadership style from FDR to Barack Obama, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2009

Ellen Fitzpatrick, The highest glass ceiling: women's quest for the American Presidency, Cambridge. Harvard University Press, 2016

David Farber, The Rise and Fall of Modern Conservatism: a short history, Princeton University Press, 2010

Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism. The Biography of a Movement, Cambridge, The Belknap of Harvard University Press, 2010

Tom Waldman, Not Much Left. The Fate of Liberalism in America, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2008


one book to be chosen in the following list

Clair Apodaca, Understanding U.S. Human Rights Policy. A Paradoxical Legacy, New York-London, Routledge, 2006

G. John Ikenberry, Leviatano liberale. Le origini, le crisi e le trasformazioni dell'ordine mondiale americano, Torino, UTET, 2012.

Geir Lundestad, The Rise and Decline of the American "Empire": Power and its Limits in Comparative Perspective, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012

Mary Nolan, The Transatlantic Century, Cambridge University Press, 2012

David Skidmore, The Unilateralist Temptation in American Foreign Policy, Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2011.


Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars. Students are expected to actively partecipate in class

Assessment methods

Students who attend the course will be asked to write an academic paper on a specific topic. The paper will be discussed in the oral exam (80%). More details will be provided in class. The final assessment will also consider active participation and involvement in class activities (20%).

For non-attending students: oral exam on the readings as required in the section Readings/Bibliography.

Students are expected to have an analytical knowledge of the books chosen, to understand and elaborate causal,  theoretical and logical connections, and finally to contextualize them from an historical point of view.



Teaching tools

power point presentations

Office hours

See the website of Raffaella Baritono