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About the Book

Beyond the Book

192 pp., 5.75 x 9.25, 5 tables, 5 maps, notes, index

ISBN  978-0-8078-4855-5
Published: April 2000

Congress at the Grassroots

Representational Change in the South, 1970-1998

By Richard F. Fenno Jr.

Awards & Distinctions

2001 V.O. Key Award, Southern Political Science Association

However much politicians are demeaned and denounced in modern American society, our democracy could not work without them. For this reason, says Richard Fenno, their activities warrant our attention. In his pioneering book, Home Style, Fenno demonstrated that a close look at politicians at work in their districts can tell us a great deal about the process of representation. Here, Fenno employs a similarly revealing grassroots approach to explore how patterns of representation have changed in recent decades.

Fenno focuses on two members of the U.S. House of Representatives who represented the same west-central Georgia district at different times: Jack Flynt, who served from the 1950s to the 1970s, and Mac Collins, who has held the seat in the 1990s. His on-the-scene observation of their differing representational styles--Flynt focuses on people, Collins on policy--reveals the ways in which social and demographic changes inspire shifts in representational strategies.

More than a study of representational change in one district, Congress at the Grassroots also helps illuminate the larger subject of political change in the South and in the nation as a whole.

About the Author

Richard F. Fenno Jr. is Distinguished University Professor and William R. Kenan Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester.


"Fenno's book is an enjoyable read for more than its intellectual contributions to the study of representation. . . . This volume communicates . . . the essential humanity of both of the politicians who are observed and their observer."
--Journal of Politics

"A fascinating and insightful case study of the change in the nature of representation in a transformed South. . . . The work should be considered for adoption in undergraduate courses since it brings to life contemporary U.S. politics in a way that few recent scholarly political science texts have."

"In revisiting legislators' home styles, Fenno has prepared another masterpiece. His detailed examination of two Georgia members of Congress captures the change in representational approach over the course of a generation, as the personnel, partisan makeup, and the political and social context of the area spreading southeast from Atlanta have been transformed. Fenno's keen eye, insights, and fluid writing style make this a gem that will enlighten the scholar and catch the interest of students."
--Charles S. Bullock III, University of Georgia

"Fenno's new book is wonderful on several levels. It offers a richly detailed account of how two different congressmen pursued electoral careers in the same part of Georgia in the 1970s and 1990s. It revisits questions and themes first addressed in his earlier classic, Home Style, analyzing why and how home styles have changed. It also helps us to grasp the profound and highly consequential changes in southern politics over the past generation. Essential and thoroughly enjoyable reading for everyone who wants to understand the contemporary Congress."
--Gary C. Jacobson, University of California, San Diego

"Richard F. Fenno's Congress at the Grassroots is a masterpiece of political analysis that will delight any reader interested in the real world of politics and government. Through the intensive study of two representatives, he brilliantly brings to life the "old southern politics" of Democratic domination and the "new southern politics" of genuine two-party competition. Moreover, Fenno shows the emergence of a very conservative, "policy-centered" southern Republicanism that has helped to generate highly polarized partisanship in the modern House of Representatives. This beautifully written book is indispensable for students of Congress and the South."--Merle Black, coauthor of Politics and Society in the South and The Vital South

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