Cover image for The political economy of hope and fear : capitalism and the Black condition in America
The political economy of hope and fear : capitalism and the Black condition in America
Andrews, Marcellus, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
vii, 224 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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E185.8 .A77 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



Popular liberal writing on race has relied on appeals to the value of "diversity" and the fading memory of the Civil Rights movement to counter the aggressive conservative assault on liberal racial reform generally, and on black well-being, in particular. Yet appeals to fairness and justice, no matter how heartfelt, are bound to fail, Marcellus Andrews argues, since the economic foundations of the Civil Rights movement have been destroyed by the combined forces of globalization, technology, and tight government budgets.

The Political Economy of Hope and Fear fills an important intellectual gap in writing on race by developing a hard-nosed economic analysis of the links between competitive capitalism, racial hostility, and persistent racial inequality in post-Civil Rights America. Andrews speaks to the anger and frustration that blacks feel in the face of the nation's abandonment of racial equality as a worthy objective by showing how the considerable difficulties that black Americans face are related to fundamental changes in the economic fortunes of the U.S.

The Political Economy of Hope and Fear is an economist's plea for unsentimental thinking on matters of race to replace the mixture of liberal hand wringing and conservative mythmaking that currently passes for serious analysis about the nation's racial predicament.

Author Notes

Marcellus Andrews is Associate Professor of Economics at Wellesley College.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Andrews, a professor at Wellesley College, provides an economic audit of the civil rights movement and concludes that as a force for racial justice in the U.S., it was destroyed by free markets and technology-driven capitalism worldwide rather than by racism per se. We learn that even without racism, most poor blacks would be exactly where they are today in the absence of government policy to address issues of poverty and economic inequality across color lines. He believes that social problems are associated with low wages, sporadic employment, and the lure of illegal activity to supplement income. In addition to recommending the raising of incomes of poorly educated people so that legal work is worthwhile, he also suggests improving access to quality schooling and making drugs legal, which he contends would encourage young black men, particularly, to become taxpayers rather than criminals. Andrews' aim is to paint an intellectually defensible and decidedly anticonservative picture of the complicated tie between race and economic well-being. --Mary Whaley

Choice Review

Andrews's thesis is that the modern, competitive, international capitalistic economy can only exacerbate the distances between the middle class of the "educated" and the "dark [sic] uneducated underclass." He posits that the counterproductive social mores of the black underclass are the logical result of repression and segregation caused by whites' abhorrence for associating with blacks. Andrews (Wellesley College) concedes that the majority of those blacks who have "made it" out of the "dark underclass" also want to maximize their separation. He advocates vast Keynesian expansionary policies, including wage-subsidized employment to update public infrastructures, as a possible way of improving the lot of the underclass. The author also proposes legalization of narcotics as another way to improve the situation of the underclass. His economic arguments are seemingly plausible, simple, and clear, except for a nine-page digression into a mathematical model. There are 15 pages of notes, on a higher technical level than the text, and a five-page bibliography. In the opinion of this reviewer, Andrews has taken the worst interpretation of every situation and arrived at false conclusions. Graduate and research collections. E. P. Hoffman; Western Michigan University

Table of Contents

A Preface in Three Partsp. 1
Economics as a Razorp. 1
Conservative and Anti-conservativep. 6
A Note on the Vocabulary of Colorp. 9
1 The Color of Prosperity: A Few Facts about Black Economic Well-Being in Americap. 15
Color and Well-Being in Americap. 15
Two Black Americasp. 26
"Merit," Economic Change, and the Racial Blame Gamep. 32
Genesp. 33
Culturep. 38
Conservatives and the "Culture of Poverty"p. 46
Taking Society Seriouslyp. 51
Next Stepsp. 54
2 Race and the Marketp. 57
Capitalism and the Political Economy of Colorp. 57
Discrimination in Market Society: Insights from Economistsp. 61
Beckerp. 63
Race and Crime in Capitalism: A Complicationp. 69
Economic Logic and "Legacies"p. 71
Uncertainty, Merit, and Discriminationp. 75
Overcoming Racial Inequality: The Conservative Stancep. 83
Beyond Race: Capitalism, Individualism, and Family Meltdownp. 88
Social Capital and Black Self-Helpp. 97
About Dynamics and the Color of Political Economyp. 102
Appendix Discrimination and Human Capital in a Dynamic Becker Modelp. 105
Learning-by-Doing and the Legacy of Discriminationp. 108
System I: Dynamics of Labor Efficiency in an Open, Racially Divided Economyp. 110
3 Confusion and Woe: Race, Capitalism, and the Retreat from Social Justice in Americap. 114
Race and Macroeconomicsp. 114
Productivityp. 115
Productivity Arithmeticp. 123
The Economics of Liberal Racial Reformp. 125
Race and the Breakdown of the New Dealp. 131
Budget Deficits and Racial Reformp. 132
Budget Deficits: A Primerp. 133
Deficits and Exchange Ratesp. 136
Deficits, Globalism, and the End of Racial Reformp. 138
Race, Welfare, and the "Modern Class Conflict"p. 140
Merit and Social Regardp. 144
Race and Markets Kill Social Decency: A Restatementp. 148
Conservatives and the American Dilemmap. 149
Race and the Strategy of Inequalityp. 151
Trouble for White Laborp. 152
Politics and the Strategy of Inequalityp. 157
Appendix The "Rule of 70"p. 163
4 The Political Economy of Hope and Fearp. 166
The Predicamentp. 166
Black and Blue and Very Scaredp. 169
Adversity and Opportunityp. 173
On Race, Poverty, and Prisonsp. 175
Color, Class, and Crimep. 176
The Social Costs and Benefits of Punishmentp. 180
Prison Mathp. 181
The Choicep. 185
A Quixotic, though Plausible, Egalitarian Programp. 186
Jobs and Wage Subsidiesp. 188
The Long Runp. 190
The End of Prohibition, Againp. 193
The Next Black Rebellionp. 196
Notesp. 199
Works Citedp. 215
Indexp. 221
About the Authorp. 224