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.
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.
"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
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 2: Who Are Conservative Students? 29
Chapter 3: Sponsored Conservatism: The Landscape of National Conservative Organizations 76
Chapter 4: How Conservatives Think about Campus: The Effects of College Reputations, Social Scenes, and Academics on Student Experience 113
Chapter 5: Provoking Liberals and Campaigning for Republicans: Two Conservative Styles at the Western Public Universities 161
Chapter 6: Civilized Discourse, Highbrow Provocation, and a Fuller Embrace of Campaigning: Three Conservative Styles at Eastern Elite University 213
Chapter 7: Conservative Femininity 270
Chapter 8: The Theory behind the Findings: How Studying College Conservatives Extends Our Understanding of Higher Education, Politics, and Culture 309
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Amy J. Binder: