Cover: Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class, from Harvard University PressCover: Unmaking the Public University in PAPERBACK

Unmaking the Public University

The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class

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Product Details


$30.00 • £24.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674060364

Publication Date: 04/30/2011


408 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

9 line illustrations, 10 tables


Seriously researched, rich in data… [Unmaking the Public University] excavates a world of ugly facts and unsatisfactory practices that has the gritty look and feel of reality—a reality that has little to do with the glossy hype of world university ratings.—Anthony Grafton, The New York Review of Books

It is not often that even a first-rate scholar and writer manages to delve so deeply into a core problem of his society and time as to come out with an understanding of it that is so complete, so profound—indeed revelatory—as to illuminate the public muddled mind and open the way to recovery. This is what Christopher Newfield has achieved in his book, Unmaking the Public University. The problem in focus is the decline of the American public university… Newfield’s thesis is that this decline has been orchestrated by the American Right who, in the 1970s, got frightened by the democratizing influence higher public education was exerting on the American society. Conservative elites felt threatened by the post–World War II rise of a college-educated economic majority—a mass middle class—and started an assault against it. The Right did not dare to openly attack the economic position of the middle class. Instead, they waged culture wars against it.—Emilia Ilieva, Daily Nation

It is not every day that you get a meticulous analysis of higher education budgetary mechanisms within the same covers as reflections on Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. And the sheer generosity of spirit that underlies Newfield’s rather depressing reflections is deeply attractive.—Alan Ryan, The Times Higher Education Supplement

In a crowd of recent works dedicated to the changing university and its place in society, Newfield’s rich, cogently argued and readable book stands out. This is that rare thing, truly critical history: a solidly researched book that is at once a fine example of the sort of scholarship that the American university still makes possible and a serious argument about the university.—Anthony Grafton, author of The Footnote: A Curious History

Newfield’s argument is original, his evidence varied and rich, and his historical narrative coherent. He situates the university in its broadest social context, and shows that the ‘culture wars,’ far from being a sideshow, have in fact cleverly been fomented by conservatives to reshape the values of the university, the world-view of its graduates, and the economy which it significantly shapes and which shapes it.—David L. Kirp, author of Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education

Awards & Accolades

  • Gold Medal, 2008 ForeWord Book of the Year Award, Education Category
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