Posts Tagged ‘Adolph Reed’

More of Adolph Reed Jr.’s greatest hits

July 2, 2020

Adolph Reed, Jr. in the classroom [Credit: Publicbooks.org]

Adolph Reed Jr. is a political scientist who, as much as or more than anybody I know of, cuts through BS and tells things as they are.  I put up some links to his writings and interviews in the previous post.  Here are some more.

I recommend bookmarking both pages and reading his writings whenever you have the time and interest.  I won’t say I completely agree with everything he says even now, but he saw through a number of things that I was fooled by at the time—starting with Barack Obama.

Here’s what he wrote in the Village Voice in 1996, when Obama was just getting started in politics.  I wasn’t able to find a link to the full article.

In Chicago, for instance, we’ve gotten a foretaste of the new breed of foundation-hatched black communitarian voices; one of them, a smooth Harvard lawyer with impeccable do-good credentials and vacuous-to-repressive neoliberal politics, has won a state senate seat on a base mainly in the liberal foundation and development worlds. 

His fundamentally bootstrap line was softened by a patina of the rhetoric of authentic community, talk about meeting in kitchens, small-scale solutions to social problems, and the predictable elevation of process over program — the point where identity politics converges with old-fashioned middle-class reform in favoring form over substance.

I suspect that his ilk is the wave of the future in U.S. black politics, as in Haiti and wherever else the International Monetary Fund has sway.  So far the black activist response hasn’t been up to the challenge. We have to do better.

Source: Wikipedia

I think Reed’s analysis is correct.  The thing he does not explain is why his ideas have gotten so little traction.  Reed didn’t think Obama would be elected.  He didn’t foresee that Black Lives Matter activism would sweep the nation (nor did I).

If he is right, then a broad-based coalition, such as the one led by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. would be the key to constructive social change.  Maybe it will.  But, at least for now, it is the race-specific Black Lives Matter than has captured the public’s imagination.

LINKS

Liberals, I Do Despise by Adolph Reed Jr. in The Village Voice (1996)

The Case Against Reparations by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Progressive (2000).

Undone by Neoliberalism, by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Nation (2006)  About New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

Obama, No by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Progressive (2008)

Race and the New Deal Coalition by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Nation (2009)

Adolph Reed Jr. on Sanders, Coates and Reparations, an interview segment from Doug Henwood’s Behind the News (2016)

How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org. (2016)

Splendors and Miseries of the Antiracist “Left” by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org. (2016)

Black Politics After 2016 by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org (2018)

The Myth of Class Reductionism by Adolph Reed Jr. for The New Republic (2019)

Adolph Reed Jr. on identity politics

July 1, 2020

This Bill Moyers interview with Adolph Reed Jr. was aired in 2014.

Adolph Reed Jr. is a retired professor of political science and a Marxist.  He thinks that what is called identity politics is a way of maintaining structure of inequality.  The purpose of this post is to call attention to his critique of identity politics and provide links to some of this work.

Identity politics is based on an analysis of how dominant groups oppress marginal groups.  Some examples:

  • Whites > Blacks  [racism]
  • Men > Women  [male chauvinism, mysogyny]
  • Native-Born > Immigrants [xenophobia]
  • Anglos > Hispanics [xenophobia]
  • Straights > Gays [homophobia]
  • Cisgendered > Transgendered [transphobia]

These are not made-up problems.  It is a fact that white job applicants or loan applicants get preference over equally-qualified or better-qualified black applicants.  It is a fact that shocking numbers of women are sexually harassed on the job.  No-one should be denied basic rights by reason of race, gender, national origin or LGBTQ identity.

The problem is when disparities between groups are used to distract from the structure of wealth and power in society as a whole.  According to economist Gabriel Zucman, one percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from 28 percent in the 1990s.

Reed says that, within the multicultural framework, this would be okay if the upper one percent were 50 percent women, 15 percent black and the appropriate percentages Hispanic, GLBTQ and so on.

Ideas of equity can be used to promote inequality.  Ideas about oppression of minorities can be used to divert attention from exploitation of the majority by the minority.  The ideology of multiculturalism can be used as a technique to divide and rule.

Honoring diversity doesn’t bring about full employment, living wages, debt relief or an end to America’s forever wars

Honoring multiculturalism can leave members of all the different groups divided among themselves and equally exploited, along with straight white cisgender males, by employers, bankers, landlords and corrupt politicians..

LINKS

Public Thinker: Adolph Reed Jr. on Organizing, Race and Bernie Sanders, an interview for Public Books.

An interview with political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. on the New York Times’ 1619 Project on the World Socialist Web Site.

