The Decline of Comity in Congress

Eric M. Uslaner
Probes incivility among U.S. lawmakers, demonstrating why institutional reform will not solve gridlock in Washington


"In the 1950s and 1960s, the Congress was a civil, if not very open, institution. The House was guided by Rayburn's maxim, 'to get along, go along,' while the Senate disdained 'petty exhibitionism' and extolled reciprocity. . . . By the 1980s the House and the Senate came to resemble daycare centers in which colicky babies got their way by screaming at the top of their lungs. . . . While the majority of members still spoke in civil tongues, sanctions did not deter legislators who flouted the rules. In some instances the panoply of shrill voices in the Congress led to stalemate. In other cases it lead to 'bad' policy."
—from Chapter 1

Why do members of Congress resort to name-calling? In this provocative book, Eric M. Uslaner proposes that Congress is mirroring the increased incivility of American society. He points to five core values—American exceptionalism, enlightened individualism, egalitarianism, science as social engineering, and religion—that have been eroded since the 1960s. The author argues that a lack of trust permeates members of Congress to the point that they would rather seek control than compromise. This, Uslaner contends, is the real cause of gridlock in Washington. The Decline in Comity in Congress demonstrates why institutional reform will not correct this problem and why Americans need to change before their government can.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is an interesting, provocative, rather daring book, written in an easy, straightforward, lively style...The Decline of Comity in Congress is a stimulating book, the achievement  of a perceptive and insightful student of the congressional world."
    --American Political Science Review

Look Inside


Chapter 1. On Good Behavior     1

Chapter 2. Norms and Normlessness     21

Chapter 3. Five Explanations in Search of Evidence     45

Chapter 4. Values, Norms, and Society     63

Chapter 5. The Decline of Comity in the Nation     103

Chapter 6. Policy-Making in an Era of Resource Constraints     127

Chapter 7. A New Order in the New World?     157

References     171

Subject Index     199

Name Index     203

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 216pp.
  • tables, figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1997
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08421-0

Add to Cart
  • $44.95 U.S.