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Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan Hardcover – 1 Jan 1990

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press (1 Jan. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 002922795X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029227954
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.6 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,398,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Washington Post Remains brilliant, significantly strengthened and enlarged.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Our most brilliant commentator on the Presidency brings his diagnosis up to date in this witty, inclusive and stylish book.

Aaron Wildavsky University of California, Berkeley Savvy, insightful political portraits of recent presidents, including Ronald Reagan, in relation to what is still the contemporary classic on the Presidency.

Representative Stephen J. Solarz New York An operational Bible for Presidents and their staffs, and an indispensable Baedeker for those who seek to understand both.

Fred I. Greenstein Princeton University Neustadt's book remains the classic account of presidential leadership, and the latest edition has a bonus -- two fascinating new chapters.

Paul E. Peterson Harvard University The discussion of Iran-Contra reveals how profound was Dick Neustadt's original intepretation of Presidential power.

Charles O. Jones University of Wisconsin He is so much in command that he doesn't have to tell all. A personal characteristic, a response, an insight -- and soon you see what he sees.

Clark M. Clifford For thirty years, Presidential Power has influenced students of the Presidency -- from the quiet comers of the White House to college and university compuses across the nation. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard E. Neustadt is Douglas Dillon Professor of Government Emeritus at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. For three decades an advisor to presidents, their aides, and to members of the cabinet, he is also the author with Ernest R. May of Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (The Free Press, 1986). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Absolutely essential reading for any student of American politics & political history. In addition, the book can be considered as something of a bible for those seeking to understand the nature of power and influence. The language is, understandably, a bit less accessible than some more recent publications, but don't let that put you off - it is worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback
I can only added to the multitude of praise already heaped onto this work of great scholarship. Neustadt's classic text carefully leads the reader into the maze-like corridors of American political power and his careful analysis of FDR through to Reagan is masterful and elegantly argued. An absolute must for any serious scholar of contemporary American politics, with special relevance to current incumbent of the White House.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As if it were untouched.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars 14 reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of three seminal works on the Presidency 25 April 2000
By J. Hauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Neustadt's book describes one of three theories about Presidents. Everyone knows that there is a balance of power between the judiciary, the legislative and the executive branches. Neustadt claims that the President is the weak leg of the stool and that he is unable to govern alone. He must use his powers of persuasion in order to convince the other branches of the government to do his bidding.
As part of a graduate program in political science with a concentration on the United States, you will read this book. If you don't, I am happy to go out on a limb and say that there is something wrong with your program!
This is one of the three seminal works available on the Presidency. There are others but this is one of the big guns. If you read this book, along with Corwin's "Presidential Power" and Rossiter's "The American Presidency", you'll understand all three theories of presidential power: the weak President (Neustadt), the strong President (Corwin) and the President wearing many hats (Rossiter). In reality, all three are correct.
It's interesting but a scholarly read. It's not a book you'd pick up for light after dinner reading.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't stop half way through 6 April 1999
By Adam Glesser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
About half of the way through the book, Neustadt seemed to be saying the same things over and over again. I almost stopped reading. However the incredible tidbits of advice in the first half encouraged me to continue. It was certainly worth it. The last 5 or 6 chapters were written over the period between the Kennedy assasination and the end of the Reagan Administration, allowing Neustadt to ammend many of his ideas from the first 8 chapters (originally published in 1960) making the book far more lively. A wonderful read for those with a weak knowledge of the last 50 years. If you know a lot about the Korean War, Bay of Pigs, or Iran-Contra, the book may be a little too much review. Otherwise it is fabulous.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Machiavelli in the White House 24 Mar. 2004
By John C. Mckee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is indeed one the classics in the field of presidential studies. Neustadt's contribution, although somewhat commonsensical at first glance, is that despite the huge increase in formal powers that the president has acquired over the years, the most fundamental power the president possesses is the power to persuade.
The president must persuade other independently elected officials to do as he sees fit. This, in a city such as Washington DC where people have seen powerful politicians come and go over the years, is easier said than done. The president must be attuned to the nuances of political issues and not allow himself to become cut off from the political back and forth by his retinue of aides. He must retain the prerogative of making the final political decision and avoid becoming a clerk and simply ratifying the decisions made form by the staff and the bureaucracy. Further, he must define what is in his political self interest.
The president does so by keeping himself informed, by employing a system of information that allows him to be at the center and making real decisions; and by carefully husbanding the power and carefully cultivating the image of the president. While the president does posses the power to command, instances where he must rely on command are a prima facie failure of persuasion.
Finally, the president must ensure that others understand his power. He must be able to strike a modicum of fear into both his allies and his foes. In the political sense, this means the ability to hurt someone electorally. If I as the president can campaign against you and make it stick, you will be more likely to fear me and be persuaded by my requests.
This is not an easy read, but if you are involved as a student of politics you WILL read this book at some point. A classic and well worth the effort.
John C. McKee
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE Essential Modern Day Presidential Book 22 Aug. 1998
By Jack Lechelt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Apparently this is THE book to read if one desires to get a feel for the modern day presidency. In any other presidential book, one will see Neustadt's referred to quite often. As a realist, he describes the presidency not in terms of how it was designed by the framers. Neither does he describe the Constitutional process of accomplishing policy objectives. Neustadt explains that the truly effective president uses his position of authority to persuade others. FDR, Neustadt's shining example, knew how to work with people and get them to do his bidding. Downfall (and perhaps because I am no brain surgeon): but the book was sometimes tough to follow, hence it is often boring. Oh well, perhaps the true intellectuals will grasp it all. A DEFINITE FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO UNDERSTAND AMERICAN GOVT!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seperated Institutions, Shared Powers 11 Oct. 2009
By Matthew P. Arsenault - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The United States is a "government of separated institutions sharing powers" (29). Because of this sharing of power, each actor is not beholden to the will of the other. Rather, actors have individual interests they are pursuing. As such, the power of the president does not stem from some of dictatorial decree, but rather from his ability to persuade. The president has status and authority to help him persuade. Status lies in his holding of office, while authority refers to the incentives and punishments at his disposal. However, other actors in Washington also have incentives and punishments and his disposal. However, other actors in Washington also have incentives and punishments. This leads to the necessity of bargaining and persuasion. As such, the president has to negotiate with various competing interests; Congress, unions and business, political parties, etc. The powers of these various actors can change with personality, time, and circumstances, and as such, the power of the president can fluctuate. "The essence of a President's persuasive task, with congressmen, and everybody else, is to induce them to believe that what he wants of them is what their own appraisal of their own responsibilities requires of them to do in their interest, not his" (40).

