The American Anomaly: U.S. Politics and Government in Comparative Perspective, 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover

The American Anomaly

U.S. Politics and Government in Comparative Perspective, 3rd Edition

By Raymond A. Smith

© 2014 – Routledge

236 pages

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Paperback: 9780415814331
pub: 2013-07-29
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pub: 2013-09-17
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Seymour Martin Lipset pronounced over a decade ago, "Someone who knows only one country knows no country." It is well established that students learn the intricacies of American politics better when they are presented in a comparative context. In today’s globalized society and workforce, it is all the more important for students to understand that the American political system is in many ways the exception and not the rule. Introductory textbooks on American government, however, rarely emphasize in sufficient depth how the United States compares to other political systems. And introductions to comparative politics infrequently situate the United States in their analysis.

The American Anomaly systematically analyzes the U.S. political system by way of comparison with other countries, especially other industrialized democracies. It is organized into four sections, respectively covering the constitutional order, governmental institutions, political participation, and public policy. Extended case studies in each chapter draw on all the major regions of the world.

Thoroughly revised throughout, the third edition includes:

  • Updates throughout to reflect recent developments, including battles for control of Congress and the White House in 2010 and 2012, the challenges and successes of the Obama presidency, and political developments including the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
  • The addition of a ready-reference glossary defining key terms, along with a key terms list at the end of each chapter.
  • Updates to examples from other countries, such as changes to the European Union in light of the Eurozone crisis, the weakening of the Mexican state due to surges in drug-related crime, and the growth of China’s global role.
  • A substantive update to the domestic policy and foreign policy chapters.
  • A significant update on online/web-based activism, with particular regard to the expanding role of social media.
  • New tables and charts in each chapter.
  • A companion website also offers overview slides, links, and other supporting features.


"Comparison generates knowledge, and the comparative approach used in this textbook offers a superb way to stimulate student interest not only in American politics, but also in the politics of other nations. I wish I'd read this book when I was in college."

—Richard M. Pious, Barnard College

"There are both striking similarities and crucial differences between how politics works in the U.S. and how politics operates in other countries. Smith's wonderful achievement in this book is to use these similarities and differences to provide readers with an enhanced understanding of American politics."

—Charles Shipan, University of Michigan

"With today's globalization, revolutions seeking democracy, and new technology that has more closely connected the world, the new edition of The American Anomaly is a particularly timely book. It provides an engaging introduction to how American government and politics still stands out as an important democratic model, as it is in fact so different in many ways from other democracies that have followed in its general path."

—Robert Y. Shapiro, Columbia University

Table of Contents

Part I: The Constitutional Order. 1: The American Nation, State, and Regime. 2: The U.S. Constitution. 3: Federalism. 4: Separation of Powers. Part II: The Institutions of Government. 5: The Executive Branch: The Presidency and the Bureaucracy. 6: The Legislative Branch: The Two Houses of Congress. 7: The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court and the Federal Courts. Part III: Political Participation. 8: Conventional and Unconventional Participation: Activism, Social Movements, and Interest Groups. 9: Voting and Elections. 10: Political Parties. 11: Public Opinion and Political Values. Part IV: Public Policy and Policymaking. 12: Domestic Policy: Socioeconomic Policy, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights. 13: Foreign Policy: The United States in the World. Conclusion: The American Anomaly on Balance

About the Author

Raymond A. Smith, Ph.D. is an adjunct assistant professor of political science at Columbia University and New York University and a Senior Fellow with the Progressive Policy Institute. He is author of Importing Democracy: Ideas from around the World to Reform and Revitalize U.S. Politics and Government.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General