Growing Tolerance for Dissent: How and How Far

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Abstract

Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1979, Vol 24(5), 387–389. Reviews the book, Tolerance for Nonconformity: A National Survey of Americans' Changing Commitment to Civil Liberties by Clyde Z. Nunn, Harry J. Crockett, Jr., and J. Allen Williams, Jr. (1978). The purpose of this book, as described by the authors, is “to understand how Americans are following the principles of the Bill of Rights, what forces are at work to further tolerance, and what can retard or destroy tolerance.” They chose to meet these objectives by conducting a national survey of civil liberties attitudes which in effect replicates and extends Stouffer's landmark 1954 survey. The study must be considered successful. The authors made an effort to make the book understandable to nonprofessionals by minimizing statistical details. Study findings are clearly presented, and, for the civil libertarian, give cause for hope. The authors acknowledge the importance of a subjective sense of danger or threat to tolerance. However, they make no effort to separate systematically and evaluate the role of threat in the extension of tolerance. While it is a useful work as an indicator of the national pulse in 1973, it lacks the analysis, explanation, or insights on tolerance for civil liberties that would have made it a source book in this area. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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