From Power To Prejudice: The Rise Of Racial Individualism In Midcentury America

Paperback | September 9, 2016

byLeah N. Gordon

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Americans believe strongly in the socially transformative power of education, and the idea that we can challenge racial injustice by reducing white prejudice has long been a core component of this faith. How did we get here? In this first-rate intellectual history, Leah N. Gordon jumps into this and other big questions about race, power, and social justice.
            To answer these questions, From Power to Prejudice examines American academia—both black and white—in the 1940s and ’50s. Gordon presents four competing visions of  “the race problem” and documents how an individualistic paradigm, which presented white attitudes as the source of racial injustice, gained traction. A number of factors, Gordon shows, explain racial individualism’s postwar influence: individuals were easier to measure than social forces; psychology was well funded; studying political economy was difficult amid McCarthyism; and individualism was useful in legal attacks on segregation. Highlighting vigorous midcentury debate over the meanings of racial justice and equality, From Power to Prejudice reveals how one particular vision of social justice won out among many contenders.

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Americans believe strongly in the socially transformative power of education, and the idea that we can challenge racial injustice by reducing white prejudice has long been a core component of this faith. How did we get here? In this first-rate intellectual history, Leah N. Gordon jumps into this and other big questions about race, powe...

Leah N. Gordon is assistant professor of education and (by courtesy) of history at Stanford University.

other books by Leah N. Gordon

Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:September 9, 2016Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022641941X

ISBN - 13:9780226419411

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“In this carefully designed, exhaustively researched, and persuasively argued book, Gordon reveals the monumentally important but previously occluded history of how social science research on race in the mid-twentieth century came to revolve around questions of prejudice rather than around conditions of power. Gordon shows how foundation funding, the politics of postwar knowledge production, and a rightward drift in the national political culture all worked in concert to promote what she names as racial individualism, an approach that promotes an understanding of racism as private, personal, individual, and aberrant. . . . A tour de force of excellent research, astute analysis, and empirically rich and theoretically broad and persuasive exegesis and argument.”