THE EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 did not begin the transformation of the US state. They accelerated processes that had for almost three decades been taking shape, transforming the US state and political system towards an authoritarian right-wing democracy (see Chalmers Johnson,Nemis: The Last Days of the Republic, 2008). In this respect, the US state, which from its inception has been racialized, is today more racist, more imperialist and more geared to global war than ever in its history. This reconfiguration of the US state establishes the hegemony of its military industrial/national security and police/domestic control sectors, over what might be consider its New Deal, social welfare and non-military and non-domestic control sectors. The New Deal and Welfare State dimensions of the state (those dimensions associated with the radical bourgeois reforms brought about in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements of the 1960s) are being downsized, privatized or eliminated. The largest agencies of the US government are today the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security. To cite no less an authority than Richard Holbrooke, former Assistant Secretary of State and a former US Ambassador to the United Nations, and currently the Obama Administration’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan,”the American military has acquired an unprecedented role in the conduct of foreign policy”( n1) This is accounted for by the exigencies of the global warfare and empire building policies of the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations, but also by the logic inherent to neo-liberal globalist economic policies. The US and Wall Street generated financial crisis and Great Recession have not lessened or forced a rethinking of either the military’s role in foreign policy, empire or neo-liberal globalization (see Chalmers Johnson’s recent book Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope, 2010). Vast and radical attacks upon bourgeois democracy, civil liberties and human rights are under way in the United States, allegedly justified by the need for homeland security. This is accompanied by a rise of poverty, unemployment, hunger, imprisonment and disease, especially among African Americans and other racially oppressed groups.
W.E.B Du Bois, Race, and the World System
IN ESSENTIAL WAYS, W.E.B. Du Bois in his major works provides necessary elements of a state theory, a theory of the world system and of crisis. Du Bois’s work carries an overarching political meaning in the current historical context. The Souls of Black Folk, for instance, was designed to address the political task of the African American struggle and the struggle for bourgeois democracy at the start of the twentieth century. Besides many of the philosophical, historical and sociological significances of the text, its contemporary relevance is in the manner it addresses the struggle for democracy and bourgeois liberties under conditions of racialized state power. Even in his conceptualization of bourgeois democratic reforms Du Bois superseded both progressivism and socialism. Each were blind to the centrality of race and white supremacy as core dynamics of reaction and conservatism; but more, neither saw the state in racialized terms. And while each of these reform movements foresaw a crucial role for the state in bringing about reform in the political and economic systems, neither understood race as the critical foundation of the US state.
Scholars such as David Levering Lewis (1993) and Alex Schafer (2001) suggest that Du Bois was highly influenced by the normative and reform orientation of his professors in Berlin, in particular Gustav von Schmoller and Adolph Wagner, both leading figures in the school of historical economics. Du Bois was a graduate student in Germany between 1892 and 1894.( n2) The German historical school of economics assumed a major role for the state in the organization of a just and democratic society; this in stark contrast to the laissez-faire economics of the Anglo-American school. In defining the problem of the twentieth century as the color line and the struggle against it, he was anticipating both the civil rights and anti-colonial struggles, albeit in their bourgeois democratic dimensions. However, Du Bois was mindful in Souls of the ruin of bourgeois democratic political and economic relationships in the US after the long period of chattel slavery, the Civil War and the overturning of Reconstruction. And thus he viewed the onslaught against democracy as rooted in the racist overturning of Reconstruction and the forcing of the former slaves back towards slavery.
THE COURTS, he would argue, had become a universal device for the reenslavement of blacks. The second chapter of Souls “Of the Dawn of Freedom” creates a paradigm which suggests that Reconstruction’s great benefit was its demonstrating, often in limited ways, the possibility of arranging bourgeois democratic political and economic relationships upon non-racist foundations. The failure of Reconstruction, therefore, made it inevitable (a point that would be fully developed in Black Reconstruction) that the problem for democracy in the twentieth century would be the problem of the color line; or more precisely the problem of race and race relationships. The irrefutable assumption of the enterprise in Souls is that the overturning of Reconstruction inaugurated a new stage of the racialized US state and a racialized (or herrenvolk) democracy. Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) enshrined these relationships as constitutional and thus protected by law. Du Bois conceived of this problem as a global problem, which he would over the course of his studies conceptualize as a world crisis for democracy.
