Wilson Carey McWilliams was born in California and grew up talking politics; his father was Carey McWilliams, the premier analyst of California politics and the long-time editor of The Nation.
He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in political science. He has taught at Oberlin College and Brooklyn College and, since 1970, has been professor of political science at Rutgers University, specializing in American politics and political thought, as well as religion and politics.
His writings include The Idea of Fraternity in America, which won the National Historical Society prize in 1973; in addition, he is a frequent contributor to Commonweal and other journals of opinion.
He has served as secretary and vice-president of the American Political Science Association and received the John Wither- spoon Award for distinguished service to the humanities.