How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change / Edition 1

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In this greatly entertaining tale of one of our most august institutions, Nelson Polsby argues that among other things, from the 50's to the 90's, Congress evolved. In short, Polsby argues that air conditioning altered the demography of the southern states, which in turn changed the political parties of the South, which transformed the composition and in due course the performance of the US House of Representatives. This evolutionary process led to the House's liberalization and later to its transformation into an arena of sharp partisanship, visible among both Democrats and Republicans. How Congress Evolves breathes new life into the dusty corners of institutional history, and offers a unique explanation for important transformations in the congressional environment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195182965
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/2/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,565,153
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet 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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Table of Contents

I. The House in Sam Rayburn's Time
A Conservative House: 1937-1957
After the 1958 Election: Frustration
The Rump Session of 1960
Packing the Rules Committee by Avoiding the Democratic Caucus: 1961
II. Toward Liberalization
Succession to Rayburn
Conflict within the Caucus: Liberals against the Leadership, 1963
Incremental Committee Packing: Appropriations, 1963
Republican Committee Packing: Maintaining the Party Mainstream, 1961-1963
The Landslide: 1964
The Democratic Study Group Uses the Caucus: 1967-72
Fallout from Watergate: The Caucus Puts Seniority under Siege
A Remodeled House
III. Causes of Liberalization
The House Democratic Caucus
The Rise of the Two-Party South
Southern Republicans in the 1990s: A Group Portrait
IV. Consequences: Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System?
The Retreat from Bipartisanship in Committee
Two Strategies of Opposition
An Era of Ill-Feeling
Tyranny Tempered by Assassination
V. Overview: How Congress Evolves
Innovation and Stalemate
Overview of the House
Stories about Change
Appendix: Methods and Sources

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