The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions
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The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions


DisciplinaCiências Políticas e Teoria do Estado622 materiais7.848 seguidores
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Democracy, a richly
detailed account of the rise and decline (after about 1950) of voluntary civic,
occupational, and fraternal organizations in the post-Civil War United States. In
this book, she lays out not only the extraordinary level of group membership in
(often cross-class) civic organizations, but also their diverse political agendas and
contribution to reform. Then, in a fascinating twist on the presumed direction of
group inXuence to government action, Skocpol describes the numerous instances
in which national oYcials turned to the voluntary groups for assistance in the
First and Second World Wars. The large voluntary associations became important
historical institutionalism 49
purveyors of war-related services, and most prospered as a result of the wartime
state\u2013group cooperation (though, one may ask, at what cost in autonomy and
future eVectiveness?).
6 The Dynamics of State\u2013Society
Interaction in HI
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As Skocpol\u2019s focus on the \u2018\u2018patriotic partnerships\u2019\u2019 developed in wartime suggests
(Skocpol 2003; Skocpol, Munson, Karch, and Bayliss 2002), social mobilization and
institutional development can be seen as interactive processes. Dissident move-
ments often demand, or indirectly call into being, new or expanded governmental
institutions. They may use independent, non-, or bipartisan strategies, or become
components of existing major parties, and thereby transform the party itself
(Sanders 1999, 104). Once a new policy and its implementing institutions are in
place, group demands and coalitional dynamics are themselves shaped by the
making and interpretation of rules by public oYcials.
Even the decisions of the US Supreme Court, which many earlier scholars treated
as philosopher-kings constructing and disseminating the public philosophies that
guided subsequent policy-making at all levels of government, can, from a more
historical and developmental perspective, be viewed as reactions to social move-
ments and party realignment (Rosenberg 1991; Gates 1992). In a more nuanced and
interactive way, the doctrinal landmarks of philosophical regimes deWned and
promulgated by the Supreme Court have been described by Ken Kersh (2004) as
the culmination of \u2018\u2018a layered succession of . . . spirited ideological and political
campaigns\u2019\u2019 in society\u2014a process that is far from linear, but rather (borrowing
a Skowronek\u2013Orren term), one marked by \u2018\u2018intercurrence, disharmony, and
complexity\u2019\u2019 (Kersh 2004, 18).
As we have seen in the Werce ideological and religious combat of early twenty-
Wrst-century US politics, the enshrining of those \u2018\u2018culminating\u2019\u2019 doctrines (like
the liberal dicta on abortion, gay rights, and religion) become themselves the
provocation around which new social movements form.
\u2018\u2018Policy begets politics,\u2019\u2019 as Theodore Lowi put it in 1969, though his focus was on
the societal elaboration of clientele supports for developing state institutions\u2014
powerful groups and second-level institutions (like the congressional committee
and the administrative bureau) that ultimately could \u2018\u2018wag the dog\u2019\u2019 of national
policy elaboration. Disdaining the abandonment of institutions by 1950s political
50 elizabeth sanders
science, Lowi pioneered both the \u2018\u2018return to the state\u2019\u2019 and an early formulation of
path dependence.
His deWnition of institutions was the legalistic one that most historical institu-
tionalists have adopted: institutions for Lowi were not just any set of behavior
constraining rules or social norms, but the formal rules and procedures established
by the action of governments, and backed, ultimately, by the coercive power of the
state. Less interested than his students would be in how and why institutions had
been created in the Wrst place, or in the reformers who pressed for new laws and
institutions, Lowi urged attention to what happened after institutions are estab-
lished, and demanding and sustaining interests become attached to, and evolve in
tandem with, the agency.
Perhaps the most closely examined, mutually constitutive relationship between
state institutions and social movements is the case of organized labor. Long
identiWed as a major determinant of national diVerences in social policy, the
strength of labor movements and their relationship with political parties and
courts has been a favorite subject of HI scholars. In the United States, with its
powerful, independent judiciary, the doctrines handed down by the courts shaped
labor\u2019s organizational and political strategies, its language, and its very self-
conception (Tomlins 1985; Forbath 1991; Hattam 1993; Robertson 2000). And yet,
when and where it could manage to amass suYcient political strength, organized
labor might change the law and the personnel on the courts, and even emancipate
itself from ancient feudalisms embedded in the common law (Orren 1991).
Racial divisions and animosities among workers have further burdened the
politics of American labor, and diminished the political support for social welfare
policies. Discriminatory racial norms were frozen in 1930s labor and social policy,
their mitigation dependent on presidential political and wartime manpower needs,
the slow amassing of voting power in northern cities, and sometimes\u2014in
a departure from its constraining role in labor organizational rights\u2014racial
accommodation leadership from the federal courts (Mettler 1998; Lieberman
2001; Kryder 2001; Frymer 2003). In Congress, however, disfranchisement of blacks
in the south and segregationists\u2019 fears that trade unions would undermine white
supremacy led southern Democrats to ally with conservative Republicans and use
their institutional power to build an ediWce of labor law that sapped the legal
foundations of worker organization in the decade of labor\u2019s greatest membership
growth (Katznelson, Geiger, and Kryder 1993; Katznelson and Farhang 2005).
Those who seek to unravel the complex and interactive evolution of parties,
unions, cultural norms and ideologies, and state policy are logically drawn to
comparative studies of two or more nations. Among the important contributions
in this Weld are economist Gerald Friedman\u2019s State-Making and Labor Movements:
France and the United States, 1876\u20131914 (1999), which analyzes and compares labor
organizational and partisan strategies, and national government responses in those
two countries.
historical institutionalism 51
Of course, the marshalling of suYcient empirical evidence to make one\u2019s case
will inevitably limit the time period covered, and the fullest understanding of
policy paths and policy change can probably be gained by studies that concentrate
on single-country experiences, like that of Daniel Tichenor\u2019s (2002) comprehensive
HI analysis of social pressures and the twists and turns of US immigration policy in
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and Jacob Hacker\u2019s (2002) masterful,
theoretically original treatise on the development of the peculiar public/private
hybrid welfare state that grew up in the USA after the mid-1930s.
7 Conclusion
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Those who ignore history, as the old adages go, are doomed to repeat it . . . as farce
and tragedy. Reason enough to learn what we can from the history of institutions.
But there are two aspects of political institutions that remain under-explored, and
considering their importance, this is both a mystery and a concern. There is a
perhaps inevitable modernization