McGee Young

Associate Professor of Political Science. Ph.D., Syracuse University, 2004.


McGee Young is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. Prof. Young teaches in American politics with a specialty in political organizations and public policy. He is the author of Developing Interests: Organizational Change and the Politics of Advocacy (Kansas 2010). Other publications have appeared in Studies in American Political Development and Polity.


Prof. Young is the Founder and CEO of MeterHero, a software platform for tracking water and energy data. He was a winner of the Midwest Social Innovation Prize, a finalist in the Clean Energy Challenge, and his company was selected for the inaugural class of the Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator. Prior to MeterHero, Prof. Young founded H2Oscore, a web-based portal for water utilities to help promote conservation. He previously served as the Faculty Entrepreneur Fellow in the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. In 2014, he was named as one of Milwaukee's "40 under 40" by the Milwaukee Business Journal. Prior to coming to Marquette, he taught at Gettysburg College and New College of Florida and was a Fellow at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs.





Recent Publications


"From Conservation to Environment: The Sierra Club and the Organizational Politics of Change," Studies in American Political Development 22: 183-203.


In the 1950s, the Sierra Club emerged as a leader of the nascent environmental movement. In challenging a proposal to build two dams within the boundaries of Dinosaur National Monument, the Club found its voice as a public advocate for the preservation of wilderness and in the process introduced a new type of politics to old conflicts over conservation. Born out of the Dinosaur dam conflict was a new environmentalism characterized by confrontation with state authorities and emotion-laden appeals to the public for political support. The Sierra Club's success in pioneering these strategies launched it to the forefront of the new movement, elevated its executive director David Brower to icon status among environmentalists, and affirmed the philosophy of Aldo Leopold as the moral compass of the movement. In this essay, I argue that interest group entrepreneurs ought to be considered alongside institutional actors as agents of change within processes of political development. As the case of the Sierra Club demonstrates, the internal organizational politics of a group can be just as important in establishing a trajectory of political development as are processes of policy feedback.


"The Political Roots of Small Business Identity," Polity 40: 436-463.


A divided and largely hapless small business lobby failed to advocate effectively on behalf of small firms in the post-New Deal era. While interest-group scholars have accepted collective action-based arguments for patterns of under-mobilization, this article challenges conventional wisdom by examining historical and institutional causes of small business political fragmentation. It shows a fractured small business community emerging out of the populist era, and subsequent policy developments institutionalizing divisions and rivalries among competing factions. During the New Deal, when opportunities arose to forge a new consensus among small business groups, policymakers instead followed old scripts and reinforced received identities. Consequently, small business never came to occupy an important space in the post-New Deal political order.


Working Papers

"Political Parties and Changing Patterns of Civic Associationalism" (with Kristi Andersen).


In this paper we argue that reforms which weakened party control over patronage jobs and other incentives and thus encouraged the development of interest group politics also had the effect of altering the associational landscape of the U.S. during the early twentieth century. First we trace the rise of civic associationalism and explore ways in which civic groups used links to political parties to mobilize new recruits. Next we identify changes in the legal context within which parties operated. We suggest that a replacement effect occurred as entrepreneurial organizers and potential members assayed the opportunities available, in this changing context, beginning in the late 1890s and into the early 20th century. Whereas fraternal organizations had comprised most of the new associations in the preceding era, new business, professional and labor groups would begin to outnumber fraternal groups by an increasing margin once the tide of political reform had attenuated the benefits that parties could provide and thus weakened the connections, at the local level, between parties and traditional fraternal groups. This argument is supported by analysis of data on organizations in 14 cities across the U.S. between 1880 and 1920, and by case studies of Milwaukee, Boston, and San Francisco.


"The Price of Advocacy: Mobilization and Maintenance in Advocacy Organizations"


In the late 1960s, growing awareness of environmental issues spurred the creation of scores of new environmental organizations. In the subsequent decade, these groups took part in writing or rewriting nearly all of the nationís environmental statutes. The leading advocacy organizations took on different forms: Earth Action followed Senator Gaylord Nelsonís (D-WI) lead in trying to organize students on college campuses; the Sierra Club led conservation lobbying efforts in Washington D.C.; and local groups formed coalitions of citizens to clean up their towns and neighborhoods. Some local groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, grew beyond their particular issue to become active on wide-ranging national environmental issues. One particularly influential advocacy organization was the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Of all the groups that emerged out of the environmental fervor of the late 1960s, none surpassed the NRDC in scope, effectiveness, or importance in establishing guidelines for environmental protection. Soon after being founded in 1970, NRDC established itself as the leading environmental litigation organization in the country and its lawsuits both clarified and expanded the regulatory scope of federal authority. The NRDC story provides a window into one of the central questions of the study of interest groups: how does the political environment, coupled with the material and normative motives of advocacy organization entrepreneurs, influence the supply of advocacy? This essay examines the formation of NRDC, the development of its organizational structure, and its relationship with other similar environmental organizations. It deploys the NRDC case study in pursuit of an alternative theoretical formulation of the collective action problem facing advocacy organizations. It borrows theoretical constructs from theories of firm behavior to advance our understanding of advocacy organization behavior.


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