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Living Legislation

Durability, Change, and the Politics of American Lawmaking

Living Legislation

Durability, Change, and the Politics of American Lawmaking

Politics is at its most dramatic during debates over important pieces of legislation. It is thus no stretch to refer to legislation as a living, breathing force in American politics. And while debates over legislative measures begin before an item is enacted, they also endure long afterward, when the political legacy of a law becomes clear.
Living Legislation provides fresh insights into contemporary American politics and public policy. Of particular interest to the contributors to this volume is the question of why some laws stand the test of time while others are eliminated, replaced, or significantly amended. Among the topics the essays discuss are how laws emerge from—and effect change within—coalition structures, the effectiveness of laws at mediating partisan conflicts, and the ways in which laws interact with broader shifts in the political environment. As an essential addition to the study of politics, Living Legislation enhances understanding of democracy, governance, and power.

368 pages | 16 line drawings, 16 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2012

Law and Legal Studies: Legal History

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Public Policy


“Jenkins and Patashnik have brought together a first-rate collection of scholars to address the too-often-neglected question of what happens to American public policies after the passage of legislation. The result is a compelling work that raises many deeper questions about legislation as a developmental force in American politics. Living Legislation will make an extremely important contribution to the study of American politics and public policy.”

Robert C. Lieberman, Columbia University

Living Legislation offers an important new perspective on policy making in the United States. In bringing together leading scholars from a variety of research traditions, this agenda-setting book shifts our attention from the enactment of landmark bills towards the broader question of what leads some legislative achievements to endure while others are reversed or fade away.”

Eric Schickler, University of California, Berkeley

“The questions addressed by this diverse and formidable group of scholars are of such obvious importance that it is amazing so little work has been done on them until recently. Readers will come away impressed both with the progress made in understanding what happens to laws and policies after they are enacted as well as the pressing need for future work on the topic. Living Legislation is sure to be a high-impact volume.”

Frances E. Lee, University of Maryland

"This collection of essays pushes the frontiers of knowledge about lawmaking in the US."


“In this illuminating volume, Jenkins and Patashnik bring together an all-star cast of American politics scholars to analyze the origins and development of legislation over time. . . . The essays make a strong case for looking ‘beyond legislative productivity’ to the broader politics of agenda-setting and programmatic evolution that bracket the formal lawmaking process. . . . [This is] an admirable volume that extends our understanding of how public policies emerge and evolve. . . .  The chapters are uniformly excellent, showcasing a diverse array of ingenious approaches to answering important questions about the policy process. Both quantitative and qualitative scholars will find much to ponder and debate within its pages.”

Perspectives on Politics

“Jenkins and Patashnik have assembled an ambitious volume that seeks to take American legislative scholarship beyond its typical focus only on the making of laws to consider what happens to laws over the course of their ‘lives’. . . . An impressive array of scholars from law, economics, public policy, and especially political science wrestle with various aspects of this broad topic. . . . The timely focus on understudied and underappreciated facets of legislation make for an interesting, insightful read.”

Journal of Legislative Studies

Table of Contents

Part One

Chapter 1
Living Legislation and American Politics
Jeffery A. Jenkins and Eric M. Patashnik

Chapter 2
Making the Modern American Legislative State
William J. Novak

Part Two 
Studying Living Legislation: Coalitions, Durability, and Change

Chapter 3
Durability and Change in the President’s Legislative Policy Agenda, 1799–2002
Jeffrey E. Cohen and Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha

Chapter 4
Coalition Structure and Legislative Innovation in American National Government
Sean Gailmard and Jeffery A. Jenkins

Chapter 5
The Lives and Deaths of Federal Programs, 1971–2003
Christopher R. Berry, Barry C. Burden, and William G. Howell

Chapter 6
Beyond Legislative Productivity: Enactment Conditions, Subsequent Conditions, and the Shape and Life of the Law
Forrest Maltzman and Charles R. Shipan

Chapter 7
How Unpopular Policies Become Popular after Adoption
Amihai Glazer

Chapter 8
Why Some Reforms Last and Others Collapse: The Tax Reform Act of 1986 versus Airline Deregulation
Eric M. Patashnik

Chapter 9
Policy Durability and Agency Design
David E. Lewis

Chapter 10
Judicial Delimitation in the New Deal Era
Stuart Chinn

Chapter 11
The Significance of Policy Failures in Political Development: The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the Growth of the Carceral State
Vesla M. Weaver

Part Three

Chapter 12
Lawmaking as a Cognitive Enterprise
David R. Mayhew

Chapter 13
The Politics of the Policymaking State
Sidney M. Milkis


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