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Lassiter's Book on Silent Majority Released

19. December 2005 • Ari Paul
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Golden Apple-winning U-M history professor Matthew Lassiter’s new book, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South, is now available.

Lassiter studies the relationship between the suburbanization of America and national politics and culture.

Here’s a look:

Suburban sprawl transformed the political culture of the American South as much as the civil rights movement did during the second half of the twentieth century. The Silent Majority provides the first regionwide account of the suburbanization of the South from the perspective of corporate leaders, political activists, and especially of the ordinary families who lived in booming Sunbelt metropolises such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Richmond.

Matthew Lassiter examines crucial battles over racial integration, court-ordered busing, and housing segregation to explain how the South moved from the era of Jim Crow fully into the mainstream of national currents. During the 1960s and 1970s, the grassroots mobilization of the suburban homeowners and school parents who embraced Richard Nixon’s label of the Silent Majority reshaped southern and national politics and helped to set in motion the center-right shift that has dominated the United States ever since.

The Silent Majority traces the emergence of a “color-blind” ideology in the white middle-class suburbs that defended residential segregation and neighborhood schools as the natural outcomes of market forces and individual meritocracy rather than the unconstitutional products of discriminatory public policies. Connecting local and national stories, and reintegrating southern and American history, The Silent Majority is critical reading for those interested in urban and suburban studies, political and social history, the civil rights movement, public policy, and the intersection of race and class in modern America.

  1. I plan to buy the book. And I don’t just say that because Matt’s grading my final paper right about now.

    And, as long as we’re schilling for the academic community, I’ll point out that Jonathan Levine (my advisor) just had his book come out last week, Zoned Out:Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use

    The book is very friendly to this site’s general view of urban planning: the current state of American land use is in no way the choice of people acting in a free market, but is the result of heavy-handed regulation that prevents what people would do unhindered. Diverse, walkable communities are rare not because people don’t like them, but because they have been forbidden by local regulatory schemes.

    Levine makes a better case that the average New Urbanist – while the new urbanism argues that we should do x, y, and z because it’s “better”, a claim that invites attacking of the evidence and accusations of social engineering, Levine argues that we should do x, y, and z because those are things that decrease traditional social engineering, increase choice, and allow people to seek the conditions that make them happiest.

    It’s a book I’m happy to schill for. No, you can’t borrow my copy; it’s autographed.
       —Murph.    Dec. 20 '05 - 04:48AM    #
  2. I would concur; I haven’t read it but knowing Matt Lassiter it’s probably a terrific book. I took a course from him, argued with him, and learned a lot.
       —JennyD    Dec. 20 '05 - 06:28PM    #
  3. Speaking as a product of the suburban South, that sounds fascinating. It’s be interesting to get an academic perspective on where I come from (seriously—I’m not being facetious).
       —Lazaro    Dec. 20 '05 - 08:32PM    #
  4. Wow, holiday book recommendations from AU just in time! One for me (Levine) and one for someone I know who is moving south (Lassiter) although it seems like it could be used to explain choices made here too (Livonia, Plymouth, Macomb, etc.) Great stuff.
       —Chris F    Dec. 20 '05 - 10:57PM    #
  5. Mark your calendars

    Academic Reception
    Title: The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South
    Author: Matthew Lassiter
    Location: Shaman Drum Bookshop
    Time: Wed Feb 08, 4:00 PM
       —David F    Feb. 6 '06 - 04:34PM    #