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Beyond Political Correctness: Social Transformation in the United States

Michael S. Cummings
ISBN: 978-1-55587-863-4
ISBN: 978-1-58826-006-2
2001/339 pages/LC: 00-053326
Transformations in Politics and Society

"Ambitious, provocative, clearly written, and passionate.... Beyond Political Correctness would be certain to engender in classrooms critical thinking on political and social practices, attitudes and problems, and on the value and feasibility of proposed remedies. Besides its broad scope and clear prose, the text offers useful analyses, forceful arguments and often detailed information guaranteed to stimulate reflection and debate."—Dan Sabia, Utopian Studies

"Beyond Political Correctness is a scathing tell-all on how conceptual sacred cows interfere with sensible politics.... Engaging and thought-provoking, [it] raises the most crucial questions in the hardball politics of Left vs. Right."—Midwest Book Review

"This is a remarkable and very welcome book, at once a long-awaited critique of political correctness from the left and a challenging, original transcendance of it that takes the reader into entirely new realms of ideas."—Kenneth M. Dolbeare, Professor Emeritus, Evergreen College

"A courageous and provocative book ... that shows how rigid left-right stances are an impediment to constructive dialogue on issues of race and gender. Cummings critique of the adversarial model and proposal for openness and genuine intellectual engagement are admirable and refreshing."—Patrizia Longo, Saint Mary's College of California

"A provocative and transformative study that is required reading for those of us who want to go ‘beyond political correctness'.... Despite some disagreements, I loved it!"—Betty H. Zisk, Boston University

"Beyond Political Correctness is a must read for all who are interested in the quest for social justice and the politics of transformation. Cummings challenges the reader to think outside of the box."—Lawrence J. Hanks, Co-editor of Black and Multiracial Politics

"While Cummings keenly analyzes and thoroughly documents the PC traps that keep us paralyzed, the best part of his book are the gems of wisdom and surprises that are liberally sprinkled throughout the chapters and provide us with creative alternatives to address these problems."—Christa Slaton, Auburn University

"I was thrilled to see the issues of birth choices, extended breastfeeding, and respectful parenting addressed in an academic text. Cummings's treatment of family issues, including family empowerment, is both insightful and inspiring."—Regina Woontner, Ed. M., feminist parent educator

"An important and controversial progressive critique of political correctness, sure to energize the debate on affirmative action and family and children's issues."—Ed Scherwin, Florida Atlantic University.

"Stated clearly and concisely—and not bound by the political correctness of radicals, liberals, or conservatives—this book shows how contemporary shibboleths impede constructive communication on issues, harden into fixed positions, and foreclose the possibility of sensible policies. The reader can learn from every page."—Peter G. Stillman


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.


Michael Cummings is professor of political science and President's Teaching Scholar at the University of Colorado at Denver and co-editor of The Transformation of U.S. Unions: Voices, Visions, and Strategies from the Grassroots.


  • Introduction: Political Correctness as Antitransformational.
  • PC, Opportunism, and Transformative Deficit on the Left.
  • Affirmative Action: Hanging Separately While the Gentry Feast.
  • Transformative Values: Synergy, Entropy, and Social Change.
  • Beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism: The Invisible Hand of Synergy.
  • The Missing Child in Transformational Politics.
  • Beyond Adultism: Political Empowerment for Young People.
  • Family Empowerment in Social Transformation: The Politics of Birthing, Nursing, and Parenting.
  • Missing Synergies in Ecology, Crime, and Political Economy.
  • Conclusion: Ideology as Friend and Foe of Transformation.