America's State Governments: A Critical Look at Disconnected Democracies, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

America's State Governments

A Critical Look at Disconnected Democracies, 1st Edition

By Jennifer Bachner, Benjamin Ginsberg


208 pages | 27 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2020-07-20
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This timely and important new work takes a critical look at government in the American states and uses the underlying theme of disconnected democracies to illustrate the ways in which state government institutions—while democratic in form—lack the necessary firm connections with the citizens they should serve. The text illuminates three basic political problems of state governments: weak constitutional and institutional foundations; a lack of civic engagement; and long histories of public corruption unchecked by adequate ethics and conflict of interest rules. The authors base their critical look on an original national survey showing how little Americans know about state government. They also provide a careful analysis of state constitutions and illustrate how poorly many state governments serve their constituents. For students and citizens of state politics, the book concludes with a proposal aimed at civic literacy and action.


Praise for America’s State Governments

"States play enormously important roles in the American federal system. But this fascinating account shows how short they fall in delivering equal access to democratic participation, effective policy in the public interest, or even basic justice, for both political and structural reasons. Entertainingly written and full of new data and eye-opening examples, this book shows how low citizen interest and knowledge, declining media coverage, institutional weakness, and insufficient ethics protections result in interest group dominance, unrepresentative policies, and sometimes outright corruption. A must-read for anyone interested in the state (no pun intended) of American governance."

-- Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"The major strength of this textbook is that it offers the freshest take on state politics in literally decades."

--Douglas Harris, Loyola University Maryland

"Engaging and analytically challenging."

--Ian J. Drake, Montclair State University

"Rather than focus on comparing states with one another—the dominant approach in state politics research and texts—this book emphasizes their overall role in the federal system and their commonalities. This is an interesting and compelling approach."

--Michael Berkman, Pennsylvania State University

Table of Contents


List of Figures

List of Tables

Chapter 1: Introduction: Disconnected Democracies

Chapter 2: State Constitutions

Chapter 3: The States in the Federal System

Chapter 4: State Governors

Chapter 5: State Legislatures and Representative Government

Chapter 6: State Justice Systems

Chapter 7: Corruption in the States

Chapter 8: Conclusion: What Is To Be Done?


About the Authors

Jennifer Bachner is Director of the Program in Data Analytics and Policy at Johns Hopkins University.

Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civics & Citizenship
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / State & Provincial
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Local