Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The seams of the state: Infrastructure and intergovernmental relations in American state building
by Callen, Zachary A., Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2009, 246; 3369449
Abstract (Summary)

Institutional change in the American federal system, especially the shift from the early decentralized state to the current strong central state, is generally explained by appealing to exogenous shocks. Traditionally, American state building theories have relied on war or economic transformations to explain the growth of the federal government. In contrast to these theories, I argue that political centralization is actually the result of endogenous forces that are inherent in American federalism. Local policy failures combine with interstate competition to drive sub-national policy concerns to Congress, thereby transforming previously parochial concerns into federal issues. Thus, the national state finds itself in new policy areas primarily because of bottom-top pressure. To expand this idea, I examine American rail development during the antebellum period. My analysis begins by analyzing state rail promotion and coordination efforts. While these initial state-level programs provided a fairly complete rail system, local failures harmed the overall efficiency of the national rail system. These local shortcomings led Congressional representatives from states with poorly functioning rail systems to press for national intervention. However, Congressional involvement altered American rail development, as external interests began to shape local railroads to reflect national concerns. Yet, despite this intrusion, local political actors continued to shape their parochial rail plans. Hence, while federalism encouraged national intervention, the separation of powers within a federal system still allowed local political actors leeway over rail planning. While the analysis primarily emphasizes how federalism has shaped American state building, the findings also underscore the importance of political geography in state building. State building requires the manipulation of space, and spatial organization can exert a long-term and profound impact on political development. By examining both federalism and space, significant light is shed on how the American political development process.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Oliver, Eric
Commitee: Clemens, Elisabeth, Hansen, John M., Novak, William
School: The University of Chicago
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Geography, Political science
Keywords: American political development, Infrastructure, Intergovernmental relations, Political geography, Railroads, State-building, States
Publication Number: 3369449
ISBN: 978-1-109-31559-2
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