Who is fighting the culture wars? Sociologists George Yancey and David A. Williamson have attempted to answer an important, but perhaps overlooked part of that question in What Motivates Cultural Progressives? Understanding Opposition to the Political and Christian Right (Baylor University Press). The book explores the characteristics, attitudes, and motivations of those people on the liberal side of the culture wars, whom they term "cultural progressives"—a group they say has received relatively little study. Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, spoke with George Yancey about what the authors found and why it matters.
What was your reason for writing this book?
I've read a lot about the cultural wars—both in the mainstream press and in scholarly research—but most of it focuses on only one side of the debate, usually the Christian Right. But I was curious: Who are the Christian Right fighting and why don't we understand their opponents better? The study reported in this book gives a more complete understanding of the culture war by highlighting cultural progressives.
How did you do your study?
We contacted several culturally progressive organizations who had it in their mission statements that they oppose the Christian Right. We contacted them and asked for permission to survey their members, which they kindly granted. We gave each organization a survey to distribute to their members and when all was said and done, we collected short-answer data from about 2,500 cultural progressives.
It was important for us to let these people speak for themselves, so we read through what they wrote several times, and we chose a number of quotations that illustrate the themes that ...1