In Search of the "Racist White Psyche": Racism and the Psychology of Prejudice in American Social Thought, 1930-1960

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Overview

Title
In Search of the "Racist White Psyche": Racism and the Psychology of Prejudice in American Social Thought, 1930-1960
Contributors
Hagel, Jonathan C (creator)
Buhle, Mari (Director)
Gorn, Elliott (Reader)
Campbell, James (Reader)
Brown University. History (sponsor)
Doi
10.7301/Z0J101G2
Copyright Date
2012
Abstract
“In Search of the ‘Racist White Psyche’: Racism and the Psychology of Prejudice in American Social Thought, 1930-1960” traces the efforts of the pioneering generation of American intellectuals and social scientists to understand and combat white racial prejudice. Rejecting long-standing notions that rooted race hatred and conflict in irremediable instincts or drives for racial group preservation, this broad collection of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, and public intellectuals instead constructed new concepts to explain such beliefs and behaviors. Working in response to the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and other racially-inflected social movements in the 1930s, and the Second World War, they sketched out a durable new political fiction—the pathological white racist, possessed of a ‘racist white psyche’—that recast America’s race problems as problems of white racial prejudice. In doing so, they set down many of the key concepts by which Americans would account for white racism in the postwar years, and that remain current down to the present. <br/> <br/> Steeped in new ways of thinking about humanity and human behavior, these intellectuals redefined racial prejudice in terms of culture, history, and psychology. They argued that white racial prejudice formed as the psychological complement of white supremacist social structures; they understood racism as a modern cultural formation akin to mythology; they traced the emotional roots of race prejudice to the universal psychological need for scapegoating; and they identified a particular personality type that developed strong attachments to their prejudices. Taken as a whole, their work made white race prejudice into an individual pathology, a danger to American democracy, and most importantly, a social problem that could be eradicated. At the same time, though, they saw racism as an essentially normal response to the conditions of modern life—a pattern of behavior sanctioned by American culture and called forth by the inequalities of modern capitalist society. Their work set the foundation for how a broad swath of Americans, particularly the growing ranks of those who would attend institutions of higher education and enter the ranks of the professional middle class after the War, came to understand racism.<br/>
Keywords
intellectual history
History
Race
Racism
Prejudices
Psychology
Social sciences
Notes
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2012)
Extent
x, 327 p.

Citation

Hagel, Jonathan C., "In Search of the 'Racist White Psyche': Racism and the Psychology of Prejudice in American Social Thought, 1930-1960" (2012). History Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z0J101G2

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