Thoughts on “The Revolution in Presidential Studies”


Kenneth R. Mayer is a professor of political science and affiliate faculty at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of With the Stroke of a Pen: Executive Orders and Presidential Power.


Few scholars have done more than Terry Moe to propel the presidency studies literature into its current generation. He offered—or, it could be said, insisted on—an alternative theoretical foundation, based on rational choice and economic approaches on institutional organization and development. There is little doubt that the resulting reorientation constituted a historic shift, one that happens once in a generation. While Moe overstates the importance of rational choice to this shift, the current presidency literature is full of interesting questions, novel approaches, sophisticated methods, and, perhaps most importantly, empirical disagreements.