How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change. By Nelson W. Polsby. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 257p. $29.95.
A new work on Congress by one of the most prominent scholars of American government in the past half century is a major event. In this book, Nelson Polsby revisits the U.S. House, a subject on which he authored two major articles in the late 1960s (“The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives,” American Political Science Review 62 [March 1968]: 144–68; and Nelson W. Polsby, Miriam Gallaher, and Barry S. Rundquist, “The Growth of the Seniority System in the U.S. House of Representatives,” American Political Science Review 63 [September 1969]: 707–807). Observing the contemporary House in this volume, Polsby finds a chamber transformed. The “permanent” Democratic majority has been broken, the “solidly” Democratic South now sends a Republican majority to the House, committee chairs are subordinate to the party leadership, and levels of party voting are at their highest since the 1890s.