Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Cebul, Tani, and Williams, "Clio and the Compound Republic"

Around this time last year, when I was blogging about States of Dependency, I wrote about my interest in federalism and my conviction that other historians of the 20th-century U.S. ought to take federalism more seriously. I also noted a debt of gratitude to Martha Derthick, the late, great scholar of American governance and public administration. I am pleased to note that Publius has since published a symposium honoring Derthick's contributions to the study of American federalism, and that the journal made space for some thoughts from historians. Here's a link to "Clio and the Compound Republic," which I co-authored with my colleagues Brent Cebul (University of Richmond) and Mason Williams (Albright College). And here's the abstract:
Although Martha Derthick has received most recognition for her contributions to political science and government, we argue that her astute accounts of federalism in action offer precisely what historians of American governance need at this moment. This essay highlights several of her contributions: her insistence on seeing the United States as a “compound republic” comprised of multiple levels of authority rather than equating government with the national government; her focus on federalism’s shifting dynamics and concern with demonstrating those dynamics empirically; her dedication to studying “the middle tier” and showing that states gained real power during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as they took on functions previously performed by localities; and her attentiveness to the endurance of localism in American politics and policy. Drawing on case studies and recent scholarship, we explain why these insights are vital to historians and suggest how historians’ more thorough incorporation of them could enrich our understanding of key aspects of the American past.
The article is ungated for the time being.