THIS VOLUME ORIGINATED as the second conference at Nuffield College, Oxford, devoted to bringing a political economy approach to understanding American politics. Even before the 2008 financial crises that saw long-time Wall Street banks like Lehman Brothers fail and unemployment soar, it was apparent that the American economy and political system were stretching sustainability, pervaded with contradictions and tensions. Making sense of these cross-pressures within the miasma of deepening partisan polarization and sharp electoral shifts requires a broader perspective than the typical approach to scholarly analysis of American politics—one that is common in Europe and in the study of comparative politics. Filling this gap is the purpose of the Nuffield series.
The first Nuffield conference in May 2008 focused on America’s unsustainable state, bringing together a group of American and European scholars to identify and explain the growing instability of the intermeshed systems of U.S. politics and economics. The conference produced The Unsustainable American State in 2009 (Oxford University Press).
The present volume originated from the second Nuffield conference on American political economy, which occurred in March 2010 and focused on the Obama presidency. Where much analysis of the Obama presidency has been preoccupied with his personality (dithering and lacking conviction) or with important narrow questions related to changing party strategy and rules within Congress, Obama at the Crossroads offers a sustained analysis of Obama within America’s political economic system.
The Nuffield series has been generously supported by the Mellon Trust Fund of Nuffield College, and we wish to thank this source for enabling valuable and unique intellectual collaborations and the resulting published volumes. The Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford generously hosted a public lecture by E. J. Dionne Jr. as part of the conference, for which we thank