If you want students to really understand the concept of power, moving beyond a survey book's quick discussion of Laswell's “who gets what and how,” Muir's thoughtful Freedom in America might be the book for you. Exploring the words and ideas of such thinkers as Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Tocqueville, Muir discusses the nature and limits of three types of power—coercive, reciprocal, and moral—and then uses this framework to explain how American political institutions work.

If looking for an alternative to a long survey text—or itching to get students grappling with The Federalist Papers or Democracy in America with more of a payoff—Muir's meditation on power and personal freedom is a gateway for students to take their study of politics to the next level. His inductive style, engaging students with well-chosen and masterfully written stories, lets him draw out and distill key lessons without being preachy. Read a chapter and decide if this page turner is for you.

We the People

We the people

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble, The Constitution of the United States

The first three words of the U.S. Constitution speak of “We the People.” But what kind of people are Americans? Do the individuals inhabiting the fifty states share a set of traits so that it's helpful of think of them as “We,” a distinctive community amidst the universe of mankind? If so, what might explain how being American shapes the personalities of the inhabitants of a nation extending the width of an entire continent? Who do ...

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