Assessing the Unilateral Presidency

Richard W. Waterman

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Presidency

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199238859
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

Assessing the Unilateral Presidency


This article summarizes the literature on the president's unilateral powers and explores the implications of the related unitary executive model. It first investigates the association between unilateral power and Richard Neustadt's bargaining model. Neustadt argues that presidents must use their resources wisely if they are to have influence in Washington. Unilateral action provides an alternative to the Neustadt bargaining model for presidents who seek to increase their political influence. While there are a number of unilateral powers, political scientists focus most of their attention on executive orders. A central concept of the unitary executive is the idea of ‘departmentalism’ or ‘coordinate construction’. The issues raised by the unitary executive and the president's unilateral powers offer fodder for additional qualitative and quantitative studies of the presidency, as well as more developed theories that will better help in the understanding of the continuing evolution of the presidential office and presidential power.

Keywords: unilateral presidency; unilateral powers; Richard Neustadt; bargaining model; executive orders; unitary executive

Article.  10481 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Economy

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