How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change.
By Nelson W. Polsby. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 257p.
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.