Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science Richard Valelly '75 teamed up with Oxford University Press to publish a 152-page reader on American politics. Released in March, American Politics: A Very Short Introduction is part of the publishing house's new series Very Short Introductions. Spanning a variety of topics, each Very Short Introduction provides a concise analysis of its subject, the debates that one can have about it, and why readers should care about it.
Valelly's primer on American politics begins with a look at the elements that make up American democracy and includes chapters on the presidency, Congress and its bicameralism, the legislative-executive process, the Supreme Court, and American political parties. It concludes with a chapter on the politics of income inequality.
"I ended the book with income inequality as a way of saying to readers: pay attention to our national debate over income inequality," says Valelly, author of the award-winning The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement. "Income inequality has increased very dramatically since the 1970s and it continues to grow. Is that a failure of democracy? Does it weaken our democracy? I want readers to think about those questions. Overall, I hope this book serves as a resource for anyone wishing to better understand how our political system works, and why at times it feels like it's not."
Valelly, who received a Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1984, is an expert on American party politics, election law, voting rights, and the institutional development of the House and the Senate. He has been a research scholar at Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Currently he is a recipient of a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.