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Lowi: The end of liberalism

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Lowi. 1979. The end of liberalism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

In Brief

Lowi's book is most remembered for its argument that Congress had abdicated its responsibilities for public policy, opting instead to allow appointed bureaucrats to govern. This abdication represents the shift from the "First Republic"--a democratic one--to America's "Second Republic."

The Death of Capitalism

Lowi claims that capitalism has died as a public philosophy in the United States. He attributes this to the expansion of government after 1932 with the Roosevelt revolution, which permitted the emergence of interest-group liberalism and, by the 1960s and 1970s, the death of capitalism as a public philosophy.

By "interest-group liberalism," Low has in mind the atrophy of institutions of popular control, the maintenance of old structures of privilege and the creation of new ones, and conservatism in several senses of the word. Congress has delegated its authority to interest groups, who govern via their influence over the bureaucracy.

Consequences of Abdication

After the New Deal, an uncontrolled process of delegation began to flow, with terrible consequences. The main one was the end of the rule of law and rule by interest groups.

Research on similar subjects


Lowi, Theodore (author)Comparative PoliticsBureaucracyPrincipal-AgentPluralismInterest Groups

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