Share this

Artists of the Possible: Governing Networks and American Policy Change since 1945, Matt Grossmann

Reviewed by Dino P. Christenson



Matt Grossmann offers a compelling and holistic analysis of American federal domestic policymaking since 1945. He explains the slow speed and rarity of policy enactments from the perspective of governing networks. In doing so, he challenges the dominant theories that model policy change as a function of elections, public opinion, and ideology. Although he acknowledges that these traditional factors play a role at times, he argues that the ultimate drivers of change are the networks among politicians, administrators, and interest groups. Such bonds developed over time are necessary to overcome the nontrivial institutional hurdles to policy enactment.

The story that Grossmann puts forth in Artists of the Possible is one in which policy enactments are tall orders. We should expect little in the way of policy change, outside of the exceptional times when ties develop among these actors. The networks formed during the Great Society are an exception to the rule of the status quo. Then, major players formed bonds that were maintained well into the 1970s and allowed for unparalleled success at liberal policy enactment. As a testament to his rigorous approach, Grossmann also shows that not all political actors are equal. Presidents are particularly good at enacting policy change, but even among them, there is substantial variance. Success is contingent on their

To continue reading, see options above.

More by This Author

The Primary Rules: Parties, Voters, and Presidential Nominations, Caitlin E. Jewitt Reviewed by Dino P. Christenson

About PSQ's Editor


Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.


Book Talk | Phantoms of a Beleaguered Republic: The Deep State and the Unitary Executive
May 24, 2022


Editor’s spotlight

Women's History Month

Woodrow Wilson, Alice Paul, and the Woman Suffrage Movement
Sally Hunter Graham

The Year of the Woman? Candidates, Voters, and the 1992 Elections
Ester R. Fuchs and Michael X. Delli Carpini


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

New APS Book

Perspectives on Presidential Elections, 1992–2020   PERSPECTIVES ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, 1992–2020

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS