Beyond Political Correctness: Social Transformation in the United States

Beyond Political Correctness: Social Transformation in the United States

Beyond Political Correctness: Social Transformation in the United States

Beyond Political Correctness: Social Transformation in the United States


Why does the right dominate debates on crime, family values, and economic freedom? Why does the left defend divisive aspects of affirmative action, while equivocating on questions of ecology and political empowerment for young people? The answer, Cummings believes, is that too many progressives have avoided politically sensitive issues, condemning themselves to intellectual atrophy and political ineffectiveness.

Cummings clearly is not an advocate for the "self-serving, hypocritical right." But he contends that the left handicaps itself with political correctness, and that frank analysis of taboo topics requires us to move beyond the traditional dichotomy of left and right. With passion and rigor, he argues for a transformation of U.S. culture and institutions that will enable individuals to pursue their vital interests without impinging on the rights of others and undermining the public good.


This book is about political correctness, or PC. It is also about social transformation. It is especially about how political correctness impedes the kind of social change that could greatly improve our country. It is written for students and scholars of politics, for social activists, and for concerned citizens. In the glossary at the end of the book, you will find definitions of key terms such as "political correctness," "progressive," "liberal," and "conservative." These definitions are neither right nor wrong, but are simply the ones I have found most useful in my own thinking. You will notice that particular people you know may fit the generic definitions imperfectly, because few people fit into a single definitional box.

A particular term, for instance "adultism," may push your buttons, perhaps because it feels too PC or anti-PC. Please don't throw the book across the room, as a student of mine did recently with a book I had assigned, but intellectually gird your loins to engage my argument. As I make my "progressive" case against PC, I will take positions that may surprise you. My purpose is not to create a new set of politically correct proposals, but to bring out of the closet and into the light of day some provocative ideas that have been shortchanged by PC. I'd be happy to engage you further at . I enjoy passionate, conscientious disagreement more than casual or unconsidered agreement.

The ideas in this book have been inspired by many thinkers, from Plato and Marx to W.E.B. Du Bois, and Betty Friedan to Christopher Lasch and Jeanne Bethke Elshtain. They have been enriched by the work of many public servants, including my distant relative Blue Jacket, Cesar Chavez, Ina May Gaskin, Clarence Jordan, Ralph Nader, Nellie Story, Norman Thomas, Harriet Tubman, and George Wiley. They also have benefited from my engagement with a generation of students, colleagues, and political activists.

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