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Transformative Bureaucracy

Reagan's Lawyers and the Dynamics of Political Investment
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This article is forthcoming in Studies in American Political Development, April 2009

Previous work in law and political development has emphasized the role that a "support structure" in civil society plays in translating electoral success into legal outcomes. This paper claims that legal change can also work in the other direction—political appointees in government can use their power to assist their allies in civil society. Drawing on in-depth interviews and archival materials, this paper shows how, especially under Attorney General Meese, the Reagan Department of Justice invested in the ideas (through its support of originalism), organizations (especially the Federalist Society) and personnel of the conservative legal movement, and reorganized itself to give these longer-term objectives more importance in the department. These investments add up to a case of "transformative bureaucracy": the use of bureaucratic power to transform the conditions of future political conflict.

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