Observing the polarized, debilitating politics of today’s Congress, one wonders whether change is possible on Capitol Hill. In Thinking about Congress, Lawrence Dodd reminds us that Congress seemed equally intransigent at times the past, yet change and rejuvenation came. Reading his classic essays, one sees Congress move from Committee Government in mid-twentieth century to Liberal Democratic reforms in the 1970s to the 1994 Republican Revolution to Party Government today. Simultaneously, one proceeds with Dodd to an ever-deeper understanding of the dynamic character of Congress.
Across forty years of watching paralysis give way to change, Dodd crafts a theory of congressional cycles – essay by essay – that explains why Congress evolves. However permanent periods of intransigency appear, the theory argues, they can and do give way to growing concern by legislators and parties for the collective public-interest; to citizen demand for change generated by social crises; and to innovative ideas about politics and policy. With these developments come policy breakthrough, institutional renewal, and enormous social progress.
A rare book, Thinking about Congress holds out hope for the future while illuminating both the process and object of inquiry.
“This compilation of Larry Dodd’s contributions to legislative studies establishes him a prominent place in the legacy of Professor Woodrow Wilson’s Congressional Government. He has brought together old and new approaches, from description and case study, to history, APD, classical political theory, economic theory, game theory—not eclectic but inclusive. And beyond that, he reads well!”
—Theodore J. Lowi, John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions, Cornell University
“This book is remarkable and unique. It details the intellectual journey of the author over many decades in seeking to solve the complex and difficult problem of explaining congressional change. It thus should be read both to allow one of the most insightful students of Congress in our discipline to enhance our own understanding of this critical topic, and in more personal terms, as an exemplar of how an ordered and dedicated quest for knowledge can be successfully pursued.”
—Joseph Cooper, Johns Hopkins University
“Thinking about Congress offers a unique and remarkable perspective on the evolution of the U.S. Congress. The volume brings together Larry Dodd's most important theoretical and empirical contributions, and raises critical questions about how we should study the institution and its place in the broader American political system. Every reader will gain an appreciation for the difficulty of explaining congressional change and for Dodd's essential role in helping us to navigate such fascinating terrain.”
—Sarah Binder, The Brookings Institution and George Washington University
“Seeing all of Larry Dodd's greatest hits in one place reinforces the impact that he has had on the study of Congress over the last 35 years. His insights from the 1970s are as relevant today as when he first published them. And his essays from the last ten years show Dodd’s flexibility as he has cast his keen eye to an institution that would have been barely recognizable in the 1970s. My hope for all of us who study Congress is that this is only volume 1!”
—Sean M. Theriault, University of Texas at Austin
“This collection of Larry Dodd’s essays provides unique and profound understanding—and wisdom—about the place and evolution of the pre-eminent legislative body in the U.S. constitutional system. The insights he offers are both deep and broad and extend well beyond Congress, and help us grasp more fully the essence of the American polity.”
—Rodney E. Hero, University of California, Berkeley
Foreword: Eric Schickler, University of California-Berkeley Preface: The Origin, Development and Plan of the Book Introduction 1. Congress as Public Mirror Part I. Member Goals and Institutional Context 2. Congress and the Quest for Power 1977 3. Congress, the Constitution and the Crisis of Legitimation 1981 4. Bicameralism in Congress: The Changing Partnership, with Edward Carmines 1985 Part II. Political Parties, Institutional Cycles and Era Transformations 5. The Cycles of Legislative Change: Building a Dynamic Model 1986a 6. A Theory of Congressional Cycles: Solving the Puzzle of Change 1986b Part III. Societal Change, Social Learning and Political Renewal 7. Congress, the Presidency and the American Experience: A Transformational Perspective 1991 8. Congress and the Politics of Renewal: Redressing the Crisis of Legitimation 1993 9.The New American Politics: Reflections on the Early 1990s 1995 Part IV. The Multiple Dimensions and Processes of Change 10. Re-Envisioning Congress: Theoretical Perspectives on Congressional Change—2004 2001/2005 11. Making Sense Out of Our Exceptional Senate 2002