Ethnocentrism and Politics

Two years ago I reviewed the book Us Against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion by Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam. Given that we are in the midst of an election year I thought I'd bring this research back to your attention. The effects of ethnocentrism upon American political life should be of concern to every follower of Jesus.

Kinder and Kam define ethnocentrism as generalized prejudice, the propensity to separate the world into in-groups and out-groups. From Us Against Them:

...ethnocentrism is an attitude that divides the world into two opposing camps. From an ethnocentric point of view, groups are either "friend" or they are "foe." Ethnocentrism is a general outlook on social difference; it is prejudice broadly conceived.

We define ethnocentrism to be a way of thinking that partitions the world into in-groups and out-groups--into us and them.
Ethnocentrism is the psychological tendency to separate our social worlds into "us" and "them." As a part of this process we attribute virtue to people similar to ourselves and vice to out-group members, people from different ethnic groups, nations, socioeconomic strata or belief systems. More, given these attitudes we are ready to help in-group members and thwart out-group members:
Ethnocentrism is a mental habit. It is a predisposition to divide the human world into in-groups and out-groups. It is a readiness to reduce society to us and them. Or rather, it is a readiness to reduce society to us versus them. This division of humankind into in-group and out-group is not innocuous. Members of in-groups (until they prove otherwise) are assumed to be virtuous: friendly, cooperative, trustworthy, safe, and more. Members of out-groups (until they prove otherwise) are assumed to be the opposite: unfriendly, uncooperative, unworthy of trust, dangerous, and more. Symbols and practices become objects of attachment and pride when they belong to the in-group and objects of condescension, disdain, and (in extreme cases) hatred when they belong to out-groups. Ethnocentrism constitutes a readiness to act in favor of in-groups and in opposition to out-groups...
What does it mean to say ethnocentrism is generalized prejudice? We tend to think prejudice is group specific, and it can be. For example, one might have very negative feelings about a particular out-group (e.g., Whites, Blacks, gays, Muslims, etc.). However, the research on ethnocentrism has revealed that prejudices tend to cluster together. Thus, if we hear a person make a comment about blacks on welfare we can make a good guess about where this person stands on gay marriage or immigration reform.

What are the sources of ethnocentrism? In Us Against Them Kinder and Kam show evidence that ethnocentrism, across ethnic groups, is generally uncorrelated to various political positions (e.g., party identification, views on limited government). Among Whites there are some slight trends. Among whites ethnocentrism is, albeit weakly, correlated with political conservatism, a distaste for egalitarianism (e.g., social welfare to produce "fairness"), social distrust, and a desire for a more limited government. Generally, however, ethnocentrism is a force in American life that is distinct from other, more commonly discussed, political variables. Consequently, ethnocentrism needs to be examined as a political force in its own right if we are going to get a true and accurate sense of the dynamics involved in American policy debates.

Interestingly, ethnocentrism declines with increasing education. The most important factor appears to be college education. As Kinder and Kam summarize the data: "Based on these results, it would seem that education, and especially the experience associated with higher education, build tolerance and erode ethnocentrism."

The bulk of of Us Against Them is devoted to examining how ethnocentrism influences how certain Americans approach various policy issues and hot button topics. Kinder and Kam are keen to note that ethnocentrism does not have an effect on every political topic. Rather, ethnocentrism is activated when a particular political issue, or a media framing of the issue, is presented as an "us against them" conflict. Sadly, this "us against them" frame fits many of the issues currently facing America. Thus, while ethnocentrism doesn't affect every political debate is does influence public opinion on a wide variety of topics. In Part 2 of Us Against Them in Chapters 4-10 Kinder and Kam use two different measures of ethnocentrism to predict attitudes on a variety of political topics. Summarising, ethnocentrism predicts the following:

  1. An aggressive, hawish foreign policy stance.
  2. Less empathy for foreign civilian casualties in America's wars (e.g., the deaths of Iraqi women and children in the War on Terror).
  3. Less support for foreign aid and assistance.
  4. Support for anti-immigration policies and protective measures to preserve "our American" culture from the effects of immigration.
  5. Opposition to gay rights.
  6. Opposition to policies, such as affirmative action, aimed at redressing historic inequalities between blacks and whites.
  7. Opposition to means-tested welfare (i.e., programs for low-income persons) such as Food Stamps or Medicaid.
  8. Support for social insurance welfare, such as Social Security and Medicare.
The contrast between these last two are the most interesting to me given my particular and, I'd argue, non-partisan interest in universal health care for all American citizens. Generally speaking, Americans actually do like social welfare programs. Thus the great difficulty politicians face from older voters when they try to reform Social Security or Medicare. For example, President Bush created the Prescription Drug Act that wasn't paid for and which added 400-550 billion dollars to the national debt. And no one minded that much or to took to the streets dressed as Thomas Paine. More, we don't mind the federal mandates that make us pay into Social Security and Medicare from our paychecks. But a mandate to pay into health insurance is, well, tyrannical.

