Jack Pitney has written a splendid account of what he calls the politics of autism. The subtitle accurately conveys Pitney's convictions in this policy world—an arena of extraordinary complexity and conflict for those navigating within it.

The book is a revealing example of one mode of understanding the policy politics of any substantive area. One way is to describe the actors central to the topic's decision-making and what role they played in the legislative, judicial, or executive institutions of American government. Another analytic mode relies on the “stages” of activity to organize the sources of policy ideas and what happened from identifying problems to assessing the actions taken. Still another is construing the topic as the policy politics of a substantive industry: medical care, agriculture, defense, and so on. The assumption here is that a study of a policy in a...

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