No Politics but Class Politics
Walter Benn Michaels
Professor of English
University of Illinois Chicago
Adolph Reed, Jr.
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania
JRN'07, Senior reporter, Marketplace
Denouncing racism and celebrating diversity have become central to progressive politics. For many on the left, it seems, social justice would consist of an equitable distribution of wealth, power and esteem among racial groups. But as Prof. Adolph Reed Jr. and Prof. Walter Benn Michaels argue in their latest incisive collection of essays, the emphasis here is tragically misplaced. Not only can a fixation with racial disparities distract from the pervasive influence of class, it can actually end up legitimizing economic inequality. As Reed and Michaels put it, “racism is real and anti-racism is both admirable and necessary, but extant racism isn’t what principally produces our inequality and anti-racism won’t eliminate it”.
Reed and Michaels discuss their recent compilation of essays on inequality, along with a newly commissioned interview with the authors. These writings eschew the sloppy thinking and moral posturing that too often characterize discussions of race and class in favor of clear-eyed social, cultural, and historical analysis. Reed and Michaels make the case here for a genuinely radical politics: a politics which aspires not to the establishment of a demographically representative social elite, but instead to economic justice for everyone.
Time will be allocated for Q&A.
This program is part of the ColumbiaDC CUP series.
"For decades, Adolph Reed and Walter Benn Michaels have brought common as well as uncommon sense to the analysis of politics under oligarchic late capitalism." Barbara Jeanne Fields historian, Columbia University professor
Walter Benn Michaels is Professor of English at the University of Illinois Chicago. An influential scholar in the fields of literary theory and American literary history, Michaels is also a high-profile polemicist whose political writings have appeared in publications including The American Prospect and the London Review of Books. His most recent books are The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality and The Beauty of a Social Problem: Photography, Autonomy, Economy.
Adolph Reed, Jr. is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. A veteran activist and a prolific analyst of the politics of race and class, his books includeThe Jesse Jackson Phenomenon: The Crisis of Purpose in Afro-American Politics, Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation EraandClass Notes: Posing as Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene. His essays have appeared in The Nation, Harpers, and Jacobin, among other publications.
Lily Jamali is a senior reporter covering business and the economy at American Public Media's Marketplace, airing on hundreds of NPR stations across the country. Prior to Marketplace, Lily spent three years as co-host and correspondent at KQED’s The California Report. Lily has also worked as an anchor for Bloomberg TV Canada, reporter and producer at Reuters TV in New York and San Francisco, and as a freelance foreign correspondent in Central and South Asia, and Latin America.
Lily holds a Master’s degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, an M.B.A. in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and a Bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA.
CUP Series: This is a new initiative between ColumbiaDC and Columbia University Press to showcase acclaimed and pioneering work by renowned academics, scholars, and researchers published by the Columbia University Press.