So we sort of like the welfare state. More precisely, we like social welfare that is for us. But we are against welfare for them.

These are some of the reasons for why I think some of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act is driven by ethnocentrism.

Anyway, ethnocentrism--generalized prejudice--is out there this election year. It always is. It's called sin. So do your best to fight these tendencies within your own heart and help raise the political discourse between now and November.

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57 thoughts on “Ethnocentrism and Politics”

  1. My "Political Status" on Facebook is and has been for some time now, "Not Ethnocentrism but anthropocentrism, not anthropocentrism but ecocentrism." The logic of the one governs the other!

  2. I find myself as a part of "them" - legally disabled at the age of 22 (and thus eligible for SSI and Medicaid) and poor (and thus, eligible for food stamps). I went without health insurance for two years after I was married, which caused the rapid decline in my health (because of a chronic illness, not neglect to my well-being). Thus, I get rather frustrated when people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ rally to deny health coverage to people like me who couldn't otherwise have it or would like to do away with social programs like food stamps, while they would never be willing to feed the poor on the Church's dollar.

    Thanks for the food for thought today, Richard!

  3. Ethnocentrism seems like a good tool for looking at the social forces at work in Second Temple Judaism, and therefore for understanding the matrix of Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom. I think, to an extent, this is what NT Wright does in his “Christian Origins and the Question of God series” – especially in vols 1 and 2.
    Looking both then and now, I’m also wondering about the role of narrative in stoking ethnocentrism, and in particular the propaganda of the elites which inflame the ethnocentrist passions of the poorer, less well-educated masses. I wonder if the best solution to the strength of imperial narrative, is not so much a single counter-narrative, but lots of different unconnected pieces of satire, humour and ridicule. This it seems is in keeping with the prophetic tradition.
    Perhaps one of the problems with our sermons is that they are not funny enough?

  4. Thank you for this gentle reminder.  I think that my tendency is to be intolerant of intolerance and exclusion, which sets me up for more "us/them" thinking and behavior.  D'oh!  "Contempt and heresy" -- my Achilles' heel. It's extremely difficult for me to walk that line between championing the underdog and not alienating those who aren't as keen to do the same.

    No matter how far from poverty my current existence travels, I don't know that I will ever be able to think of myself as other than that poor girl who was on the outside.  That's the story I'm living, regardless of our actual socio-economic status as a family, so that's the socio-economic group with whom I most identify and sympathize.  Also, I think that there is a degree of unresolved grief in my memories of being that poor kid, and resenting the kids who had the benefit of perfect, normal, well-to-do families.  In fact, it is often difficult for me to even accept that we're doing well enough while others are not.  I feel guilty about that.

    One other point about education level as an indicator of ethnocentrism...  My take?  Not exactly right on.  I think to the extent that higher education will enable a person to get out in the world and expand one's horizons, intellectually, culturally, and so forth, I know plenty of highly educated people who are arrogant and unable to embrace others.  They are very good at rationalizing and arguing convincingly for their prejudices, actually.  On a very intimate level, my husband comes from a relatively well-to-do Indian family, which is also of the priestly/teacher caste (Brahmin).  This caste is considered the closest to God, the purest of the pure, in the Hindu hierarchy.  My husband and I have often gone round and round in discussions about the poor in this country, in comparison to special gov't. programs in his country to benefit the poor (e.g., educational ops for the untouchable caste).  All that to say, our cultural conditioning from birth is such a huge, huge influence on how we think.  No amount of education (my husband has an MS in Mech Engineering) will magically change that, or instill a sense of compassion for those who are different.

