Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $7.72
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 85%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (15) from $7.72   
  • New (4) from $45.44   
  • Used (11) from $7.72   


"Peter Schrag is the model for all political writers. He is committed, passionate, and eloquent, but always stays harnessed to the facts and rooted in the realities of politics and human nature. He reports out everything, and he writes like a dream. We can be grateful that in Not Fit for Our Society he has turned his gifts to the seemingly intractable problem of immigration. We will have to settle this issue again, as we always manage to do despite enormous commotion and anxiety. Schrag will force everyone to think more clearly and to approach immigration with both compassion and good sense."—EJ Dionne, Jr., author of Souled Out

"Just who is fit to be part of the society that became a nation in 1776 and who decides, and on what basis? In Not Fit for Our Society, Peter Schrag offers an invigorating, well-informed, carefully reasoned investigation into today's immigration debates."—David Hollinger, President of the Organization of American Historians, 2010-2011

"Peter Schrag has a unique view of the immigration debate and policies that have shaped our country since it's founding. His very timely writing of Not Fit for our Society helps us to better understand how the immigration debate and politics have gotten us to where we are today. His insights and intellect on the subject give all of us much to think about as we move forward on this very important issue."—Doris O. Matsui, Member of Congress

"Peter Schrag has done it again. A sweeping review that puts the ferocity of our current immigration debate in historical context, Not Fit for Our Society is a must-read for those hoping to get past talk-show rhetoric and cherry-picked facts. Uncovering the dark impulses that have long undergirded nativist thought, he argues that we have seen this before—and that America will be better if we see through it again."—Manuel Pastor, University of Southern California

"Peter Schrag offers a lively and thoughtful reinterpretation of America's ambivalence about immigration and immigrants' place in the nation's life. Drawing on his reading of primary sources and the latest scholarship, he tells a story rich in irony, detail, and nuance, tracing the history of nativism from the earliest days of the Republic to the current debates over immigration reform. The book is particularly striking for the way that it connects the arguments and organizations of the current anti-immigration movement to their roots in the eugenics movement and pseudo-scientific racism of the early 20th century."—Mark Paul, New America Foundation

"[Schrag] delivers a story rich in irony, detail, and nuance, often told with passion and frequently challenging orthodoxies of both the political right and left. It is the right book at the right time."-Mark Paul, New America Foundation

"History's lessons come through loud and clear as Peter Schrag vividly recounts the characters and the ideas behind that side of America that rejects immigration. Illuminating both in its sweep and its detail this 300-year narrative makes an important contribution to our understanding of today's policy debates."—Roberto Suro, author of Strangers Among US: Latino Lives in a Changing America

"In an intemperate time, Peter Schrag's voice is lucid and truly American."—Richard Rodriguez

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schrag (Paradise Lost) offers a scholarly history of the political movements that have sought to restrict immigration to the U.S. since its founding—from the 19th-century Know-Nothing Party through the years of American eugenics “research” that vastly influenced the Nazis in the years leading up to WWII. He points out how the same anti-immigration and anti-immigrant arguments have been recycled across generations: most notably the idea that certain groups—be they the Irish, Jews, Chinese, or Mexicans—were “inassimilable.” Though he doesn't provide any especially new insights, Schrag has assembled a fine history of nativist movements and the reasons why their rhetoric has been so seductive at particular points in history. The book would have been well-served had Schrag devoted more time to untangling the provocative idea he concludes with: that rather than “becoming white” and thus acceptable—the path trod by previous generations of European and Jewish immigrants—today's Latino and Asian immigrants may be shifting the paradigm and derailing the very mechanism that keeps the U.S. on a locked pattern of exclusion and race-based fearmongering against new immigrants. (May)
San Francisco Chronicle

“An exquisite rendition of America's long history of immigration and anti-immigrant backlashes.”
Boston Globe

“Astutely teases out perennial contradictions.”
The Historian - Dorothee Schneider

“This is a remarkably compact survey . . . Not Fit for Our Society is an important addition, even on a crowded bookshelf.”
Contemporary Sociology

“Tells the story of xenophobia in a fresh way and reminds us of how multifaceted it has been.”

“With an easy, direct writing style, the author has created a noteworthy intellectual rumination on the nature of anti-immigrant sentiment in the US.”
Journal Of American History

“This is a very pleasant book about a very unpleasant subject.”
Journal Of Democracy - Ray Suarez

“Lays out a gripping history . . . . Sets the scene for the new immigration battles about to be staged on Capitol Hill and across the country.”

“With an easy, direct writing style, the author has created a noteworthy intellectual rumination on the nature of anti-immigrant sentiment in the US.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520259782
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 299
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Schrag, for many years the editorial page editor and later a weekly columnist for the Sacramento Bee, currently contributes to The Nation, Harper's, The Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of several books, including Paradise Lost and California: America's High-Stakes Experiment (both from UC Press) and Final Test: The Battle for Adequacy in America's Schools. Peter Schrag is the 2010 winner of the Carey McWilliams Award from the California Studies Association.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Sources and Acknowledgments


1. A City upon a Hill
2. “This Visible Act of Ingurgitation”
3. “Science” Makes Its Case
4. Preserving the Race
5. The Great Awhitening
6. “They Keep Coming”
7. A Border without Lines



Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 31, 2010

    The long strange career of American nativism

    Peter Schrag's book combines deep reporting and analysis of the current debate over immigration with the historical scholarship on nativism. The result is the best and most engaging overview of the subject since John Higham's "Strangers in the Land." Lucid and rich in irony, this book delivers a strong narrative held together by Schrag's themes and propelled both by the play of ideas and his mini-portraits of the many characters that show up along the way. It deserves to be widely read and discussed by all those involved -- citizens, policy makers, journalists, public officials -- in the debate about immigration reform.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)