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We All Want a Revolution: Neustadt, New Institutionalism, and the Future of Presidency Research


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank Oxford University Press for allowing me to use portions of my article “The Politics of Persuasion: A Bargaining Model of Presidential Power,” in Presidential Leadership The Vortex of Power, edited by Bert A. Rockman and Richard W. Waterman (2008), in this essay.

Matthew J. Dickinson is a professor of political science at Middlebury College. He is the author of Bitter Harvest: FDR, Presidential Power and the Growth of the Presidential Branch.


The publication of Richard E. Neustadt's “Presidential Power” in 1960 revolutionized presidential studies—a revolution that continues today. Contrary to claims that his book “personalized” presidential studies, thus delaying research progress, scholars' efforts to grapple with Neustadt's teachings inspired some of the subfield's most significant and enduring research agendas. Many of Neustadt's most important insights, however, such as the link between information, institutions, and presidential decision making, have yet to receive the scrutiny they deserve. To take full advantage of the revolution that Neustadt started, scholars will need to avoid methodological parochialism and finger pointing and instead concentrate their efforts on putting the rest of Neustadt's claims to the test.