Bryan Jones, Sean Theriault, and Michelle Whyman are out with a big book on with a provocative thesis. In The Great Broadening: How the Vast Expansion of the Policymaking Agenda Transformed American Politics (University of Chicago Press, 2019), the authors argue that there are dimensions to the broadening of the US federal government into new areas of public life largely overlooked by previous scholars. Rather than public opinion or changes in the party system, they claim that it is the social movement system that is an underappreciated driver of the broadening of government in the 1960s. They continue that polarization and the growth of interest groups are each a consequence of this transformation of government, not a primary cause.
The Great Broadening is rooted in a massive exploration of data connected with the Policy Agendas Projects. Culling data across nearly a century of American politics and government, the book raises as many new questions as it conclusively answers. The authors are candid that they are expanding the conversation about American political development, not necessarily refuting previous claims. They do so with a heap of quantitative measures on agenda setting in congress, federal expenditures, and the size of the administrative state. This is a must read for students of American politics.
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