C.L.R. James: A Political Biography

C.L.R. James: A Political Biography

by Kent Worcester

View All Available Formats & Editions

A fascinating, immensely readable biography of one of the most important radical intellectuals of the twentieth century.

C. L. R. James: A Political Biography offers the first sustained account of the life and work of one of the twentieth-century's most important radical intellectuals.

C. L. R. James (1901-1989) was born and raised in Trinidad and


A fascinating, immensely readable biography of one of the most important radical intellectuals of the twentieth century.

C. L. R. James: A Political Biography offers the first sustained account of the life and work of one of the twentieth-century's most important radical intellectuals.

C. L. R. James (1901-1989) was born and raised in Trinidad and became one of the most prominent figures to emerge out of the West Indian diaspora. He authored numerous books and essays on Caribbean history, Marxist theory, literary criticism, Western civilization, African politics, Hegelian philosophy, and popular culture. His best known works, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, and Beyond a Boundary are classics of twentieth-century thought. James played an active part in democratic movements in the West Indies and Africa as well as in left-wing and Pan-African campaigns in Britain, the United States, and Trinidad.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This biography is an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to understand the extraordinary life and work of C. L. R. James. It is thoroughly researched, based on primary sources as well as a very wide range of secondary materials, and a careful, subtle reading of James'prolific writings; yet it is always readable. It provides an accessible entry to the many worlds enriched by James: Marxist theory and practice, Caribbean and African politics, Western literature, popular culture, cricket and world revolution. Worcester has written a sensitive, multi-facted, intellectual biography of one of this century's most creative thinkers." -- Bridget Brereton, The University of the West Indies

"C. L. R. James was one of the twentieth-century's most significant radical intellectuals. Kent Worcester's excellent biography provides an extraordinary analysis of James'screative mind and political imagination. Worcester's work is the single best study of James currently available." -- Manning Marable, Columbia University

"Kent Worcester has managed to do something that very few people who write about political theory have done. He has provided an eminently readable biography but has also given James his full due as a political, social, and literary theorist. This is a remarkable achievement." -- Stanley Aronowitz, City University of New York Graduate Center

"Kent Worcester's biography puts the gist of James's career before the reader in one compact yet wide-ranging volume....The narrative is swift, yet rich in information. An invaluable guide to the work of a thinker who posed questions about 'postcoloniality' well before his contemporaries realized that all empires must fall." -- Scott McLemee, editor, C. L. R. James on the "Negro Question"

"This is a fine piece of work--a work which has been impatiently awaited for several years by serious 'James scholars.' " -- Paul Le Blanc, Carlow College

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
By the time Cyril Lionel Robert James died in London in 1989 at the age of 88, the Trinidad-born black journalist, author and radical was known and admired on three continents as one of the great intellectual and political figures of this century. He helped lead the International African Service Bureau in 1930s London, a pioneering think tank that supported African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta. He was founder and early U.S. leader, until the late 1940s, of the international socialist movement led by Russian exile Leon Trotsky. Deported from the U.S. for his radicalism in 1953, James continued to write, publish and conduct socialist and anticolonial activities from London and Trinidad. He wrote a novel, Minty Alley (1927) and a famous book on cricket and culture, Beyond a Boundary (1962), among others. This richly detailed biography takes us inside the small, influential world inhabited by James and his colleagues. Worcester, program director at the Social Sciences Research Council, summarizes James's writings with sympathy and insight, and gives a rare tour of the inner workings of Cold War-era marginal left-wing politics. But Worcester also shows the profound influence James's ideas had on the broader left-wing and anticolonial movements in Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and the U.S. Some of James's ideas about culture, participatory democracy, mass movements, socialist and antiracist politics are now staples of left-of-center thought and activity everywhere. Illustrations. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Cyril Lionel Robert James was a remarkable figure whose eclectic Marxism bound together a long life pursuing political activism, original theory, and literary criticism. This biography helps situate James's prolific output among years spent in Europe, the United States, and his native Trinidad. He emerges as a tireless man who moved comfortably from the task of organizing sharecroppers to a taste for leftist Hegelianism. Specialists in Marxism and African American studies will appreciate Worcester's efforts at locating James within the "Johnson-Forest Tendency" of American Trotskyism, as well as the detailed appendix of James's associates. The author, deeply sympathetic to his subject, avoids criticizing or interpreting James's schismatism politics or his several marriages. The book necessarily covers much of the same material as Paul Buhle's C.L.R. James: The Artist as Revolutionary (Verso, 1988), but differences between the biographies should help stimulate the attention that James deserves. Recommended for larger academic and public libraries, particularly those specializing in political theory or Caribbean or African American studies.-Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ.-Erie

Product Details

State University of New York Press
Publication date:
SUNY series, INTERRUPTIONS: Border Testimony(ies) and Critical Discourse/s Series
Product dimensions:
6.64(w) x 9.28(h) x 0.77(d)

Meet the Author

Kent Worcester is a program director at the Social Science Research Council in New York. He has written extensively on the life and work of C. L. R. James, and is co-editor of Trade Union Politics: American Unions and Economic Change, 1960s-1990s. He serves on the editorial board of New Politics, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >