Why do people become extremists? What makes people become so dismissive of opposing views? Why is political and cultural polarization so pervasive in America?
In Going to Extremes, renowned legal scholar and
best-selling author Cass R. Sunstein offers startling insights into
why and when people gravitate toward extremism. Sunstein marshals a
wealth of evidence that shows that when like-minded people gather
in groups, they tend to become more extreme in their views than
they were before. Thus when liberals group get together to debate
climate change, they end up more alarmed about climate change,
while conservatives brought together to discuss same-sex unions
become more set against same-sex unions. In courtrooms, radio
stations, and chatrooms, enclaves of like-minded people are
breeding ground for extreme movements. Indeed, Sunstein shows that
a good way to create an extremist group, or a cult of any kind, is
to separate members from the rest of society, either physically or
psychologically. Sunstein's findings help to explain such diverse
phenomena as political outrage on the Internet, unanticipated
"blockbusters" in the film and music industry, the success of the
disability rights movement, ethnic conflict in Iraq and former
Yugoslavia, and Islamic terrorism.
Providing a wealth of real-world examples--sometimes entertaining,
sometimes alarming--Sunstein offers a fresh explanation of why
partisanship has become so bitter and debate so rancorous in
America and abroad.
Praise for the hardcover:
"A path-breaking exploration of the perils and possibilities
created by polarization among the like-minded."
--Kathleen Hall Jamieson, co-author of unSpun and Echo
"Poses a powerful challenge to anyone concerned with the future of
our democracy. He reveals the dark side to our cherished freedoms
of thought, expression and participation. Initiates an urgent
dialogue which any thoughtful citizen should be interested
--James S. Fishkin, author of When the People Speak