Book Colloquium

Fall 2023

Each semester the Center for Public Choice and Market Process (CPM) sponsors the Economics Book Colloquium, in which students and faculty meet to discuss interesting contemporary writing in economics. In Fall 2023, the EBC will be reading "Why Parties? A Second Look" by John H. Aldrich. Registration is required.



Since its first appearance fifteen years ago, Why Parties? has become essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the nature of American political parties. In the interim, the party system has undergone some radical changes. In this landmark book, now rewritten for the new millennium, John H. Aldrich goes beyond the clamor of arguments over whether American political parties are in resurgence or decline and undertakes a wholesale reexamination of the foundations of the American party system.

Surveying critical episodes in the development of American political parties—from their formation in the 1790s to the Civil War—Aldrich shows how they serve to combat three fundamental problems of democracy: how to regulate the number of people seeking public office, how to mobilize voters, and how to achieve and maintain the majorities needed to accomplish goals once in office. Aldrich brings this innovative account up to the present by looking at the profound changes in the character of political parties since World War II, especially in light of ongoing contemporary transformations, including the rise of the Republican Party in the South, and what those changes accomplish, such as the Obama Health Care plan. Finally, Why Parties? A Second Look offers a fuller consideration of party systems in general, especially the two-party system in the United States, and explains why this system is necessary for effective democracy.

About the Author:

John H. Aldrich is the Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science. He specializes in American politics and behavior, formal theory, and methodology.

Books he has authored or co-authored include Why Parties; Why Parties Matter; Before the Convention; Linear Probability, Logit and Probit Models; Interdisciplinarity: Its Role in a Discipline-based Academy and a series of books on elections, the most recent of which is Change and Continuity in the 2020 Elections.

His articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Public Choice, and other journals and edited volumes.

He has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has served as co-editor of the American Journal of Political Science and as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Rockefeller Center, Bellagio, Italy. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He has served as President of the Southern Political Science association, Midwest Political Science Association, and the American Political Science Association.


Discussion Leeder:

The Discussion Leader will be Dr. Jordan Ragusa, Associate Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science here at the College of Charleston. Dr. Ragusa is also the Interim Director for the Center for Public Choice & Market Proess.


Colloquium information: 

  • The EBC is open to any interested College of Charleston students; it is not limited to economics majors.
  • The EBC meets approximately every two weeks, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, on Wednesday from 3:30-4:45 in Beatty 301. See schedule for exact meeting dates.
  • Participation in the colloquium is voluntary, and no course credit is given for participation. We request that you only sign up to participate if you expect to be able to attend all of the sessions in the schedule below.
  • All students should be prepared to discuss all of the scheduled chapters for each meeting. The format will be an open discussion but focused on the topics raised in the assigned readings. Importantly, this colloquium is not intended to be a lecture. Ideally, the professors will do little talking.
  • Participants receive their copy of the book free from the CPM.
  • This semester the Colloquium will be limited to 15 student participants. 


All meetings are Wednesdays from 3:30-4:45 in Beatty 301. See exact dates below.


Assigned pages of the book should be read prior to each meeting.

September 6, 2023

  • Chapter 1: Politics and Parties in America

September 20, 2023

  • Chapter 2: Why Parties Form

October 4, 2023

  • Chapter 3: Founding the First Parties
  • Chapter 4: Jacksonian Democracy

October 11, 2023

  • Chapter 5: Whigs and Republicans
  • Chapter 6: Party Activists and Partisan Cleavages

November 1, 2023

  • Chapter 7: Political Parties and Governance
  • Chapter 8: The Critical Era of the 1960s

November 15, 2023

  • Chapter 9: Political Parties, Historical Dynamics, and Democratic Politics

November 29, 2023

  • Virtual Meeting with author John H. Aldrich


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