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Bitter Harvest
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  • Page extent: 284 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.42 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521653954 | ISBN-10: 0521653959)

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$35.99 (P)

This book argues that modern presidents could learn much from Franklin Roosevelt's method of organizing his presidency. Roosevelt consciously avoided a large, functionally specialized White House bureaucracy. Instead, he developed staff agencies composed mostly of civil servants and personally managed them using competitive administrative practices. Matthew Dickinson is the first scholar to reconstruct the methods FDR used and his research suggests modern presidents could benefit greatly by studying them.


Part I. Presidential Power and Presidential Staff: Concepts and Controversies: Introduction: the fruits of his labor? FDR and the growth of the presidential branch; 1. Bitter harvest: the presidential branch and the Iran-Contra Affair; Part II. From Cabinet to Presidential Government, 1933–1939: 2. Creating the resource gap: bargaining costs and the first New Deal, 1933–1935; 3. The President needs help: the Brownlow Committee frames the Roosevelt Response; Part III. Testing the System: The War Years 1939–1945: 4. Preparing for war: economic mobilization; 5. Managing war production; 6. FDR and the rise of the National Security Bureaucracy; 7. The Commander-in-Chief; Part IV. Lessons and Considerations: 8. Competitive adhocracy: the principles and theoretical implications of FDR's staff use; Epilogue: Roosevelt Redux?: a research agenda; Bibliography.


"Bitter Harvest is a substantive and meaty book. It is well researched, clearly written, well-reasoned and closely argued." H-Net Reviews

"This detailed study of Roosevelt's administrative strategy seeks new insights into how contemporary presidents might derive better service from their advisers by emulating FDR's practices....Dickinson's study may well inaugurate another round of reexaminations focused on FDR." American Political Science Review

"Bitter Harvest is a substantive and meaty book. It is well researched, clearly written, well-reasoned and closely argued." H-Net Reviews

"Dickinson's book is of great value to those interested in FDR, his administrative style, and his unique approach to governing. The insights the author draws are well documented and can serve scholars interested in further developing the area under investigation. Finally, the book does serve as an alternative to those advocating a highly-structured executive branch. The lessons for future presidents are worth noting." Presidential Studies Quarterly

"Dickinson has written a provocative volume whose prescriptions will engage political scientists and those analysis of Roosevelt's policy making will interest New Deal historians....this book is an impressive piece of scholarship thoroughly grounded in the political science secondary literature....this is a thought-provoking study of an important topic." American Historical Review

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