David O. Sears
Course Title: Intergroup politics: The tension between general psychological theories and specific historical contexts
Psychologists aspire to general behavioral theories, and in so doing, may give short shrift to specific historical contexts. Our research, though guided by a general psychological theory of symbolic politics, has examined several historical contingencies in American politics. One is the transition in the politics of race in America from the formally egalitarian but pervasively exclusionist North between the Civil War and the end of the 20th century. A second is the realignment of the white South to the Republican Party following the civil rights reforms of the 1960’s. A third is the restoration of massive levels of immigration to the United States beginning in the 1960’s, dominated by heavy flows of peoples of color from Latin America and Asia. A fourth is the major-party candidacy of the first African American president in history. We will also discuss at a more general level the fit between historical contingencies and dominant research paradigms in social psychology.