Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 17 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Over the past half century, one of the most important developments in the study of the American Congress has been the incorporation and expansion of rational choice approaches and formal models which have improved the understanding of legislative policymaking, of internal congressional politics, and of external interactions between Congress and its broader environment. Although formal models have been developed to analyze various topics in congressional studies, they have been used inconsistently and have had varying impacts across substantive sub-fields. While the formal approaches have the ability to probe deeply into strategic decision-making, this capacity is limited when the formal modelers do not present their findings in an accessible way to a broad audience and when formalization is incompletely exercised. This article examines five tasks to overcome the limitations of formal approaches to the study of Congress. First, it defines what constitutes a complete formal model, hence forming the framework for understanding the possible contributions of formal approaches. Second, it surveys the examples of how formal models have been used to analyze the internal politics of Congress and the external relations of Congress with other institutions. Third, it presents the developments of formal models in these two areas to determine the lessons on how techniques of formal approaches can be employed to overcome limitations and roadblocks in the scholarly studies of Congress. Fourth, it discusses how these lessons can be applied to suggest paths forward in the conscientious debates regarding parties in Congress. The article concludes with a discussion on other substantive areas ripe for scholarly exploration through formal approaches.

Keywords: American Congress, Congress, congressional studies, formal approaches, complete formal model, internal politics, external relations

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.