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Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics Paperback – April 18, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) was, famously, the 28th President of the United States, a wartime Commander-in-Chief, and winner of the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize. Before, he was president of Princeton University and the governor of New Jersey. Less famously, earlier still, he was a practicing lawyer, an accomplished professor of political science and jurisprudence, and a prolific scholar and popular author. His books on civics, U.S. history, and presidential biography are classroom and historical classics.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Quid Pro, LLC (April 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610270770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610270779
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,604,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Goetz on July 3, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book because, now that I'm mostly done with the Great Books of the Western World set and the secondary and tertiary works of authors in that set, I'm going through many of the books in the back of the second Syntopicon volume, where they list semi-classics. This book was on that list, which was made in 1952. It was out of date even at that time, but it remains a semi-classic as a fairly deep study in how the government really works, the actual means by which Congress and the Executive branch operate.

Wilson wrote this book in the mid-1880s, when the United States was inward-looking, building its railroads and fulfilling its "Manifest Destiny"--when foreign policy was a secondary concern. This made the legislative branch the more important and more powerful branch of the federal government. But it is more than that: because there is too much for the legislature (especially the House) as a whole to do, they split up into committees, and the chairs of these committees dictate what gets to the floor of the House and what doesn't. Thus individual members can be more or less impotent. The chairs of the committees also grant speaking time to some of the members who wish to speak on an issue they bring to the floor, but there is much less of this time available than anyone would like, so policy debate is mostly limited. This has the effect of minimizing the impact and importance of any single member of the House, such that they fail to get the kind of media attention and celebrity that a comparable figure in another government might get; with the ultimate result that Americans are almost completely disinterested in the inner workings of the House.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Let's face it, you aren't likely to sit down and peruse this book for "light reading." Woodrow Wilson, after all, was not a man of light ideas, loopy ones perhaps, but weighty nonetheless.

The prose is about as stirring as one of Wilson's speeches, that is to say: "not so much." As an inexpensive recap of some of Wilson's political thought (or lack thereof), and as a primary source of his writings and utterances, "A Study In American Politics" is a handy reference guide. Bear in mind, however, that Wilson does not set out to make an objective study of congressional government but to sway you toward his perception of one. The two are not the same.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a classic. As a young academic with a keen interest in national politics, but without any experience, Wilson critiques the American governmental structure on a number of points, examines all of the branches (except judicial), the inner workings and character of each branch, and their inter-workings. Wilson is mostly critical of the system's deficiencies and has few words of praise for Constitutional government. Instead, his ideal model is the British system, with which he is constantly comparing the American. He also touches on the model of French government to provide a broader basis of comparison. The world's other great model Republic, Switzerland, is given passing mention. A broader discussion of the diversity of foreign models, including more discussion of the brilliant Swiss federal system, but also including the German system, would have added much to this book.

Wilson's principal complaints with the shortcomings of American government can be summed up with one word: disjoint. He states that there is no structure in the Congress that can be described as "leadership" in British sense, meaning that even the nominal "leaders" of the parties cannot claim to speak for the rank-and-file members, who may act on their own initiative, through committees, in the process of drafting legislation (instead of having legislation crafted by a central administration and having members vote or reject it). The result is that there is no cohesive policy, as the various committees draft legislation within their own domains that in the end can be contradictory or mutually abrasive.

Wilson also states that there is disjoint between the executive and Congress, largely due to the executive being independent from the legislature.
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Format: Hardcover
In the gutsiest political manifesto of American history, Woodrow Wilson dared to say that the Founding Fathers had it wrong. What's amazing is that his analysis holds up after 100 years. Wilson believed that "separation of powers" did not exist, and that the building impenetrable walls between the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches produced abdication of responsbility. Wilson held up as a model the Westminster cabinet form of government as a model of clarity, openness, and responsibility. You can read Wilson's 1884 pages as if he wrote them today. The style is pure Victorian -- run-on sentences galore -- but the analysis is rapier-sharp. My opinion -- get this book, and have your mind changed. You will never see American government the same way again.
PATRICK McGRATH The Campaign for Responsible Government Stony Point, NY
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