    Only Christ can show us the way to love all kinds of people, while standing against systemic injustices.  We can hardly tell others what to do, or how to do it.  Each person has to work through this stuff, as you said in conclusion, within their own heart.  ~Peace~

  5. This misstates the other's position, Adrian.  Opposition to BHOcare, aside from the profound constitutional questions that it raises and which are rightly in dispute, centers on HOW to provide the highest quality health care to "people like you" (your phrase).  It's not, generally speaking, a desire to abandon the weak.  Even the likes of Mark Levin, whose legal foundation has submitted _amicus curiae_ brief after brief in opposition to BHOcare, repeatedly places himself among those whose criticisms are METHODOLOGICAL (again, beyond the constitutional questions).  So:  HOW to do it well, not WHETHER OR NOT to do it; and FOR WHOM, not FOR NOBODY.

    So the rallies are not, in the main, "to deny health coverage."  And many of the people rallying are, in fact, quite generous with their own money, as Arthur C. Brooks has documented in his book .

  6. "...I know plenty of highly educated people who are arrogant and unable to
    embrace others.  They are very good at rationalizing and arguing
    convincingly for their prejudices, actually."

    Me too.  However, this is the bedrock of the Left's social narrative, and you dare not mess with it.  They know better than you about what is good for you -- and by extension -- everyone else.  Don't agree?  Then you obviously lack their compassion (or guilt), and you are "prejudiced".  A person of intellectual honesty would admit that all persons in the USA have enjoyed Universal Healthcare since 1965.  Part of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, it is called "Medicaid", and I know about it because I worked within the program for 30 years.

  7. Sam, I know that there is truth in your point.  Those with whom I am most closely associated these days are about as eclectic a bunch as one could imagine...  On the one hand, I'm involved with people whose ideology leans far right, extreme conservatism/libertarianism.  On the other hand, I am in a book discussion with a group who are predominantly far left/socialist in ideology.  Most of my acquaintances are fairly well-educated, so that seems not to be the determinant.

    I feel so caught in the middle.  I don't agree entirely with either group, AND, because I am outspoken about what I do think, neither group particularly likes or trusts me.  The far left group, in fact, seemed wary of me for a long time; I think they suspected that I was a conservative spy or something!  I haven't been to the discussion group for the past two weeks.  The last time I was there, I got frustrated with the intellectual analysis of the poor and politically-oppressed (and lofty opinions on what should we do about it), and lost my cool...  I was going on about something to the effect that, "It is easy for the well-off and highly-educated to say (from their ivory towers) what's best for the poor.  Especially if one has never actually been poor.  And I don't mean living on a tight budget.  I mean chronic, unrelenting, no-way-out kind of poverty.  The hopeless kind.

    My mom was on Medicaid for years; so was my grandma after my grandpa died.  All I know is that, even though I had worked my way out of that poverty and have been fortunate to avoid falling into those circumstances ever since, I did not have the financial means to personally take care of my mom or my grandma, and keep my own head above water.  I don't know what would have happened to them, if not for Medicaid.  This is the personal aspect of it that I wrestle with, Sam.  I don't know the answers, but it is a complex dilemma.  The current situation bothers me a great deal.  Thanks for your comment.  I appreciate having a caring friend like you, who can help me think about this (more) calmly and clearly.  ~Peace~

  8. The power we now all share is through the Internet.  The answer to your dilemma is information.  If you must answer to others (or simply educate yourself), do so only after learning about the subject before you.  If you click on my name you will be taken to my blogs, one of which deals exclusively with SSA DIB/SSI.  Unfortunately, almost no one has ever visited, and I do not advertize.  Still, I maintain it as a public service.

    I too lived through grinding, unrelenting poverty as a child.  The hopeless kind.  And I had (have) a severe physical handicap.  It was not difficult, therefore, for me to chose a career helping others who share the same fate.  What HAS been difficult is to watch the demonization of people like myself for being "uncaring" or "lacking in compassion".  I will not accept either guilt or responsiblity for the individual actions of others, whether they be currently living or long ago dead.

    So I must repeatedly ask myself -- "What is the political agenda behind the accusations being leveled at me or other conservatives right now?"  Nine times out of ten the answer has nothing to do with education, race, gender, energy, safety, healthcare, money, or religion, It is almost always about Power, and who will control and wield it.

  9. I appreciate this, qb. If you'd indulge some further questioning/poking...

    Could you point me to some positive proposals that have been made to reform the evident problems in the US healthcare industry by those opposed to the ACA (which, by the way, I'm not entirely sure whether your objection is only to the "mandate" or to the other reforms in the Act).

