Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives

Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives

by Amy J. Binder, Kate Wood
     
 

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Conservative pundits allege that the pervasive liberalism of America's colleges and universities has detrimental effects on undergraduates, most particularly right-leaning ones. Yet not enough attention has actually been paid to young conservatives to test these claims--until now.

In Becoming Right, Amy Binder and Kate Wood carefully explore who

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Overview

Conservative pundits allege that the pervasive liberalism of America's colleges and universities has detrimental effects on undergraduates, most particularly right-leaning ones. Yet not enough attention has actually been paid to young conservatives to test these claims--until now.

In Becoming Right, Amy Binder and Kate Wood carefully explore who conservative students are, and how their beliefs and political activism relate to their university experiences. Which parts of conservatism do these students identify with? How do their political identities evolve on campus? And what do their educational experiences portend for their own futures--and for the future of American conservatism?

Becoming Right demonstrates the power that campus culture has in developing students' conservative political styles and shows that young conservatives are made, not born. Focusing on two universities--"Eastern Elite" and "Western Public"--Binder and Wood discover that what is acceptable, or even celebrated, political speech and action on one campus might be unthinkable on another. Right-leaning students quickly learn the styles of conservatism that are appropriate for their schools. Though they might be expected to simply plug into the national conservative narrative--via media from Fox News to Facebook--college conservatives actually enact their politics in starkly different ways.

Rich in interviews and insight, Becoming Right illustrates that the diverse conservative movement evolving among today's college students holds important implications for the direction of American politics.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this groundbreaking study, Binder and a UC–San Diego assistant professor of sociology, and Wood, a doctoral candidate in that field, examine conservatives on American university campuses. The heart of the study is a collection of interviews in 2008 and 2009 of current students and recent graduates of two pseudonymous universities: Western Public and Eastern Elite. Binder and Wood find that differences in campus cultures, both formal elements created by the institutions and informal elements fostered by the students, are the primary factors in the differences in the students’ behavior. In addition to the interviews of students, the authors also include interviews with staff from national organizations that support campus conservative activity as well as data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. Their study demonstrates that because the much larger Western Public university fosters a sense of anonymity, conservative students there are more likely to choose a provocative approach, whereas the sense of being in a unique community at the Eastern Elite college supports a style of civilized discourse. The use of interviews makes the book a livelier read, but it’s still best suited to a narrow audience of academics and political strategists. (Dec.)
Boston Globe - Glenn Altschuler
In Becoming Right, Amy Binder and Kate Wood provide an in-depth and informative examination of who the conservatives are, the impact of campus culture on the formation of their identities and activist styles, and the implications for the direction of U.S. politics.
Times Higher Education - Alan Ryan
[I]f the intellectual interest of this book is the demonstration of how much influence the kind of university has on its students' political culture, a pleasure for the reader is the revelation of the sheer good nature of so many of the study's interviewees; they come across as pretty muddled on many issues but astonishingly rarely as nasty.
New Republic - Elbert Ventura
A deep dive into the under-examined world of campus conservatives, Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood's book can feel like an anthropological account of a disappearing tribe. . . . Binder and Wood's findings add an important dimension to our understanding of the right. The last two decades have seen historians and political scientists extensively study the rise of conservatism. A trenchant addition to that literature, Becoming Right offers a thick description of the state of college conservatism and explains the factors that shape the student—and, it follows, the citizen. The authors' interrogations leave the promise of a better politics hanging in the air: if Binder and Wood are accurate in their depictions, campus cultures that seek to build a stronger sense of community and ideological tolerance could be one key to a more civil national discourse. The book also enriches our understanding of the right's mentality. . . . Becoming Right yields many valuable insights about the possible future of conservatism. But the vision this illuminating book most vividly conjures is the depressing present of conservatism: ugly, unyielding, and provocative to the point of nihilism.
Orgtheory.net - Fabio Rojas
[A] nice discussion of the larger field of conservative politics and how that affects campus protest. Overall, a solid book and one that's essential to studies of campus politics.
From the Publisher

"[G]roundbreaking."--Publishers Weekly

"A deep dive into the under-examined world of campus conservatives, Amy J. Binder and Kate Wood's book can feel like an anthropological account of a disappearing tribe. . . . Binder and Wood's findings add an important dimension to our understanding of the right. The last two decades have seen historians and political scientists extensively study the rise of conservatism. A trenchant addition to that literature, Becoming Right offers a thick description of the state of college conservatism and explains the factors that shape the student--and, it follows, the citizen. The authors' interrogations leave the promise of a better politics hanging in the air: if Binder and Wood are accurate in their depictions, campus cultures that seek to build a stronger sense of community and ideological tolerance could be one key to a more civil national discourse. The book also enriches our understanding of the right's mentality. . . . Becoming Right yields many valuable insights about the possible future of conservatism. But the vision this illuminating book most vividly conjures is the depressing present of conservatism: ugly, unyielding, and provocative to the point of nihilism."--Elbert Ventura, New Republic

"In Becoming Right, Amy Binder and Kate Wood provide an in-depth and informative examination of who the conservatives are, the impact of campus culture on the formation of their identities and activist styles, and the implications for the direction of U.S. politics."--Glenn Altschuler, Boston Globe

"[I]f the intellectual interest of this book is the demonstration of how much influence the kind of university has on its students' political culture, a pleasure for the reader is the revelation of the sheer good nature of so many of the study's interviewees; they come across as pretty muddled on many issues but astonishingly rarely as nasty."--Alan Ryan, Times Higher Education

"[A] nice discussion of the larger field of conservative politics and how that affects campus protest. Overall, a solid book and one that's essential to studies of campus politics."--Fabio Rojas, Orgtheory.net

"Their book [is an] excellent, engaging, well written, and carefully researched study of the ways culture works in and through schools."--Lisa M. Stulberg, Contexts

"In their important contribution to the scholarship on modern American conservative movement politics, Binder and Wood analyze the varying experiences of conservative student activists on university campuses. The book succeeds on multiple levels."--Choice

"[T]he book is masterfully constructed and extensive in its articulation of the styles of young conservatives and how these diverge into political classes that may share many political beliefs but nevertheless seem worlds apart."--Jeremy Freese, American Journal of Sociology

"[T]his study offers as . . . insight . . . and permits . . . questions to reemerge [that] make this book an important and exciting contribution."--Gregory Smulewicz-Zucker, Critical Sociology

"Becoming Right is a valuable sociological contribution to the scholarship on American conservatism, and a book that should definitely be read by everyone who studies conservatives."--Louis Prisock, Social Forces

"The fact that this study offers as much insight as it does and permits such questions to reemerge makes this book an important and exciting contribution."--Gregory Smulewicz-Zucker, Critical Sociology

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691145372
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
01/06/2013
Series:
Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
422
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author


Amy J. Binder is associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of "Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools" (Princeton). Kate Wood is a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

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