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Nature and History in American Political Development


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Table of Contents

Foreword by Theda N. Skocpol 1. Foundational Concepts and American Political Development by James W. Ceaser 2. Can We Know a Foundational Idea When We See One? by Jack N. Rakove 3. Replacing Foundations with Staging: "Second-Story" Concepts and American Political Development by Nancy L. Rosenblum 4. What If God Was One of Us? The Challenges of Studying Foundational Political Concepts by Rogers M. Smith 5. Foundational Concepts Reconsidered by James W. Ceaser Notes About the Authors Index

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James Ceaser has uncovered a profoundly vital aspect of American politics known by political leaders for centuries but ignored by the discipline of political science. His lecture on foundational concepts stimulated a vigorous debate on the ways students of politics should understand the role of ideas. The responses by Jack Rakove, Nancy Rosenblum, and Rogers Smith pose tough questions and Ceaser responds to their challenges in a wonderful exchange. Nature and History in American Political Development opens up an arena in the study of American politics that is new and especially important. -- Jeffrey K. Tulis, University of Texas at Austin This book offers a double-header of a treat: James Ceaser provides the outlines of a new and altogether intriguing approach to the field of American political thought, and three of the field's most eminent scholars write appreciative but hard-hitting critiques. Ceaser has a reply, and the entire debate echoes in the mind long after the reader has put the book down. -- Michael Zuckert, University of Notre Dame This first Alexis de Tocqueville Lecture fully lives up to its name. These are wise, elegant, witty, subversive reflections on the role of ideas in political life. Nature and History is a rich meditation on America, a feisty debate about history, and a complete delight to read. -- James A Morone, Brown University

About the Author

James W. Ceaser is Professor of Politics, University of Virginia. Theda Skocpol is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. Her previous works include the prize-winning States and Social Revolutions. Jack N. Rakove is the William R. Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and author of the Pulitzer Prize--winning Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution.


Ceaser's analysis of American history is highly sophisticated and impressive...The discussants, two political scientists and one historian, give the volume balance both politically and intellectually...[An] engaging, deeply thoughtful, and public-spirited volume. -- Daniel Walker Howe Claremont Review of Books 20060901

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