Cover: The Minority Rights Revolution, from Harvard University PressCover: The Minority Rights Revolution in PAPERBACK

The Minority Rights Revolution

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Product Details


$34.00 • £27.95 • €30.50

ISBN 9780674016187

Publication Date: 09/15/2004


496 pages

5-11/16 x 8-7/8 inches

7 tables

Belknap Press


This ambitious book provides a clearly written and detailed historical analysis of the evolution of civil rights law and policy in the post-World War II period.—Kevin Johnson, American Journal of Legal History

Writing mostly from a leftist perspective, Skrentny…presents the definitive account of the minority rights revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Using research and archival materials, as well as interviews with policymakers, he scrutinizes a broad array of civil rights policies, federal legislation, and court decisions regarding African Americans, white ethnics, women, gays and lesbians, the disabled, American Indians, Hispanics, and Asian Americans… This compelling work contributes significantly to the debates on civil rights. For readers of all political persuasions.—Edward G. McCormack, Library Journal

As John Skrentny carefully documents in The Minority Rights Revolution, the transformation of the legal and policy landscape that occurred between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s came about with remarkably little public discussion. While for generations African-Americans fought for equality, after the 1964 Civil Rights Act other groups, including the ill-defined one labeled Hispanics, essentially piggy-backed on their efforts.—David L. Kirp, The Nation

For The Minority Rights Revolution John Skrentny paid his devotions to the gods of the archive (presumably lares like Karl and Max), getting us inside the words of Washington decisionmakers from the triumph of the black civil rights movement in the early and mid-1960s to the collapse of the civil rights model in 1975. With African Americans providing the paradigm of an excluded minority, and a tactical tool kit of remedies, policymakers applied the new thinking to a number of other groups. Skrentny shows why some groups fit easily under the new model whereas others did not. It is a powerful and thought-provoking book… Skrentny’s causal model relies heavily on the power of ideas themselves, or as he quotes Everett Dirksen, ‘No army is stronger than an idea whose time has come.’ Alas, ideas do not spread by themselves. They require armies, figurative if not literal, who believe in them or pursue other goals by spreading them… Sociologists’ allergy to strategy is beginning to cripple us, and only a book as carefully detailed as Skrentny’s will allow an interesting reality to peek through our own paradigms.—James M. Jasper, Qualitative Sociology

[Skrentny] offers a strong and well-supported argument about how a general, permanent change took place in the terms on which different kinds of people ‘belong’ to the American polity… Skrentny’s demonstration of how specific people brought about specific changes is…persuasive.—Edward Countryman, The Washington Post

This path-breaking book puts culture at the center stage of policy studies. Skrentny brilliantly shows that policies pertaining to women, gays and lesbians, the disabled, Hispanics, Asians, and white ethnics were determined by whether these groups were seen as analogous to blacks. The book provides undeniable evidence that shifts in symbolic boundaries between groups were crucial to the remaking of American society over the last forty years.—Michèle Lamont, Princeton University

The Minority Rights Revolution is a magisterial treatment of its subject. Skrentny’s account of the emergence of the official minorities shows the importance of taken-for-granted social meanings-particularly with regard to race-as factors both enabling and constraining the making of public policy.—Glenn C. Loury, author of The Anatomy of Racial Inequality

The Minority Rights Revolution enriches our understanding of enduring puzzles about American democracy: why some weak groups succeed politically while strong ones fail; why politicians respond to certain kinds of pressures and not others; how historical context and contingency shape policy outcomes; and why minority rights and remedies take the forms that they do. Every social revolution needs its careful chronicler; this one is fortunate indeed to have Skrentny.—Peter H. Schuck, Yale Law School

Finally we have a full-length study of the explosive growth of the social regulation for minority ‘rights’ that characterized so much of U.S. politics in the latter part of the twentieth century. Skrentny skillfully combines cultural with institutional analysis to show how and why, for this limited period, Democrats and Republicans joined in a common crusade of policy making. His analysis is full of ironies and offers a fascinating window into our nation’s politics.—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

John Skrentny has written the definitive account of the dramatic expansion of minority rights in America in the 1960s and 1970s. At the core of the book is a fundamental question: who should benefit from policies to remedy past discrimination and ensure equal opportunity? This book is must-reading for those concerned about the past and present of inequality, identity, and social policy in the United States.—Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

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