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CSPO 2830A - Lobbying in the US Political System

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Lobbying is an integral part of the American political system at all levels. Lobbies and lobbyists affect all branches of government. The number of lobbyists has grown so much since the late 1960s that lobbying is often referred to as the "fourth branch" of the U.S. government after the executive, legislative, and judicial ones. The primary targets of interest groups are members of Congress. Lobbyists use different strategies and tactics (expertise, media campaigns, grassroots mobilization campaign contributions, legal action, etc.) to influence decision-makers, including the president and federal justices. However, lobbying goes beyond voting in empowering American people to influence their government. Because it is such an ingrained part of the structure of government, foreign companies and governments use lobbyists to promote their own interests. The aim of this course is to introduce students to the main theories of American politics. It will analyze a large selection of classical and contemporary readings in order to show how theories raise fundamental questions and offer a valuable tool to understand complex, concrete and interrelated political and social issues. At an empirical level, this course will introduce students to the fundamental role played by interest groups in the decision-making process and will examine the impact of lobbying on American domestic and foreign policies.


OUESLATI, Salah (Maître de conférences des Universités à Poitiers)

Pedagogical format

The first hour of each session will be devoted to the analysis of one of the main interest group theories. An oral presentation focusing on a case study will be tackled in the second hour accompanied by a class discussion.

Course validation

Oral presentation. Class participation. Final essay.


Oral presentation 15 to 20 min : students are expected to assess a given problematic or analyze a case study based on a thorough reading of relevant literature (30%). Class participation: students are encouraged to participate regularly and interact not only with the teacher but also with each other (10%). Final essay 2h: students are expected to answer a question or analyze a quote in a critical and argumentative way and demonstrate their capacity to master the theoretical approaches as well as the empirical cases studied in class (60%).

Required reading

  • Robert Dahl: Who Governs? (1961)
  • Wright Mill: The Power Elite (1956)
  • Steven Lukes: Power: A Radical View (2005)
  • Scott H. Ainsworth, Analyzing Interest Groups, Group Influence on People and Policies (2002)
  • Tony Smith: Foreign Attachment: The Power of Interest Groups in the Making of American