Because the U.S. looms so large among the nations of the world and the highly transformative U.S. Congress is so powerful within its now venerably stable constitutional order, the expectation naturally arises that other, newer nations will seek to model their legislative institutions on at least some aspects of U.S. practice. The authors of this book have provided a fair test of this expectation in numerous settings, and report largely negative findings. Along the way, however, a reader can gain much focused information about forces shaping the formation of contemporary legislatures all over the globe.
The United States Congress is often viewed as the world's most powerful national legislature. To what extent does it serve as a model for other legislative assemblies around the globe? In Exporting Congress? distinguished scholars of comparative legislatures analyze how Congress has influenced elected assemblies in both advanced and transitional democracies. They reveal the barriers to legislative diffusion, the conditions that favor Congress as a model, and the rival institutional influences on legislative development around the world. Exporting Congress? examines the conditions for the diffusion, selective imitation, and contingent utility of congressional institutions and practices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, the European Parliament, and the new democracies in Latin America and Eastern Europe. These scholars find that diffusion is highly sensitive to history, geography, and other contextual factors, especially the structure of political institutions and the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Editors Timothy Power and Nicol Rae place the volume's empirical findings in theoretical, comparative, and historical perspective, and establish a dialogue between the separate subfields of congressional studies and comparative legislatures through the concept of legislative diffusion.
By revealing the unexpected organizational and procedural influence the U.S. Congress has on representative assemblies around the world, Exporting Congress pulls Congress back into the orbit of comparative legislative studies. These essays successfully challenge claims of congressional exceptionalism. Congressional and comparative legislative scholars will have to take note.
Timothy J. Power is university lecturer in Brazilian Studies and fellow of St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. A past president of the Brazilian Studies Association, he is the author of The Political Right in Postauthoritarian Brazil.
Nicol C. Rae is professor of political science at Florida International University. He is the author of Conservative Reformers: The Republican Freshmen and the Lessons of the 104th Congress; Southern Democrats; and The Decline and Fall of Liberal Republicans: 1952 to the Present; and coauthor of Impeaching Clinton: Partisan Strife on Capitol Hill.