W.E.B. Du Bois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and The Color Line / Edition 1

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In this pathbreaking book, Adolph Reed, Jr. covers for the first time the sweep and totality of W. E. B. Du Bois's political thought. Departing from existing scholarship, Reed locates the sources of Du Bois's thought in the cauldron of reform-minded intellectual life at the turn of the century, demonstrating that a commitment to liberal collectivism, an essentially Fabian socialism, remained pivotal in Du Bois's thought even as he embraced a range of political programs over time, including radical Marxism. Exploring the segregation-era political discourse which informed Du Bois's texts, and identifying the imperatives which triggered Du Bois's strategic political thinking, Reed reveals that Du Bois's core beliefs concerning such 'ssues as the relationship between knowledge and progress, social stratification among blacks, and proper social organization, endured with little change from their early formulation in The Philadelphia Negro (1899). Reed's discussion, in addition to demonstrating the theoretical rigor and integrity of Du Bois's work over nearly six decades, involves a suggestive remapping of the history of progressive thought in this span, bringing clearly into view previously unexamined continuities and tensions between fin de siecle and later twentieth-century socialist and Marxist discourses.

Illuminating the foundations and course of Du Bois's political thought, Reed also considers the way this thought has been interpreted. Exposing recent vindicationist, de-politicizing, and transhistorical trends in Du Bois studies, Reed devotes special attention to recent misreadings of Du Bois's concept of "double- consciousness." Tracking the source of these trends to troubling currents in contemporary Afro-American, literary, and cultural studies, Reed offers a compelling alternative approach to the writing of the history of political thought, one that anchors inquiry to contemporary concerns while requiring the kind of thick historical grounding too often missing in recent scholarship. American intellectuals and activists of this century,

Eloquent and far-reaching, W. E. B. Du Bois and American Political Thought is an indispensable study of Du Bois's thought and holds clear implications for Americanists, African- Americanists, and those doing theory-inflected work in the humanities.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"W. E. B. Du Bois is a towering figure of central importance in American political thought, and so he has been annexed to many positions alien to his own. Reed provides the most informed, insightful, and balanced account of Du Bois's thinking yet written, one that is profoundly illuminating for progressive thought and action on issues of racial, political, and economic equality today."—Rogers M. Smith, Yale University

"Adolph Reed's book is quite simply brilliant. It liberates Du Bois scholarship from a host of disfiguring anachronisms. By persuasively establishing the specific intellectual context within which Du Bois worked, Reed systematically reinterprets the meaning and significance of Du Bois's most influential writings. The logic is searing, the scholarship is impeccable, and, as always with Reed, there's a bristling polemical punchline as well. Anyone who takes Du Bois seriously must come to terms with this book."—James Oakes, Northwestern University

"An extremely important contribution. Not only does Reed critically reclaim Du Bois as part of the traditions of both African American and American political thought, but he also locates Du Bois's thought and work in the dynamic changes in the political economy and racial politics of late 19th and 20th century America. Reed's book will be discussed and argued about for years, both for its provocative account of Du Bois's lifework and for its capacity to inform not only contemporary political debate, but also contemporary political action."—Michael C. Dawson, University of Chicago

"Reed has never been a man to go with the cultural flow. At a time when too many intellectuals, both black and white, are trimming their views to the rightward and depoliticizing winds of current fashion, Reed offers a bracing defense of a radical alternative. Tough-minded and wide-ranging, this book is not merely a rigorous contextualization of Du Bois that, in challenging conventional contemporary appropriations of him, will have to be taken account of by all serious future Du Bois interpretation. It is also a stirring call for a renewed Afro-American politics and scholarship that does not pass off covert quietism as activism and racial vindicationism as analysis."—Charles W. Mills, University of Illinois, Chicago

"This controversial book offers more than a challenging and well- researched interpretation of the legacy of Du Bois. In its most explosive pages Reed measures present-day "public intellectuals" against the standard set by Du Bois, and it is clear that he finds the current generation wanting. This book is certain to stimulate much probing discussion and considerable soul-searching."—Wilson J. Moses, Pennsylvania State University

"Adolph Reed Jr., a deft critical theorist, does for Du Bois's intellectual career what only Reed can do, offering a rigorous critical archaeology of Du Bois's political thought."—Martin Kilson, Harvard University

"Readers familiar with Adolph Reed Jr.'s work ...expect fiery polemics defending one interpretation of American race relations against any and all rivals. They will not be disappointed. Reed...not only aims to inform us of what Du Bois really meant, he also hurls a broadside against 'vindicationism'."—The New York Times Book Review

"[Reed's] stubborn belief in class politics, his fury at the self-satisfaction of intellectuals, and his repudiation of postmodern fashion...make him a rare tonic."—The Nation

"Required reading for progressive theorists and activists engaged in breaking the thralldom of racial compromise and accommodation."—Village Voice

"...the book shows the author has done intense research and there is much merit in its contents."—Quill & Scroll

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195051742
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Adolph L. Reed, Jr. is a member of the Graduate Faculty of Political Science at the New School of Social Research . He is also a regular columnist for The Village Voice and a frequent contributor to The Progressive and The Nation.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Du Bois - Afro-American and American Political Thought 3
2 Corporate Industrialization, Collectivism, and the New Intellectuals: Historical Context in the Formation of Du Bois's Thought 15
3 The Philadelphia Negro and the Consolidation of a Worldview 27
4 Science and Progress: The Unity of Scholarship and Activism 43
5 Stratification, Leadership, and Organization: The Role of the Black Elite 53
6 Three Confusions about Du Bois: Interracialism, Pan-Africanism, Socialism 71
7 Du Bois's "Double Consciousness": Race and Gender in Progressive-Era American Thought 93
8 "Tradition" and Ideology in Black Intellectual Life 127
9 From Historiography to Class Ideology 163
Conclusion: A Generativist Approach to the History of Political Thought 177
Notes 187
References 243
Index 276
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