WCU Professors Edit New Book
A new book edited by two Western Carolina University political scientists examines the changing face of politics in North Carolina and revisits the state's long-standing progressive reputation in light of transformations in Old North State politics over the past 50 years.
"The New Politics of North Carolina," edited by WCU's Christopher Cooper and Gibbs Knotts, features a collection of 11 essays by leading scholars of N.C. politics. Published in May by the University of North Carolina Press, the book is designed to offer a systematic analysis of the state's political and policy-making processes within the context of N.C. history, and the history and politics of other states.
Topics examined in the book include the evolution of political institutions; roles of the governor, the legislature and the courts; the impact of interest groups and political parties; and economic development and environmental issues.
"We found that there was a lack of scholarly work on North Carolina," says Cooper, who directs WCU's master's degree program in public affairs and the Public Policy Institute.
"We saw a real opportunity to bring a group of top scholars together to consider the major institutions and policies in North Carolina politics."
The book serves as an introduction to contemporary state government and politics, and should be of interest to N.C. college students and professors -- and to people who simply want to learn more about N.C. politics, he says.
"State politics is a wonderful sub-field of political science, a place to learn about how we can design institutions to maximize representation and democratic values," Cooper says.
"We also think it demonstrates some valuable lessons about the place of North Carolina in a changing South."
Knotts, head of Western's department of political science and public affairs, says that the book's essays challenge conventional wisdom about politics and policy in North Carolina.
"In 1949, renowned political scientist V.O. Key described North Carolina as a 'progressive plutocracy,' and argued that, compared to other Southern states, North Carolina was more progressive in the areas of industrial development, public education and race relations," says Knotts.
"Nearly 60 years later, our contributors find the state is losing ground as a progressive leader in the South. New opportunities and challenges have forced the state to change, but the old culture remains a powerful influence."
For more information about the department of political science and public affairs, call (828) 227-7475. For more information about the book, visit the Web site http://uncpress.unc.edu/ books/T-7985.html.
Bill Studenc is the senior director of news services for the Office of Public Relations at WCU, in Cullowhee.
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