The Politics of Child Support in America

By Jocelyn Elise Crowley | Go to book overview

1
The Limits of Studying Entrepreneurial Episodes

Americans love individual success stories, especially ones that have a major impact on public policy. The plot lines tend to be very similar. Insightful individuals perceive a problem that they believe the government can help to solve. They wage a long, many times painful campaign to bring about change. Usually there are clearly defined enemies: large corporations, loathsome criminals, corrupt politicians, and so forth. Yet, despite these formidable opponents, the champions of reform manage against all odds to defeat their opponents. When the issue is finally resolved, historians record how the domain of public policy was transformed forever because of their enterprising initiatives.

The emphasis on the crusade of the individual has also seeped into our attempt to map out entrepreneurial behavior in politics in a more formal sense. Social scientists have long struggled to understand how policies are placed on the public agenda. Oftentimes, their accounts have echoed those found in the popular media by focusing on the pivotal group or the unique individual who manages to emerge from the pack and “get things done.” Much of this work has involved intensive case studies and biographical analyses, from which scholars have gleaned insight into the strategies of those individuals who rise above everyone else to solve a critical public problem. In sum, we know a lot about isolated actors and isolated incidents of change.1

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1
See, for example, Jameson Doig and Erwin C. Hargrove, eds. 1987. Leadership andInnovation: A Biographic Perspective on Entrepreneurs in Government. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; Richard F. Fenno. 1989. The Making of a Senator: Dan Quayle. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly; David E. Price. 1971. “Professionals and 'Entrepreneurs': Staff Orientations and Policy Making on Three Senate Committees.” Journal of Politics 33 (2): 548–574; Julian E. Zelizer. 1998. Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945–1975. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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