    In what way does Obamacare substantively differ from Romneycare or (the proposed) Gingrichcare of 1993?

    If private charity were able to meaningfully address the problems of the uninsured, why has it not done so?

  10. The all-too-common rhetoric of "war on _____" and "attack on ____" is, for me, the perfect example of the way political candidates and commentators exploit ethnocentric tendencies in their supporters. If you're looking to galvanize your ethnocentric voter base, the metaphor of a "war" in which the other side is out to get you is the ideal tool.

  11. So opposition to national healthcare as conceived in the Affordable Care Act equals racism (or class-ism) and sin?

    You would see no possibility that the fact that the first things done under the act were the issuing of waivers to thousands of companies that just happened to have been supporters as a bigger instance of us vs. them, and a bigger continuing temptation to skew justice than a decentralized (i.e. Romney) or even just a premium support plan (i.e. Ryan)?

  12. Using this definition:

    "ethnocentrism is activated when a particular political issue, or a media framing of the issue, is presented as an "us against them" conflict"

    I think the books authors are seeing only one set of prejudices and seem blind to others.  As other commenters have pointed out, the left has their own set.  I am a centrist, and within myself I find an us-them mentality towards extremists of any type.  This is a part of the human condition, so labeling conservative whites as the ones with the problem really doesn't work for me.

  13. Sam, no matter what your beliefs, or how we might differ, I could not, would not demonize you.  That's just the thing:  We've gotten to know about and care for each other.  The couple of times that I visited your blog, I was more interested in reading your stories.  I didn't even notice any sidebar links.  When I have more time later today or this evening, I will look at the information you have linked to.  My friendship toward you is thicker than politics, which sadly, I agree, is often about nothing more than power maneuvering at the macro level.  ~Peace, friend~

  14. My statement in the post (note the bold): "These are some of the reasons for why I think some of the opposition to the Affordable Care Act is driven by ethnocentrism."

    How does "some" lead to "equals"?

  15. Equals is/was strong.  I am sorry.

    If I'm modifying that statement a better question might be: given the emotional magnitude of the racism/ethnocentrism charge, do you think it is a significant part of opposition to the Affordable Care Act?  Enough that it justifies airing it?  Are national leaders motivated by it?  Supreme Court Justices? 

  16. The crowd at one of the televised debates among the GOP presidential candidates famously appeared to want to "abandon the weak" and "deny health coverage."  Your theory doesn't explain enough of the data.

  17. Kristen, you stole my comment from me. Thank you!

    I was simply going to add another example of ethnocentrism: opposition to conservative thinking.

    From what Dr. Beck described, the book seemed glaringly one-sided. It was as if education was going to be used as a cure-all (dues ex machina??) for society as if education predicts rightness of belief. What it produces ( and, I think, what was measured) is a more liberal viewpoint (my definition of the word liberal has both positive and negative connotations). Education is just another mode of experience by which people gain understanding - at many times it is a helpful mode of experience no doubt, but it also brings its own dangers that the uneducated are not exposed to.)

    What's more, I can't help but think that this type of ethnocentrism smells of political stereotyping. There are a lot of assumptions being made when this concept of ethnocentrism is being employed. This is correlation at best, which is still something for sure, but when applied to any real context becomes assumptive and therefore requires delicacy and prudence.

    But more specifically, I completely agree with Dr. Beck's point about how so many are ok with social security and medicare but not with universal healthcare. I'm with him in that regard. If there is any common ground, it'd probably be closest to the issue of universal healthcare as it provides the opportunity for many to simply continue to live. While, at least it seems to me, medicare and social security are less based upon survival and necessity. Though I'll admit, it was a battle for me to accept the current need for universal healthcare but I've been convinced it to be worth fitting into state and federal budget (Some more important principles beat out the less important ones, essentially).

  18.  Susan,

    "Tone" is so tricky when not face-to-face.  I, of course, did not mean you in particular when I said "demonization".  I count you as a friend, too.

    I simply "feel your pain" when you talk about being torn between rival political POV's.  I have been there -- am there still.  It is frustrating.  My point is that it can be less so through information and knowledge.  So often assumptions are made absent all the facts.  I am just as guilty as the next guy.  I try to stick to the facts, and limit myself to the issues of which I have personally learned the most. 

