This chapter introduces the core question of the book—how does reliance on rights, courts, and litigation in public policy shape politics?—and argues that this question implies a comparison of the politics of “judicialization” versus “non-judicialization.” The key to this comparison lies in identifying policies in the same issue area with different structures—adversarial legal policies versus bureaucratic legal policies. The chapter introduces the book's “comparative developmental approach”, which traces bureaucratic and adversarial legal policies over time from creation to expansion and attempted retrenchment. The book shows that many of the standard political criticisms of adversarial legalism—that it crowds out other forms of advocacy, that it creates path dependence, and that it engenders a polarizing backlash—are overstated. Instead, the book argues, adversarial legalism tends to individualize politics, resulting in a more fractious politics as compared to bureaucratic legalism.
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