Nancy K. MacLean
August 22, 1959
|Alma mater||Brown University (BA),(MA)|
University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD)
|Fields||History of the United States|
|Institutions||Duke University, Northwestern University|
|Doctoral advisor||Linda Gordon|
Nancy K. MacLean (born August 22, 1959) is an American historian. She is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. MacLean's research focuses on race, gender, labor history and social movements in 20th century U.S. history, with particular attention to the U.S. South.
In 1981, MacLean completed a four-year, combined-degree, B.A./M.A program in history at Brown University, graduating magna cum laude. In 1989, she received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied under Linda Gordon. MacLean’s doctoral thesis later became her first book, published as Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan (1994).
From 1989 to 2010 MacLean taught at Northwestern University, where she served as chairperson of the Department of History, and as the Peter B. Ritzma Professor in the Humanities. MacLean spoke in favor of and participated in the Living Wage Campaign.
In 2010, MacLean moved to Duke University. She served as co-chair of Scholars for a Progressive North Carolina (SPNC), which has since been renamed Scholars for North Carolina's Future (SNCF). In 2013, MacLean participated in SPNC panels and forums held in opposition to the legislative agenda of Republican majority of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Behind the Mask of Chivalry (1994)
Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, published in 1994, explores how some five million ordinary, white Protestant men joined the second Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. MacLean argued that the Ku Klux Klan was an organization “at once mainstream and extreme” that was hostile to both big government and to unionism; that Klan philosophy was anti-elitist and anti-black, but that their patriarchal stance for family values helped achieve a mass following; and that they demonstrated political affinity with the varieties of European fascism of the 1920s.
Behind the Mask of Chivalry received four scholarly awards, and reviewers said it is "a remarkable, readable, and important book," especially for students of the American South, of African American history, and of political violence in the U.S., which is characterized by an "ambitious scope" and "graced by artful, energetic prose." The Organization of American Historians awarded the James A. Rawley Prize to Behind the Mask of Chivalry. However, William D. Jenkins said that MacLean's historical analysis is "well-written, yet flawed," because it is "too readily dismissive of the influence of religious and cultural beliefs on human activity." In the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, J. Morgan Kousser offered a critical review, saying that "MacLean makes elementary errors long identified by sociologists and historians.
Freedom Is Not Enough (2006)
Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace, published in 2006 by Harvard University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation, traces the ways in which civil rights activism produced a seismic shift in U.S. workplaces, from an environment in which discrimination and a "culture of exclusion" were the norm to one that accepted and even celebrated diversity and inclusion.
The book received praise as a "superb and provocative" interpretation of civil rights history, and as an example of "contemporary history at its best." It won seven awards, including the Taft Award for labor history and the Hurst Award for legal history. Kenneth W. Mack praised MacLean for having helped to re-integrate legal frameworks into the discussion of civil rights after it had been neglected by historians.
Democracy in Chains (2017)
In 2017 MacLean published Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. This book focused on the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences-winning political economist James McGill Buchanan and his work in public choice theory, Charles Koch, George Mason University, and the libertarian movement in the US. MacLean argued they have undertaken "a stealth bid to reverse-engineer all of America, at both the state and national levels back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of midcentury Virginia, minus the segregation." According to MacLean, Buchanan represents "the true origin story of today’s well-heeled radical right."
MacLean's book set off a heated dispute among historians and economists. Political scientists Henry Farrell (of George Washington University) and Steven Teles (of Johns Hopkins University) described the book as "conspiracy theory in the guise of intellectual history." Economists Jean-Baptiste Fleury and Alain Marciano in the Journal of Economic Literature, wrote, "MacLean's account is marred by many misunderstandings about public choice theory" and "in the midst of abundant archival material, her historical narrative is, at best sketchy, and is replete with significantly flawed arguments, misplaced citations, and dubious conjectures. Overall, MacLean tends to overinterpret certain aspects in Buchanan's life and thought, while she overlooks others that are equally important in understanding his work and influence."
Democracy in Chains "led to an enormous, highly charged debate," mostly along partisan lines between "Team Public Choice or Team Anti-Buchanan".
