Over the course of the last century, political scientists have been moved by two principal purposes. First, they have sought to understand and explain political phenomena in a way that is both theoretically and empirically grounded. Second, they have analyzed matters of enduring public interest, whether in terms of public policy and political action, fidelity between principle and practice in the organization and conduct of government, or the conditions of freedom, whether of citizens or of states. Many of the central advances made in the field have been prompted by a desire to improve both the quality and our understanding of political life. Nowhere is this tendency more apparent than in research on American politics, a field in which concerns for the public interest have stimulated various important insights.
This volume systematically analyzes the major developments within the broad field of American politics over the past three decades. Each chapter is composed of a core paper that addresses the major puzzles, conversations, and debates that have attended major areas of concern and inquiry within the discipline. These papers examine and evaluate the intellectual evolution and natural history of major areas of political inquiry and chart particularly promising trajectories, puzzles, and concerns for future work. Each core paper is accompanied by a set of shorter commentaries that engage the issues it takes up, thus contributing to an ongoing and lively dialogue among key figures in the field.