Theodore Lowi, Zealous Scholar of Presidents and Liberalism, Dies at 85

“Lowi’s scientific personality was a unique mix of extraordinary empirical knowledge and bold theoretical vision,” Ilter Turan, the president of the international association, said in a statement.

In his seminal study of liberalism — philosophical rather than political — Professor Lowi wrote that “modern liberalism has left us with a government that is unlimited in scope but formless in action,” a government that “can neither plan nor achieve justice because liberalism replaces planning with bargaining and creates a regime of policy without law.”

He argued that special-interest politics began during the New Deal and fragmented power further with the decline of the two-party system “to replace elected representation with interest groups as proxies for citizen participation.” Those groups, he wrote, could paralyze government and thwart the popular will.

Critiquing Professor Lowi’s “The Personal President” in The New York Times Book Review in 1985, Hendrik Hertzberg praised “The End of Liberalism” as an “influential and highly original work” and summed up “The Personal President” this way:

“Mr. Lowi shrewdly describes the presidency as an increasingly ‘plebiscitary’ office. Its occupant uses television and polls to commune directly with the masses, bypassing such mediating institutions as Congress and the political parties. Having given our presidents big power, we expect big things of…

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