The Transformation of American Politics: Activist Government and the Rise of Conservatism

Princeton University Press
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The contemporary American political landscape has been marked by two paradoxical transformations: the emergence after 1960 of an increasingly activist state, and the rise of an assertive and politically powerful conservatism that strongly opposes activist government. Leading young scholars take up these issues in The Transformation of American Politics. Arguing that even conservative administrations have become more deeply involved in managing our economy and social choices, they examine why our political system nevertheless has grown divided as never before over the extent to which government should involve itself in our lives.

The contributors show how these two closely linked trends have influenced the reform and running of political institutions, patterns of civic engagement, and capacities for partisan mobilization--and fueled ever-heightening conflicts over the contours and reach of public policy. These transformations not only redefined who participates in American politics and how they do so, but altered the substance of political conflicts and the capacities of rival interests to succeed. Representing both an important analysis of American politics and an innovative contribution to the study of long-term political change, this pioneering volume reveals how partisan discourse and the relationship between citizens and their government have been redrawn and complicated by increased government programs.

The contributors are Andrea Louise Campbell, Jacob S. Hacker, Nolan McCarty, Suzanne Mettler, Paul Pierson, Theda Skocpol, Mark A. Smith, Steven M. Teles, and Julian E. Zelizer.

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About the author

Paul Pierson holds the Avice Saint Chair of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 27, 2011
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Pages
328
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ISBN
9781400837502
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Essays
Political Science / General
Political Science / History & Theory
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Conservatism & Liberalism
Political Science / Political Process / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Paul Pierson
This groundbreaking book represents the most systematic examination to date of the often-invoked but rarely examined declaration that "history matters." Most contemporary social scientists unconsciously take a "snapshot" view of the social world. Yet the meaning of social events or processes is frequently distorted when they are ripped from their temporal context. Paul Pierson argues that placing politics in time--constructing "moving pictures" rather than snapshots--can vastly enrich our understanding of complex social dynamics, and greatly improve the theories and methods that we use to explain them.

Politics in Time opens a new window on the temporal aspects of the social world. It explores a range of important features and implications of evolving social processes: the variety of processes that unfold over significant periods of time, the circumstances under which such different processes are likely to occur, and above all, the significance of these temporal dimensions of social life for our understanding of important political and social outcomes. Ranging widely across the social sciences, Pierson's analysis reveals the high price social science pays when it becomes ahistorical. And it provides a wealth of ideas for restoring our sense of historical process. By placing politics back in time, Pierson's book is destined to have a resounding and enduring impact on the work of scholars and students in fields from political science, history, and sociology to economics and policy analysis.

Theda Skocpol
This revised edition features a new afterword, updated through the 2016 election. On February 19, 2009, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli delivered a dramatic rant against Obama administration programs to shore up the plunging housing market. Invoking the Founding Fathers and ridiculing "losers" who could not pay their mortgages, Santelli called for "Tea Party" protests. Over the next two years, conservative activists took to the streets and airways, built hundreds of local Tea Party groups, and weighed in with votes and money to help right-wing Republicans win electoral victories in 2010. In this penetrating new study, Harvard University's Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson go beyond images of protesters in Colonial costumes to provide a nuanced portrait of the Tea Party. What they find is sometimes surprising. Drawing on grassroots interviews and visits to local meetings in several regions, they find that older, middle-class Tea Partiers mostly approve of Social Security, Medicare, and generous benefits for military veterans. Their opposition to "big government" entails reluctance to pay taxes to help people viewed as undeserving "freeloaders" - including immigrants, lower income earners, and the young. At the national level, Tea Party elites and funders leverage grassroots energy to further longstanding goals such as tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation of business, and privatization of the very same Social Security and Medicare programs on which many grassroots Tea Partiers depend. Elites and grassroots are nevertheless united in hatred of Barack Obama and determination to push the Republican Party sharply to the right. The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism combines fine-grained portraits of local Tea Party members and chapters with an overarching analysis of the movement's rise, impact, and likely fate.
Jacob S. Hacker
A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “haveit- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.

Winner-Take-All Politics—part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey— shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.
Theda Skocpol
It is a commonplace that the United States lagged behind the countries of Western Europe in developing modern social policies. But, as Theda Skocpol shows in this startlingly new historical analysis, the United States actually pioneered generous social spending for many of its elderly, disabled, and dependent citizens. During the late nineteenth century, competitive party politics in American democracy led to the rapid expansion of benefits for Union Civil War veterans and their families. Some Americans hoped to expand veterans' benefits into pensions for all of the needy elderly and social insurance for workingmen and their families. But such hopes went against the logic of political reform in the Progressive Era. Generous social spending faded along with the Civil War generation. Instead, the nation nearly became a unique maternalist welfare state as the federal government and more than forty states enacted social spending, labor regulations, and health education programs to assist American mothers and children. Remarkably, as Skocpol shows, many of these policies were enacted even before American women were granted the right to vote. Banned from electoral politics, they turned their energies to creating huge, nation-spanning federations of local women's clubs, which collaborated with reform-minded professional women to spur legislative action across the country. Blending original historical research with political analysis, Skocpol shows how governmental institutions, electoral rules, political parties, and earlier public policies combined to determine both the opportunities and the limits within which social policies were devised and changed by reformers and politically active social groups over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By examining afresh the institutional, cultural, and organizational forces that have shaped U.S. social policies in the past, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers challenges us to think in new ways about what might be possible in the American future.
Jacob S. Hacker
A groundbreaking work that identifies the real culprit behind one of the great economic crimes of our time— the growing inequality of incomes between the vast majority of Americans and the richest of the rich.

