Date01 March 2015
Published date01 March 2015
doi : 10. 1111/p adm .12147
Pathways of Power: The Dynamics of National Policymaking
Timothy Conlan, Paul Posner and David Beam
Georgetown University Press, 2014, 240 pp., £18.59 (pb), ISBN: 9781626160392
Artists of the Possible: Governing Networks and American Politics since 1945
Matt Grossmann
Oxford University Press, 2014, 272 pp., £19.10 (pb), ISBN: 9780199967841
Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better
Peter H. Schuck
Princeton University Press, 2014, 488 pp., £18.24 (hb), ISBN: 9780691161624
We are witnessing the fruition of a ‘policy turn’ in studies of American politics that has
been long in coming. In the past, students of Congress, the presidency, bureaucracy, and
the courts were primarily concerned with questions of either internal power dynamics
or democratic representation. Beginning with David Mayhew’s Divided We Govern (1992),
however, students of American political institutions began to broadly reposition the eld
around how government produces, or fails to produce, major policy reforms. It is this
question that now informs some of the most salient work in the eld, including the debate
about political polarization and its effects on government performance.1
The focus on policy is by no means a fad or a path-dependent consequence of a seminal
text and research technology. Rather, it signals the emergence of an institutional congu-
ration that Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek (2011) refer to as the ‘policy state’. The
rise of precocious legislative and executive institutions in the twentieth century moved the
central action of government from recognizing and enshrining rights that already existed
in the Constitution through adjudication, to the production of policy by legislative acts to
commit the state to broad, positive goals and the means necessary to achieve them. Interest
groups turned their guns away from the judiciary and towards Congress. When groups
returned to the courts, the judiciary had largely abandoned legal formalism, embracing
policy-focused approaches to problem solving.
Increasingly polarized parties fought policy battles, yet even the substantive content
of polarization shifted. Rather than ghting only about whether government should inter-
vene, parties increasingly battled over how to use the state’s authority. This, in Orren and
Skowronek’s words, was ‘politics of means’ as opposed to ends. Should public schools
Philip Rocco is at the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley,
Public Administration Vol.93, No. 1, 2015 (248–254)
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT