Reflections on the Study of Congress 1969–2009

Morris P. Fiorina

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199559947
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Reflections on the Study of Congress 1969–2009

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Politics
  • US Politics
  • Comparative Politics


Show Summary Details


This article offers a reflection on the study of Congress. From the personal perspective of the author, the article examines the progress of congressional studies during the past half-century. It examines the evolution of the Textbook Congress and the inside and outside models of congressional studies. In the study of Congress in the 1950s and 1960s, the behavioral movement that invaded the study of Congress drew primarily on sociology and social-psychology for its core concepts. During this period, scholars examined roles, norms, and sanctions, integration, conflict management, and socialization. The explanatory frameworks in the background were those of small group and systems theories. By the turn of the late 1960s, congressional studies were beginning to find existing frameworks inadequate as illustrated by Fennos's move to a more purposive goal-oriented framework. In the late 1960s, rational choice ideas were virtually absent from the field and by the late 1970s, a kind of informal soft rational choice was becoming common. Renewal of scholarly criticism also became prevalent in the study of Congress. Evaluation and criticism of congressional procedures and policies became more common in the literature as scholars gradually became willing to draw out the implications of their findings for representation, responsiveness, accountability, governance, efficiency, and other long-standing concerns in democratic theory. Overall, the study of Congress has shown remarkable progress during the past half-century. The research enterprise has adapted to significant changes in political conditions by making significant changes in methodological approaches. The result is a significant advance in our understanding of Congress, and an improved capacity to evaluate it.

Keywords: study of Congress; progress; congressional studies; Textbook Congress; inside models; outside models; purposive goal-oriented framework; rational choice ideas; scholarly criticism; evaluation

Article.  6384 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Comparative Politics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.