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Rivalry and Reform

Presidents, Social Movements, and the Transformation of American Politics

Rivalry and Reform

Presidents, Social Movements, and the Transformation of American Politics

Few relationships have proved more pivotal in changing the course of American politics than those between presidents and social movements. For all their differences, both presidents and social movements are driven by a desire to recast the political system, often pursuing rival agendas that set them on a collision course. Even when their interests converge, these two actors often compete to control the timing and conditions of political change. During rare historical moments, however, presidents and social movements forged partnerships that profoundly recast American politics.

Rivalry and Reform explores the relationship between presidents and social movements throughout history and into the present day, revealing the patterns that emerge from the epic battles and uneasy partnerships that have profoundly shaped reform. Through a series of case studies, including Abraham Lincoln and abolitionism, Lyndon Johnson and the civil rights movement, and Ronald Reagan and the religious right, Sidney M. Milkis and Daniel J. Tichenor argue persuasively that major political change usually reflects neither a top-down nor bottom-up strategy but a crucial interplay between the two. Savvy leaders, the authors show, use social movements to support their policy goals. At the same time, the most successful social movements target the president as either a source of powerful support or the center of opposition. The book concludes with a consideration of Barack Obama’s approach to contemporary social movements such as Black Lives Matter, United We Dream, and Marriage Equality.
 

Read the first chapter.


400 pages | 1 line drawing, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Political Science: American Government and Politics

Reviews

“In their timely and deeply illuminating book, Milkis and Tichenor examine the ‘uneasy partnerships’ between presidents and social movements, which have transformed the nation during key junctures in American history. Rivalry and Reform makes a critical intervention in the debate about ‘top down’ versus ‘bottom up’ social change. This important book is essential reading for these turbulent times.”

Cybelle Fox, University of California, Berkeley

“Presidents are not natural allies for social movements, but when their ambitions coincide, the political effects can be of first order significance. In their penetrating analysis of this delicate relationship, Milkis and Tichenor provide a guide to the future, for interactions like these are bound to figure more prominently in the years to come.”

Stephen Skowronek, Yale University

Rivalry and Reform is that rare book that will be of interest to scholars of the presidency and APD but at the same time attract a broader reading public. Well written and original, it’s an important contribution to the field of presidential studies, one that will be widely read and discussed.”

Richard Ellis, Willamette University

“Milkis and Tichenor rightly note that the study of movements and politics sometimes falls between disciplinary and subdisciplinary cracks in sociology and political science. Their most welcome book is a powerful argument to jump the cracks and focus on interactions between movements and more conventional institutional politics, particularly the presidency. Reading broadly in social movement theory, and deeply in the cases they present, the authors have opened a wide area of inquiry and provided a substantial first step that is sure to inspire and inform a new generation of scholars.”

David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine | Perspectives on Politics

"The book shows that the modern presidency, with its growing relationship to movement organizations, has been a critical factor both in weakening parties and in exacerbating partisanship."

Contemporary Sociology

"Rivalry and Reform is especially enlightening because it considers one set of movements on the political left and another on the right, showing how similarities and differences between the two were affected by who their supporters were and how difficult it was to gain access to presidents. Milkis and Tichenor break down boundaries not only between subdisciplines, but between the study of seemingly very different movements as well."

Mobilization

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

One / Presidents, Social Movements, and Contentious Change: Some Theoretical Foundations
Two / The Crucible: Lincoln and the Abolitionist Movement
Three / The Wayward Path: Presidents and Civil Rights, 1901–1945
Four / “Joining the Revolution”: Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Movement
Five / Protestant Rearguard: Presidents, Christian Conservatives, and the Modern State
Six / Building a Movement Party: Ronald Reagan and the New Christian Right
Seven / Executive Power, Social Movements, and American Democracy in a Polarized Age

Notes
Index

Awards

Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards
Won

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