Adolph Reed Jr is a relatively new find for me and has a #no bullshit uality I like in a public intellectual This book is a #bullshit uality I like in a public intellectual This book is a on the dreary politics of the 1980s and 1990s the summer of our discontent made lorious by the winter of Trump Reed speaks at the intersection of race and class which is a very important hinge in our society and writes of the decline of the left that has been Between Silences going on since right after the postwar period And theestural politics it mostly embodies this day which puts symbolism ahead of substance I think the left is a little stronger now than it was in the 1990s but some of these pathologies persist to the present Good stuff Incredible political writing Very funny I m amazed that this book is 20 years old and still rings so true Great book and will have to revisit soon to really digest the arguments Read this at the suggestion of Michael Brooks RIP Left is Best This stellar collection of essays most of which were first printed in issues of the Village Voice was released in 2000 yet the issues discussed here have only become amplified through their aggregation via social media platforms The essays are Betrayals grouped into three categories which 1 combat the personal is political modes of resistance as it particularly relates to black political involvement 2 combat strange technical notions of euality and their bizarre manifestations in American political life and 3 offers practical ways forward to move beyond the essentialist deadlock which the self proclaimed left finds itself inA running thread in this collection is Reed s aversion to the use of words such as community andrassroots to refer to a mystical like black voting bloc who all thinks and does alike The presumption here is that the black community does not suffer from the same contradictions as other roups ie whites stemming from class and status Thus the uestion of proper treatment of issues in relation to blacks in America takes a tone of the paranoiac what must They think of us whites This racial cultural essentialization of the community results in a deadlock where blacks are never addressed fully as eual citizens called upon to participate in a political decision making process But who exactly is the community How can we assess the claims of those who purport to represent it These uestions are seldom raised much less answered A strain of Jeffersonian romanticism obscures them among the left for whom community implies an organic entity animated by a collective mind and will From that perspective we don t need to ask how the community makes its decisions how it forms its will because it reflects and almost mystical identity of interest and common feelingBecause whites by and large don t see black Americans as a complex population of differentiated individuals the organic community imagery seems reasonable And Natural To Them Instead Whites Look For Black Spokespeople natural to them Instead whites look for black spokespeople speak on the community s behalf It oes without saying that this is particularly the case when this spokesperson does not effectively challenge the way in which political power is actually distributed and maintained which would of course need to take on the difficult task of historical materialist analysis which went beyond charges of the perils of whiteness or the authenticity of cultural blackness This theme of the pitfalls of the leadership impulse reaches a fever pitch in the essay What Are the Drums Saying Booker a tongue in cheek reference to the need for whites to have access to their black whisperer in the form of the black public intellectual Instead Reed argues that What the current environment demands from black intellectuals who would comment on public affairs is not whining about disparagement of the black body in Western culture as if that were news or examination of representations of representations or noodling about how if we apply the right spin everything black people do is resistance or oppression And most of all there is no need for interpretations that presume an uncomplicated conveniently mute black reality there s already a surfeit of analysis propelled by the collective black subject black people want feel etc As is true on the left Bat Ode generally what is desperately called for is stimulation of informed discussion among black Americans and between blacks and others that presumes proprietorship of the institutions ofovernance and policy processes on an identical basis with other citizens and aims at crafting agendas that define and realize black interests accordingly The. Hailed by Publishers Weekly for its “forceful” and “bracing opinions on race and politics” Class Notes is critic Adolph Reed Jr’s latest blast of clear thinking on matters of race class and other American dilemmas The book begins with a consideration of the theoretical and practical strategies of the US left over the. .
Other main strand I found was Reed s excellent citation of the morality play of the responsibility ethos as it began to spring up on both the so called left and the right after Reagan and #THE FAILURE OF MCGOVERN WHICH STILL HAUNTS US TO #failure of McGovern which still haunts us to day I m afraid Though cloaked in a cloth most Americans do not find fault with this ethos is used to justify some of the most horrific theories normalized in public discourse that there is a sector of the population usually with darker skin fancy that who essentially belongs to a different species of person This characterization is ever dangerous when you throw into the mix the rigid biological claims such as those found in Bell Curve If some of us are hard wired criminals and derelicts why what s the point of fighting for reform and access to resources Such a figuration of the problem lets the Bitter Choices: Blue-Collar Women in and out of Work government off the hook as a body which ought to be responsible to the people and breeds the atomized cynicism I m sure we ve all cozied up to at some point in our livesIt is refreshing to hear all of this Reed is a statist and I respect that I think many who consider themselves to be in the left find it fashionable to proclaim their orientation against The State and simply leave it at that It s what fosters this docile everyday resistance politics which does not beg of us to actually engage with power and assume responsibility for its euitable proper distribution Call yourself whatever you will but an engagement with power is absolutely necessary if you wish to change theame No the aim is not to help people make choices and exercise a flimsy democratic right surely the oal is to enable people to determine their own choices This can only result from being unafraid of engaging with power IN A REAL WAY SO YES a real way So yes revolutionary ideas do need to eventually become principles of overnance That probably sounds boring but this is something we need to think about Reed knows this Hell as an organizer he does this Reed s analysis of the left s slow decline into lukewarm parables which used to be the handmaid of the right particularly as it relates to black public life is second to none Adolph Reed is not only a compelling straightforward and remarkably engaging writer he is also fearless His collection of occasional pieces and topical essays together make for an excellent collection and introduction to his central themes the diversity of black American politics and perspectives the centrality of economic ineuality and the urgent need for state oriented political