Who Counts as an American?: The Boundaries of National Identity

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Cambridge University Press, Jul 27, 2009 - Political Science
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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.

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About the author (2009)

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 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 Best Book in Political Psychology Prize in 1996. A second book written with John Hibbing, Stealth Democracy: AmericansBeliefs about How Government Should Work (Cambridge, 2002), was named an utstanding Academic Titleby 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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