The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions
835 pág.

The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions


DisciplinaCiências Políticas e Teoria do Estado622 materiais7.849 seguidores
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APD\u2019s Xagship journal (Studies in American Political Development) to write their
2004 book, The Search for American Political Development (Orren and Skowronek).
However, worries about lack of common deWnitions, methods, and parameters
have not produced, as yet, much sentiment to impose order via more restrictive
criteria for scholars in the American HI fold.
44 elizabeth sanders
4 Institutional Formation and Change
from the Top Down
.........................................................................................................................................................................................
The 1980s revival of HI among political scientists in the United States was strongly
centered on actors in the national state, and its explanation for the birth and
development of a modern centralized state tended to start at the top. Social
scientists rediscovering history (and the state in history) were inXuenced by the
work of the neo-Marxist and other elite focused historians with similar foci. Such
was the case with Theda Skocpol\u2019s pioneering States and Social Revolutions (1979)
and the seminal article on the diVerential success of innovative agricultural and
industrial policies in the New Deal by Skocpol and Kenneth Finegold (1990), as well
as Stephen Skowronek\u2019s Building a New American State: The Expansion of National
Administrative Capacities, 1877\u20131920 (1982). These scholars were pioneers in the
budding 1980s sub-Weld of American political development, and in the creation of a
new section on politics and history in the American Political Science Association
(APSA). It might be noted that HI\u2019s respectability, in a discipline dominated for the
previous half century by RC and ahistorical quantitative work, is evidenced by the
size of the politics and history section in its parent professional organization. It
ranks in the top quintile of APSA\u2019s thirty-four sections, and has been joined by a
new political history section with an exclusively international focus.
As Skowronek and his co-author Karen Orren write in The Search for American
Political Development, the historical analysis of politics assumes that political
institutional development unfolds on sites that are deWned by rule structures
and their enforcers, holders of \u2018\u2018plenary authority.\u2019\u2019 It is not surprising, then, that
the Wrst wave of HI in the United States has done its process tracing with a focus on
those plenary authorities in national government, the rules they promulgate and
uphold, and the ideas that motivate their actions. That is in itself a tall order, and in
practice leaves little space for attention to \u2018\u2018ordinary people.\u2019\u2019 The latter are seen as
the objects of governance, not as subjects whose ideas and demands might shape
institutional development and provoke institutional change.
Ironically, then, as historians were abandoning the study of powerful white men
for the lives of ordinary people, political scientists of an historical/institutional
bent were rediscovering the momentous agency of \u2018\u2018state managers.\u2019\u2019 Social move-
ments of the poor and middling orders of society, if they were noticed at all, tended
to be viewed as inconvenient obstacles to the modernizing projects of political
elites, or as clients of reformist state actors. For Stephen Skowronek (1982), farmers
and their representatives in the progressive era Congress, along with judges jealous
of the power of the new regulatory agencies, were the main obstacles to the holistic
modernization schemes of a few visionaries in the Interstate Commerce Commis-
sion (ICC) and Senate. For Skocpol and Feingold (1990), workers were important
historical institutionalism 45
New Deal clients, but not themselves agents of labor policy change in the New Deal.
(For an opposing view that stresses labor agency, see GoldWeld 1989.)
Skowronek\u2019s Building A New American State (1982), one of the founding works in
the 1980s revival of historical institutionalism in the United States, focused on three
cases in the modernization of the American national state: the beginning of
national railroad regulation, the Wght for a meritocratic civil service, and the
struggle for a permanent professional army. Though each case of necessity touched
on Congress, the states, and parties, the prime movers in these accounts were
distinctively elite. In the case of civil service reform, Mugwump intellectual
reformers, with the support of important businessmen who hoped for a more
eYcient bureaucracy, were the activists who championed a meritocratic bureau-
cracy against party \u2018\u2018spoilsmen.\u2019\u2019 Of course, it was acknowledged that elites had to
settle for partial loaves and halting progress, in view of the centrality of patronage
resources for American parties. Skowronek\u2019s central argument is that a disjointed
state \u2018\u2018of courts and parties\u2019\u2019 could succeed only in erecting a \u2018\u2018patchwork\u2019\u2019 rather
than a fully rationalized administrative state.
In the Wght for railroad legislation, according to Skowronek, well-educated
intellectual reformers worked through a savvy Midwestern senator to restrain
(while moderately responding to) agrarian forces in Congress. In 1887, they created
the nation\u2019s Wrst independent regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Com-
mission. From the time of its founding, commissioners, judges, and ultimately
presidents were the principle actors, in Skowronek\u2019s narrative.
Presidents, intellectuals, and generals were the prime movers in the struggle to
create a professional army (the \u2018\u2018continental army\u2019\u2019 of progressive era policy
debate). Elite business actors were strongly supportive, since a permanent, profes-
sional military promised better protection for investment, at home and abroad,
than the traditionally decentralized and part-time militia. ReXecting the power of
path dependence unfolding from initial policy decisions, echoes of this debate still
reverberate in the speeches of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who would clearly
prefer a larger professional military (and private national contractor corps)
to what he sees as the reluctant amateurs in the national guard contingents raised
by the states.
To a large extent, the elite-centered account of APD in Skowronek\u2019s early work
was shaped by the chosen cases: the campaigns for military and civil service
professionalism were not popular causes in the United States (far from it).
Likewise, Daniel Carpenter (2001) has recently challenged claims of social move-
ment responsibility for reforms in the early twentieth-century United States. His
careful archival and statistical work has demonstrated that entrepreneurs in the
country\u2019s early bureaucracies came up with ideas for expanded bureaucratic
authority and then engineered social movements to support new postal services
and food and drug regulation. However, the elite leadership in these two
arenas cannot be generalized to other policy domains (Sanders 1999), and the
46 elizabeth sanders
phenomenon of bureaucratic entrepreneurship of the order reported by Carpenter
may itself be time-bound, particularly marking the struggles for legitimacy of
Xedgling agencies.
But there are, surely, resounding cases of institution building and expansion in
which elite leadership is to be expected. One is monetary policy, in which Wnancial
elites and their governmental allies pioneered the creation of central banks and
stable national currencies (although the structure and powers of the resulting
agencies did not follow elite designs in critical areas: Livingston 1986; Broz 1997;
Sanders 1999). Another is military policy, where (as Skowronek\u2019s case study of the
campaign for a national, professionalized army underlines) expansion of bureau-
cratic resources has been, in the United States,