Readings on American Government: Concepts in Context

Readings on American Government: Concepts in Context book cover image

In this book we present readings that help explain governmental concepts within the context of the American political system. These selections and our comments assist students of American government to better understand traditional and contemporary views, research efforts, and theories about American government and politics.

My research, writing, and teaching are still informed by a number of writers presented in Readings on American Government. And, I remain especially interested in some of the topics covered in this reader (The Contents are on the right side of this page.). For example, I continue to follow the research of Andrew Hacker. Some of his recent work I cite in The Problem With Survey Research. The Decline of Legislatures remains a topic of interest to me, and because the erosion of legislative power is increasingly obvious, many believe—including me—that the American republic is at risk, if not at end. Perhaps the latter, since—as U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, writing in 2004, points out—Congress is "out of business" (Losing America, Norton). What’s "in business" is the administrative state, which requires for citizen effectiveness the administrative strategy I develop in Strategies for Change.

My constant commitment to the empirical, behaviorist, approach of Arthur Bentley is evident in QUALITY Public Management, as well as in Don’t Ask where, in the last part of the book, I discuss what I call, "proper" methods of data collection and proper research designs. Also attributable to Bentley are two of my Rules for Social Science Research: Observe, and, Don’t Be Concerned with Motives.

Anthony Downs’ model of democracy is discussed in The Problem With Survey Research, Chapter 17, "Models, Documents, and Comparison, and Additional Method and Research Designs", and his influence is also evident in one of my Rules for Social Science Research: Build and Test Formal Models.

The topics of Chapter 9, "Bureaucracy and Administration", have become central in much of my work. In my courses, I identify the contributions of public administration theorist and prize winning economist, Herbert Simon, to a more realistic understanding of organizations and management.

I have accepted, for the most part, the views of John Kenneth Galbraith; "America’s most famous economist", according to biographer Richard Parker. Galbraith’s, The New Industrial State (Houghton Mifflin, 1976, 1971, 1978, 1985) is, in my mind, one of the most accurate descriptions of the interdependence of governments and corporations; an aspect of the administrative state more recently discussed by his son, James K. Galbraith, in The Predator State (Free Press, 2008).

"The concept of the book is thoughtful, imaginative, and provocative. Surely we need to move away from Federalist Paper #10, Marbury vs. Madison, and The Last Hurrah. The editors have selected pieces that are scholarly, thought-provoking, and significant in the study of politics.
"The editors have read widely and well. They are aware of the classics and of the latest theories and methodologies."
George A. Peek, Jr., Arizona State University

"This book will be a most welcome addition to introductory political science course, particularly in the newly proliferating junior and community colleges."
Allan Kornberg, Duke University

"The sort of collection of readings which will appeal strongly to younger political scientists who are trained in the behavioral approach. It is a book which should be readily adaptable to most introductory courses in American Government."
Norman C. Thomas, University of Michigan