Prejudice in Politics: Group Position, Public Opinion, and the
Wisconsin Treaty Rights Dispute. By Lawrence D. Bobo and Mia Tuan.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. 288p. $40.00.
In his seminal 1958 article (“Race Prejudice as a Sense of Group
Position”), sociologist Herbert Blumer argued that we should
understand race relations and racial prejudice especially as a
“sense of group position.” Blumer's basic intuition is
that individuals are organized by racial categories as groups and that
group members are concerned about the relative position of their group in
the racial hierarchy: Members of higher-status groups in particular react
with many of the visible signs of race prejudice when their group's
status is challenged. Lawrence D. Bobo and Mia Tuan offer possibly the
most comprehensive exposition and explanation of that argument in their
new book, Prejudice in Politics. First, Bobo and Tuan let us know
exactly what group position theory is and how to make sense of it in
comparison to other ideas about the nature of prejudice in politics. Along
with group position, they examine the relevance of other theoretical
explanations of prejudice, such as self-interest, clashing values, and
symbolic racism. Then they use a unique survey to operationalize, compare,
and contrast these competing ideas about prejudice in politics. In the
end, they offer us the compelling idea that the “real” answer
to understanding prejudice in politics lies not in eliminating alternative
hypotheses but in a group position–oriented synthesis of these
presumably competing ideas.