Democracy in Chains received praise from liberal and progressive scholars and readers. In The Atlantic, Sam Tanenhaus called Democracy in Chains "A vibrant intellectual history of the radical right." Tanenhaus wrote that the book "is part of a new wave of historiography that has been examining the southern roots of modern conservatism" and it "untangle[s] important threads in American history [...] to make us see how much of that history begins, and still lives, in the South." George Monbiot, climate science author and columnist for The Guardian, wrote that the book was "the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century." Colin Gordon called the book "a revelation, as politics and as history." MacLean was interviewed by Rebecca Onion in Slate, Alex Shephard in The New Republic, and Mark Karlin Alternet about her "remarkable" and "groundbreaking" book. Bethany Moreton of Dartmouth College called the book "indispensable reading [that] adds a critical storyline to the complex and multi-causal conservative counterrevolution." Writing in BillMoyers.com, Kristin Miller argued that "MacLean has unearthed a stealth ideologue of the American right" to whom Charles Koch has "looked to for inspiration." In NPR, Genevieve Valentie said the book "feels like it was written with a clock ticking down" after a sixty-year campaign to make libertarianism mainstream and eventually take the government itself." Marshall Steinbaum of the Roosevelt Institute, described himself as "in sympathy with MacLean’s characterization of the Virginia School as profoundly antidemocratic and anti-academic" and considered the book "an important warning, and it should be read by all despite its rhetorical shortcomings." Luke Darby of GQ has called Democracy in Chains "one of the nine books to read before the next election." MacLean has been an invited guest on several popular television and radio outlets, most notably Real Time with Bill Maher, where she has appeared twice (in August and November of 2018) to discuss contemporary politics and the history of the far right.
Democracy in Chains was also criticized by libertarian scholars and readers. David Bernstein disputed her portrayal of Buchanan and George Mason University, where Bernstein is and Buchanan was a professor, and questioned the accuracy of her depiction of Buchanan's influence on the libertarian movement. Jonathan H. Adler noted allegations of serious errors and misleading quotations in Democracy in Chains raised by Russ Roberts, David R. Henderson, Don Boudreaux and others. Michael Munger, a libertarian political scientist at Duke University wrote that Democracy in Chains "is a work of speculative historical fiction" while Phil Magness argued that MacLean had "simply made up an inflammatory association" concerning Buchanan and the Southern Agrarians. Steve Horwitz argued that it was "a book that gets almost everything wrong, from the most basic of facts to the highest of theory". Brian Doherty argued, contra MacLean, that Buchanan had upbraided his colleagues who supported the Chilean dictatorship. In response, MacLean said she was the target of a "coordinated and interlinked set of calculated hit jobs" from "the Koch team of professors who don’t disclose their conflicts of interest and the operatives who work full time for their project to shackle our democracy." MacLean said that her book's ranking on Amazon was being spammed by negative reviews and rankings and urged people to post positive ones in response (this is against Amazon policy). Adler, Bernstein, Carden, and Magness have responded to her, pointing out that any Koch relationship was already acknowledged. In addition, Georg Vanberg noted two later private letters in which Buchanan discussed his work on school vouchers and condemned the "evils of race-class-cultural segregation."
Others who fall into neither the "team Public Choice" or "team anti-Buchanan," offered mixed reviews. Henry Farrell and Steven Teles called the book a "conspiracy theory in the guise of intellectual history" and wrote that "while we do not share Buchanan’s ideology ... we think the broad thrust of the criticism is right. MacLean is not only wrong in detail but mistaken in the fundamentals of her account." Similarly, Noah Smith agreed that MacLean had taken Tyler Cowen, whom he called "a staunch defender of democracy," out of context. Heather Boushey wrote that MacLean had shone "a light on important truths" but cautioned that "her overt moral revulsion at her subject can sometimes make it seem as if we’re getting only part of the picture." Jack Rakove wrote that "should be a thorough scholarly review of these points [raised by critics], and one suspects that MacLean will have to make a more concerted effort to justify her argument than she has yet provided," while concluding that "her questions remain important and well worth pondering." In her review for the History of Political Economy, Jennifer Burns wrote that "the narrative of American history [Democracy in Chains] presents is insular and highly politicized, laying out a drama of good versus evil with little attention paid to the larger worlds—global, economic, or intellectual—in which the story nests"
Criticism was also earned by MacLean for her remarks during the Q & A portion of her February 7, 2018 speech at New York City Unitarian Church of All Souls. She was asked, "Where do (Public Choice Theory economist James Buchanan’s) motivations lie? Are they ones of personal greed? It seems like it’s a little grander, is it malevolence?" MacLean answered, "As an author, I have struggled with this, and I could explain it in different ways. I didn’t put this in the book, but I will say it here. It’s striking to me how many of the architects of this cause seem to be on the autism spectrum—you know, people who don’t feel solidarity or empathy with others, and who have difficult human relationships sometimes."
