Agendas and Instability in American Politics, Second Edition
by Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones
University of Chicago Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-226-03947-3 | Paper: 978-0-226-03949-7 | Electronic: 978-0-226-03953-4


When Agendas and Instability in American Politics appeared fifteen years ago, offering a profoundly original account of how policy issues rise and fall on the national agenda, the Journal of Politics predicted that it would “become a landmark study of public policy making and American politics.” That prediction proved true and, in this long-awaited second edition, Bryan Jones and Frank Baumgartner refine their influential argument and expand it to illuminate the workings of democracies beyond the United States.

The authors retain all the substance of their contention that short-term, single-issue analyses cast public policy too narrowly as the result of cozy and dependable arrangements among politicians, interest groups, and the media. Jones and Baumgartner provide a different interpretation by taking the long view of several issues—including nuclear energy, urban affairs, smoking, and auto safety—to demonstrate that bursts of rapid, unpredictable policy change punctuate the patterns of stability more frequently associated with government. Featuring a new introduction and two additional chapters, this updated edition ensures that their findings will remain a touchstone of policy studies for many years to come.


Bryan D. Jones is the J. J. Pickle Chair in Congressional Studies in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin. Frank R. Baumgartner is Miller-LaVigne Professor of Political Science at Penn State University. They are the coauthors of several books, including The Politics of Attention, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


List of Illustrations

Preface to the Second Edition

Preface to the First Edition


Part One: Theoretical Beginnings

1 Punctuated Equilibria in Politics

2 Policy Images and Institutional Venues

3 Studying Agenda Change

Part Two: Tracing Policy Change in America

4 The Construction and Collapse of a Policy Monopoly

5 Two Models of Issue Expansion

6 The Dynamics of Media Attention

7 Cities as a National Political Problem

8 Connecting Solutions to Problems: Three Valence Issues

Part Three: Structural and Contextual Change in Politics

9 Interest Groups and Agenda-Setting

10 Congress as a Jurisdictional Battlefi eld

11 Federalism as a System of Policy Venues

12 Governing through Institutional Disruption

Part Four: Agendas and Instability, Fifteen Years Later

13 Policy Subsystems, Puncuated Equilibrium, and Theories of Policy Change

14 Punctuated Equilibrium and Disruptive Dynamics

Appendix A: Data Sources

Appendix B: Regression Analysis of Agenda Dynamics