Pet Sounds: Subsystems, Regimes, Policy Punctuations, and the Neglect of African American Farmers, 1935–2006


Jeff Worsham is a professor of Political Science at West Virginia University, Woodburn Hall, 6317, Morgantown, WV 26506-6317.

Chaun Stores is a Senior Institutional Research and Reporting Specialist in the Division of Institutional Research at West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506-6209.


Punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) has reoriented the study of public policy and American politics in particular. In this study, we documented how a policy punctuation that appears to take hold at the macro level of the polity in the form of a policy regime has difficulty penetrating subsystem politics. We drew on subsystems theory, PET, and the latest work on policy regimes to document the resistance of the agriculture subsystem to efforts to add a civil rights dimension to agriculture policy between 1935 and 2006. We concluded that the issue evolution of agricultural support programs, and their insulation from civil rights policy, is a prime example of how subsystems use negative feedback to resist change.