Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

 See the
Conversations with History Blog

See a webcast of this interview:

Institutional Change in the U.S. Congress: Conversation with Nelson 
    W. Polsby, Heller Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley; 9/4/02 by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Nelson Polsby, who is the Heller Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley. He was the Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at U.C. from 1988 to 1999, and editor of the American Political Science Review from 1971 to 1977.

He's the author and co-author of fourteen books, including Community Power and Political Theory, Congress and the Presidency, Political Promises, British Government and Its Discontent, Consequences of Party Reform, Political Innovation in America -- The Politics of Policy Initiative, and Presidential Elections, written with Aaron Wildavsky, which is in its tenth edition. book coverHis forthcoming book is How Congress Evolves: Social Bases of Institutional Change, which will be published by Oxford University Press. Professor Polsby has a Ph.D. from Yale, and among his honorary degrees are ones from Oxford and the University of Liverpool.

  1. Background ... interest in politics ... education ... the phenomenon of McCarthyism
  2. Being a Political Scientist ... examining the facts ... quasi-anthropologist ... getting interested in Congress ... different ways of doing political science ... interest in politics ... know how you learn ... importance of a community of scholars
  3. Leadership ... the "blocking-back" ... forming communities ... facilitating others' work
  4. Congress ... why the House changed ... the importance of air-conditioning ... leadership in the House ... vision vs. pragmatism ... foreign policy ... the nature of a crisis
  5. Lessons Learned ... writing with clarity ... humor ... finding one's own voice
Polsby PolsbyPolsby

© Copyright 2002, Regents of the University of California

Photos by Jane Scherr. Site questions: Email iis_webmgr at