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American Social and Political Thought

A Reader

Edited by Andreas Hess

Paperback i (Printed to Order)

This Reader provides substantial extracts from the core texts in the field of American social and political thought. The aim is to demonstrate the rich intellectual tradition of the United States and to facilitate a better understanding of American society and politics through the reproduction of key texts from a wide variety of thinkers.

The Reader is structured to enable a clear understanding of the ideas presented. The first part covers the core traditions of American social and political thought - American Exceptionalism, Political Theology, Republicanism, Liberalism and Pragmatism. In the second part texts have been selected to demonstrate the ways in which these traditions have been applied to a broad range of issues and conditions - Democracy and Power, Justice and Injustice, Pluralism and Multiculturalism, Civil Society and Social Theory and the Task of Intellectuals. The final section looks at American Social and Political Thought at the Dawn of the 21st Century.

Key Features

  • Unique combination of American social and political thought
  • Includes substantial readings from Frederick Jackson Turner, Max Weber, Michael Sandel, John Rawls, C. Wright Mills, Sheldon Wolin, Judith N. Shklar, bell hooks, Seyla Benhabib and Richard Rorty
  • Organisation of reader - covering traditions and then issues -facilitates students' understanding of the texts
  • Clear, contextualising introductions further aid understanding
  • Although both are stand-alone volumes, the Reader and the Introduction can form an ideal package for courses on American Social and/or Political Thought


Part 1: Thinking the Political - the Main Modes and Traditions of American Social and Political Thought
James W. Ceasar, The Symbol of America in Modern Thought (1997)
Dan Diner, Understanding the Century (forthcoming)
Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (1962)
1. American Exceptionalism
Hector St John De Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782)
Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (1920)
Alfred Thayer Mallan, The Influence of Sea Power on Modern History (1890)
Stephen Schwartz, From West to East (1998)
Thomas Paine, extract from The Thomas Paine Reader (1987)
Edmund Burke, extract from The Portable Edmund Burke (1999)
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835, 1840)
Seymour Martin Lipset, The First New Nation (1963)
American Exceptionalism (1996)
Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (1963)
Judith Shklar, Redeeming American Political Thought (1998)
Political Thought and Political Thinkers (1998)
2. Political Theology
extracts from The Constitution of the United States and its Amendments (1787)
Max Weber, The Protestant Sects and the Spirit of Capitalism (1946)
Thomas Paine, extract from The Thomas Paine Reader (1987)
Thomas Jefferson, extract from Writings (1984)
Perry Miller, The New England Mind (1953)
Errand into the Wilderness (1956)
Sacvan Bercovitch, American Jeremiad (1978)
Will Herberg, Protestant, Catholic, Jew (1960)
Garry Wills, Under God - Religion and American Politics (1990)
3. Republicanism
Joyce Appleby, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination (1992)
James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, The Federalist Papers (1788)
John G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment (1975)
Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (1963)
Judith Shklar, Ordinary Vices (1984)
Redeeming American Political Thought (1998)
Political Thought and Political Thinkers (1998)
Michael Sandel, Democracy's Discontent (1996)
4. Liberalism
Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America (1953)
James P. Young, Reconsidering American Liberalism (1996)
John Rawls, Political Liberalism (1993)
Stephen Holmes, Passions and Constraints (1995)
The Anatomy of Antiliberalism (1993)
Robert Paul Wolff, The Poverty of Liberalism (1968)

5. Pragmatism
Ralph Wardo Emerson, Essays and Lectures (1983)
William James, Pragmatism (1907)
John Dewey, Reconstructions in Philosophy (1921/1948)
The Public and its Problems (1927)
Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899)
The Instinct of Workmanship (1914)
Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times (1923)
C. Wright Mills, Power, Politics and People (1963)
Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (1989)
Cornel West, The American Evasion of Philosophy (1989)
Part 2: Theorising the Social: Modern Applications of American Social and Political Thought

6. Democracy and Power
Barrington Moore Jr, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (1966)
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (1956)
Power, Politics and People (1963)
Robert A. Dahl, A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956)
Who Governs? (1961)
Amy Guttman and Dennis Thompson, Democracy and Disagreement (1996)
Sheldon Wolin, 'Fugitive Democracy', Seyla Benhabib, 'The Democratic Movement and the Problem of Difference', and Benjamin Barber, 'Foundationalism and Democracy' in Seyla Benhabib (ed.), Democracy and Difference (1996)
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Democracy and Capitalism (1986)
Benjamin Barber, Strong Democracy (1984)
A Passion for Democracy (1998)
7. Justice and Injustice
John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (1971)
Robert Nozick,Anarchy, State and Utopia (1975)
Robert Paul Wolff, Understanding Rawls (1977)
Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice (1983)
Barrington Moore Jr, Reflections on the Causes of Human Misery (1969)
Judith Shklar, Faces of Injustice (1990)
American Citizenship (1991)
Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (1978)
Sovereign Virtue (2000)
8. Pluralism and Multiculturalism
W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
Nathan Glazer, Affirmative Discrimination (1975)
We Are All Multiculturalists (1997)
Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism and 'The Politics of Recognition' (1992)
Michael Walzer, What it means to be an American (1992)
K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Guttman, Color Conscious (1996)
Cornel West, Race Matters (1993)
bell hooks, Killing Rage (1996)
Henry Luis Gates, Notes on Cultural Wars (1992)
Ralph Ellison, extract from The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison (1995)
Richard Rorty, Achieving our Country (1998)
Jeffrey C. Alexander, Real Civil Societies (1998)
C. L. R. James, extract from The C. L. R. James Reader (1992)

9. Civil Society, Social Theory and the Task of Intellectuals
Richard Flacks, Making History (1988)
Norman Podhoretz, Making It (1967)
Irvin Kristol, Two Cheers for Capitalism (1972)
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1991)
Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart (1985)
Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory (1992)
Jeffrey C. Isaac, Democracy in Dark Times (1998)
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, The Cynical Society (1991)
Civility and Subversion (1998)
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Public Man, Private Woman (1981)
Mary Dietz, 'Citizenship with a Feminist Face' in Political Theory 31/1 (February 1985)
Seyla Benhabib, 'Models of Public Space' and Mary P. Ryan, 'Gender and Public Access' in Craig Calhoun (ed.) Habermas and the Public Sphere (1992)
Joan B. Landes, 'The Public and the Private Sphere' in Feminists Read Habermas (1995)
10. American Social and Political Thought at the Dawn of the 21st Century
Michael J. Sandel, Democracy's Discontent (1996)
Extracts from Nancy L. Rosenblum, 'Fusion Republicanism', Richard Rorty, 'A Defence of Minimalist Liberalism', Richard Sennett, 'Two Models of the Republic', Michael Walzer, 'Two Models of Sandel's America', Charles Taylor, 'Living with Difference', Michael Sandel, 'Reply to Critics', Jean Bethke Elstain and Christopher Beem, 'Can this Republic be Saved?', all in Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan Jr (eds), Debating Democracy's Discontent (1998)
Albert O. Hirschmann, Essays in Trespassing (1981)
Alan Wolfe, Whose Keeper? (1989)
Michael Walzer, Interpretation and Social Criticism (1987)
The Company of Critics (1988)
Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (1989)
C. L. R. James, American Civilization (1993)
Mariners, Renegades and Castaways (1978).

About the Author

Andreas Hess is a Lecturer in Sociology at University College Dublin. He is author of American Social and Political Thought: An Introduction (Edinburgh University Press, 2000), Concepts of Social Stratification: European and American Models (Palgrave, 2001) and Die Politische Soziologie C. Wright Mills (Leske + Budrich, 1995).