December 22, 2013

Warren, Dorian Silver_nugget
[PUAF U6110] Politics of Policymaking

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This course is in flux. This year was a brand-new course that had been completely overhauled from what from every account I heard of, was a disaster last year, taught by someone entirely different. It's entirely possible that it will change a great deal again next year.

Prof Warren was one of those professors who I'd bet is a great discussion leader, but doesn't always have his heart in it when it comes to lectures. He's an easygoing and approachable guy and I always liked talking to him one on one after class if I had questions. But it seemed clear that the material he was covering in the first half of the semester (a lot of political science theory about how policies are formed and carried out) seemed pretty basic to him. When he got into real-world examples, he was more engaged and engaging, but that was minority of his lectures.

Last third of the semester was taken up by guest lecturers, who were a bit of a mixed bag. Standouts included Steve Cohen, Esther Fuchs, and Lawrence O'Donnell (yes, as in MSNBC/The West Wing/Homeland). All in all, made me a bit jealous of the MIA folks in Conceptual Foundations who always seemed to be having a great time (except for the last three weeks which were apparently hell), but wasn't as bad as some of my classmates made it out to be. Besides, I don't want to be known as Missing In Action for the rest of my career (common American interpretation of the acronym MIA).

Syllabus is very U.S.-centric, and even the international examples assume the presence of functioning democratic systems. You won't be learning much that applies to places like China or Russia, for example.


Erratic and changes from week to week. Reading load is sometimes heavy (150+ pages a week), and you will need to post something online each week from readings. There is a group powerpoint/discussion leading assignment that rotates in sections, you'll do that once in the quarter. Then there is a semester-long project in which you create a policy and write short but technically challenging memos about it with different focuses throughout the semester. I think there were four such memos total. There is also a take-home final in the form of a similar memo, but using a provided case study rather than your own policy idea.