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Unlocking V. O. Key Jr.

Southern Politics for the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Angie Maxwell and Todd G. Shields

Publication Year: 2011

Over sixty years ago, political scientist V. O. Key Jr. published his seminal work, Southern Politics in State and Nation. Key’s book defined the field of southern politics and remains one of the most cited and influential works in twentieth-century political science and southern history. In Unlocking V.O. Key Jr., prominent southern scholars in history, political science, and southern and American studies reconsider Key’s analysis, debating his omissions as well as highlighting the timeless elements of his work. Charles Reagan Wilson, Kari Frederickson, and Pearl K. Ford argue that Key’s exclusion of religion, violence, and African American political participation altered the field of southern politics. Keith Gaddie and Justin Wert draw attention to Key’s methodological innovations, while Margaret Reid questions Key’s limited and gendered vision of the southern electorate. Harold Stanley discusses the complexity of teaching Key in the twenty-first century. Byron E. Shafer and Richard Johnston argue for the role that class and the economy played in the realignment of the South with the Republican Party, while Dan T. Carter points to race as the driving factor in this major shift. Susan MacManus tracks immigration trends in the region to explain contemporary southern political behavior.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword

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pp. vii-xvii

Valdimir Orlando Key Jr. was arguably the most eminent political scientist of his day, certainly the most eminent Americanist. He earned this position through seminal research on an array of topics at the center of the American politics syllabus. Little that came from his pen failed to find its way into the subsequent study of American politics. Yet there were four major areas where ...

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INTRODUCTION: Unlocking V. O. Key Jr.

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pp. xix-xxxii

Over sixty years ago, with a research grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, political scientist V. O. Key Jr. published his seminal work, Southern Politics in State and Nation. Key’s book redefined the field of southern politics and remains one of the most cited and influential works not only in twentieth-century political science, but in southern history as well. In fact, no other ...

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PART I: The Missing Pieces of Southern Politics in State and Nation

Despite V.O. Key Jr.’s seemingly all-encompassing analysis of regional politics in Southern Politics in State and Nation (1949), over time his examination has proven far from complete. In this section, scholars Charles Reagan Wilson, Pearl Ford Dowe, and Kari Fredrickson reexamine the early twentieth-century South and identify the primary factors absent from Key’s research. First, ...

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1: The Morality-Driven South: Populists, Prohibitionists, Religion, and V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics

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pp. 3-22

The presidential election of 1928 was the most turbulent one in the South since the Populist revolt of the 1890s. Republican presidential candidate Herbert Hoover was a dry candidate, and that proved remarkably appealing in a region whose religious leaders and institutions had come to see prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages as an unparalleled achievement. “The ...

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2: V.O. Key Jr.’s Missing Link: Black Southern Political Culture and Development

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pp. 23-38

The southern racial divide is one in which whites and blacks developed two worlds that included separate schools, neighborhoods, and places of worship as well as separate political development and cultures. Scholars of politics and the South have limited these disciplines by failing to acknowledge the differences in these cultures and, specifically, devaluing the unique factors that contributed ...

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3: World War II, White Violence, and Black Politics in V.O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics

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pp. 39-54

John Dittmer opens his Bancroft Prize–winning history of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi with the following account: On July 2, 1946, Medgar Wylie Evers celebrated his twenty-first birthday by leading a group of World War II veterans . . . through the nearly abandoned ...

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PART II: The Impact of Southern Politics on the Discipline

In this section scholars Margaret Reid, Ronald Keith Gaddie, Justin J. Wert, and Harold W. Stanley assess the influence that V. O. Key’s seminal work, Southern Politics in State and Nation, had on subsequent research in southern politics. Pointing to another missing element of Key’s analysis, Reid argues that Key’s lack of attention to women influenced decades of social scientists who similarly ...

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4: Unlocking Social Constructions in Southern Politics: V.O. Key Jr.’s Thin Democracy

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pp. 57-76

On the sixtieth anniversary of the publication of V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics in State and Nation, a close reading of the book that had such a marked and remarkable influence on scholarship of the South is warranted, especially in light of the historical election of America’s first African American president. It seems ironic that these two events almost appear like bookends of a half century ...

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5: Before KKV, V.O. Key Jr.: Southern Politics and Social Science Methodology

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pp. 77-104

The contributions of V. O. Key Jr. to social science are many. Largely known for the breadth of his interests and his role in theory building, Key’s analyses of the American political system’s most pressing challenge—democratic processes in the South and race—in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century is easily comparable to more recognized (and more lauded) grand historical ,,,

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6: Reflections on Reading V.O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics: Race, Politics, and Economics

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pp. 105-125

In the sixty years since V. O. Key Jr. wrote Southern Politics in State and Nation (1949), analysts of southern politics have largely drawn on Key’s work to emphasize the role of race. This chapter, rather than reviewing the extensive literature on southern political change, presents a closer reading of Key, drawing ...

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PART III: The Post-Key South

In the final section, scholars Dan T. Carter, Byron E. Shafer, Richard Johnston, and Susan A. MacManus look at the contemporary South in light of Key’s findings and conclusions presented in his 1949 book, Southern Politics in State and Nation. Dan Carter begins this section with a critical look at Key’s omission of religion as a central factor in southern politics as well as his tendency ...

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7: More than Race: Conservatism in the White South since V.O. Key Jr.

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pp. 129-159

When V. O. Key Jr. published Southern Politics in 1949, there was much that he overlooked in his account of southern politics over the previous half-century. African Americans were absent except as victims, the role of religion and broader cultural attitudes seldom appeared, and, perhaps understandably, he ignored the role of gender. But one issue seemed clear-cut. For Key, as for most ...

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8: Partisan Change in the Post-Key South

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pp. 161-184

By the first decade of the twenty-first century, more than fifty years after the publication of Southern Politics in State and Nation (1949), partisan change in the American South was a recognized fact of political life, creating not just a serious regional Republican Party but a truly nationalized party system (Black and Black 1987; Petrocik 1987; Rohde 1996; Polsby 2004; Lublin 2004). In ...

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9: V.O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics: Demographic Changes Will Transform the Region, In-migration and Generational Shifts Speed Up the Process

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pp. 185-206

The bulk of V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics classic focuses on the shortcomings of the political system in the region, the most egregious being racial discrimination. It is not until the final chapter, titled “Is There a Way Out?,” that he shifts to a more hopeful tone, largely on the basis of expected demographic shifts. Specifically, Key projects: ...

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CONCLUSION: Evaluating V.O. Key Jr. and Advancing Our Understanding of Southern Politics

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pp. 207-217

V. O. Key Jr.’s Southern Politics in State and Nation is the singular defining work on southern politics. As befitting such a work, this collection of essays stands as a benchmark on the state of our knowledge about southern politics and how we study southern politics in the early twenty-first century. Because Key’s work is so monumental, it influenced almost every major contemporary study ...

Index

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pp. 219-231


E-ISBN-13: 9781610754903
E-ISBN-10: 1610754905
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289612
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289611

Page Count: 285
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- Politics and government -- 21st century -- Congresses.
  • Political culture -- Southern States -- Congresses.
  • Key, V. O. (Valdimer Orlando), 1908-1963. Southern politics in state and nation -- Congresses.
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