In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section National Interbranch Politics in the United States

  • Introduction

Political Science National Interbranch Politics in the United States
Jeb Barnes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 November 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0081


A growing number of scholars have sought to move beyond specialized accounts of US national politics and policymaking by examining how American politics and policy emanate from (and are shaped by) the interplay among various branches and levels of government. This movement is diffuse, reflecting a variety of analytic approaches and goals, which often cut across traditional subfields and methodological camps in the study of American politics. This article reviews some of the dominant modes of interbranch analysis of national US politics and policymaking. The goal is not to provide a comprehensive account of interbranch analysis, an exhaustive typology of interbranch studies, or even a systemic list of “canonical” works in the field. Instead, this article seeks to (a) set forth the underlying assumptions of interbranch analysis, (b) identify distinct approaches to interbranch analysis, (c) point to several examples of each mode of analysis, and (d) sensitize scholars to some of the debates and trade-offs associated with it.

General Overviews

Unlike specialized studies of national politics that focus on a single institution or some particular aspect of US national politics, interbranch studies analyze American politics and policymaking more holistically by focusing on patterns of interactions among the branches and levels of government. The decision to adopt an interbranch perspective has significant substantive, methodological, and practical trade-offs—as the field of American politics tends to be organized into specialized subfields, there are no ready-made data sets for the study of interbranch relations or high-profile professional journals dedicated to interbranch studies. Ultimately, the decision to study interbranch relations reflects (a) an understanding of the inherent complexity and interactive nature of American politics and policymaking and (b) a conviction that compartmentalized accounts of US politics and policymaking are incomplete and sometimes misleading.

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