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Partisans and Partners

The Politics of the Post-Keynesian Society

There’s no question that Americans are bitterly divided by politics. But in Partisans and Partners, Josh Pacewicz finds that our traditional understanding of red/blue, right/left, urban/rural division is too simplistic.

Wheels-down in Iowa—that most important of primary states—Pacewicz looks to two cities, one traditionally Democratic, the other traditionally Republican, and finds that younger voters are rejecting older-timers’ strict political affiliations. A paradox is emerging—as the dividing lines between America’s political parties have sharpened, Americans are at the same time growing distrustful of traditional party politics in favor of becoming apolitical or embracing outside-the-beltway candidates. Pacewicz sees this change coming not from politicians and voters, but from the fundamental reorganization of the community institutions in which political parties have traditionally been rooted. Weaving together major themes in American political history—including globalization, the decline of organized labor, loss of locally owned industries, uneven economic development, and the emergence of grassroots populist movements—Partisans and Partners is a timely and comprehensive analysis of American politics as it happens on the ground.


“A tale of two cities, and through them, of the tidal shifts of American politics in the last forty years. Based on years of painstaking field work as well as on archival and documentary analysis, the book develops a whole new approach to theorizing American political life. This will be one of the definitive American political ethnographies, right up there with Robert Dahl’s Who Governs?

Andrew Abbott, University of Chicago

“This superb study of the transformations of local political power in the United States over the past forty years doubles as a beautiful, tender, and evocative portrait of two whole ways of life, and triples as a set of answers to the most burning political questions of the day. Local politicians, party members, scholars of politics and culture, nonprofit managers, voters: everyone should read this book! By bringing poetry, science, and history to bear on our country—and world’s—most urgent political and social questions, Partisans and Partners ought to become a classic.”

Nina Eliasoph, University of Southern California

“When it comes to putting big projects together, there’s generally much greater cooperation these days at the local level than there was a generation or two ago. Maybe that’s one reason why American politics has become so polarized. That may sound like a leap in logic, but sociologist Josh Pacewicz lays out an intriguing case in his book Partisans and Partners.”


“This book highlights community development and partisan politics. . . .Detailed with lots of interesting quotes from actual citizen-voters.”

Middle West Review

“A great work of public sociology. . . .Pacewicz’s book is a theoretically-informed, analytically rigorous and empirically rich account of the dynamics and problems of contemporary American democracy. It is a precious work of a real social science, critically bringing together the outcomes of different disciplinary perspectives into a broader theoretical picture with direct public implications.”


"Investigates how politicians and political parties have become more divided and partisan, as opposed to American voters, presenting the case that community institutions have been fundamentally reorganized since 1970s- and ’80s-era federal reforms ended protective regulations and cut off federal transfers."

Journal of Economic Literature

Table of Contents


Introduction: Partisans and Partners

Part I: Keynesianism
One     The Old Families
Two     The Lions of Labor
Three   Politics Embedded in Community Governance: The Community Leadership Party

Part II: Neoliberalism
Four     The Political Construction of Partnership
Five     Prairieville’s Business Community in Transition
Six       The Ben Denison Campaign: How Partners Failed to Colonize Politics

Part III: Neoliberalism (continued): Politics Disembedded from Community Governance
Seven  The Activist Party
Eight   What Regular People Think
Nine    How Obama Won the Heartland (Thrice)
Conclusion: The Politics of the Post-Keynesian Society

Methodological Appendix


ASA Theory Section: The Theory Book Prize

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