From City Limits to City Trenches: The Local Roots of American Politics
38 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 8 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2010
Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the House, once declared, “All politics is local.” Although a truism embraced by politicos of all stripes, political scientists have rejected this insight in both thought and deed. In fact, since Paul Peterson declared that “city politics is limited politics,” local political conflict has been relegated to the periphery of American political studies. This paper attempts to carve out a space for local political analysis within political science by situating local politics within a polity-centered approach. Employing this framework and drawing upon recent scholarship on urban and suburban history, this paper sketches a space for local analysis by demonstrating its explanatory usefulness in a major theoretical and empirical debate in American politics: the rise of conservative government. In the end, this approach provides a way for historical institutionalists to return to questions of power. It brings society back in, providing analysts a set of testable propositions about the possible relationship between state development and social inequality.
Keywords: race, inequality, urban politics, suburban politics, conservatism, Republican Party, Democratic Party
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