activity that is rigorous intelligent and implementable Another clear theme across these essays and foregrounded by the introduction is that Reed has little time for the vague pronouncements of theory after the linguistic turn and less time for the increasingly dominant performances of cultural criticism as he argues that both of these traditions unhelpfully uise their accommodations with the status uo in a misleading and ineffectual language of resistance He thus prises apart the claims of identity politics from their effects to argue that politics based in thus prises apart the claims of identity politics from their effects to argue that politics based in identities form the burgeoning paralysis of socially atomized politically active neoliberalism It s bracing stuff and you don t need to agree with Reed to see the clarity of his arguments Reed s mode of critiue here clearly occupies a moment in many ways alien to our own but bears lessons for contemporary political analysts and strategists His central concerns are certainly timely poverty exploitation racialized power political agency and the active participation of a broad assortment of people in political movements This book is worth re reading which I should probably do before iving an extensive and deserved treatment to the thoughts and ideas Reed puts forth For now a few thoughtsI had a professor whose historical understanding was vast and seemingly all encompassing Nonetheless he told m Not every single essay in this book is earth shatteringly Blank Darkness: Africanist Discourse in French good And Reed is sometimes overly dismissive of what I consider to be developments on the Left that aren t particularly harmful or insignificant But reading this book made me feel like a serious weight had been lifted off of my shoulders Itave me permission to admit to myself that developments or ideas within the Left that I ve long had internal personal doubts about but have never wanted to admit out loud or even to myself may in fact be right or if not right at least worth voicing and debating The Left as anyone who s been around it in the past few. Last three decades Reed argues against the solipsistic approaches of cultural or identity politics and in favor of class based political interpretation and action Class Notes moves on to tackle race relations ethnic studies family values welfare reform the so called underclass and black public intellectuals in essays called Decades already knows is in really rough shape And when you re in such rough shape you re desperate for anything that you can claim as a victory or even just a positive development When victories around major society wide issues that reuire real mass movement building and thus are really difficult to win issues like ending racial segregation in housing universal health care affordable housing workers rights etc are in short supply it can be really depressing and debilitating So it makes sense that many of us would choose to set the bar a bit lower for ourselves to battles that we are capable of winning many of which of course as Reed notes several times in the book are also extremely important to fight over and win But Reed s basic case here is about not indulging in that temptation He s arguing here that we need to keep our eyes on the prize that we can t Back to the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America give up on those bigger pictureoals and that there s no substitute for a mass movement reuired to win them no shortcuts to achieving mass social change And the sooner we can admit that to ourselves the sooner we can At Stake: Monsters and the Rhetoric of Fear in Public Culture get to the business of actually creating that kind of movement and winning those victoriesIt s a message that s a bit depressing in its sobriety But if we reoing to ever win victories around those issues we don t really have another choiceAlso I d be remiss if I didn t mention that Reed has some of the most scorching prose I ve ever read from an I didn t mention that Reed has some of the most scorching prose I ve ever read from an Seriously It s so white hot and so brutal that I m afraid to have the man read anything I ve ever written lest he take issue with any piece of it and write such a blistering merciless takedown that I ll be paralyzed from ever writing anything again Adolph Reed Jr is one of my favorite left wing intellectuals This collection of essays primarily focuses on political strategy racism and ineuality Reed provides a valuable materialist insight into the uniue features of black communities and politics as well He is very critical of the Postmodern turn of the academic left and substance less identity politics while still taking a strong class based and anti racist position himself Ultimately I found this book somewhat inspiring and refreshing He breaks down many problems I have with the modern left but he both understands them better than I and what potential solutions may be I highly recommend it Adolph Reed where have you been all my life Class Notes is a collection of essays on black politics the labor movement left strategy the underclass debate the suckiness of liberals and a range of other issues all addressed with Reed s ascerbic wit and razor sharp political analysis His introductory analysis of the retreat of the left into the academy and postmodern identity politics since the 1960s should be Reuired Reading For All Leftists reading for all leftists essay #What Do the Drums Say Booker should be put in the #Do the Drums Say Booker should be put in the category as it definitively debunks the claims of the last wave of black public intellectuals to Voice ofthe Black Community status and manages to be completely hilarious at the same time What s best about Reed s perspective is that it allows him to walk and chew Black Nationalism: The Search for an Identity gum at the same time while recognizing the need for historically oppressed identityroups to organize around their specific rievances he argues persuasively that these oppressions are ultimately experienced through political economy and that class organization in the interest of all working people needs to remain the foundation of a real progressive political movement This seems so painfully obvious to me but unfortunately many of us on the left have lost sight of this reality How I wish Reed was an Honorary Co Chair of my own organization Democratic Socialists of America rather than Cornel West I think we d be much better off I first read this book several years ago and have been coming back to it ever since along with everything else Reed has ever written He has probably been the most influential thinkerwriter for me in the past 3 4 years He really offered a way of thinking about class race American politics and left strategy that I was hungering for He is really one of the shrewdest political thinkers alive As for being a black public intellectual he s ot honest substance in one essay than all the blathering Cornell Wests and Michael Eric Dysons have in their entire oeuvre combined Anyways this book is a reat and very readable intro to Reed s thoughtAnd he s actually an ACTIVIST too Especially with the Labor Party I almost wish he wasn t as active as he is so that he would writ. ??head spinning” and “brilliantly executed” by David Levering LewisAdolph Reed Jr has earned a national reputation for his controversial evaluations of American politics These essays illustrate why people like Katha Pollitt consider Reed “the smartest person of any race class or ender writing on race class and ender?.