Race and Politics in America

Race and Politics in America

By Michael Bernhard and Daniel O’Neill, University of Florida

The fields of comparative and American politics often gleefully ignore each other. For instance, in the Cold War era, locales outside the “advanced industrial” countries were the objects of “area study” in comparative politics, a theoretical approach that treated the politics of each world region as its own form of exceptionalism. Periodically, there have been moments when Americanists and comparativists “discovered” and deeply influenced each other. For instance, after communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, there was a widespread belief that the literature on democratic institutions pioneered by Americanists would serve well in that context. After all, the argument went, the West had solved the problems of economic management and the practice of representative mass democracy, and thus for others it was just a question of picking the right institutions to share in democracy and prosperity. The largest global recession in 70 years, mass migration of populations in response to an escalating cascade of ecological disruptions, and one pandemic later, the intellectual consensus underlying this belief is more than a bit tarnished.