Political Science: The State of the Discipline II

By Ada W. Finifter | Go to book overview
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floor decisions taken by the caucus majority should not be more difficult than modeling decision making within a congressional committee. Similarly, the implications of decision-making sequences in parliamentary systems that place committee decisions after floor discussion should be at least as interesting as the power congressional committees may gain from their placement at the conference stage of deliberation. The point is that formal modelers have unnecessarily restricted their efforts to the Congress. The data-gathering reasons that influence the "America first" approach of normal science practitioners do not apply to those who design deductive models. And the cost of this decision is great because it is through such models that theories of legislative (as opposed to congressional) behavior may come.

In summary, normal science, in its quest for narrow questions with narrow answers typically avoids comparative and/or diachronic analysis; and formal models, at least at this nascent stage in their development, have dealt only with the Congress. This means that legislative research remains theoretically impoverished. Its lack of comparative focus is part of the problem; one can no more have a theory of legislatures that applies only to the United States Congress, than a theory of relativity that applies only to Chicago. Even a theory of Congress has proven elusive; few congressional scholars have had the inclination to put the various narrow studies together, and those who have attempted to do so have operated more at the level of description and speculation than explanation. This work has produced various "perspectives" or ways of looking at legislative behavior, but little in the way of theory.

Work on these perspectives, one hastens to add, still needs to be encouraged because as they synthesize and interpret the narrower work associated with normal science they can start us toward theory. Such efforts are at once creative, risky, and important. They involve imaginative leaps, and bold, often controversial pronouncements. They invite criticism from those committed to normal science, but if successful, such work can change the way all of us, including normal scientists, think about the field. Mayhew's The Electoral Connection is such a work. Drawing primarily on the empirical work of others, he attempted to step back from the "trees" and look at more general patterns. Although frequently criticized for its descriptive and non-empirical approach, there should be little debate about the extent to which it has shaped the thinking and the research agendas of a generation of legislative scholars.

What follows is a far from complete review of a large body of literature. Given space limitations and my editor's mandate to incorporate research on legislatures outside the United States, I have had to make some difficult choices. These include the exclusion of virtually all of the research on state and other sub-national legislatures, as well as the slighting of several important areas of congressional research. Even work that I have included is sometimes summarized too briefly. Thus, apologies in advance to those who have been left out, to those who think that their work deserves more space than I have provided, and to those who think that they would have liked to know more. For the latter group, the most complete treatment of the literature is still found in The Handbook of Legislative Research ( 1985). I also can recommend other literature review articles that I have found helpful, including Collie ( 1988b), Krehbiel ( 1988), Ogui and Rockman ( 1990), Patterson ( 1989), and Rieselbach ( 1992). I am grateful to Aage Clausen, Ada Finifter, Malcolm Jewell, David Mayhew, and Marvin Overby for their comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
The essence of this research on the Congress can be gathered from the essays in Peabody and Polsby ( 1963), from Ralph Huitt's essays in Huitt and Peabody ( 1969), and from Matthews ( 1960). On European legislatures, see Jennings ( 1957) on the British Parliament, Loewenberg ( 1967) on the German Bundestag, and Williams ( 1968) on the French Parliament.
For a critique of Jacobson's view, see Hibbing and Bauer, 1989; also see Jacobson ( 1990a, 40) for a rejoinder.
There is a great deal of literature in this area. For an introduction, see Shepsle 1979; Krehbiel 1988; G. Strom 1990.
For a critical discussion of Converse and Pierce, see Eulau ( 1987) and Wahlke ( 1987).
See Cox and McCubbins ( 1991) for a recent critique of this view.
For excellent reviews of the literature on legislative- bureaucratic relations, see Rockman ( 1985) and Ogul and Rockman ( 1990).


Aberbach, Joel D. 1990. Keeping a Watchful Eye: The Politics of Congressional Oversight. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution.

Aberbach, Joel D., Robert D. Putnam, and Bert A. Rockman. 1981. Bureaucrats and Politicians in Western Democracies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Abramowitz, Alan I. 1988. "Explaining Senate Election Outcomes." American Political Science Review 82:385-403.

Abramowitz, Alan I. 1990a. "Incumbency, Campaign Spending, and the Decline of Competition in U.S. House Elections." Prepared for delivery at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, CA.

Abramowitz, Alan I. 1990b. "Campaign Spending in U.S. Senate Elections." In The Changing World of the U.S. Senate, ed. John Hibbing. Berkeley, CA: IGS Press.

Abramowitz, Alan I., and Jeffrey A. Segal. 1990. "Beyond Willie Horton and the Pledge of Allegiance: National Issues in the 1988 Elections." Legislative Studies Quarterly 15:565-580.

Alesina, Alberto, and Howard Rosenthal. 1989. "Partisan Cycles in Congressional Elections and the Macroeconomy." American Political Science Review 83:373-398.

Alford, John R., and John R. Hibbing. 1981. "Increased Incumbency Advantage in the House." Journal of Politics 43:1042-1061.

Ames, Berry. 1987. "The Congressional Connection: The Structure of Politics and the Distribution of Public Expenditures inBrazil's Competitive Period."


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