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US Politics - The Separation of Powers

5. In Practice

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In this module, we apply what we have learned in this course about the separation of powers and checks and balances to the modern US, focusing in particular on: (i) a brief summary of the discussion thus far; (ii) the idea that the US is a system of ‘separated institutions sharing powers’ (Neustadt), rather than a strict separation of powers; (iii) the contemporary political realities of polarisation and gridlock; (iv) practices such as the filibuster and impact on policy outcomes; (v) the question of whether these ‘separated institutions sharing powers’ are fit for purpose in the modern United States.


In this course, Andrew Wroe (University of Kent) explores the theory and practice of the separation of powers in the United States. In the first module, we are introduced to our key concepts and begin to complicate the notion of separated powers with Neustadt’s formulation of ‘separated institutions sharing powers’. The second module consists of a brief historical overview, providing a useful backdrop to the powers of government enshrined in the US constitution. In the third module, we explore the separation of powers more thoroughly, and in the fourth module, we complement this with an exploration of checks and balances. In the final module, we look at these concepts in practice, thinking about developments over recent years and finishing with the question of whether these political structures and institutions are still fit for purpose in the modern US.


Dr Andrew Wroe is Senior Lecturer in American Politics at the University of Kent. His current research interest is the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Previous work has focused on trust in government, particularly the reasons for its decline and its effects on the wider polity, and on how low levels of political trust frame citizens' perceptions of elected officials and may actually help engender political scandals. He has written, edited and contributed to many books on US politics. These publications cover areas including the politics of immigration reform, the Republican party and the alleged 'culture war' in the United States. His most recent book is The Ordinary Presidency of Donald J. Trump (2019).

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APA style

Wroe, A. (2021, October 14). US Politics - The Separation of Powers - In Practice [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wroe, Andrew. "US Politics - The Separation of Powers – In Practice." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Oct 2021,

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