RACE was seen as both the unfinished business of the US nation and the ultimate test of its creed. By the time of the writing of Black Reconstruction (1935) it is apparent that, for Du Bois, nothing short of revolutionary struggle would bring about the realization of democracy for black folk, especially the black proletariat. A decade later in Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945) the world system implications of the struggle for democracy are asserted. The world system, he argues, is profoundly anti-democratic, dictatorial and organized upon principles not that far removed from fascism.( n3) The white nations of Europe and America defend a world system that locks the majority of humanity in a perpetual crisis state, defined by poverty, disease, little or no education and super-exploitation; which at the same time supports luxury for the world’s white minority.
The political and moral agency of democracy, in the end, insists Du Bois, is not to be found in the “Western democracies” but among the colonized and oppressed throughout the world. And, finally, the crisis of the world system would be resolved through the anti-colonial struggle, economic liberation and the rearranging of the world’s political and economic relations upon antiracist, anti-imperialist, socialist and democratic principles (see Black Reconstruction, Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace, The World and Africa, The Autobiography of W.E.B. Du Bois).( n4) This process, in the long view, would constitute a fundamental change of epochs from white supremacy and colonial imperialism to global democracy.
MOST SCHOLARSHIP has understood the word problem in the sentence, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line” conventionally. The word problem has been interpreted to mean just that, a problem. I would suggest that the word problem in the Du Boisian oeuvre means crisis. In his work “The African Roots of the War” (1915), what Du Bois is clearly addressing are the crises in the world system brought about by the intensification of discrimination along the color line and colonialism, a crisis that led to the First World War. The problem, therefore, of US and world relationships, rooted in the “problem of the twentieth century” must be understood as a crisis which leads to war, repression and fascism. At the core of the problem of race relationships are the crises these relationships produce.
The color line as an explanatory category goes a considerable distance in explaining social, political, cultural, technological and other relationships and events that configure the world system. Race, the color line and race relationships are the context of the world system, At the same time, the world system is a set of concrete mechanisms through which the color line is actuated; the color line configures the relationships of the darker to the lighter races of humanity. Put another way, it configures the relationships of humanity to itself. Du Bois’s “The African Roots of the War” (1915), Black Reconstruction (1935), Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945) and The World and Africa (1947) are studies of crises in the US and world systems. The resolution of the crisis of race is central to resolving the crisis of the modern world system in Du Boisian logic. For Du Bois this requires more than a change in the nature of economic relationships, as it were, from capitalism to socialism. That change could be the start of a deeper attack upon the color line and thus a fundamental stage in resolving the crisis of human relationships and of the world system. If not, a change of modes of production might constitute a new way to arrange the world system and thus race relationships, rather than overthrowing the regime of white supremacy. This logic insists both upon the centrality of Africa and Asia and the anti-colonial struggle in remaking the world system; and rejects an economistic explanation that privileges economic relationships in measuring fundamental change.( n5)
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE COLD WAR and the global crisis created by the conflict between the capitalist and socialist systems, Du Bois argued that race and the colonization and neo-colonization of Africa and Asia are foundational to the world systems crisis. In this respect, Du Bois argues that the test of socialism as an alternative economic system to capitalism is its relationship to Africa–whether the leaders of socialism would deal with Africa upon anti-racist and democratic principles–or seek to rearrange the world system in such ways as to benefit from the oppression and neo-colonization of Africa. Would socialism promise to its working people a lifestyle similar to that of white people in the West? Would it as a system be over-determined by efforts to resolve internal political contradictions through organizing its social relationships upon consumerist, individualist and ultimately white supremacist principles? Would the ideal be a socialism of luxury? A socialism at odds with humanity’s non-white majority? In the end, the failure of European socialism is its failure to resolve the problem of white supremacy within its societies and to join humanity’s non-white majority in a consistent, indeed, revolutionary, struggle to alter the world system itself in such ways as to occasion a global redistribution of wealth based upon world democracy. This framework informs my understanding of US imperialism at the current stage and helps explain contemporary events.
