New Books

Legislative Style by Dr. William Bernhard & Dr. Tracy Sulkin

Book cover for Legislative Style written by Dr. William Bernhard and Dr. Tracy SulkinOnce elected, members of Congress face difficult decisions about how to allocate their time and effort. On which issues should they focus? What is the right balance between working in one’s district and on Capitol Hill? How much should they engage with the media to cultivate a national reputation? William Bernhard and Tracy Sulkin argue that these decisions and others define a “legislative style” that aligns with a legislator’s ambitions, experiences, and personal inclinations, as well as any significant electoral and institutional constraints. 

Bernhard and Sulkin have developed a systematic approach for looking at legislative style through a variety of criteria, including the number of the bills passed, number of speeches given, amount of money raised, and the percentage of time a legislator voted in line with his or her party. Applying this to ten congresses, r epresenting twenty years of congressional data, from 1989 to 2009, they reveal that legislators’ activity falls within five predictable styles. These styles remain relatively consistent throughout legislators’ time in office, though a legislator’s style can change as career goals evolve, as well as with changes to individual or larger political interests, as in redistricting or a majority shift. Offering insight into a number of enduring questions in legislative politics, Legislative Style is a rich and nuanced account of legislators’ activity on Capitol Hill.

 

Biocultural Creatures by Dr. Samantha Frost

Book cover for Biocultural Creatures, written by Dr. Samantha FrostSamantha Frost brings feminist and political theory together with findings in the life sciences to recuperate the category of the human for politics. Challenging the idea of human exceptionalism as well as other theories of subjectivity that rest on a distinction between biology and culture, Frost proposes that humans are biocultural creatures who quite literally are cultured within the material, social, and symbolic worlds they inhabit. Through discussions about carbon, the functions of cell membranes, the activity of genes and proteins, the work of oxygen, and the passage of time, Frost recasts questions about the nature of matter, identity, and embodiment.  In doing so, she elucidates the imbrication of the biological and cultural within the corporeal self.  In remapping the relation of humans to their habitats and arriving at the idea that humans are biocultural creatures, Frost provides new theoretical resources for responding to political and environmental crises and for thinking about how to transform the ways we live.