The American Anomaly : U.S. Politics and Government in Comparative Perspective book cover
4th Edition

The American Anomaly
U.S. Politics and Government in Comparative Perspective

ISBN 9781138490673
Published December 17, 2018 by Routledge
256 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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 and examples in each chapter draw on all the major regions of the world.

Thoroughly revised throughout, the fourth edition includes:

  • Updates to reflect events including the anomalous presidential election of 2016, the start of the unconventional presidency of Donald Trump, and shifting partisan dynamics within Congress.
  • Coverage of recent political developments such as the Black Lives Matter and Antifa left-wing groups, the rise of the Alt-Right and resurgent nationalism, and youth-led movements for immigration reform and gun violence prevention.
  • A newly developed chapter offering a comparative perspective on U.S. public opinion and mass media, including social media; includes a new case study focused on post-Communist Russia and a chart on comparative freedom of the press.
  • The contextualizing of emerging political memes such as "fake news," "alternative facts," the "deep state," "Brexit," and "#MeToo".
  • Updates to examples from other countries, including challenges to the European Union; the aftermath of the Arab Uprisings; recent political upheavals in Venezuela, Zimbabwe, South Korea, and Brazil; the global reassertion of Russian power and its possible manipulation of the US election; and the steady growth of China’s global military and economic role.
  • A substantive update to the domestic policy chapter, in light of the return of unified Republican control in Washington DC, and to the foreign policy chapter, taking into account isolationist and unlateralist thinking in the Trump administration.
  • Updated tables and charts comparing major democratic political systems; expanded further reading suggestions; and revised discussion questions and Web-based exercises throughout the book.

Table of Contents

Part 1: The Constitutional Order

1. The American Nation, State, and Regime

Case Study: The Nation, State, and Regime in Poland

2. The U.S. Constitution

Case Study: The Post-Apartheid Constitution of South Africa

3. Federalism

Case Study: The Unitary State in Japan

Case Study: German Federalism

4. Separation of Powers

Case Study: The Westminster Parliamentary Model

A Hypothetical Case Study: Parliamentary Checks and Balances

Part 2: The Institutions of Government

5. The Executive Branch: The Presidency and the Bureaucracy

Case Study: Variations in Executive Power in Southeast Asia

6. The Legislative Branch: The Two Houses of Congress

Case Study: Legislative Variation in the Former British Dominions

7. The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court and the Federal Courts

Case Study: The Judiciary in France

Part 3: Political Participation

8. Unconventional Political Participation: Activism, Social Movements, and Interest Groups

Case Study: The Zapatista Movement in Mexico

9. Voting and Elections

Case Study: Voting and Elections in Israel

10. Political Parties

A Hypothetical Case Study: Electoral Systems and the Number of Parties

11. Public Opinion and Mass Media

Case Study: Public Opinion and Mass Media in Post-Communist Russia

Part 4: Public Policy and Policymaking

12. Domestic Policy: Socioeconomic Regulation, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights

Case Study: Social Welfare Policy in Denmark

13. Foreign Policy: The United States in the World

Case Study: The Foreign Policy of China

Conclusion: The American Anomaly on Balance

For Further Study: A Brief Bibliographic Essay on "American Exceptionalism"

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Raymond A. Smith, Ph.D., LL.M., is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the Center for Global Affairs at 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 American Politics and Government.


"Students can never truly understand U.S. politics until they grasp the profound distinctiveness of our country's political culture and institutions. Up-to-date, engaging, and fact-filled, The American Anomaly provides this crucial perspective—and there's no other book like it. I assign it as required reading in all of my introductory courses on U.S. politics." - Patrick J. Egan, New York University, USA

"There is no better way for students to learn about American politics than by seeing a thoughtful comparison between politics in the U.S. and politics in other countries. The American Anomaly does a fantastic job of providing this perspective, showing students the ways in which U.S. politics is similar to politics in other countries as well as the ways in which it differs. This is an outstanding book!" - Charles R. Shipan, University of Michigan, USA