The Great Wells of Democracy: The Meaning of Race in American Life

Overview

In his boldest and most accessible book to date, Manning Marable lays out a new way to think about the past and the future of race in America. Exploding traditional lines of left and right, Marable stakes out such controversial and seemingly incompatible positions as the re-enfranchisement of felons, state support for faith-based institutions, reparations for slavery that systematically inject capital into the black community, and a reconfiguration of racial identities that accounts for the increasingly ...
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Overview

In his boldest and most accessible book to date, Manning Marable lays out a new way to think about the past and the future of race in America. Exploding traditional lines of left and right, Marable stakes out such controversial and seemingly incompatible positions as the re-enfranchisement of felons, state support for faith-based institutions, reparations for slavery that systematically inject capital into the black community, and a reconfiguration of racial identities that accounts for the increasingly multi-racial nature of our society. He exhorts us to construct a new political language and practical public policies to bridge the racial divide--so that we do no less than reinvent the democratic project called America.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Divided into three sections, "The American Dilemma," "The Retreat from Equality" and "Reconstructing Racial Politics," the latest from the author of Beyond Black and White and many other titles is nothing less than a working summary of America's history of race relations and a survey the current sociopolitical scene, from hip-hop to September 11. Marable, founding director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia, is compellingly interested in class and economic issues as more than subsets of race politics. And he maintains a surprisingly uncynical belief in the possibilities of democracy. These rare facets, and a good balance of scholarship and observation, assure the book's interest. (Jan.)
Library Journal
"To heal the effects of trauma our stories must be told and retold." Taken from the latest treatise on race and politics in America by distinguished scholar and activist Marable (political science, Columbia Univ.), this statement sums up the book perfectly. Manning dedicates a disproportionate amount of time to recounting and documenting the history of racism in America, presenting a huge arsenal of statistics on employment and housing discrimination, educational inequality, racist law-enforcement practices, ineffective electoral politics, and neoliberal public policies that perpetuate racial inequality. Most readers will have heard the arguments before and will become impatient with the endless sermon on how blacks have and continue to be mistreated. Less emphasis on what has been done to African Americans and more emphasis on what African Americans have done for themselves and what they continue to do to ensure equality in the future would have created a much more effective narrative. For those stories, see Robin Kelly's Freedom Dreams. Suitable for black studies collections.-Sherri Barnes, Univ. of California Lib., Santa Barbara
Kirkus Reviews
Marable (Black Leadership, 1999, etc.) examines the meaning of race in the US. The focus here is a bit foggy. Certainly the title is meant ironically: there are no great wells of democracy for African-Americans and other minorities within the US. Marable (Political Science/Columbia) seems most interested in the social construction of blackness and whiteness as categories. He likens whites to first-class airplane passengers: "pampered, well fed, and . . . generally intoxicated." It seems disingenuous for this Ivy League professor to place himself in the "uncomfortable coach middle seat," and while Marable provides many cogent examples of racism as a cultural construct, he himself is guilty of frequent generalizations. When discussing corporate layoffs at the entry level and arguing that blacks are disproportionately affected by such downsizing, he writes, "Whites who lose their jobs usually have ample resources to fall back on, such as the equity in their homes, family savings, stocks, and other investments." The author seemingly isn’t aware that much of the working-class of any race is without such safety nets. It doesn’t help his argument that he doesn’t follow a linear format. Rather, Marable examines those topics of interest to him: mini-profiles of Bill Clinton and Louis Farrakhan are followed by a discussion of the future development of American higher education and of how class and race affect educational opportunities. The study is filled with such turgid sentiments as, "To begin anew a counterhegemonic black political project, African-American progressive activists and intellectuals must learn from the experiences, successes and failures of these community-based coalitions,mobilizations, spontaneous protests, and even voluntary, self-help groups." Rambling, repetitious, and disappointing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465043941
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 11/11/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 365
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Author's Note
1 Introduction: What We Talk About When We Talk About Race 1
Pt. 1 The American Dilemma
2 Structural Racism: A Short History 21
Pt. 2 The Retreat from Equality
3 The Politics of Race and the Limits of Electoral Reform 67
4 Losing the Initiative on Race 93
5 Race and Educational Inequality 125
6 Facing the Demon Head On: Race and the Prison Industrial Complex 147
7 The Death of the Talented Tenth 165
Pt. 3 Reconstructing Racial Politics
8 Building Democracy from Below: Community Empowerment 195
9 Forty Acres and a Mule: The Case for Black Reparations 223
10 The Hip-Hop Revolution 255
11 When the Spirit Moves: The Politics of Black Faith 271
12 9/11: Racism in the Time of Terror 293
13 Epilogue: The Souls of White Folk 319
Notes 329
Index 353
About the Author 366
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2003

    Great Read...I read this with Democracy Matters by Daniel Coca, both are GREAT!!

    Dear Mr. marable, Your writing is an excellent. I have been reading your work for years; prior to this reading I finished, for the second time, 'How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America. I see how your writing and understanding race in society has been challenged, cultivated, and developed. I continue to gravitate towards your books and commentary, simply because, you, unlike other African Americans are not afraid to challenge the so called leaders of the black folk and America. Thank you for your insights. If have not read, I would suggest 'Democracy Matters: an examination of life, hope, responsibility and poverty--it is an excellent read!

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