We all know that the very rich have gotten a lot richer these past few decades while most Americans haven’t. In fact, the exorbitantly paid have continued to thrive during the current economic crisis, even as the rest of Americans have continued to fall behind. Why do the “haveit- alls” have so much more? And how have they managed to restructure the economy to reap the lion’s share of the gains and shift the costs of their new economic playground downward, tearing new holes in the safety net and saddling all of us with increased debt and risk? Lots of so-called experts claim to have solved this great mystery, but no one has really gotten to the bottom of it—until now.

In their lively and provocative Winner-Take-All Politics, renowned political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrate convincingly that the usual suspects—foreign trade and financial globalization, technological changes in the workplace, increased education at the top—are largely innocent of the charges against them. Instead, they indict an unlikely suspect and take us on an entertaining tour of the mountain of evidence against the culprit. The guilty party is American politics. Runaway inequality and the present economic crisis reflect what government has done to aid the rich and what it has not done to safeguard the interests of the middle class. The winner-take-all economy is primarily a result of winner-take-all politics.

In an innovative historical departure, Hacker and Pierson trace the rise of the winner-take-all economy back to the late 1970s when, under a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, a major transformation of American politics occurred. With big business and conservative ideologues organizing themselves to undo the regulations and progressive tax policies that had helped ensure a fair distribution of economic rewards, deregulation got under way, taxes were cut for the wealthiest, and business decisively defeated labor in Washington. And this transformation continued under Reagan and the Bushes as well as under Clinton, with both parties catering to the interests of those at the very top. Hacker and Pierson’s gripping narration of the epic battles waged during President Obama’s first two years in office reveals an unpleasant but catalyzing truth: winner-take-all politics, while under challenge, is still very much with us.

Winner-Take-All Politics—part revelatory history, part political analysis, part intellectual journey— shows how a political system that traditionally has been responsive to the interests of the middle class has been hijacked by the superrich. In doing so, it not only changes how we think about American politics, but also points the way to rebuilding a democracy that serves the interests of the many rather than just those of the wealthy few.
Jacob S. Hacker
A “provocative” (Kirkus Reviews), timely, and topical work that examines what’s good for American business and what’s good for Americans—and why those interests are misaligned.

In American Amnesia, bestselling political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson trace the economic and political history of the United States over the last century and show how a viable mixed economy has long been the dominant engine of America’s prosperity. We have largely forgotten this reliance, as many political circles and corporate actors have come to mistakenly see government as a hindrance rather than the propeller it once was. “American Amnesia” is more than a rhetorical phrase; elites have literally forgotten, or at least forgotten to talk about, the essential role of public authority in achieving big positive-sum bargains in advanced societies.

The mixed economy was the most important social innovation of the twentieth century. It spread a previously unimaginable level of broad prosperity. It enabled steep increases in education, health, longevity, and economic security. And yet, extraordinarily, it is anathema to many current economic and political elites. Looking at this record of remarkable accomplishment, they recoil in horror. And as the advocates of anti-government free market fundamentalist have gained power, they are hell-bent on scrapping the instrument of nearly a century of unprecedented economic and social progress. In the American Amnesia, Hacker and Pierson explain the full “story of how government helped make America great, how the enthusiasm for bashing government is behind its current malaise, and how a return to effective government is the answer the nation is looking for” (The New York Times).
Paul Pierson
This groundbreaking book represents the most systematic examination to date of the often-invoked but rarely examined declaration that "history matters." Most contemporary social scientists unconsciously take a "snapshot" view of the social world. Yet the meaning of social events or processes is frequently distorted when they are ripped from their temporal context. Paul Pierson argues that placing politics in time--constructing "moving pictures" rather than snapshots--can vastly enrich our understanding of complex social dynamics, and greatly improve the theories and methods that we use to explain them.

Politics in Time opens a new window on the temporal aspects of the social world. It explores a range of important features and implications of evolving social processes: the variety of processes that unfold over significant periods of time, the circumstances under which such different processes are likely to occur, and above all, the significance of these temporal dimensions of social life for our understanding of important political and social outcomes. Ranging widely across the social sciences, Pierson's analysis reveals the high price social science pays when it becomes ahistorical. And it provides a wealth of ideas for restoring our sense of historical process. By placing politics back in time, Pierson's book is destined to have a resounding and enduring impact on the work of scholars and students in fields from political science, history, and sociology to economics and policy analysis.

Dietrich Rueschemeyer
From the 1850s to the 1920s, laws regulating the industrial labor process, pensions for the elderly, unemployment insurance, and measures to educate and ensure the welfare of children were enacted in many industrializing capitalist nations. This same period saw the development of modern social sciences. The eight essays collected here examine the reciprocal influence of social policy and academic research in comparative context, ranging across policy areas and encompassing developments in Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Canada, Scandinavia, and Japan. Introduced by the editors, the essays include Part I on the emergence of modern social knowledge by Ira Katznelson, Anson Rabinbach, and Björn Wittrock and Peter Wagner; Part II on reformist social scientists and public policymaking by Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Ronan Van Rossem, Libby Schweber, and John R. Sutton; Part III on state managers and the uses of social knowledge by Stein Kuhnle and Sheldon Garon, and a conclusion by Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol.

Originally published in 1995.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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