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Rough Country: How Texas Became America's Most Powerful Bible-Belt State Hardcover – August 10, 2014

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Rough Country: How Texas Became America's Most Powerful Bible-Belt State + Red State: An Insider's Story of How the GOP Came to Dominate Texas Politics (Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture) + Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 664 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691159890
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691159898
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2014 Coral Horton Tullis Memorial Prize, Texas State Historical Association

"[Wuthnow's] goal is to explain the pitch, moral tone, sharp focus, and sheer loudness of Texas politics as a product of Texas religion. . . . Rough Country is chock-a-block with facts and numbers . . ."--Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books

"The great strength of Rough Country is the author's resolute commitment to exploring subtle distinctions. . . . Mr. Wuthnow's thoughtful, careful account is a valuable addition to America's endless church-and-state debates."--Erica Grieder, Wall Street Journal

"Anyone seeking to examine the relationship between modern American religious conservatism and politics needs to look no further than Wuthnow's authoritative, encyclopedic survey of Texas's influence on national trends."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In this brilliantly detailed book, Wuthnow draws on newspapers, eyewitness accounts and archival material as well as sociological theory, showing how notions of self and other emerged through institution-building practices that helped define Texan (and ultimately, national) identity."--Kirkus

"In Rough Country, Wuthnow draws on an Everest of data to provide a comprehensive analysis of the connections between religion, race, and politics in the state that has given us Lyndon Johnson, George W. Bush, Ted Cruz, Roe v. Wade, FreedomWorks, a key sponsor of the Tea Party, and secessionist threats."--Glenn Altschuler, Huffington Post

"[A] commanding sociological history. . . . Mr. Wuthnow offers a clear-eyed view of the lingering legacies of slavery and segregation, matters that many Texans today prefer to pass over in favour of Alamo heroics. . . . His research, much of it culled from the archives of Texan publications, is exhaustive, and his command of data impressive, from the changing number of clergy in Texas to the growth of livestock handling in the Fort Worth stockyards more than a century ago. There are nuggets on every page, for historians, journalists, clergy and policymakers."--The Economist

"Using the stories of the colorful men and women who drove Texas history, Wuthnow injects surprising life into such normally tame subjects as political theory or statistics about household incomes and the racial breakdowns of counties. For anyone looking to dive into the big, knotty history of one of the most iconic states, this book is well worth the time."--William O'Connor, Daily Beast

"Wuthnow's elaboration on the point of morality is especially illuminating. . . . Throughout the book, Wuthnow emphasizes that aside from its size and natural resources, Texas should be considered a microcosm of the United States, rather than a national exception."--Robyn Ross, Texas Observer

"Combining a wealth of detail with a broad narrative reach, Mr. Wuthnow's book tells the story of how faith, right-wing politics, and big money have shaped the state in complex ways. . . . Rough Country makes for encouraging or disturbing reading, depending upon which side of the Left-Right divide you are on."--Barry Alfonso, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Wuthnow seeks . . . to account for the raw power of Texas's red state religion and he has undertaken that massive task with all of the skill expected of such an accomplished scholar."--Journal of Southern Religion

"I have no idea of Robert Wuthnow is a Texan, but if only those born in Texas understand the state, he must be. . . . [A]ll readers will, I believe, find amid the details that make this such a rich book an important account of the complex role religion has played and continues to play in American life."--Stanley Hauerwas, First Things

"Mixing historical anecdotes gleaned from newspaper accounts, memoirs, and diaries with demographic studies and sociological analysis and using historical narrative as a framework, Wuthnow shows how this rough state with its rough religion and its rough relationship with race became such a powerful force in Bible Belt politics. . . . Wuthnow is a careful sociologist and his research is meticulous: he is a master of telling what happened and how it happened."--Kyle Childress, Christian Century

"Rough Country combines a careful treatment of religious history in Texas with sociological insights about the way religion functions in people's lives. Like everything Wuthnow writes, it demands careful attention. . . . A stoutly researched book full of interesting stories and important multi-layered interpretations, Rough Country should be required reading for every evangelical leader concerned with race, religion, or politics."--Miles Mullin, Christianity Today

"Wuthnow's comprehensive study of religion in Texas examines how evangelical Christianity has shaped a state with a powerful influence on US politics, especially in recent decades. . . . Though the book is primarily a historical narrative, this study of how faith and politics intertwine in Texas has much to offer to sociologists, political scientists, and scholars of religion in the U.S."--Choice

