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Governing the American State:
Congress and the New Federalism, 1877-1929
Kimberley S. Johnson

Paperback | 2016 | $24.95 | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691170909
240 pp. | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Hardcover | 2006 | $62.50 | £52.95 | ISBN: 9780691119748
240 pp. | 6 x 9 | 30 tables.
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The modern, centralized American state was supposedly born in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Kimberley S. Johnson argues that this conventional wisdom is wrong. Cooperative federalism was not born in a Big Bang, but instead emerged out of power struggles within the nation's major political institutions during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Examining the fifty-two years from the end of Reconstruction to the beginning of the Great Depression, Johnson shows that the "first New Federalism" was created during this era from dozens of policy initiatives enacted by a modernizing Congress. The expansion of national power took the shape of policy instruments that reflected the constraints imposed by the national courts and the Constitution, but that also satisfied emergent policy coalitions of interest groups, local actors, bureaucrats, and members of Congress.

Thus, argues Johnson, the New Deal was not a decisive break with the past, but rather a superstructure built on a foundation that emerged during the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. Her evidence draws on an analysis of 131 national programs enacted between 1877 and 1930, a statistical analysis of these programs, and detailed case studies of three of them: the Federal Highway Act of 1916, the Food and Drug Act of 1906, and the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921. As this book shows, federalism has played a vital but often underappreciated role in shaping the modern American state.

Kimberley S. Johnson is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University.


"Kimberly S. Johnson offers a welcome reminder to historians of the modern United States: New Deal policy making was not a seamless transition to more centralized policy making in Washington. Rather, it was based on a federalist heritage of power sharing among the states and the national government that stretched back to the nineteenth century. In an era when many Americans view government as the problem, this book reminds us that the current state of affairs emerged from a complex, nuanced mixture of constitutional forces, interest group pressures, and congressional developments."--William R. Childs, Journal of American History

"Not only is Johnson's thesis and argument intriguing and fresh in its approach, so too are her methods of analysis. . . . Johnson has provided a valuable analysis and corrective to the American political development accounts of national-state intergovernmental relations. She has also added a convincing case for the role of Congress in structuring the first New Federalism."--Cindy Simon Rosenthal, APSA Booknotes


"This book makes a clear contribution to the literatures on American political development and on federalism. I am thoroughly convinced by the author's assertion that the institution of federalism was critical to the development of a wide variety of important policies, and to the development of administrative capacity."--Bertram Johnson, Middlebury College

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Table of Contents:

List of Figures vii
List of Tables ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: The First New Federalism and the Making of the Modern American State 1

Chapter One: Congress and Statebuilding in a Federal Polity 15

Chapter Two: Intergovernmental Policy Instruments and the Development of the New Federalist State 38

Chapter Three: Congressional Politics, Structure, and the Enactment of IPIs 59

Chapter Four: Nationalizing Regulation: The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 85

Chapter Five: Goods Roads to Fiscal Stimulus: Highway Policy from 1900 to the New Deal 116

Chapter Six: From Healthy Babies to the Welfare State: The Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921 136

Chapter Seven: The First New Federalism and the Governing of a New American State 156

Appendix 165
Notes 169
Index 215


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