"Political Innovation in America" by Nelson W.              Polsby

Political Innovation in America The Politics of Policy Initiation Nelson W. Polsby

Publication date:
10 Sep 1985
Yale University Press
186 pages: 210 x 130 x 15mm

How are public policies initiated in American politics?  Do they spring fully formed from the furrowed brow of the President?  Are they the product of congressional committees?  This pathbreaking book by Nelson Polsby looks for the first time at the process of political innovation.  Drawing examples from foreign and domestic policy, Polsby examines the genesis of eight major new government initiatives: the Peace Corps, the Truman Doctrine, the Council of Economic Advisers, Medicare, Community Action Programs, the National Science Foundation, civilian, control of atomic energy, and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


Polsby has explored empirically the preconditions of political innovations, and he draws conclusions that have general applicability for the understanding of innovation in the American political system.  His characteristically witty and stimulating book opens a third branch of inquiry in political science—on a coequal footing with the study of legislative enactment politics and the study of policy implementation.

?This book will have a significant impact in restoring the links between politics and public policy.  It?s safe to say that our understanding of both of these subjects will never be the same again.??Francis E. Rourke, The Johns Hopkins University

?An impressive feat.  The book is good for the policy scholar and good for the classroom.??Charles O. Jones, University of Virginia   

"Fascinating reading. . . . Will excite other readers to speculate on the significance of [Polsby?s] work for broader issues ? especially those of a constitutional nature, involving questions of fundamental democratic responsibility in an age of technological specialization."?Don K. Price, The New Republic

"Eight superbly concise and informative case studies."?William Schneider, New York Times Book Review

"Political Innovation in America is, as we have learned to expect of Nelson Polsby, a witty and instructive read."?Edwin M. Yoder, Jr., Washington Post

"Polsby?s work represents a significant advance that merits the careful attention of all those seriously interested in the American political process."?Harold M. Waller, Canadian Journal of Political Science

"Polsby?s analysis offers a framework that can be used to study other instances of policy initiation and opens a new area of inquiry for scholars and others concerned with political outcomes. Recommended."?Steven Puro, Library Journal

"The cases are insightful, well-written, and worth reading."?Barry Bozeman, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management

"A fascinating treatment of eight major policy innovations in recent American political history. . . . Fresh and informative."?Bruce R. Sievers, Los Angeles Times

"Polsby offers a fresh and typically penetrating analysis of the genesis and incubation of innovative policy ideas, their selection and advocacy by political actors, and their legitimation as adopted policies. He superbly demonstrates the creative capability of the American political system and sensitively explores the conditions for its exercise."?James W. Fesler, Cowles Professor Emeritus of Government, Yale University

"Most social scientists are tempted to choose between the reductionist approach of the systematic analyst and the synthetic approach of the historian. But for even a dim comprehension of politics one must try to combine the two, and Nelson Polsby's Political Innovation in America is one of the best recent efforts to meet this challenge. I found especially fascinating his interpretation of the way in which rapid technological innovation makes for slowness in policy adjustments?especially in a complex democratic society."?Don K. Price, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"Political Innovation in America has renewed the study of policy by giving political scioence a new perspective  from which to approach the subject. In the end, Polsby's study is as innovative in its approach and analysis as the very policies that it examines."?Richard J. Bozzelli, Harvard Journal on Legislation

"[Polsby's] brief but important book does not pretend to be exhaustive, but succeeds admirably in offering some cautious conclusions and indicating lines of further inquiry. . . . It is a valuable attempt to open up an unduly neglected area."?Steve Reilly, Political Studies