Journal of American Studies

Review Essay

Examining Political Change and Presidential Power in the US

a1 University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH.

Article author query
dumbrell j   [Google Scholar] 

H. W. Brands, The Strange Death of American Liberalism (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, paperback edition, 2003, £9.95). Pp. 200. ISBN 0 300 098 24 3.

Michael J. Gerhardt, The Federal Appointments Process: A Constitutional and Historical Analysis (Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, revised and expanded paperback edition, 2003, £18.50). Pp. 406. ISBN 0 8223 3199 3.

William G. Howell, Power without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action (Princeton NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2003, cloth £29.95, paper £12.95). Pp. 239. ISBN 0 691 10269, 0 691 10270 8.

Drew Noble Lanier, Of Time and Judicial Behavior: United States Supreme Court Agenda – Setting and Decision-Making, 1888–1997 (Selinsgrove PA: Susquehanna University Press and London: Associated University Presses, 2003, $42.50). Pp. 276. ISBN 1 57591 067 5.

Byron E. Shafer, The Two Majorities and the Puzzle of Modern American Politics (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003, cloth $35, paper $19.95). Pp. 356. ISBN 0 7006 1235 1, 0 7006 1236 X.

One does not have to be an especially sophisticated philosopher of explanatory method to appreciate that, in explaining change in human affairs, much depends on the situation of and level of analysis adopted by the would-be explainer. Do the dots connect or are they mostly what they appear to be – just dots? Reality, according to Bertrand Russell's famous aphorism, is either a bowl of connected jelly or a bucket of disconnected shot. It all depends on the observer, who, of course, is also part of the reality being considered.

(Published Online December 22 2004)