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Who Counts as an American?
The Boundaries of National Identity

  • Date Published: July 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521756952


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About the Authors
  • Why is national identity such a potent force in people's lives? And is the force positive or negative? In this thoughtful and provocative book, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse develops a social theory of national identity and uses a national survey, focus groups, and experiments to answer these important questions in the American context. Her results show that the combination of group commitment and the setting of exclusive boundaries on the national group affects how people behave toward their fellow Americans. Strong identifiers care a great deal about their national group. They want to help and to be loyal to their fellow Americans. By limiting who counts as an American, though, these strong identifiers place serious limits on who benefits from their pro-group behavior. Help and loyalty are offered only to 'true Americans,' not Americans who do not count and who are pushed to the periphery of the national group.

    • Highly accessible look at Americans' attachment to and treatment of their fellow Americans
    • Addresses hot topics in American politics, including Americans' willingness to help fellow Americans, their reactions to criticisms of their national group, the politics of race, the politics of religion, and who counts as an American
    • Uses multiple methods – surveys, focus groups, and experiments – to test Americans' prosocial behavior and their loyalty toward their national group
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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521756952
    • length: 242 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.34kg
    • contains: 16 b/w illus. 11 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The need for a social theory of national identity
    2. Commitment to the national group
    3. The setting of national group boundaries
    4. The desire to help the national group
    5. Loyalty in the face of criticism
    6. Is national identity good or bad?

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Aliens and Citizens: On Being American
    • American Government and Politics
    • American Political Behavior
    • Capstone in Political Psychology
    • Civil and Political Rights of Immigrants
    • Cultural Pluralism and Democratic Governance
    • Graduate Seminar in American Politics
    • Issues in World Politics
    • Political Ideoloy
    • Politics & Identity
    • Politics, Culture, and Identity
    • Seminar in American Politics
    • Studies in World Lit: American Immigrant Literature
  • Author

    Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
    Elizabeth Theiss-Morse is Professor and Chair of Political Science at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she has taught since 1988. She is the co-author of two award-winning Cambridge University Press books: Congress as Public Enemy: Public Attitudes toward American Political Institutions (co-authored with John R. Hibbing), winner of the APSA's Fenno Prize in 1996 for the best book on Congress; and With Malice Toward Some: How People Make Civil Liberties Judgments (co-authored with George E. Marcus, John L. Sullivan and Sandra L. Wood), winner of the APSA's Best Book in Political Psychology Prize in 1996. A second book written with John Hibbing, Stealth Democracy: Americans' Beliefs about How Government Should Work (Cambridge, 2002), was named an 'Outstanding Academic Title' by Choice magazine in 2003. She also co-edited with John Hibbing What Is It About Government that Americans Dislike? (Cambridge, 2001). She has published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Political Psychology, and Political Behavior, among others, and has received five National Science Foundation Grants.

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