Political Science | American Politics: American Legislative Behavior
Y661 | 22187 | Bianco

This class is a graduate-level, take no prisoners survey of the
contemporary literature on the U. S. Congress.  It is intended to
give you a broad overview of research trajectories, critical
questions, and important findings in the congressional studies.  It
is a first step – but only a first step – in preparing for an
American field exam or beginning a research career that focuses on
legislative politics.

I do not teach this class as a seminar in applied rational choice
theory or as a debate between alternate theoretic approaches to the
study of legislatures.  Certainly there is an ongoing debate over
research approaches in the field of American politics – though not
so much in legislative studies – but we will not spend much time on
understanding the debate per se.  Rather, the focus mirrors the best
in the discipline in its emphasis on empirical implications and
testable hypotheses.  Rather than debating the validity or
aesthetics of assumptions and approaches, we will focus on what a
piece of research tells us about how Congress (and legislatures in
general) works.  My yardstick is a simple one: a theory or
hypothesis is good if it helps us learn something about
congressional politics that we didn’t already know, and is not worth
spending time on otherwise.