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Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left

Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left

by Richard Iton
Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left

Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left

by Richard Iton


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A number of arguments have been made to explain the relative weakness of the American Left. A preference for individualism, the effects of prosperity, and the miscalculations of different components of the Left, including the labor movement, have been cited, among other factors, as possible explanations for this puzzling aspect of American exceptionalism. But these arguments, says Richard Iton, overlook a crucial factor--the powerful influence of race upon American life.

Iton argues that the failure of the American Left lies in its inability to come to grips with the centrality of race in the American experience. Placing the history of the American Left in an illuminating comparative context, he also broadens our definition of the Left to include not just political parties and labor unions but also public policy and popular culture--an important source for the kind of cultural consensus needed to sustain broad social and collectivist efforts, Iton says.

In short, by exposing the impact of race on the development of the American Left, Iton offers a provocative new way of understanding the unique orientation of American politics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807860762
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 06/19/2003
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 360
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Richard Iton is associate professor in the departments of African-American studies and political science at Northwestern University.

Table of Contents


1. Gateway Blues
2. Race, Ethnicity, and the Cooperative Commonwealth
3. Southern Politics and the Unmaking of the American Left
4. Beyond the Left I: A New Deal for an Old Social Issue
5. Beyond the Left II: Making the Public Good
6. Memphis Diversities: Race, Class, Identity, and Popular Culture
7. Making Love in America


1.1. Unionization Rates (%) in Selected Countries, 1901-1961
1.2. Unionization Rates (%) in Selected Countries, 1970-1995
1.3. Dates of First Statutory Programs
1.4. Children, Elderly, and All Persons (%) Living in Poverty, by Country, 1979-1982
1.5. Effectiveness of Transfer Programs in Selected Countries
1.6. Portion of Population (%) Living in Poverty after Government Transfers, Mid-1980s
1.7. Demographic Variation in Selected Countries
1.8. Homogeneity Indicators for Selected Countries
1.9. Immigration to the United States, 1820-1989
1.10. Immigration to Canada, 1851-1981
1.11. American Population, by Race, 1790-1990
1.12. Population by Group in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1999
2.1. Asian American Population in California, 1860-1890
2.2. Membership Totals, American Federation of Labor, 1897-1920
2.3. Membership Totals, American Federation of Labor, 1920-1933
2.4. Union Members (%) Voting for Democratic Presidential Candidates, 1956-1988
2.5. Unionization Rates in Canada and the United States, 1955-1994 (as a percentage of nonagricultural workers)
2.6. Service/Industrial Sector Ratios, Selected OECD Countries, 1963, 1973, and 1983
4.1. Shares of Aggregate Household Income (%) Received by Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of Households, 1967-1993
4.2. Estimated Voting-Age Blacks (%) Registered in Eleven Southern States
5.1. Social Welfare Expenditures as a Percentage of Gross Domestic Product and Total Government Expenditures, 1987 and 1995
5.2. American Health Care Cost Increases as Compared with Changes in Gross Domestic Product, 1929-1990
5.3. Share of Gross Domestic Product (%) Spent on Health Care, Selected OECD Countries, 1960-1991
5.4. Public/Private Health Care Spending Ratios in Selected Countries
5.5. Portion of Population (%) Covered by Public Health Care System, 1991
5.6. Comparative Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality, 1995
5.7. Children Immunized (%) against Three Major Diseases in the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Canada, 1990-1994
5.8. Comparative Costs of Health Care, 1993
5.9. Portion of Population Uninsured (%) in the United States, 1940-1998
5.10. Uninsured Nonelderly Residents (%) in the United States, by Ethnicity, 1979 and 1989
5.11. Electoral Turnout (%) for Selected Countries (for most recent election before end of year given)
5.12. Voters (%) Claiming to Have Participated in 1984 American Elections, by Race, Gender, Employment Status, Education, and Region
5.13. American Voter Turnout (%), 1840-1924
5.14. American Voter Turnout (%), 1928-1996
5.15. Reported Registration Rates in the American South, by Race, 1946-1992 (as % of population)
5.16. Portion of Population (%) That Reported Voting in Presidential Elections in the South, by Race, 1964-1992
7.1. Homicide Rates per 100,000 Population, Selected Countries, 1996
7.2. Ratio of Women's to Men's Hourly Earnings, Nonagricultural Workers (%), 1970 and 1990
7.3. Maternity Leave Provisions in Selected Countries, 1997
7.4. Poverty Rates in Selected Countries
7.5. Black Residents in Neighborhoods Where Average Black Resides (%), 1930 and 1970
7.6. Population in Levittown, New York, by Race, 1960-1990

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

An engaging and enlightening discussion of the nature, meanings, and consequences of leftist politics in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As a book, Solidarity Blues succeeds in its central goal of explicating the negative impact of race on the historical and political development of the American Left.—Waldo E. Martin Jr., University of California, Berkeley

In Solidarity Blues Richard Iton has written an outstanding account of the American Left and its 'cultural heterogeneity.' Employing both primary and secondary sources, Iton provides a timely and persuasive reconsideration of American exceptionalism, and an assessment of the relative importance of class and race in explaining this phenomenon. The strength of Iton's analysis lies both in its comparative analysis of American exceptionalism and in the cogency of his theoretical argument. For scholars of the American Left, exceptionalism, and comparative labor relations, Solidarity Blues is an important addition to existing research.—Desmond King, University of Oxford

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