Anger and resentment appear to be playing an increasingly important role in politics, as evidenced by the vociferous opposition to welfare, abortion, and immigrants, and by the rise of the radical Religious Right. The Politics of Denial presents a compelling explanation of these phenomena, providing solid empirical evidence for the role of rigid, harsh childrearing practices in the creation of punitive, authoritarian adult political attitudes. The authors show how political processes in the United States are distorted by the unresolved negative emotions (such as fear, anger, and helplessness) that remain from punitive parenting, and by the politicians and conservative religious leaders who exploit those emotions. Among the many public figures discussed are Patrick Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Ronald Reagan, and Billy Graham.
Michael A. Milburn is Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where Sheree D. Conrad is Senior Lecturer Psychology.
Milburn and Conrad help readers see that the rise of the rightwing politics today is not just about some pendulum swing, some political correction within a society that has veered slightly off course. Instead, as they so ably argue, what is happening is much deeper and much more significant: The Right is tapping into deep historical and personal patterns of denial, social fears, and profound personal pains. And because so much is being denied, cultural discourse about what can be done to change the lives of people who are poor, or who still experience deeply demeaning racism, or even of communities threatened with environmental hazards, is fundamentally stunted.
Ann Withorn, Professor of Social Policy, University of Massachusetts at Boston
Denial of the past damages everyone. The comprehensive scope of The Politics of Denial—religious fundamentalism, authoritarian politics, anti-environmentalism, and other immediate relevant matters—make it indispensable for anyone who wishes to understand American life and thought.
Philip Greven, Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University
This lively and provocative book offers a thoughtful analysis of the impact of unresolved personal issues on public support for dysfunctional, or at least sub-optimal, policies pursued at the governmental level. The Politics of Denial offers important prescriptions for public policy that have dominated the 'marketplace of ideas' in the recent past. I look forward to watching its impact on the intellectual community.
Kathleen Knight, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Houston
This is a powerful book. It convincingly shows the disastrous consequences of harsh, physically and emotionally punitive treatment of children. In a readable and convincing way, the book shows how children who are badly treated are punitive as adults toward their own children, and toward other groups and their members, toward everybody who is not 'us'. Their behavior as parents, as citizens of their country, and participants in its political life, as their actions as leaders is profoundly affected. Every one of us should read this book and then face our responsibility as parents, relatives, teachers, and children to raise children with love and care.
Ervin Staub, Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst; author of The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence and Positive Social Behavior and Morality
Milburn and Conrad have written a very interesting book about the force of denial in our lives and our politics. They range over their field of study, from war to child rearing, offering new and often compelling insights into the role of denial in the way we see and understand ourselves.
Marvin Kalb, Director, Shorenstein Center, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University