Stephen Skowronek's building a new American state and the origins of American political development

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This roundtable celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Stephen Skowronek's Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877-1920 (1982). Skowronek's book introduced scholars to the emerging field of historical institutionalism, offering an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing government and public policy. Tackling three different policy areas, the book, offered a pathbreaking examination of institutional development and a treatment of political actors that moved beyond standard accounts of elites who responded only to societal or corporate demands. Building a New American State demonstrated how politics could be understood only historically, since current conditions were layered over pre-existing institutions. Through this book, Skowronek became one of those rare authors able to influence scholarship in several academic fields. The theoretical and substantive insights of his book influenced the first and second generations of scholars who built the field of American Political Development, using historical data to examine how institutions structured politics over long periods of time and how policies reconfigured politics. This roundtable explores how this classic book affected the study of government in the disciplines of political science, history, and sociology. The authors discuss ways each discipline developed a distinct version of American Political Development. The roundtable also explores how the interdisciplinary project of historical institutionalism has evolve since the early 1980s and new directions in which the field might go.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-441
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science History
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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