  19. My irony meter is working overtime with this post. The whole us (enlightened giving people) against them (everybody else) never really goes away. The generalized prejudice is merely about something else. It cuts both ways. 

  20. In a previous comment on a recent ET post, I provided links to the affirmative health-insurance reform proposals of all four of the remaining GOP candidates PLUS the affirmative proposals issued by the Heritage Foundation.  You can search for them on ET, or you can search for them using Google, but either way, there is no excuse for being unaware of affirmative health-insurance proposals by those who oppose "ACA."

    I am not defending Romneycare or Gingrichcare, so I have no dog in that hunt and therefore do not feel constrained to distinguish them from BHOcare.

    "Private charity" is not the only alternative to so-called "universal health care" (which, by the way, we already had prior to BHOcare; see above).  So your last question posits a false dilemma.  Still, many have studied and written on the question of private charity's effectiveness and the deeply hidden opportunity costs associated with so-called "public charity," including Dr. Marvin Olasky


  21. I'm struggling to see what you think the authors' blindness entails.  Do you disagree with their use of ethnocentrism as a description of reality?  Do you disagree with their measures of ethnocentrism?  Do you disagree with their measures of the correlated political positions?  Do you disagree with their statistical analysis?

    When you say that they see "only one set of prejudices," do you mean that ethnocentrism is correlated with other political positions (prejudices?) that they haven't mentioned?

  22. Hey, I'm just reporting the data. Read the book and point out the problems with their sampling, measurement, and statistics.

  23. I can't say if it's a significant aspect, but I believe it exists (both based on the book and my own personal experience).

  24. What seems to be missing from the discussion in the book (as related by Richard) and in the comments is an accouting of power.  Ethnocentric thinking by 19th-century U.S. slaves inherently looks different than ethnocentric thinking by their masters or by a coalition of their masters and poor whites.  Those with power can enforce the division into ethnoi.  Those without power can rightly recognize the threats and injustices of the ethnic system without any moral culpability; the moral dimension is in how they pursue life in the face of those threats, whether in resignation, in an attempt to turn the tables of domination, or in a pursuit of an equitable peace.

    I think that such an accounting of power matters a lot in considering today's political climate in the U.S., but your mileage may vary.

  25. Wow.  Olasky is unquestionably a hack.  He's a friend of Dominionists, to put it lightly.  Maybe you should cite sources that more people will believe.

  26. Well, upon rereading the post in an attempted more "objective" light. The book and study does well what it sets out to do: research the "us verses them" mentality. It is good and important stuff. It seems I was aiming at enemies that weren't there. Please accept my sincere apologies. 

  27. Thanks, Sam.  I sensed your heart in what you were saying.  I mostly wanted you to know that I do care what you are saying, and will try my best to diligently listen and learn from your experience and knowledge.  I am more of a dreamer and an idealist, so digging into practicalities and analyses of politics and economics takes a lot of self-discipline.  You're right to ask me to do that, though.  The 24-hr. news cycle sure doesn't give us the accurate picture, does it?  Each network has its own bias, and even taken together, presents an incomplete view in "educating" the American public...  I think we all need to try hard to get beyond the surface of campaign rhetoric and be as conscientious as we can to make clear, reasoned *and* compassionate decisions.  The situation is sure serious enough, and not simplistic in any sense.  Keep holding me accountable, Sam.  I am grateful for you.  Coming over to your blog after dinner.  :-)  ~Peace~

  28. Jeff W., just for an example, people who would disagree with the list of stances taken on the 8-issue list above, often display an us-them mentality towards poor Southern whites.

  29. Reflecting further --- and Dominionism aside --- Olasky is one of the great American ethnocentric leaders of the late 20th century because he used scholarly credentials to advance into a new age the belief that "the poor" have something morally wrong with them.

  30. Interesting to me how the rules of discourse only go one way. I'm trying to imagine anyone on the Left that you would call a "hack" with your only evidence being that he is a "friend of" another group that you are name-calling.

  31. Thanks, Richard. Of course ethnocentrism exists, and influences these debates. I'm interested in noting how well ethnocentrism seems to predict the position of conservatives. I'm not sure this means that a conservative person is more likely to be ethnocentric--there might be other reasons for holding these positions--but it does mean that an ethnocentric person is more likely to be conservative.