From the Back Cover

"Robert Wuthnow has never shied away from tackling big subjects, but this sweeping, detailed, complex, yet flowing account and analysis of more than 150 years of religion, race, politics, and social change in Texas must rank among the very best of his many books. And while Texans often think of ourselves as living in ‘a whole ’nuther country,’ Wuthnow deftly shows that what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas."--William Martin, Rice University’s Baker Institute

"This is a rich history of Texas presented with a sociologist’s keen eye for communities, institutions, legal processes, and social variables. The book is even more valuable for narrating the connections among race, religion, and politics that make Texas both singular in itself and representative of the nation as a whole. Rough Country is a splendid achievement."--Mark A. Noll, author of God and Race in American Politics: A Short History

"In this meticulously researched and beautifully written book, Robert Wuthnow offers a sweeping history of Texas’s unrivaled place in American civil religion. Addressing topics as varied as presidential politics, race and religion, and demographic change since the nineteenth century, Rough Country teaches us not only about one of the nation’s most intriguing--and in some ways, surprising--states but also about the nation as a whole. This nuanced, fascinating volume should be in the hands of everyone who wants to understand the place of public faith in our world today."--D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College

"With characteristic precision and authority, Robert Wuthnow offers a conclusive account of how and why Texas has so profoundly defined modern American religion and politics. From his exhaustive research in a sweeping range of sources, he draws out one illustrative character and colorful anecdote after another, and combines them with incisive analysis of sociological data to create a compelling portrait of the Lone Star State’s ascent. A good read as much as an exceptional piece of scholarship, Rough Country proves that as Texas has gone, so has the nation."--Darren Dochuk, author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt

"This book tells a story that hasn’t been told before. Writing in an engaging narrative style, Robert Wuthnow describes the major events and religious currents in U.S. history over the past century and a half as they played out in Texas. The book will appeal to anyone interested in U.S. history or in how religion and race intersected with events in America’s past."--Helen Rose Ebaugh, University of Houston

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scribblerus on October 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is first-rate history, political science, and sociology of religion. Wuthnow brilliantly describes the interplay of religion, race, and politics in the shaping of the contours of Texas's brand of conservatism. The author's concept of symbolic boundaries, developed most fully towards the end of the book, is a powerful tool for describing and understanding the social, religious, and political behavior he discusses. The focus is Texas, but I agree with the person who wrote the text for the jacket that this book tells us as much about the rest of America as about that state, and as much about how religion has shaped and is shaping the country as about how it shapes Texas. The author's only agenda seems to be to illuminate the development of Texas conservatism by providing rich historic and social context. The book is meticulously researched and well though not elegantly written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JYK on November 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It is a well-written, well-researched book about an important topic, given the outsize influence Texas wields on major national issues, including textbooks. The book is a bit dry, though, and may not get the broad readership it deserves. If you're willing to delve into the dense content, you'll learn a lot about the historical background and the social forces that shaped the Texan character we see displayed today in the national politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Maurice A. Rhodes on September 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
There are two levels on which one can read this exhaustive sociological account of the Lone Star State. The first is from the viewpoint of a scholar, the second is from the view of a person interested in 'what it is and how it got that way'. I am definitely the latter and in no way qualified to criticize on scholarly grounds this well-documented, statistically impressive and detailed plod through the years. A word on sociology: while my education included statistics and history, I never studied sociology or its rationale, and never considered it a science, other than the careful methodology with which a study of human activities might be carried out and analysed - and "Rough Country certainly satisfies that constraint! My readings of several of this kind of study finds them, for the most part very accurate as to content, usually well-researched and documented. But I am not so sure as to their predictive value. But one thing is certain: this type of analysis would be gold for those planning political campaigns in the specific areas dealt with. Nevertheless, the book is well written without too much difficulty for a layman except on some technical points and scholarly jargon - even they are usually explained. And given that, the book is a credit to the author'

The reader might ask `then why would I be attracted to such a book and buy it for my Kindle Reader?'

I had just finished reading or viewing some Amazon items: Michener's "Texas", Edna Ferber's "Big Giant", (and watched the movie where Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor portray the wealthy Texans. And let's not forget that one-upon- a-time tragic hero of the silver screen, James Dean, all of whom turned in stellar performances.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Zane on November 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was a very insightful read and one that I would recommend. Just got a bit lost in the stats translations as I'm not a statistician or academic by profession, but in general a good informative read. Living in South Africa, one can look up to the "study" of what happened in the 80s as Reagan pulled the country back from it's slump and how religion could (positively) influence the performance and moral of a country. Also the chapters on how religion pulled the wild west "into civilization" proved very inspiring and eye opening. Anyone who ever doubts the influence and importance of religion and the church in society should read this book, if you want to be proven wrong...
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