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A Novel Approach to Politics

A Novel Approach to Politics
Introducing Political Science through Books, Movies, and Popular Culture

Second Edition

Other Titles in:
Politics (General)

December 2009 | 464 pages | CQ Press
A companion website is available for this text

Students often complain that textbooks are boring, especially the door-stoppers in use for most survey courses. But they've never had a textbook like this. Just ask adopters of the first edition who are thanking Novel Approach for some of their best student evaluations to date.

Van Belle and Mash deliver the core concepts and real-world political examples you expect from an introductory book, just in a way that your students will actually have fun reading and will retain after the exam. With enlightening, yet entertaining, references ranging from 1984 to The Dark Knight, students take away more from discussions of institutions, ideology, and economics because concepts are introduced using popular culture. Revisions to the second edition, in addition to a wealth of new and recent movies and books, include new features on major political theorists and expanded stand-alone institutional chapters on the legislature and the executive.

Never fear—the textbook stuff is here too—chapter summaries, bolded key terms, and discussion questions.

Introducing the Ancient Debate: The Ideal versus the Real
The Dollhouse  
Fiction as a Tool for Exploring Politics  
Utopias in Fiction and Politics  
What Is Politics?  
What Is Political Science?  
Why Government? Security, Anarchy, and Some Basic Group Dynamics
A Model for the Emergence of Cooperation: Bobsville  
Collective Action  
The Context of Hierarchy  
Groups and Group Identities  
Governing Society: We Know Who You Are
Leadership Benefits  
The Panopticon  
Collective Action, Revolution, and the Use of Force  
Legitimacy and Government Control  
Government’s Role in the Economy: The Offer You Can’t Refuse
The Tragedy of the Commons  
Karl Marx--Student of Capitalism?  
The Yin and Yang of Capitalism and Socialism  
Structures and Institutions: Get off your #$*%&#g Ass and Build that #$*%&#g Bike
Structures or Institutions?  
Human Nature and Political Institutions  
The Reality of Political Institutions  
El Grande Loco Casa Blanca-The Executive (in Bad Spanish)
Oh Captain, My Captain  
The Scorpion King on Grandpa’s Farm  
Kings and Presidents  
The Democratic Executive  
The Confederacy of Dunces— The Legislative (Not in Bad Spanish)
A Dreary Discussion of Democratic Legislatures  
A Redundant Repetition of Our Theme  
A Tired Attempt to Make it Interesting  
A Dreary Bleakness in the Authoritarian Gloom  
Brazil our Bureaucracy-Do we even need to Bother with the Jokes?
Bureaucracy, It Goes To Eleven  
So What Is A Bureaucracy?  
There Be Flaws in Yonder Bureaucracy, Obviously  
Courts and Law: Politics behind the Gavel
Law and Politics  
The Functions of Courts  
Trial Courts and Appellate Courts  
Legal Systems  
Types of Law  
Constitutional Courts  
Not Quite Right, but Still Good: The Democratic Ideal in Modern Politics
Arrow’s Theorem  
Democracy and the Liberal Ideal  
An Economic Theory of Democracy  
The Real versus the Ideal, Again  
Media, Politics and Government: Talking Heads are Better than None
Reality and Beyond  
The Whole China Charade  
Your New Brain and the Creation of Reality  
News Media and Politics  
A Vast Conspiracy?  
Understanding the Distortions Is the Key  
International Politics: Apocalypse Now and Then
Causes of War  
Back To Anarchy  
World War I Was Unpleasant  
Realism and War  
Challenging the Realist Paradigm  
Chapter 13 was Confiscated for Your Protection
Political Culture: Sex & Agriculture, Getting Rucked Explains it All  
Political Culture  
Applying Political Culture  
The Lastest and Bestest Chapter

The slightly irreverent, humorous approach of the authors went
over well with my students; I appreciated the sophisticated yet
accessible treatment of the philosophical roots and theoretic structure
of the study of politics. It worked very well with my approach to
introducing political science; using the book with films and current
events facilitated dynamic and far-ranging discussion

Seán P. Duffy
Quinnipiac University

In all of my class lectures, I frequently mention films, books,
and TV shows that illustrate a point of political interest. When Van
Belle and Mash first released their delightful text, I found a book to
use whose ‘kindred spirit’ matched my approach. It is fun, funny,
informative, and most importantly, it serves up politics to a generation
of students who have been socialized by the entertainment media

Jim Radford
Radford University

As an instructor who struggles to animate students about the
importance politics in their daily lives, this text accomplishes the
almost impossible--it makes students smile and even laugh about
politics. The framing of political theory in such a way that challenges
students to think and to internalize ideas is a major accomplishment. As
a supplementary reader it enriches and brings ideas to life while
providing much needed substance to class discussions

Richard S. Gutierrez
University of Texas

A Novel Approach to Politics is a must-use textbook for
any instructor who wishes to gain and maintain student interest in
political science. Van Belle and Mash make politics come alive with
their use of fictional stories and historical examples to illustrate
political concepts. Students constantly comment that they find the A Novel Approach to Politics to be both engaging and enjoyable to read. Often getting students to read a textbook is like pulling teeth, with A Novel Approach to Politics, this is one dentist visit that students actually enjoy

Cyrus Hayat
Indiana University, Perdue University Indianapolis

The text contains numerous refernces to cultural artifacts such as movies that many of our students in South Africa are not familiar with. Additionally the text is written in avery tongue in cheek manner, while I personally feel that it is one of the strong points of the text our students again don't read it as such. The students have a tendency to overlook the wit and read this text as literal. However this text does deal with basic concepts of politics in a very interesting manner.

Dr William Ellis
Dept Of Anthropology & Sociology, University of Western Cape
June 24, 2015

A great text, especially for early years (though a little Amero-centric in many places). Some good recommendations for films and other popular culture artefacts to supplement study in politics.

Dr Simon Obendorf
School of Social Sciences, Lincoln Univ.
July 4, 2014

An interesting read but too US oriented for the courses I deliver.

Mr David Ness
Social Science, Moray College UHI
May 29, 2014

Absolutely brilliant - a revolutionary new approach to teaching an Introduction to Political Science. It does not fit in with our courses, but I will definitely try to find a place for it as recommended literature next year.

Professor Marcel Wissenburg
Department of Political Science, Radboud University Nijmegen
May 30, 2011

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ISBN: 9780872899995