Cover image for W.E.B. Du Bois and American political thought : fabianism and the color line
W.E.B. Du Bois and American political thought : fabianism and the color line
Reed, Adolph L., 1947-
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Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1997.
Physical Description:
x, 282 pages ; 25 cm
Introduction: Du Bois, Afro-American and American political thought -- Corporate industrialization, collectivism, and the new intellectuals: historical context in the formation of Du Bois's thought -- Philadelphia Negro and the consolidation of a worldview -- Science and progress: the unity of scholarship and activism -- Stratification, leadership, and organization: the role of the black elite -- Three confusions about Du Bois: interracialism, Pan-Africanism, socialism -- Du Bois's "double consciousness": race and gender in progressive-era American thought -- "Tradition" and ideology in black intellectual life -- From historiography to class ideology.
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E185.97.D73 R44 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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 thecentury, 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'stexts, 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 littlechange 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 clearlyinto 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 DuBois'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 tocontemporary 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.

Author Notes

Adolph L. Reed, Jr is Professor of African-American Studies and Political Science at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is a regular columnist for The Village Voice and a frequent contributor to The Progressive and The Nation

Reviews 1

Choice Review

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was the preeminent figure in African American thought throughout the entire first century following emancipation. Born in Massachusetts in 1868, he died in exile in Africa in 1963. His passing was announced at the same March on Washington rally where Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed "I Have a Dream." Du Bois imagined, cogitated, articulated, and labored for that dream more than any other person, black or white. Over time, Du Bois considered--and held--nearly every possible position on the dilemmas of American racism, from Booker T. Washington's accomodationism to the international Marxism of the Communist Party. Reed (Univ. of Illinois at Chicago) looks at what he calls Du Bois's "political thought" and concludes that he was essentially a Fabian socialist throughout his intellectual life. Reed particularly dismisses Du Bois's expression of "double consciousness" as an inadequate clue to understanding his mind. As Cornel West has pointed out, there is a certain pre-Kafka Victorianism about Du Bois's thought, but to simplify as Reed does is to do immense injustice to a complex thinker wrestling with complex issues. Also, Reed abandons serious discussion for polemical, personal attacks on everyone who has tried to explicate Du Bois. Graduate, faculty. R. Newman Harvard University

Table of Contents

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