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By now, most readers have a sense of the distinctive nature of Perspectives on Politics and have read the first issue—or at least so I hope. Perspectives aspires to be a general journal of political science that provides political insight on important problems, as it emerges from rigorous, broad-based research and integrative thought. We anticipate authors and readers primarily comprising political scientists, but also including journalists, policy analysts, public officials and their staff, and other social scientists—in short, we aim to “broaden out” without “dumbing down.”
Over recent decades, Islamism—the belief that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life—has become a powerful force throughout much of the Muslim world. Through a discussion of the Egyptian case, this essay shows how the rise of Islamism can be illuminated by findings of the literatures on revolution and civil society, and vice versa. As many leading theories on revolutions would predict, the necessary precondition for Islamism's rise has been the declining efficacy and legitimacy of the state. Yet what has occurred in Egypt (and other parts of the Arab world) is not a successful revolution but a peculiar stalemate in which the existing regime retains political power while ceding substantial control over the societal and cultural spheres to the revolutionary challenger—an outcome that the literature does not envision. This stalemate, in turn, is largely a consequence of Islamists' ability to expand their presence in civil society. This expansion in Egypt and other Arab countries over recent decades is thus best understood as a sign not of benign liberalization, but rather of profound political failure, and as an incubator for illiberal radicalism.
What do peasants in eighteenth-century England, African Americans in Reconstruction-era Virginia, mothers in Nicaragua and Argentina, and contemporary transnational activists have to do with one another? They all illustrate instances where marginalized groups challenge a lack of democracy or the limitations of existing democracy. Democracy is both a process and a product of struggles against power. Both the social capital literature and literature that focuses on democracy as a product of institutions can undervalue the actions of regular people who imagine a democratic world beyond anything that actually exists. The four cases examined in this article demonstrate that marginalized groups use a variety of performative and subversive methods to uproot the public sphere from its exclusionary history as they imagine, on their own terms, democratic possibilities that did not previously exist. In so doing, they plant the seeds of a more egalitarian public politics in new times and places. This process is “contentious pluralism,” and we ask political scientists in all subfields to look to popular movements and changing political structures as they explore the promise of democracy and to rethink the gap between democracy as an ideal and the ways in which people actually experience it.
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the roar of its waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.
—Frederick DouglassQuotation from Dawson 2001, 259.
Is American state regulation a quaint anachronism from the nineteenth century, hanging on like a faded Victorian mansion in a twenty-first-century neighborhood increasingly subsumed by modern, international regulatory architectures? Or is it a booming area of devolved powers in our federalist system, creating more innovation and efficient small-scale bargaining than out-of-touch regulators in Washington do? Surprisingly, state regulation is becoming more important in shaping American firms operating in global markets. I present a revised interpretation of American regulatory federalism, including the “gap filling” or “re-enforcement” efforts by some state legislatures or attorneys general as federal regulators relax enforcement efforts. I summarize the results of 10 new quantitative studies of major regulated industries across the 50 states and over time. Overall, capture or rent-seeking models do not explain most regulatory areas, which show considerable interest-group contestation and provide room for institutional actors to wield autonomous, influential power. The heightened salience of state regulation is reflected by increased gubernatorial effort in many states, parallel to recent presidential efforts to centralize regulatory policy-making.
This article develops an idea implicit in many of the writings of the late William Harrison Riker on the role in politics for “losers.” Out-of-power politicians, intent upon changing their fortunes and securing office, provide a rhythm to political life that often goes unappreciated (with media and scholarly attention primarily focused instead on those in power).
Curiosities and inconsistencies in the format of U.S. election ballots go far beyond the infamous “butterfly” ballot. Ballot instructions, candidate and party listings, party symbols, and, in general, variations that result from a complex and highly decentralized election system provide ample opportunity for all but the most sophisticated voters to misunderstand, mismark, or spoil their ballots and for all voters to feel confused and frustrated. We call attention to the enormous disparity in ballot designs across the states and to individual state designs that are inconsistent and needlessly complex. We recommend changes that would promote clarity and uniformity and yet allow room for state variations in the most politically potent aspects of ballot design. We also suggest steps by which reforms might be accomplished.
I recognize, as will my readers, that I'm in a fairly strange—but hopefully not untenable—position in attempting to assess the studyand teaching of politics. Having been a member of Congress, and in various positions of congressional leadership, for 16 years, and having been more recently a teacher for 10 years, I am, for this purpose, both the student and the studied, the bug and the entomologist. I do understand that it is difficult for me to view this relationship between scholar and subject in a completely objective manner; I hope to do justice to both sides of this exchange, but I recognize that I am much more likely to bring to this discussion a bug's-eye view, gazing up at the scientist as he squints through his microscope and shaking my head in wonderment as he purports to find great complexity in my most simple movements, and great simplicity in my most complex undertakings. Nonetheless, as one who occupies a position on the inner periphery of the academic circle, I am pleased to have been asked by the editors of this journal to share a few thoughts on the relationship—and on the present and potential value of the relationship—between the two distinct worlds of political science and political practice.
In my twilight years, I often think about why law is more isolationistthan other disciplines, particularly other social sciences. Why, when, as Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo noted almost a century ago, “the great tides and currents which engulf the rest of man, do not turn aside in their course, and pass the judges by,”Cardozo 1921, 168. doesn't the law draw more avidly on the experience, knowledge, analysis, and pure thought that pour out from universities, think tanks, and what Judge Richard Posner, somewhat depreciatingly, calls “public intellectuals”?
Why is it so hard for relevant social science findings to ake their way into courtrooms, either at the trial level or on appeal? From the perspective of the social scientist, Patricia Wald is the ideal judge—someone who takes empirical research seriously and wants to use it when she can. But the fact that even a sympathetic judge like Judge Wald finds this to be difficult should tell us something. Legal professionals and social scientists have different cultures of facts.
Judge Patricia Wald identifies several impediments to judges' making greater use of social science: they lack time to find, read, and make sense of the research; the research is inaccessible to nonspecialists and fails to identify clearly the policy implications; too much exists, and only occasionally does one work stand out; and most research findings are qualified and ambiguous rather than certain. Just as the flukish order in which cases appear and the idiosyncrasies of their fact patterns shape precedent, the timing of research determines whether judges notice it. Judges are more likely to incorporate social science research into their opinions if it fulfills a pressing need and addresses an important shift in thinking. Judge Wald does not debate whether judges do or should make public policy, since she sees making policy choices as inescapable in appellate decision making.
In this essay, I assess how comparative politics is taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels and what our approach to teaching says about thestate of the subfield. What do practitioners emphasize in a comparative politics course in light of the enormous global changes of the past decade? Which topics are included and which ignored? What should be included that is now missing, even at the cost of excluding something else?