In 1995 MacLean received the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Prize from the Southern Historical Association. In 2010, she was elected a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. In 2007, she received the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award of the Labor and Working Class Studies Association. In 2007 she received the Allan Sharlin Book Award for the best book in social science history from the Social Science History Association. In 2007 she received the Willard Hurst Prize for best book in socio-legal history from the Law and Society Association. In 2007 she received the Labor History Best Book Prize from the International Association of Labor History Institutions. Democracy in Chains was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction, a finalist for the "Los Angeles Times Book Award in Current Interest", and the winner of the Lannar Foundation Cultural Freedom Award. The book was also named "Most Valuable Book of 2017" by The Nation. In 2018, Democracy in Chains won the Lillian Smith Book Award, for "books that are outstanding creative achievements, worthy of recognition because of their literary merit, moral vision, and honest representation of the South, its people, problems, and promises."
- MacLean, Nancy (1995). Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195098365.
- MacLean, Nancy (2006). Freedom Is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674027497.
- MacLean, Nancy (2008). The American Women's Movement, 1945-2000: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford/St. Martin's.
- Critchlow, Donald T.; MacLean, Nancy (2009). Debating the American Conservative Movement: 1945 to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0742548244.
- Peeples, Edward H. (2014). Scalawag: A White Southerner's Journey through Segregation to Human Rights Activism. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0813935409.
- MacLean, Nancy (2017). Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101980989.
- "Faculty CV" (PDF).
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- MacLean, Nancy (2009). "Response to Ken Mack – and New Questions for the History of African American Legal Liberalism in the Age of Obama". Law and History Review. pp. 671–79. JSTOR 40646062.
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7 December 2017 issue
- Henry Farrell and Steven Teles, "Even the intellectual left is drawn to conspiracy theories about the right. Resist them." Vox, Oct 9, 2017
- Marciano, Alain; Fleury, Jean-Baptiste (2018). "The Sound of Silence: A Review Essay of Nancy MacLean's <em>Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America</em>". Journal of Economic Literature. 56 (4): 1492–1537. doi:10.1257/jel.20181502. ISSN 0022-0515.
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- "'Democracy In Chains' Traces The Rise Of American Libertarianism". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
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- "Opinion | Yet more dubious claims in Nancy MacLean's 'Democracy in Chains'". Washington Post.
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- "Opinion | How influential was James Buchanan among libertarians?". Washington Post.
- Adler, Jonathan. "Opinion | Does 'Democracy in Chains' paint an accurate picture of James Buchanan?". Washington Post.
- Michael Munger. "On the Origins and Goals of Public Choice". The Independent Institute.
- "Opinion | Who wants to put democracy in chains?". Washington Post.
- "Opinion | Duke professor Georg Vanberg on 'Democracy in Chains'". Washington Post.
- Carden, Art; Geloso, Vincent; Magness, Phillip W. (July 25, 2017). "Situating Southern Influences in James M. Buchanan and Modern Public Choice Economics". Social Science Research Network. SSRN 3008867. Cite journal requires
- Magness, Phillip. "How Nancy MacLean Went Whistlin' Dixie". historynewsnetwork.org.
- "On Buchanan's Intellectual History and MacLean's Missing Leviathan". historynewsnetwork.org.
- Carden, Art; Magness, Phil (July 17, 2017). "Buchanan the Evil Genius". Social Science Research Network. SSRN 3004029. Cite journal requires
- Horwitz, Steven (July 24, 2017). "Confirmation Bias Unchained: Nancy Maclean on James Buchanan, the History of Public Choice Theory, and Libertarianism". Social Science Research Network. SSRN 3007751. Cite journal requires
- "What Nancy MacLean Gets Wrong About James Buchanan". Reason.com. July 21, 2017.
- "To Duke Historian Nancy MacLean, Advocating Free Markets Is Something 'The World Has Never Seen Anything Like...Before'". Reason.com. August 2, 2017.
- Farrant, Andrew; Tarko, Vlad (16 January 2018). "James M. Buchanan's 1981 visit to Chile: Knightian democrat or defender of the 'Devil's fix'?". The Review of Austrian Economics. 32: 1–20. doi:10.1007/s11138-017-0410-3. ISSN 0889-3047.
- Parry, Marc (2017). "Nancy MacLean Responds to Her Critics". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
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- "Opinion | Georg Vanberg: Democracy in Chains and James M. Buchanan on school integration". Washington Post.
- "Even the intellectual left is drawn to conspiracy theories about the right. Resist them". Vox.
- "Be Clear-Eyed About Democracy's Weaknesses". Bloomberg.com. July 21, 2017.
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- Duke Professor: Libertarians ‘Seem to Be on the Autism Spectrum’ By KATHERINE TIMPF https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/02/nancy-maclean-libertarians-seem-autism-spectrum/amp/
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