Nothing Left: the long, slow surrender of American liberals by Adolph Reed Jr. for Harper’s Magazine (2014)

Adolph Reed: Identity Politics Exposing Class Division in Democrats, from an interview on the Benjamin Dixon Show (2016)

The Trouble With Uplift by Adolph Reed Jr. for The Baffler (2018)

What Materialist Black Political History Actually Looks Like by Adolph Reed Jr. for nonsite.org.

Equality vs. group equality

June 13, 2016

Paul Krugman wrote that the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries shows the fallacy of trying to appeal to a majority of Americans on the issue of inequality.

History shows that Americans don’t care about individual inequality; he wrote; what we care about is “horizontal” inquality—disparities between racial, ethnic and other groups.   Politicians need to realize this in order to be successful.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

Defining oneself at least in part by membership in a group is part of human nature.  Even if you try to step away from such definitions, other people won’t.  A rueful old line from my own heritage says that if you should happen to forget that you’re Jewish, someone will remind you: a truth reconfirmed by the upsurge in vocal anti-Semitism unleashed by the Trump phenomenon.

So group identity is an unavoidable part of politics, especially in America with its history of slavery and its ethnic diversity.  Racial and ethnic minorities know that very well, which is one reason they overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton, who gets it, over Mr. Sanders, with his exclusive focus on individual inequality.   And politicians know it too.

Indeed, the road to Trumpism began with ideological conservatives cynically exploiting America’s racial divisions.

Source: Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Adolph Reed explained the problem with this kind of thinking in an interview on the Benjamin Dixon show.

Adolph Reed Jr.

Adolph Reed

We have a national politics now that has for 20 years at least, longer, given us two choices. And one of them is a party that’s committed to Wall Street and to neoliberalism and is deeply and earnestly committed to a notion of diversity and multiculturalism, and a party that’s committed to Wall Street and neoliberalism, and is deeply opposed to multiculturalism and diversity.

So, if we have to choose between those two, obviously for most of us who are committed to the ideals of justice and equality, the one that’s committed to multiculturalism and diversity is less bad than the one that’s opposed to them. 

But the deeper problem is that they’re both actively committed to maintaining and intensifying economic inequality, and … that ideal of a just society is one in which one percent of the population can control ninety percent of the stuff, but it would be just if twelve percent of the one percent were black, fourteen percent Latino, and half of them were women, and whatever percentage were gay, and what that means, then, is that most Black people, and most Latinos, and most white people, and most Asian Americans would would be stuck holding like the end of the stick with the stuff on it that I assume I can’t call by its right name.

Source: Adolph Reed | naked capitalism

(more…)

The political scene: November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014

It is better to vote for what you want and not get it,

than vote for what you don’t want and get it.

==Eugene V. Debs

****************************************************

Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American liberals by Adolph Reed for Harper’s.

We are all right-wingers now: How Fox News, ineffective liberals, corporate Dems and GOP money captured everything, an interview of Adolph Reed by Thomas Frank for Salon.  Highly recommended.  (Hat tip to Steve Badrich)

Political scientist Adolph Reed expounded in his essay and in Thomas Frank’s interview on the learned helplessness of liberals, and their willingness to settle for the lesser evil.

Voting in itself will not change things, he said, and neither will protest demonstrations or blogging (ouch!).  Only a sustained political workers’ movement, not beholden to either political party, can bring about necessary social change.

Obama Is a Republican by Bruce Bartlett for The American Conservative.

Bruce Bartlett wrote that Barack Obama is guided by the philosophy of Richard M. Nixon, not Saul Alinsky.  In time, conservatives will come to appreciate that Obama was one of them, he said, just as they have come to appreciate Bill Clinton.

There’s One Thing at Stake in the Senate Race by Jonathan Chait for New York magazine.

If Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate, they will block President Obama’s nominations of federal judges and government administrators.  With all of the faults of the Democrats cited by Adolph Reed, they at least allow the government to function.

Nothing in Moderation by Thomas B. Edsall for the New York Times.

A recent study indicates that voters are more extreme in their views than politicians.  The reason this doesn’t necessarily show up on public opinion surveys is that many individuals are at the extreme “left” of the imaginary political spectrum on some issues, and the extreme “right” on other issues.   It doesn’t mean they’re inconsistent.  It means the left|right and red|blue divisions are arbitrary.

Righteous rage, impotent fury: Thomas Frank returns to Kansas to hunt the last days of Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts for Slate.

Governor Sam Brownback and Senator Pat Roberts have failed to do anything to benefit ordinary Kansans.  Will waging the culture war be enough to keep them in office one more time?  We’ll see.

US midterm elections – The Guardian briefing.