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The Substance of Representation:
Congress, American Political Development, and Lawmaking
John S. Lapinski

Paperback | 2013 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691137827
Hardcover | 2013 | $82.50 | £69.95 | ISBN: 9780691137810
192 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 15 line illus. 30 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400848638 |
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Lawmaking is crucial to American democracy because it completely defines and regulates the public life of the nation. Yet despite its importance, political scientists spend very little time studying the direct impact that the politics surrounding a particular issue has on lawmaking. The Substance of Representation draws on a vast range of historical and empirical data to better understand how lawmaking works across different policy areas. Specifically, John Lapinski introduces a theoretically grounded method for parsing policy issues into categories, and he shows how policymaking varies in predictable ways based on the specific issue area being addressed.

Lapinski examines the ways in which key factors that influence policymaking matter for certain types of policy issues, and he includes an exhaustive look at how elite political polarization shifts across these areas. He considers how Congress behaves according to the policy issue at hand, and how particular areas--such as war, sovereignty issues, and immigration reform--change legislative performance. Relying on records of all Congressional votes since Reconstruction and analyzing voting patterns across policy areas from the late nineteenth to late twentieth centuries, Lapinski provides a comprehensive historical perspective on lawmaking in order to shed light on current practices.

Giving a clear picture of Congressional behavior in the policymaking process over time, The Substance of Representation provides insights into the critical role of American lawmaking.


"Lapinski develops a new tool kit to measure and analyze an expansive set of legislation and lawmakers' policy preferences from 1877 to 2010. His key contribution to the study of the American national legislature is his coding approach and the data development, which develops a deeper understanding of lawmaking. Through these, Lapinski offers findings about polarization, elite leadership in Congress, and the influence and impact of members of Congress and their policy preferences across different areas. This work will certainly contribute to developing a new discussion within the legislative studies field and give future political scientists new possibilities of expanding the research in the area."--Choice

"He offers an astutely crafted schema that seems to this observer to avoid the trap of time boundedness and enables the APD enterprise to more systematically track the evolution of policy."--Ross K. Baker, Congress & The Presidency


"Students of Congress think they are studying what government does when they examine roll call votes. In this powerful and original contribution to legislative and policy studies and American political development, John Lapinski shows otherwise. The substance of policy--what sorts of laws members of Congress are voting on--makes an enormous difference for theory, method, American political history, and our conclusions about how Congress works."--Jacob S. Hacker, Yale University

"I salute John Lapinski for this innovative work on American lawmaking. The book offers deft history, a good measure of the significance of laws, and a helpful categorization of laws by substantive area. In a welcome move, it annexes Congress to the study of American political development."--David Mayhew, author of Partisan Balance

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