University Press of Kansas Logo

Regime Politics

Governing Atlanta, 1946-1988

Clarence N. Stone

xiv, 314 pages, 6 x 9
Studies in Government and Public Policy
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-0416-6, $19.95

Book Cover ImageFrom the end of Georgia's white primary in 1946 to the present, Atlanta has been a community of growing black electoral strength and stable white economic power. Yet the ballot box and investment money never became opposing weapons in a battle for domination. Instead, Atlanta experienced the emergence and evolution of a biracial coalition. Although beset by changing conditions and significant cost pressures, this coalition has remained intact. At critical junctures forces of cooperation overcame antagonisms of race and ideology.

While retaining a critical distance from rational choice theory, author Clarence Stone finds the problem of collective action to be centrally important. The urban condition in America is one of weak and diffuse authority, and this situation favors any group that can act cohesively and control a substantial body of resources. Those endowed with a capacity to promote cooperation can attract allies and overcome oppositional forces.

On the negative side of the political ledger, Atlanta's style of civic cooperation is achieved at a cost. Despite an ambitious program of physical redevelopment, the city is second only to Newark, New Jersey, in the poverty rate. Social problems, conflict of interest issues, and inattention to the production potential of a large lower class bespeak a regime unable to address a wide range of human needs. No simple matter of elite domination, it is a matter of governing arrangements built out of selective incentives and inside deal-making; such arrangements can serve only limited purposes. The capacity of urban regimes to bring about elaborate forms of physical redevelopment should not blind us to their incapacity to address deeply rooted social problems.

Stone takes the historical approach seriously. The flow of events enables us to see how some groups deploy their resource advantages to fashion governing arrangements to their liking. But no one enjoys a completely free hand; some arrangements are more workable than others. Stone's theory-minded analysis of key events enables us to ask why and what else might be done. Regime Politics offers readers a political history of postwar Atlanta and an elegant, innovative, and incisive conceptual framework destined to influence the way urban politics is studied.

"A fine study that should have a major impact on democratic theory, the study of urban politics, and American race relations. The chapter on 'Rethinking Community Power' alone is worth the price of admission."--Jennifer L. Hochschild, author of What's Fair? America's Beliefs about Distributive Justice

"This book is the best study that we have of the politics of any large city. It is a superb mix of theoretical and empirical analysis."--Stephen L. Elkin, author of City and Regime in the American Republic

CLARENCE STONE is a professor in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland, where he also directs the Urban Education Project. Recipient of the Ralph J. Bunche Award and the APSA's Career Achievement Award, he is the coauthor of Building Civic Capacity: The Politics of Reforming Urban Schools, editor of Changing Urban Education, and coeditor of The Politics of Urban Development.

Facebook button