University of Chicago Law Review

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This Article advances an explanation of interpretive change--the fact that the Supreme Court frequently changes the nominal formulation of its rules for statutory interpretation, and to some degree changes its actual interpretive practice as well. The prevailing styles of explanation attribute interpretive change to exogenous shocks such as a change in the party composition of the legislature or a string of judicial appointments. The Article criticizes the exogenous explanatory style on methodological grounds, and advances an alternative model that attributes interpretive change to endogenous shifts in the expectations of actors in the interpretive system. In particular, the Article develops a positive cycling model in which legislators and judges develop self-defeating expectations about the behavior of other actors in the lawmaking system, thereby causing a cyclical pattern of continuous mutual adjustment that never reaches a stable equilibrium. The Article concludes with some casual empiricism that is consistent with the cycling model but problematic for the exogenous explanations.