Neustadt contends that a president's ability to reduce the risks of failure and maximize his ability to persuade is closely related to the choices he makes. The choices that president's make must always be made if reference to expanding and protecting presidential power. Neustadt claims that presidential power - the power to persuade - stems from his professional reputation in Washington, and his prestige with the public.

A president's reputation is crucial to his bargaining position. Those people who the president must persuade are constantly watching the president's reactions to any given situation. They are weighing how profitable cooperation could be, and how problematic conflict could be. This allows them to predict presidential behavior in the future. They are looking for patterns of behavior. If the president is seen as weak, they are unlikely to cooperate. As such, the president's goal regarding reputation "should be to induce as much uncertainty as possible about the consequences of ignoring what he wants...[and] to minimize the insecurities of possible support" (55). These goals, again, are accomplished though the choices and decisions a president makes.

Public prestige also plays a crucial role in the president's power to persuade. Those who interact with the president need to think about how the public at large feels about the president in addition to his professional reputation. They need to anticipate how the public will feel about the president in gauging their interaction with him. If the president is unpopular, he is likely to face resistance, and vice versa. Prestige is often found outside of Washington, while reputation is found inside. As such, in order to protect or expand his prestige, the president has to go to the source, the public.

People's perceptions of the president can change rapidly. People view the performance of the president based on their current circumstances. Because the president does not have control over events, he must be an effective teacher. That is, the president must "illuminate" his actions in order to overcome the misperceptions of the public. Again, the choices the president makes - what he does, what he will do - protect his influence.

In short, the president's power to persuade stems from three sources: the bargaining advantages that stem from his position as president, the expectations of others regarding his ability to use incentives and punishments, and lastly, other actors perceptions of the president's public prestige. These all stem from the decisions the president makes. He is judged by his actions, and as such, his choices are the key to his power. The president must always weigh the effects of choices on his personal power, if he wants to be successful. In order to make good choices, he must have good information and time to weigh his options.
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