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Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Post-War America

By any measure, the United States has not been more divided politically or economically in the last hundred years than it is now. How have we gone from the striking bipartisanship and relative economic equality of the post–World War II period to the extreme inequality and savage partisan divisions of today? In this talk, Stanford sociologist Douglas McAdam will seek to answer this question. He will argue that party politics alone is not responsible for the mess we find ourselves in. Instead, it was the ongoing interaction of social movements and parties that, over time, pushed Democrats and Republicans toward their ideological margins, undermining the postwar consensus in the process. The civil rights struggle and the white backlash it provoked reintroduced the centrifugal force of social movements into American politics, ushering in an especially active and sustained period of movement and party dynamism. Today’s tug of war between the Tea Party and the Republican establishment for control of the GOP is only the most recent example of this process. But economic inequality and political polarization are not the only significant trends in the contemporary United States. In July 2014, former President Jimmy Carter stunned an audience in Atlanta when he declared that “America no longer has a functioning democracy.” Even allowing for a bit of exaggeration, this is a third trend in the US that has not received sufficient attention. McAdam will close his talk by documenting some of the current threats to the health and well-being of American democracy and the things we can do to counteract the trend. Douglas McAdam, Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology, Stanford
Douglas McAdam’s two main areas of research are the study of social movements and the racial politics in the United States. Among his best-known books are Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930–1970, and Freedom Summer. His latest book, Deeply Divided, seeks to explain the origins of the deep political, economic, and racial divisions that are so evident in the US today. He was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and received a PhD from the State University of New York at Albany.



Thursday, January 28, 2016. 07:30 PM


CEMEX Auditorium, Knight Management Center


Continuing Studies




Free; no advance registration required