Parties and Policies How the American Government Works David R. Mayhew

Publication date:
03 Nov 2008
Yale University Press
408 pages: 235 x 156 x 25mm
10 graphs & charts
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In this wide-ranging new volume, one of our most important and perceptive scholars of the workings of the American government investigates political parties, politicians, elections, and policymaking to discover why public policy emerges in the shape that it does. David R. Mayhew looks at two centuries of policy making—from the Civil War and Reconstruction era through the Progressive era, the New Deal, the Great Society, the Reagan years, and the aspirations of the Clinton and Bush administrations—and offers his original insights on the ever-evolving American policy experience.


These fourteen essays were written over the past three decades and collectively showcase Mayhew’s skepticism of the usefulness of political parties as an analytic window into American politics.  These writings, which include a new introductory essay, probe beneath the parties to the essentials of the U.S. constitutional system and the impulses and idiosyncrasies of history.

David R. Mayhew is Sterling Professor of Political Science, Yale University. He is the author of numerous acclaimed books, including Divided We Govern, Electoral Realignments, and Congress: The Electoral Connection, all published by Yale University Press. He lives in Newton, MA.

"An indispensable contribution which taken as a whole shows how ambitious and challenging David Mayhew's view of American politics really is."—Rick Valelly, Swarthmore College

"A cornucopia of original and instructive analyses of politics and policy-making in the United States. No student of American politics should miss it."—Fred Greenstein, Princeton University

“Wars, recessions, critical elections. It's all here. With a keen eye and deft hand, David Mayhew paints a sweeping picture of the big events in American politics over the past 100 years—how the electorate has reacted and how the government has responded. Mayhew proves once again to be one of America's great political scientists and historians.”—Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University

"David Mayhew's original, lucid, and bracing essays have powerfully shaped thought about Congress, elections, parties, institutional rules, and the conduct of analytical history. What a treat, therefore, to have these pathbreaking analyses and reflections between covers!"—Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University