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The age of Obama

The age of Obama: The changing place of minorities in British and American society

Tom Clark
Robert D. Putnam
Edward Fieldhouse
David Cutts
Edward Fieldhouse
Robert Ford
Daniel J. Hopkins
Yaojun Li
Ceri Peach
Mary Waters
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The age of Obama
    Book Description:

    Drawing on collaborative research from a distinguished team at Harvard and Manchester universities, "The age of Obama" asks how two very different societies are responding to the tide of diversity that is being felt around the rich world. "Guardian" journalist Tom Clark, Robert D. Putnam – best-selling author of "Bowling alone" – and Manchester’s Edward Fieldhouse offer a wonderfully readable account. Like "Bowling alone", "The age of Obama" mixes social scientific rigor with accessible charts and lively arguments. It will be enjoyed by politics, sociology and geography students, as well as by anyone else with an interest in ethnic relations. Injustice, it turns out, still blight lives of many UK and US minorities – particularly African Americans. And there are signs the new diversity strains community life. Yet in both countries, public opinion is running irreversibly in favour of tolerance. That augurs well for the future – and suggests a British Obama cannot be ruled out.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-281-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface and acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. List of Tables, boxes and figures
    (pp. viii-xi)
  5. Notes on the authors and contributors
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. 1 Introduction: the diversity revolution
    (pp. 1-7)

    In electing Barack Obama, the United States has not only chosen a leader who embodies the union of black and white America. It has also selected a President who reflects the ties between established Americans and new arrivals. His white Kansan mother married not only a black man, but a man born abroad. There is no denying that Obama has won real power, but does his arrival also reflect wider change in the treatment of America’s immigrants and minorities? And if so, are similar changes under way in the UK? Or is it true, as Obama suggests, that his story...

  7. 2 Two concepts in two countries: race and migration
    (pp. 8-24)

    Diversity gives rise to some diverse reactions, as the above remarks from the 26thand 39thAmerican presidents reveal. Is it a stepping stone towards a unified country, a destination that requires migrants and minorities to assimilate into the mainstream? Or is the multicultural mosaic, in Jimmy Carter’s phrase, something that should be celebrated in its own right? Such questions are hotly debated in Britain, too – as indeed they are in most societies as they grapple with becoming less uniform. The research this book pulls together can inform such discussions. But to make sense of it we need first to...

  8. 3 Home truths: how minorities live
    (pp. 25-53)

    Had Elvis been English, he would probably never have recordedIn the Ghetto. As it was, he was American, and even in his day concerns about minorities living a life set geographically apart were widespread in the United States. The melting pot myth holds that while newly arrived minorities may find themselves in the rough part of town, they and their children will gradually move into more prosperous places. This myth has a powerful hold, and when it fails to play out, Americans discern a problem.

    Ghettos are no more regarded as something that racial minorities – and in particular African...

  9. 4 The rickety ladder of opportunity: minorities and work
    (pp. 54-71)

    ‘Everything’s free in America’, the Puerto Ricans sing inWest Side Story, before adding: ‘for a small fee in America’. The hope of a better life is, of course, what draws immigrants to the rich world. But making good on that hope very often depends on money, and the means to earn it. This chapter examines the prospects that minorities have of finding work, and of finding good work in particular. Some poor newcomers, resigned to hardship themselves, nonetheless dream that their children might one day do better, and live a more comfortable life. Like their own fortunes, however, such...

  10. 5 Mosaic or cracked vase? Diversity and community life
    (pp. 72-92)

    Where does diversity lead society – towards enlightened co-existence, or mean-spirited fragmentation? Since Voltaire, at least, the question has been debated. Like all questions about diversity, however, it becomes more important as Western societies grow more heterogeneous. Voltaire’s optimistic take on England’s mosaic of religions contrasts with David Goodhart’s anxiety about cultural unravelling in the wake of contemporary migration. In academic argument, each of these two perspectives has long had its counterpart, in theories of ‘contact’ on the one hand and of ‘conflict’ on the other.

    Contact theorists (for instance, Allport, 1954) held that contact with other ethnic groups – more likely...

  11. 6 Distorting mirrors: media framing and political debate
    (pp. 93-111)

    The Conservative slogan in Britain’s 2005 election – ‘Are you thinking what we’re thinking?’ – signalled a cut-the-crap approach and folksy intimacy with the electorate, the strapline equivalent, perhaps, of Vice-Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin’s famous wink during America’s 2008 campaign. But the Tory twist was to add a second slogan: ‘it’s not racist to talk about immigration’. Together, these messages winked at voters that the Conservatives were fed up with taboos that stifled the airing of popular resentment. The second slogan also pulled off the ingenious trick of linking race and migration in the electorate’s mind at the same time as insisting...

  12. 7 Tidal generation: politics and deeper currents in public opinion
    (pp. 112-138)

    Did everything change – or nothing? As the world marvelled at a black family moving into the White House, contrarians argued the detailed election results showed how racialised American politics remained. On their account, Obama won purely because he was a Democrat, and they believe that – as an African American – he won less handily than other Democrats might have done in 2008. After all, his victory came after eight years of a Republican administration that was, by the end, deeply unpopular. The President himself, however, does not see it in such negative terms. As he made plain on election night, he...

  13. 8 Concluding thoughts: making a success of the revolution
    (pp. 139-145)

    Britain and America, in common with rich countries around the world, are becoming more diverse. For the immediate future, the continuation of this trend is inevitable, and so in the coming years both countries will become more diverse still. The arrival of immigrants has conferred many benefits – enriching culture, encouraging economic growth and providing the West with a means to address the rapid ageing of the indigenous population. Whatever the accompanying problems, the pertinent debate is not about whether great diversity is desirable or not, but rather about how society can successfully accommodate what is fast becoming established fact.


  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 146-153)
  15. Index
    (pp. 154-162)