The Allbritton Center

Collaborative Cluster Initiative

Centralization and Decentralization

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life invites applications from students in all majors for a new program to begin in Fall 2014 that will engage twenty students in a Cluster of three one-credit courses, a year-long collaborative research project, and a range of associated lectures and academic and social activities through the academic year.

This first Cluster is organized around the theme of centralization and decentralization in both economic and political life. This is an issue of special salience in the twenty-first century, as citizens in the U.S., the former Soviet Union, the European Union and emerging nations elsewhere debate the proper relation between local and central governments in a range of political and economic contexts.

Two of the courses in the Cluster are sections of regular Wesleyan courses taught in the Fall semester, Professor Finn's GOVT 203 and Professor Adelstein's ECON 254, in each of which ten places will be reserved for Cluster students (section 2 of each course). Cluster students must take at least one of these courses, though they may take both if they are admitted to the other course through regular procedures. The third course, CSPL 320-321, is required of all Cluster students and will be a year-long, team-taught (Adelstein & Finn) research seminar on the themes of the Cluster, with one-half credit awarded each semester. Here, students will explore various approaches to the Cluster theme, hear relevant lectures from invited guests from within and without the academy, and split into small, coordinated groups to embark on sustained collaborative research projects that each focus on some aspect of the problem of centralizing or decentralizing economic and political life. The seminar will culminate in a public presentation of the work and a volume of collaborative essays on specific themes and topics that might be published by a scholarly press.

GOVT 203 will be Finn's course in American Constitutional Law, with special emphasis and readings on the problem of federalism in the United States and select other constitutional democracies, while Adelstein's ECON 254, State and Economy in Industrial America, 1870-1940, will examine the rapid emergence of large manufacturing firms in the United States after 1870 and the nation's political, legal and ideological response to them. But while both these courses largely focus on the United States and draw heavily on the past, the theme of the Cluster is meant to be more inclusive, and more relevant to contemporary issues and problems.

We hope that students will use the perspectives gained in these two courses not only to look more deeply into how American economic and political life have been organized in the past, but to address urgent questions for the present from around the world. How should the US be governed in the next century? What is the future of the EU? What can be learned from the disappearance of the USSR or the unification of Germany? Should Scotland secede from the UK? How can artificially created, deeply divided countries everywhere be governed or restructured? Nor need all the questions be political. How do big firms differ from small ones, and why do some firms grow large while others stay small? What are the political or moral consequences of economic concentration? How can multinational firms be governed and regulated? What might an antitrust law do to concentrate or disperse power?

We hope to attract students from all majors who are strongly interested in the Cluster's theme and prepared to work steadily over the year to learn more about the complex and difficult questions the theme raises and present their learning in a substantial collaborative research project.  


Application Process

Admission to the CSPL Collaborative Cluster Program for the academic year 2014-15 is by Permission of Instructor(s).  Students should send an email indicating their interest to John Finn (jfinn@wesleyan,edu).  If possible, you will receive notification before the registration planning period ends, including POI clearance for the courses.  If your email is received after registration planning period ends, if you are accepted, you will be able to add the courses during the fall drop/add period.

Please include the following information:

Name, Major, Class Year, and Contact Information (preferably email address).

Applicants should also indicate which of the two Cluster courses they prefer to take in the fall semester, if they have a preference for one or the other, and whether they have interest in just one or the other of the two.  If accepted, students must also enroll in both semesters of the research seminar (i.e. not be planning to go abroad in one or the other semester), and must plan to attend as many of the additional activities (dinners, lectures, final conference or workshop) as possible.  The research seminar meeting times will be set after students are admitted to the Cluster with input from the admitted students.

Applicants should also include a statement, not to exceed a single page, which speaks to your particular interest in the Cluster Theme of Centralization and Decentralization. Which aspects of this broad topic area interest you the most, and what questions might you be most interested in pursuing in your research project?   

If you have any questions regarding this Collaborative Cluster Program, please contact either John Finn ( or Richard Adelstein (