The New Imperialism
PHILIP BOBBITT (2004), a defender of American imperialism, writes that George W. Bush is “the authentic voice of the liberal imperialist.” An imperialist who, according to Bobbitt, is concerned with a world of prosperity, women’s and minority rights, secularization and democracy. These policies, he insists, “take the doctrine of ‘democratic engagement’ of the first Bush administration, and the doctrine of ‘democratic enlargement’ of the Clinton administration, one step further. It might be called democratic transformation’. Or, it might be called ‘liberal imperialism.'” And then, he asks, “What is wrong with this noble idea?” This article will, in part, attempt to suggest “what is wrong with this noble idea.”
The current moment of empire and the new relationship of forces within the United States are crystallized in the Bush Administration’s Doctrine of Preemptive War,( n6) the USA Patriot Act, and the Homeland Security Act. The Justice Department and the Homeland Security Department are designed as the command centers of the attack upon civil and political rights. International law and international institutions, at the same time, are under assaulted as the Bush Administration declares its right to wage war unilaterally anywhere in the world. The Administration has literally declared itself outside of the bounds of international law and thus according to its own definitions, a rogue state. In economic terms, a policy shift from Keynesian state economic and financial planning to a neo-liberal Friedmanite free market, has been institutionalized.
THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, modern capitalism, bourgeois democracy, globalization and contemporary pop culture are virtually incomprehensible without understanding the modern racialized capitalist state. Nor can the new imperialism be understood without understanding its historical anchorage in the racialized US state. While these are issues that engage state and political theory they are also matters that must be investigated historically. The social psychological and ideological dimensions are particularly important. It is safe to say that the American population, particularly white people, views the current moment as a new and unsafe frontier. There is a perceptible transformation of the psychological and ideological impulses among white Americans and something that resembles a collective traumatization is occurring as the business of empire comes home to roost.
The psychological and ideological moment is nourished by the concerns that ordinary white people have with their own vulnerability and their awareness that it is they who are called upon to make significant sacrifices in the name of empire. It is in this milieu that we witness the attempt of leading elements of the state to forge a national identity and sense of purpose geared to fit this new moment. Indeed, the conscious and subconscious dimensions of the American belief system are historically constituted. On the one hand they are variants of extreme individualism; but, at the same time, they embrace notions of whiteness and white supremacy that acknowledge the contingency of the individual upon the larger group. This dialectic between the white race and white supremacy on the one hand, and individualism on the other, accounts for certain of the contradictions of action and thought among white folk. This is particularly pronounced as regards economic and class interests.
In the priority hierarchy of most white people class and economic interests are of secondary or tertiary significance in the determination of political behavior; race trumps class in defining consciousness and political behavior.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL and ideological realities of ordinary white folk are filtered through the prisms of race, nationalism and white supremacy. The perceived threats, therefore, are viewed as threats to white people as a collective and not solely to the economic interests of the nation, or even to specific class interests. For them the American dreamscape has been sullied and tarnished. Their sense of security and the expectation of privacy are wounded. In their minds, their dream world has to be redeemed in order that the American psyche be restored. In the deepest sense the privileges of whiteness and white supremacy are perceived as being under attack. Hence, the defense of America and of democracy is at the core a defense of the global rights of white people, articulated variously as defenses of civilization or the West.
What we have is the reassertion of the notion of civilized and uncivilized nations. Civilized nations are either Western or those whose elites adhere to or adopt Western civilizational values. Hence, the war against terrorism is to uphold Western civilization. However, once it is connected to its objective, an American global empire, it may be properly viewed as a war to universalize white supremacy and to establish the United States as its hegemon. This inevitably leads to tearing up of the international legal framework established since 1945; in particular, the UN Charter and its commitments to decolonization and universally recognized human rights. This constitutes a profound emasculation of international law and a return to the Great Nations system of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As is clear this system harkens back to the time of rampant colonization. Clusters of right-wing commentators are either calling for the US to leave the UN or to severely minimizes its participation. Others more boldly assert the need to for an alternative international organization called the League of Democracies, which would divide the world between the so-called civilized nations and the less than civilized or uncivilized nations.
