Political Science: The State of the Discipline II

By Ada W. Finifter | Go to book overview

presidents to institutionalize -- either through creating advisory positions or utilizing collective decision-making bodies -- the process whereby they obtain alternative advice. As well, they shy away from "big picture" scenarios. They prefer instead to work from relatively modest game plans. They will tend, thus, to channel their energies more into resolving crises than probing issues which do not cry out for immediate attention. Reactive- active presidents -- such as Eisenhower and Bush -- would find in broker politics a good fit between their personality and style. So would executive presidents like Carter. Administrative-politics presidents neither seek to tap a multiplicity of views nor to institutionalize countervaillance. They prefer to devolve as many issues as possible down to departments. Thus, they see themselves as engaging in the process only in cases where problems prove too difficult to resolve lower down. Jimmy Carter organized his White House and cabinet systems as if he were an administrative-politics president. But his passion for detail undercut the appropriateness of this approach. That is, a serious disjunction emerged between the frequency with which the president immersed himself in issues and the relatively meager institutional apparatus available to handle the resultant case load. Normally, we would expect a being-there president to embrace administrative politics. Until Fred Greenstein's revisionist assessment of Eisenhower, presidency scholars had pegged Eisenhower as following administrative politics ( 1982). This owed in large part to the "hidden hand" quality of much of Eisenhower's pursuit of broker politics.

Finally, survival-politics presidents appear mostly to resort to this approach only when the other styles have failed. If they started out fostering countervaillance, they increasingly cut down on the number of advisers whom they consult and their reliance upon collective consultative bodies. If they sought to devolve decisions to departments, they would turn more and more to specific advisers or units in the White House or the Executive Office of the President. These would increasingly operate as a counterbureaucracy to departments and agencies. Nixon gradually slid into survival politics even though he started in broker politics. Carter adopted survival politics in summer 1979 when concerns about the intractability of the American policy process and reelectability concentrated his mind on giving some direction to his administration.


This chapter began by locating the political executive sub- discipline within the wider context of political science. It asserted at the outset that the members of the sub- discipline have always encountered considerable difficulty reconciling analysts' desire for simple explanatory theories and the innate complexity and unpredictability of political executives' behavior and performance. It focused its assessment of the state of the sub-discipline on Anglo- American systems. This allowed us to give special attention to factors emerging from one presidential and four considerably different parliamentary systems. But, it avoided the inevitable overload which would occur if we had sought an inventory of the entire canvas of executive leadership. And, several of the lessons which emerge from this analysis might prove of use to those more intimately concerned with political executives outside the compass of this review.

First, following upon Olsen's important work, analysts within any setting should give greater attention to secular changes which have altered publics' expectations for executive leadership and, in turn, political executives' views of their own roles. Similarly, they should eschew the tendency to overcompensate for the strengths and/or failings of current political executives by projecting immutable changes in the nature of the entire system.

Second, we should become more aware of the degree to which one researcher's rigor is another's subjectivity. The pursuit of the divided government thesis presents a case in point. In its 1960's U.S. incarnation, it emerged from a school of political science which had become disenchanted with the indolence of the system in addressing social problems. The more recent institutionalist variant has employed the concept -- perhaps too eagerly -- to excuse the inaction of presidents in grappling with key domestic issues.

Third, we should keep a cautious eye on the copycat effect in the world of political executives. We forget all too often that presidents and prime ministers and their many men and women view their counterparts in other countries as peers. Presidents and prime ministers tend to borrow ideas from one another -- about inflation, deficits, the size of public services, privatization, and many more issues (see for example, Putnam and Bayne 1984). They and their advisers talk shop about how to organize presidents' and prime ministers' staffs, cabinet, economic policy making, budget review, management reform, and many similar topics. Furthermore, entire units within the World Bank, the IMF, and the OECD proffer advice on such matters and develop working groups designed to advance across- the-board acceptance of reforms. Yet, the copycat effect can become a poison pill. This chapter has dwelt on the degree to which unquestioning acceptance of public choice solutions to the intractable problems facing political executives -- in some systems -- have amounted to overtreatment or simply created side effects worse than the original affliction.


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Political Science: The State of the Discipline II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Theory and Method 1
  • 1: Texts and Canons: The Status of the "Great Books" in Political Theory 3
  • Conclusion 21
  • Notes 22
  • Bibliography 23
  • 2: Political Theory in the 1980s: Perplexity Amidst Diversity 27
  • Notes 43
  • Bibliography 43
  • Additional Bibliography 46
  • 3: Feminist Challenges to Political Science 55
  • Notes 72
  • Bibliography 73
  • 4: Formal Rational Choice Theory: A Cumulative Science of Politics 77
  • Concluding Comments 97
  • Notes 98
  • Bibliography 101
  • 5: The Comparative Method 105
  • Conclusion 116
  • Notes 117
  • Bibliography 117
  • 6: The State of Quantitative Political Methodology 121
  • Conclusion 148
  • Notes 148
  • Bibliography 150
  • Political Processes and Individual Political Behavior 161
  • 7: Comparative Political Parties: Research and Theory 163
  • Conclusion 183
  • Notes 184
  • Bibliography 185
  • 8: The Not So Simple Act of Voting 193
  • Notes 213
  • Bibliography 214
  • 9: The New Look in Public Opinion Research 219
  • Notes 240
  • Bibliography 240
  • 10: Expanding Disciplinary Boundaries 247
  • Conclusion 269
  • Notes 271
  • Bibliography 271
  • 11: Citizens, Contexts, and Politics 281
  • Conclusion: Putting the Puzzle Back Together 299
  • Bibliography 300
  • 12: Political Communication 305
  • Conclusions 323
  • Bibliography 324
  • Political Institutions of the State 333
  • 13: Legislatures: Individual Purpose and Institutional Performance 335
  • Conclusions: Behavior, Institutions, and Theory 354
  • Notes 357
  • Bibliography 357
  • 14: Public Law and Judicial Politics 365
  • 15: Political Executives and Their Officials 383
  • Conclusion 402
  • Bibliography 403
  • 16: Public Administration: The State of the Field 407
  • Notes 423
  • Bibliography 424
  • Nations and Their Relationships 429
  • 17: Comparative Politics 431
  • Conclusion 443
  • Notes 444
  • Bibliography 446
  • 18: Global Political Economy 451
  • Conclusion 474
  • Notes 476
  • Bibliography 477
  • Conclusions 483
  • Conclusions 503
  • Notes 504
  • Bibliography 505
  • Appendix 511
  • Contributors 513
  • Index of Cited Authors 517


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