THE NEW AMERICAN DILEMMA: Liberal Democracy and School Desegregation by Jennifer L. Hochschild
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THE NEW AMERICAN DILEMMA: Liberal Democracy and School Desegregation

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Princeton political scientist Hochschild puts school desegregation policy in a large theoretical framework--with a direct challenge to Gunnar Myrdal's 1944 American Dilemma and significant results at various levels. Hochschild has an array of evidence that ""incrementalism""--gradualism, piecemeal change--works poorly, that ""making many simultaneous changes achieves more desegregation goals and avoids more problems."" She can also argue, to some effect, that ""both minorities and Anglos end up worse-off in a half-hearted, restricted, timid--but more popular--'reform' than if nothing had been done."" (Race relations worsen, black self-esteem declines, white flight intensifies.) Her second major contention is that ""pluralism,"" or popular control as represented by ""majority public opinion,"" does not bring about ""better desegregation"" either--""as Myrdal and his fellows believe."" Citizen planning groups not only waste time, they may cause harm--in that the concurrence they foster usually comes ""at the relative expense of minorities."" (In Dallas, ""the businessmen's plan that left out so many minorities also convinced hostile whites to accept busing of seventeen thousand Anglos""--""no mean feat,"" but not an outcome to cheer either.) But even if citizen participation of any kind benefits whites disproportionately (from their higher participation, the greater influence of the ""active and wealthy""), isn't it good for its own sake? Reaching the heart of her theoretical argument, Hochschild's answer is no: citing white non-support for mandatory desegregation, she writes--""if most citizens choose not to grant the rest of the citizens their full rights, then perhaps democracy must give way to liberalism."" (Subsequently: ""By liberalism I mean rights."") We now have three choices, as she sees it. We might ""muddle along""; we might abandon mandatory desegregation, and seek ""viable alternatives""; or, Hochschild's preference, we might ""decide to retain our goal of eradicating racism through school desegregation and will the means necessary to that end."" The ""trauma"" is worth venturing, she argues: blacks benefit, white discomfort lessens, the Southern public (""strange but true""), with most experience of integrated schools, is more supportive of integration. The discussion of race relations goes deeper--""Do whites really not hold the ideals that Myrdal attributes to them?"" Is racism an anomaly? Important 30 years after Brown, and provocative wherever Hochschild's sharp, darting intellect alights.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1984
ISBN: 0300031149
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press