    On the other hand, I'm a bit suspicious about taking a generalized negative attitude and showing how well it explains all of your opponent's positions. I see conservatives do this for liberals, and liberals do this for conservatives. Even if this one (or both) is correct, it tends to move the conversation away from trying to discuss the merits of any given action, and move the conversation toward attributing motives to people that they would almost certainly deny.

    Do you have any solution to this problem?

  32. Are you suggesting us-and-them thinking (classification) or us-versus-them thinking (competition) directed against poor Southern whites?  I would guess that most Americans who don't hold most of the eight positions don't see themselves as competing against poor Southern whites.

    Do you find us-and-them thinking to be as problematic (whether in this case or generally) as us-versus-them thinking?

  33. It does seem that the list is completely taken from the platform of the Republican party. Does this mean that Repubs are more ethnocentrist, or that this study is more alert to Repub forms of ethnocentrism? Who knows.

  34. Do you really think this? War on poverty? It's all about exploiting ethnocentric tendencies?

  35. I rather think that it's the other way around: Olasky is a friend of Dominionists because he's a hack.  He's a hack because he publishes ideologically-prompted things as scholarship without recognizing opposing viewpoints.

    You'll have to spell out your objections re rules of discourse and name-calling.  There are certainly hacks on the left; Alexander Cockburn comes immediately to mind.

  36.  Hi J. Hmm... I think my answer depends on what you mean. When I think of "War on Poverty" I think of a specific set of programs from the Johnson administration that were designed to address a specific set of social ills. With respect to that particular reference - no, I don't think its exploiting ethnocentric tendencies, because its directed at a problem and not a set of "others."

    What I am thinking about is a more recent phenomenon in which the warfare metaphor is deployed in reference to one's political opponents. Thus, "attack on religious freedom," "war on women," etc.


  37. Are you aware of any non-hacks among those with whom you disagree or whom you find disagreeable?  Likely there's no point in listing any more examples of people who have studied and written prolifically on these will doubtless find them all to be "hacks."

  38. Oh, what the hell.  Arthur Brooks, Thomas Sowell, Charles Murray...the list of "hacks" goes on.

  39. It might be helpful to clarify what I wrote in the post. As I said in the post, ethnocentrism is generally unrelated to political party affiliation. Among Whites, it is generally associated with conservative positions, but only weakly. That is, the majority of conservatives aren't ethnocentric.

    The rest of the analyses reviewed in the post are treating ethnocentrism as a variable unto itself, separate from political party affiliation. That is, once the impact of political party is removed ethnocentrism produces these sorts of outcomes.

    The point being, the list above is just about ethnocentrism as a predictive variable unto itself. Ethnocentrism is being treated independently from political affiliation, so there is no conflation. Given that, I don't know how to approach the question you ask. Pure ethnocentrism--independent of political party--is predictive of these positions. I don't know what else to say other than reporting those outcomes. And to clarify again, these outcomes are not about political party affiliation. They are the positions generally found in someone characterized by generalized prejudice.

  40. We should probably just read the book to figure out whether it really has a slant or prejudice of its own or not. Many still believe that if you can explain a person's motive's, you solve the conversation. But really you are not determining whether or not this or that man's beliefs are actually true or false, you are just explaining how he got there. There are many poor roads that lead to truth and many rich roads that lead to falsehood. Determining which road you travel only helps on a subjective level to filter through one's own motives of belief, it does not decide whether the belief is actually right or wrong, helpful for hurtful. 

    I think it would be interesting to juxtapose the research of "Us Against Them" with research on "egalitarian" dynamics, why they are so popular today, why so many methods of charity and help do the opposite, and the psychology of the extremes of tolerance and acceptance.

  41. Yea, that helps. 

    I had to tease out all of the political implications running through my head as I read the post the second time, after that, it made more sense that they were simply measuring ethnocentrism and that's it. There was no hidden agenda before, during, or after the research. So I think there may be others who did similar things as I did upon my first read. The book probably doesn't conflate the issues, but the readers do. I guess it would be easier to conflate the issues with an addition level of separation (the blog post) from the actual book and its content.

  42. Sam, my comments on your blog go "poof" when I click publish!  Do you know if this is a Firefox issue?  My comment from the previous time never appeared either.  I went back and checked.  At the time, I just figured you had a moderated status on comments or something...  Sorry to be a bother.  :-/

  43. "This is a part of the human condition."