The US State’s Evolutionary History
THE GENERAL HISTORICAL TREND is for the United States to move to the right in terms of foreign and domestic policies. This inexorable movement, with temporary moments of slow down in the 1930s and 1940s, and the 1960s, has reached an extremely dangerous moment. The overturning of Reconstruction inaugurated this movement.( n7) Race and white supremacy in the post-slavery history of the US have so shaped the nature of class and social relationships and thus of consciousness that the most significant trend among white folk is to the right and conservatism. Hence, support for most state policies of war and racism.
There is yet another way to understand state policy, which is as a manifestation of a growing crisis of the global economic system. World systems theorists as varied as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Immanuel Wallerstien, Samir Amin and Andre Gunther Frank have argued that the world system has been in crisis since the beginning of the twentieth century. According to world systems theorists, this has produced war, economic depressions and revolution. This idea of a crisis of the global system is periodized in two ways: one, from the standpoint of economic and business cycles and secondly from the standpoint of large socio-political phenomena, such as wars, national liberation struggles and revolutions. However, both types of phenomena tend to overlap in history and can be viewed as part of the multiple determinations of historical reality. Certainly, a plausible case can be made for the argument that the Bush strategy of war and empire fits a moment of economic crisis and the challenges to US hegemony by forces as disparate as China’s industrial development, India’s technological challenge and the antiauthoritarian movements in the Middle East. Commentators such as Chalmers Johnson (2004) are explicit in arguing that the Bush doctrine represents an effort to resolve profound problems in the global system.
WHITENESS is a dynamic and crucial factor of state formation. Traditional Marxian state theory understands state formation in the US as determined by class conflict. Hence, the class of slave owners, bankers, merchants and small capitalists seized state power in the American Revolution in the name of democracy and the American nation. In this construal the American Revolution was a bourgeois democratic revolution. Du Boisian historiography asserts that a racialized class, made up of slaveholders, merchants, bankers, small farmers and workers (see Suppression of the African Slave Trade (1896), Black Reconstruction (1935) seized power and deployed it to maintain the main form of property–slaves–as the basis for national economic development and white privilege.
It is significant that Du Bois defines the slaves in Suppression as workers and in Black Reconstruction as a proletariat. Here rests his visionary reconceptualization of the class struggle and revolutionary agency. Indeed, it is the industrial working class or the proletariat as suggested by Marx that constitutes the revolutionary agency of modernity. However, Du Bois will initiate an act of profound theoretical displacement in Suppression and most decisively in Black Reconstruction, arguing that the former slaves are the racialized proletariat of America, and the principal agency of progressive and revolutionary change.
EVEN IN THE EARLY PERIODS of American history, in relationship to the slaves the white proletariat and petty bourgeoisie constituted a nascent labor aristocracy, which defines its social being in opposition to the black proletariat (see David Roediger, Wages for Whiteness, 2007; Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White, 1995). Therefore, the dominance of slaves as the main form of property and the principle source for the production of wealth, gave a racialized definition and identity to the slaves, and to the classes that make up white people. In fact, the racialized dimension of these identities is overdetermining of other social relationships. To use Marxist language, the bourgeoisie in the American context (as well as in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) is first white. The working classes are, therefore, racially identified. All classes and strata of white people become identified as a separate race-class from blacks and therefore defined the nation and the state in racialized terms.( n8) A racialized nation-state is formed; and within this mixture, the core, or organizing mechanism of race, class, nation and nationality is the racialized state. The slaves constituted in Du Bois’s thinking the principal proletarian agency in nineteenth-century US history. The racialized self-identification of white workers and what Du Bois called “a wage for whiteness” bound them more strongly to the white bourgeoisie than to the black proletariat.( n9) This wage for whiteness is, so to speak, an ontological benefit to being identified as white. Hence, an ontological identification exists between white workers and white slave owners, white workers and white capitalist, etc.
The state, therefore, is not a mechanism of class rule, sui generis, it is a mechanism of race-class rule. It is legally constituted not merely as an instrument of governance and rule by a class of property owners, but of the dominant race-class. This rule is organized upon the ideology of white supremacy. Hence, the boundaries between the ruled and the rulers along class lines are blurred and fluid, while the real and most enduring boundaries are between the racially dominant and racially subordinated groups. Furthermore, as Du Bois suggests, from the racially oppressed emerges the proletariat and within it resides the vast reservoir of proletarian consciousness and agency (see Black Reconstruction, chapter 4 “The General Strike”). The “class struggle” in this Du Boisian construal is organized around the struggle against white supremacy and its central organizing principal is the struggle for black freedom. The racialized state functions as the instrument of white unity and white ideological identity against the threat of the black race-class and its proletariat core.
