This text is a creative synthesis of the published scholarly research on the contemporary American right wing from the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy to the election of Ronald Reagan as President. It directly engages that research by critically analyzing the major explanations emerging from it. Emphasizing neither the lives and backgrounds of the scholars that he discusses nor paradigms within the social sciences as a whole, William Hixson focuses on the way the concepts of individual researchers have interacted with accumulating evidence on the American right, and how this evidence has led to new and more comprehensive theories. Hixon first summarizes and evaluates the research on the major developments analyzed by scholars - the social sources of "McCarthyism", the "radical right" of the early 1960s, George Wallace's constituency in his Presidential campaigns, and the emerging "new right" of the late 1970s. He then compares the interpretations of th two most influential students of the right wing, Seymour Martin Lipset and Michael Paul Rogin.
Finally, he offers his own explanation, suggesting that the right wing is both a mass and elite phenomenon, that its durability comes from its appeal to the upwardly mobile, especially in economically expanding regions, and that far from being either "traditionalist" or reactive, it presents a proactive defence of values associated with late 19th-century "modernization".