Seeking the Center

Politics and Policymaking at the New Century

Martin A. Levin, Marc K. Landy, and Martin Shapiro, Editors

"Martin Levin, Marc Landy and Martin Shapiro have brought together a pleasing and provocative set of essays on politics and policy making. Taken together, they show the American ‘center’ poised for an incremental leap into the twenty-first century."
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During the past decade, Democrats and Republicans each have received about fifty percent of the votes and controlled about half of the government, but this has not resulted in policy deadlock. Despite highly partisan political posturing, the policy regime has been largely moderate. Incremental, yet substantial, policy innovations such as welfare reform; deficit reduction; the North American Free Trade Agreement; and the deregulation of telecommunications, banking, and agriculture have been accompanied by such continuities as Social Security and Medicare, the maintenance of earlier immigration reforms, and the persistence of many rights-based policies, including federal affirmative action.

In Seeking the Center, twenty-one contributors analyze policy outcomes in light of the frequent alternation in power among evenly divided parties. They show how the triumph of policy moderation and the defeat of more ambitious efforts, such as health care reform, can be explained by mutually supporting economic, intellectual, and political forces. Demonstrating that the determinants of public policy become clear by probing specific issues, rather than in abstract theorizing, they restore the politics of policymaking to the forefront of the political science agenda.

A successor to Martin A. Levin and Marc K. Landy’s influential The New Politics of Public Policy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), this book will be vital reading for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in political science and public policy, as well as a resource for scholars in both fields.

Table of Contents


Part I: Introduction

1. Durability and Change
Martin A. Levin and Marc K. Landy

Part II: Taxing and Spending

2. Budgeting More, Deciding Less
Eric M. Patashnik

3. From Expansion to Austerity: The New Politics of Taxing and Spending
Paul Pierson

4. Four Pathways of Power: Probing the Political Dynamics of Federal Tax Policy in the in the Turbulent 1980s and 1990s
David R. Beam and Timothy J. Conlan

Part III: Rights Policies

5. Immigration Reform Redux
Peter H. Schuck

6. Republican Efforts to End Affirmative Action: Walking a Fine Line
John David Skrentny

7. On the Resilience of Rights
Thomas F. Burke

Part IV: Social Welfare Policy

8. The Evolving Old Politics of Social Security
Martha Derthick

9. The Politics of Rights Retraction: Welfare Reform from Entitlement to Block Grant
Steven M. Teles, Brandeis University
Timothy S. Prinz

10. The New Politics of the Working Poor
Christopher Howard

11. Dead on Arrival? New Politics, Old Politics, and the Case of National Health Reform
Cathie Jo Martin

12. The New Politics of the Census
Peter Skerry

Part V: Foreign Trade

13. The Postwar Liberal Trade Regime: Resilience under Pressure
David Vogel

Part VI: Durability and Change

14. Much Huffing and Puffing, Little Change
David R. Mayhew

15. Bill Clinton and the Politics of Divided Democracy
Sidney M. Milkis

16. Two-Tier Politics Revisited
Wilson Carey McWilliams

17. Exit "Equality," Enter "Fairness"
Eugene Bardach

18. The Politics and Policy of the Regulated Market, Efficiency- Constrained Welfare State
Martin Shapiro


"Martin Levin, Marc Landy, and Martin Shapiro have assembled a stellar cast of scholars to explain how politics shaped policy during the past decade. Their analyses – informative, insightful, and original – develop a common theme: despite partisan upheavals and conflict in Washington, continuity and moderation best characterize the evolution of . . . national policies. This splendid collection is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand . . . how political ideas, institutions, and strategies shape major public policies in the United States."—Gary Jacobson, University of California at San Diego

"Martin Levin, Marc Landy and Martin Shapiro have brought together a pleasing and provocative set of essays on politics and policy making. Taken together, they show the American ‘center’ poised for an incremental leap into the twenty-first century."—Richard A. Brody, Stanford University

"The editors and their all-star cast persuasively argue that moderate policies can produce substantial change. Seeking the Center is an excellent 'one-stop-shop' describing and explaining American public policy at the turn of the [twenty-first] century."—John J. Coleman, University of Wisconsin


Eugene Bardach David Beam Tom Burke Timothy Conlan Martha Derthick Chris Howard Marc Landy Martin A. Levin Cathie Jo Martin David R. Maynhew Wilson Carey McWilliams Sidney Milkis Eric Patashnik Paul Pierson Tim Prinz Peer Schuck, Martin Shapiro Peter Skerry John Skretny Steven Teles David Vogel

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Martin A. Levin is a professor of politics at Brandeis University. He is coauthor of After the Cure: Managing AIDs and Other Public Health Crises (University Press of Kansas, 2000).

Marc Landy is a professor of political science at Boston College. He is coauthor of Presidential Greatness (University Press of Kansas, 2000).

Martin Shapiro is the James W. and Isabel Coffroth Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law. He is the author of Who Guards the Guardians: Judicial Control of Administration (University of Georgia Press, 1988).

448 pp., 6 x 9

Aug 2001

448 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-867-2
Aug 2001

448 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-413-8
Aug 2001

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