The United States: Divided Leadership

  • Robert Elgie
Part of the Comparative Government and Politics book series (CGP)


In 1787, the Founding Fathers of the United States created a political system in which power was dispersed among the various levels of government and among the various branches of the central government. Rather than being concentrated in one level, power was divided between the federal government at the central level and state governments at the subcentral level. Moreover, at the federal level, power was divided among the three branches of government, executive, legislature and judiciary, according to the twin principles of the separation of powers and checks and balances. That is to say, each of the three branches of the federal government was given both its own set of constitutional powers and powers to limit the actions of each of the other two branches of government as well. In a seminal book, Richard Neustadt characterised this system as one of ‘a government of separated institutions sharing powers’ (Neustadt, 1965, p. 33). More recently, Charles O. Jones has classified the system as ‘a government of separated institutions competing for shared power’ (Jones, C. O., 1990, p. 3). Whatever the classification, in the American system of government leadership responsibilities are divided between representatives in the various, separated institutions. In this respect, the US leadership environment more closely resembles its German counterpart than either its British or French equivalent.


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Copyright information

© Robert Elgie 1995

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  • Robert Elgie

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