How Congress Evolves

How Congress Evolves : Social Bases of Institutional Change

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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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 152.4 x 228.6 x 20.3mm | 408.24g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Oxf Univ PR Pbk.
  • 0195182960
  • 9780195182965
  • 1,671,881

Review quote

"How Congress Evolves is elegantly written, cogently argued and politically astute. Nelson Polsby gives his readers the benefit of four decades and more of immersion in and observation of Congress, along with his penetrating insights into politics, people and institutions and a writing style that is at once accessible and sophisticated. Novices and experts, students and practitioners, scholars and journalists, all will learn immensely about how the House of Representatives works and how it changes."-Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute "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, Professor and Director, Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies American University "Combining historical breadth and intimate detail, Nelson Polsby explains how and why the U.S. Congress came to change both its ideological makeup and its internal decision-making processes at mid century. An important book by a gifted storyteller, How Congress Evolves is a treatise in its sweep and a memoir in its depth. No other political scientist could have delivered this combination of strengths."-Richard Fenno, author of Home Style: House Members in their Districts "Nelson Polsby has given several generations of political scientists and historians a better understanding of that complex body the Congress of the United States. His new book shows us how the House of Representatives has responded to the enormous changes in American life over the past half century. Like its author, it is lively, engaging, and wise."-Morton Keller, History Department, Brandeis University "Nelson Polsby has been studying, reading about and hanging around the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 40 years. In How Congress Evolves, he provides the definitive-and often witty-account of how the House has changed over time, and why."- Michael Barone, U.S. News & World Report, co-author,The Almanac of American Politics "Nelson Polsby always offers a fresh and insightful perspective on Congress. Few observers pull together the historical perspective, and original analysis and trenchant observations as well as Nelson Polsby does."-Congressman Lamar Smith (R. Texas) "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 "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 fascinating history of how the House has developed." -The New York Review of Booksshow more

About Nelson W. Polsby

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 more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 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 ; Notes ; Indexshow more

Rating details

25 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 24% (6)
4 48% (12)
3 24% (6)
2 4% (1)
1 0% (0)
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