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Contents

Introduction to American Government

The Other Social Sciences

Themes in American Political History

What Political Scientists Do

Social sciences study how people interact with and relate to one another. The study of American government, with its emphasis on political systems and the distribution of power, falls into this larger academic category. Like other disciplines within political science, the study of American government draws from some other social sciences, including sociology, economics, psychology, and anthropology.

Sociology

Sociology studies social life and human interactions, from how groups form to how large organizations run to how people interact with one another. In their analyses of American government, scholars make use of sociological studies and methods when examining, for example, how small group dynamics affect the decision-making process, how people acquire and maintain power, and how political culture shapes our attitudes.

Economics

Politics and economics often intersect. Studying government without also studying economics, especially in free-market societies such as the United States, is not possible. Scholars in this field examine such economic issues as the effects government policy has on the economy, the role money plays in campaigns, and how nations arrive at trade agreements.

Psychology

Psychology studies the way the human mind works, helping us to understand why people behave the way that they do. The insights of psychology are sometimes used to analyze a president’s or voter’s behavior or to explain why some people are more prone to supporting certain governments and ideologies.

Anthropology

Anthropology examines cultures within a society and theorizes about how those cultures affect society. Anthropologists also explore how people acquire cultural values. Because culture often has a strong effect on behavior, scholars rely on anthropological studies and methods to draw conclusions about American political culture and behavior.

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