    Maybe (though I'm /extremely/ skeptical about any claims to certain traits being universal across humans), but presumably some people are more suseptible to it than others, and you could test for that. Once you have a test for that, you can see whether this correlates with political positions (the study suggests that they do, weakly, with Republicans). Of course the left has their own prejudices; the point is, you could use these tools to test for that as well, and see how they turn out in the left. Perhaps there is an issue of domains; people on the right tend to apply this thinking to certain issues (esp. government policy) and people on the left tend to apply it to others (mainly intellectual snobbery). But to say that conservative whites correlate weakly with ethnocentricism (which is all the study claims) isn't saying that they are "the ones with the problem"; it says that they have this problem slightly more than others do.

  44. "Interestingly, ethnocentrism declines with increasing education. The most important factor appears to be college education. As Kinder and Kam summarize the data: "Based on these results, it would seem that education, and especially the experience associated with higher education, build tolerance and erode ethnocentrism."....
    "Anyway, ethnocentrism--generalized prejudice--is out there this election year. It always is. It's called sin. "Personaly I do not believe whatsoever that higher education lessens this 'sin'. A good number of people who are fuelling ethnocentrism from their blogs, pulpits, newspapers, positions of power etc are educated.Unfortunately yes many of the lesser educated masses do take the bait.To my mind true wisdom is from above, no one has a corner on this based on their education or social standing.That said I would agree that the right kind of education and teaching can certainly help effect a decline in ethnocentrism.

  45. Brooks I don't know.  Sowell is a hack insofar as he uses "Stanford" cred.  Murray is the hack of all hacks.

    I've shared this before, but maybe not on Richard's blog.  I read _Losing_Ground_ at age 20, hoping to find great arguments against welfare.  I reached the end and panicked: there had been no actual argument.  Murray had simply substituted correlation for causation, as anyone could see, but it didn't seem to bother him --- or any of Reagan's people, etc.  It was a formative experience.

    If you don't see Murray as a fake scholar for that kind of obvious crap, then you shouldn't expect anyone to take seriously anything you have to say.  That sounds harsh, even to me, but we're talking here about the difference between being a child and an adult with regard to reason.

  46.  Susan,

    Sorry -- this thread has run its course for replies.  I am sorry your posts at my blogs are not "taking".  I have removed all restrictions from both.  I get regular feedback from Jim and Patricia.  I use Firefox and IE8, and two different PC's.  Not sure what the problem is.  Again, sorry.

  47. Can't respond below, so I'll respond here:  If Sowell and Murray are "hacks," and if you don't know Brooks, then that tells us more about you than it does about them.

  48. Richard, I understand that you (or the guy you are quoting) are trying to describe what "pure ethnocentrism--independent of political party--is predictive of." But the set of positions that follows is demonstrably espoused by the Republican party (with one or two exceptions)--at least relative to the Democratic party. So if (like me) you lean Republican, you're going to be bothered by the notion that you just happen to hold all of the positions that "pure ethnocentrism" predicts.

    It's troubling. As often happens when I run across a study like this, I teeter between skepticism (another liberal academic defines ethnocentrism in terms of the Republican party platform, big surprise!) and confession (OMG, I must be a man of ethnocentric lips, who dwells among a people of ethnocentric lips, or I wouldn't be a Republican in the first place!). I'm not saying that you want me to make either of those problematic responses. I am saying that the terms in which you set the discussion do lead me in one of these two directions.

  49. Oh. So you're talking about the claim that someone else is attacking freedom/ women/ whatever--because nobody declares war, themselves, explicitly, on freedom or women.

    I was thinking of all those people who do explicitly declare war--on terrorism, on poverty, on waste, on school dropouts, on drugs, on . . . . I was wondering if you were critiquing their rhetoric, and if so why.

  50. So how do you critique those who do abandon the sick, or who don't care about the poor? Or are there no such people?

  51. There are indeed.  But as a generalized critique of this political persuasion or that, the critique is slanderous...though, measuring by the comments here, popularly held anyway.


  52. Separating people into opposing groups is strictly a human error.  If we engage in human institutions we have to parse through this mess of good vs. evil.  If we set our minds on the overarching institution (kingdom) of God, we can leave all of that sorting to God and his angels for the "end of the age" and get on with the business of living in the reality that "there is one kinds of people in the world... people".

  53. Again, "not having a plan that protects the least of these" is not an accurate portrayal of those who despise BHOcare and the presumption it represents.  Here's [yet another] proof.

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