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How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change Paperback – April 7, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0195182965 ISBN-10: 0195182960

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195182960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195182965
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 6.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"A fascinating history of how the House has developed." --The New York Review of Books


"Polsby's How Congress Evolves is crisply written and argued, moving logically toward an explanation of how Congress changes over time. It should be read by anyone serious about the subject of how political institutions evolve."--The Weekly Standard


"A new work on Congress by one of the most prominent scholars of American government in the past half century is a major event.... How Congress Evolves is an intelligent, eminently readable and accessible study that accurately summarizes how Congress has changed in the last half century and the reasons behind that change.... Nelson Polsby has produced another valuable addition to his considerable corpus of scholarship on American government that will assist congressional experts, undergraduate and graduate students, and the politically aware general reader in understanding the contemporary Congress."--Perspectives on Politics


"In this very readable, memoir-like book, the author develops a comprehensive account to explain the historical evolution of the U.S. House of Representatives over the past half-century. Unparalleled by related studies in its breadth, the book links several causal arguments to show how societal changes exogenous to political institutions have profound consequences within them."--Review of Politics


"Polsby, one of the nation's leading congressional scholars, presents a short, readable, and insightful book about institutional change that will have enduring value. This will most certainly become a classic."--Choice


About the Author


Nelson Polsby is Heller Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley where he has taught American politics and government since 1967. A close Congress watcher for more than 40 years, he is the author of, among others, Congress and the Presidency, and Presidential Elections (with Aaron Wildavsky, 10th edition.) He is editor of the Annual Review of Political Science and writes often for the Op-ed pages of the LA Times, Boston Globe, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Soren Dayton on April 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book provides an elegant description of one of the most important transformations of American politics: the end of the Dixiecrats and the transformation of the Solid South from the Democrats to the Republicans. He importantly connects this with the rise of the power of the caucus and leadership. It also has implications for the crisis of partisanship in Congress.
The book basically concerns several interwoven phenomena, the House Democratic Caucus exerting political control on its conservative southern members and the rise of the Republican South. Polsby demonstrates how demographic and sociological phenomena weakened the grip of the South on Democratic Party machinery, pulling the Democratic Party to the left. This increased the pressure on Dixiecrats to switch parties, once it became acceptable to be a Southern Democrat.
Polsby also discusses the rise of contemporary partisanship. As the Caucus got the power to discipline its chairman, it demanded an end to bipartisanship. This weakened Republican moderates who called for cooperation and working with the Democrats. This led to the rise in power of Newt Gingrich (an Amazon reviewer!) who advocated a different strategy that eventually led to the 1994 election.
Excellent book, and excellent insights. In several ways, this book will help me do my job better as a staffer in the House of Representatives.
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By Jack Lechelt on January 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Interesting to know how Congress has evolved. The book is more than just about Congress though, for Congress is a body somewhat representative of the people. So Polsby offers some interesting explanations for why the South became a Republican stronghold. Also, the various changes in leadership control is interesting and important for understanding changing dynamics in America's political system. Lots of helpful footnotes, bordering on obsenely excessive. The case studies into various personalities is really interesting: Wilbur Mills was a nut!
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By Luke Mansillo on June 5, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An essential read for any one interested in US political science.
This exploration of the changes to congress in the last 60 years is a very refreshing taking on the stale literature on congress and political polarization.
It is written more in the British style of government, as an art, not as a science. It does use statistics but does not use them in a turgid manners that no mathematician would dare to; game theory social scientists this will challenge your methodology, so beware.
If you think you have any understanding of American political science, and the topics of polarization and the institutional behavior of congress, you must have already read htis book. Otherwise you are an idiot, as this is one of the most influential texts in US political science.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
From the Publisher:
"How Congress Evolves" is Nelson Polsby's magnum opus. Polsby is an institution among congressional scholars and this book will be a classic work on Congress along with the writings of Woodrow Wilson and Richard Fenno. Polsby's wonderful observations from his interviews and deft use of data about stability and change in Congress combined with his humor make the book hard to put down once you start reading it. --James A. Thurber, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, American University
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
From the Publisher: "Nelson Polsby always offers a fresh and insightful perspective on Congress. Few observers pull together the historical perspective, original analysis, and trenchant observations as well as Nelson Polsby does." Congressman Lamar Smith (R. Texas)
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