DU BOIS’S CONCEPTUALIZATION of the US state as a racialized instrument does not negate the Marxist theory of the state. His theory advances Marxism, realizing a new theoretical synthesis which is both theoretically and empirically more accurate. The Du Boisian construal is both theoretically elegant and highly predictive. Which is to say it fits the actual history of the US and is able to not merely describe the history of the racialized state, but anticipate its trajectories. Furthermore, it breaks out of the reductionist strategies of class essentialism and methodological individualists. It is the least dogmatic of the major theories of the state.
This Du Boisian standpoint informs a growing body of scholarship. A significant reexamination of state theory and its legal implication is occurring. Some of this is associated with the school of scholarship called critical race theory and thinkers such as Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams, Cheryl Harris, Kimberlé Crenshaw and Charles Mills. Along side this school is the school identified as whiteness studies, whose proponents are David Roediger, Noel Ignatiev, Theodore Allen and Joe Feagin among others. Thinkers like Bernard Magubane and Clarence J. Munford have thought deeply about the state using traditional Marxism as a starting point, but going beyond it in a Du Boisian manner. Their line of research and reasoning represents the most fruitful to understanding the racialized state.
Charles Mills argues that the US state is formed out of a racial contract between white folk. The state is an a priori condition of modern racialized societies. Bernard Magubane shows a similar process with respect to South African state formation. Magubane’s studies examines a white settler colony and the modalities of state formation that emerged from the conflicts and cooperation between English and Dutch settlers to control the African majority of South Africa.
THE HISTORICAL ACCOUNT of the US state emphasizes that it was formed and legitimated by white people based upon a protracted history of compromise, conflict, civil war and armed struggle among themselves, accompanied by a long, brutal history of betrayal by white working and middle class people of black slaves, workers, sharecroppers and middle classes. The betrayal of the Negro, to use Rayford Logan’s phrase, is critical in every moment of state formation and legitimization in American history. Noel Ignatiev’s study How The Irish Became White and David Roediger’s Wages for Whitness are recent explanation of the consequences of the white working class’s betrayal and its role in the legitimization of whiteness. Ignatiev says, “In the combination of Southern planters and the ‘plain republicans’ of the North the Irish were to become a key element. The truth is not, as some historians would have it, that slavery made it possible to extend to the Irish the privileges of citizenship, by providing another group for them to stand on, but the reverse, that the assimilation of the Irish into the white race made it possible to maintain slavery” (1995:69).
MARY FRANCES BERRY (1994) takes the story further, urging that the US state and Constitution were forged in the struggle to contain black resistance. The logic of Berry’s position is that whiteness and the racialized state function to suppress black resistance and maintain blacks as a “sub-proletariat.” Leronne Bennett, Jr. in his work Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream (2000) argues that through it all Lincoln was unprincipled regarding the freedom of the slaves and had he lived beyond 1864 would have, like Jefferson, slaughtered the ideals of the nation upon the alter of white supremacy. Lincoln, in Bennett’s narrative, was another of a long line of white betrayers of blacks. What is missing in Bennett’s account is that Lincoln as President was first and foremost a defender of the racialized state, and his behavior was both constrained and facilitated by that state. Berry’s account is as close as one gets in the confines of academic discourse to arguing that the US state is a racist state.
Finally, the crucial moment in defining white rights and black denial and hence updating the US Constitution to reflect the new stage of US racial and economic life was the famous Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896. Interpreting that case, Cheryl Harris (1993) insists that race and property rights define the foundation of US Constitutional law and that whiteness is essentially a form of property to protected under the Constitution.
Legal Evolutions of Whiteness
The legal evolution of whiteness begins with the three-fifths clause of the Constitution and is perfected through multiple political and Constitutional interpretations and rulings. Among these are the Dred Scott Decision (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and most notably the recent interpretations of the US Supreme Court holding that the equal protection clause of the fourteenth Amendment applies equally to white men as to blacks, Native Americans and other peoples of color.
