A generation ago, scholars saw interest groups as the single most important element in the American political system. Today, political scientists are more likely to see groups as a marginal influence compared to institutions such as Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary. Frank Baumgartner and Beth Leech show that scholars have veered from one extreme to another not because of changes in the political system, but because of changes in political science. They review hundreds of books and articles about interest groups from the 1940s to today; examine the methodological and conceptual problems that have beset the field; and suggest research strategies to return interest-group studies to a position of greater relevance.
The authors begin by explaining how the group approach to politics became dominant forty years ago in reaction to the constitutional-legal approach that preceded it. They show how it fell into decline in the 1970s as scholars ignored the impact of groups on government to focus on more quantifiable but narrower subjects, such as collective-action dilemmas and the dynamics of recruitment. As a result, despite intense research activity, we still know very little about how groups influence day-to-day governing. Baumgartner and Leech argue that scholars need to develop a more coherent set of research questions, focus on large-scale studies, and pay more attention to the context of group behavior. Their book will give new impetus and direction to a field that has been in the academic wilderness too long.
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations
Ch. 1 Progress and Confusion 3
Ch. 2 Barriers to Accumulation 22
Ch. 3 The Rise and Decline of the Group Approach 44
Ch. 4 Collective Action and the New Literature on Interest Groups 64
Ch. 5 Bias and Diversity in the Interest-Group System 83
Ch. 6 The Dynamics of Bias 100
Ch. 7 Building a Literature on Lobbying, One Case Study at a Time 120
Ch. 8 Surveys of Interest-Group Activities 147
Ch. 9 Learning from Experience 168
Appendix Articles on Interest Groups Published in the American Political Science Review, 1950-1995 189
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Beth L. Leech: