Focusing on racial, ethnic, and religious groups, the author proposes a historical overview of group life and its impact on American society. His objectives and arguments are multiple. Covering a period from precolonial days to the present, he discusses the dynamics of group identity as well as the dynamics of intragroup and intergroup relations. The underlying theme is: All groups have at one time endured discrimination in American society. But, the trend in the United States historically has been toward guaranteeing and protecting individual rights. The author concludes that over the past few decades, however, the trend has shifted. Since the civil rights movement, the course has been toward government promotion of group rights over individual rights. He argues that this promotion of group rights has been chipping away at traditional individual rights. The impact of these preferences--specifically affirmative action programs--has been to create competition and antagonism among groups. Concerned with how to preserve national unity in the wake of this increasing animosity, Perlmutter concludes with ominous observations for America's future if the current trend of the government promoting group rights continues.