The assassination of President John Kennedy in November 1963, can be taken, conveniently if not literally, as a watershed date in contemporary American political history and, more particularly, in the scholarly analysis of American political life. It would, of course, be wrong to argue that conflict and discontent were entirely absent from the American scene between the end of World War II and 1963, but these certainly were not the prominent features on the postwar landscape, and most political scholars of the era paid them little attention. On the contrary, in the leading accounts of the day, such residual traces of political rancor as then existed were to be swept away during the Age of Affluence and the End of Ideology.1 In this vein, Kennedy’s election was widely hailed as opening a new era of national consensus, where political conflict would consist mainly of minor disputes about the most technically efficient means to pursue agreed-upon societal ends. By the opening of the 1960s, as Everett Ladd has put it, the judgment among many political scholars was that “the fundamental problems had been resolved, the fundamental antagonisms had been removed” (1972, p. xv).2


Political Participation American Sociological Review Political Behavior American Political Science Review Political Trust 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • James D. Wright
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Social and Demographic Research InstituteUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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