a1 Columbia University
a2 Yale University
When Jeffrey Isaac approached us to review some recent works in American politics from a comparative perspective, we gladly accepted the task, believing it important to help overcome what some see as the “splendid isolation” of American politics. Indeed, the invitation arrived at a propitious time because, after completing our most recent book, we critically reflected on the fact that we had unfortunately written almost nothing on the oldest, and one of the most diverse, democracies in the world, the United States. We thus agreed to contribute some thoughts on the matter, recognizing the limits of our knowledge of the entire field of American politics, but acknowledging, too, our belief that the current distancing of the study of America from the analysis of other democracies impoverishes modern political science.
Alfred Stepan is Wallace Sayre Professor of Government at Columbia University.
Juan J. Linz is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political and Social Science at Yale University.
The authors thank Thomas K. Ogorzalek and E. Grant Porter, doctoral candidates at Columbia, for very helpful empirical and conceptual contributions in shaping this piece. For their early foundational comments, the authors also thank the participants of the conference at Yale University, “Conversation Among Comparativists and Americanists about the Quality of American Democracy,” co-hosted by Ian Shapiro. Financial support was provided by Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, and by Yale's MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. The authors would like to particularly thank Mary Fainsod Katzenstein, John Stephens and Shamus Khan for written comments on an earlier version of this review essay.