White (or American) nationalism is, in this configuration, the political manifestation of whiteness. The racialized US state is the central political organ of white power. It is, however, a complex network of relationships and socio-political forces. It is a site of intense political and ideological conflict. It is neither sui generis, nor above the political and economic realities of the historical, socio-political and ideological contexts within which it exists. Thus it is possible to observe the command and control functions of the US state as well as its mediation functions. Whereas liberal theorists generally point to the mediation or “above class” functions of the state (see John Rawls, Theory of Justice and Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia), Marxists and other radical theorists point to the command and control functions as primary to the definition of a state.
IT IS CLEAR that both radical and liberal commentators on the US state can make a case that from the standpoint of theory the US state is both liberal (in the sense of above class) and class-based. However, the deeper issue is how the state functions to configure, defend and promote race and race relations at particular historic moments. In this respect neither the liberal nor traditional radical views are adequate. What is called for is an understanding of the US state as a racialized mechanism that is the principal organizer of racialized power. As an instrument of racialized power, i.e., the power of white people over non-whites, especially black people, it functions to mediate class conflict and fissures among whites and to exert, more than not, command and control functions with respect to blacks. This situation is not only deeply contradictory, but also profoundly ironical. Blacks, the spearhead of most of the important democratic reforms in US history, have benefited least from democracy. Remaining outside of the social contract, excluded from the liberal framework constructed and defended by the state and the chief objects of the state’s command and control functions, they appear almost as a stateless people, somewhat like the Palestinians or black South Africans under apartheid. The racialized dimension of the US state, dialectically, compels its class dimension to be contingent, indeterminate and fluid. The very fluid and dynamic nature of race and whiteness, their changing modes of political and social identities, predetermine certain indeterminacy with respect to the formations and development of the racialized state. Hence, rather than being a stable entity the racialized state is dynamic, somewhat unstable and an ever evolving structure.
DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES in the US population, resulting from immigration and low birth rates among whites, force the need to redefine whiteness in such ways as to guarantee a white majority as a condition of legitimization of white authority. Non-black immigrants are faced with complex negotiations between anti-black racism and whiteness. Many Latinos and Asians are so positioned to become in a generation white, or at least honorary, or near-whites.
Heterarchical, or multileveled logics of social structural formation, are what we see evidenced in the formation of the racialized state in the historical setting of the US. Hence, the processes that unfold are far more complex than the hierarchical top down logics usually identified with state formation logics in Marxist and left discourse. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction identified this heterarchical logic and suggested that the strategy for the achievement of bourgeois democratic rights by black folk would require multiple tactics that took into account the fluid heterarchical nature of the state. Du Bois even suggested that black folk seen as strategic actors could alter the political landscape and in so doing manipulate time, i.e. the rhythms and sequences of events. (For Du Bois on this aspect see Lemmert . Kontopolous (1993:236) speaks of this situation as heterarchy wherein structures such as the state are determined in and through contingencies and indeterminacies. Hence the logic of racialized state formation rather than top down and hierarchical is heterarchical, meaning top down and bottom up at the same time.( n10)
THIS IS THE SITUATION within which the dynamics of state formation occur at the present, post September 11, 2001 moment; a moment of political fluidity, war, militarism and economic transformation and uncertainty.
However, the theoretical defenders of the liberal state and its potential to stand apart and mediate race and class conflict are also defenders of the notion of a colorblind state and thus are themselves blind to the historically constituted racially determined nature of the US state. It is they, in the end, not the US state, who are colorblind. This colorblindness itself, as Charles Mills points out, entrenches white privilege.( n11) In being blind to the racial nature of the state they fail to see the profound command and control functions of the state, which are overwhelmingly constructed upon and defined by the US state’s role as the defender of racialized social relationships. The liberal democratic framework should have a sign outside of its door that reads, “For Whites Only.”
Bernard Magubane (1996) shows that the racialized state in South African was constructed on the basis of a race-class dialectic. The pure class analysis, he points out, cannot explain the racial factor in its formation. However, like the US state, it was profoundly malleable and entangled in a set of contexts that changed over historical time. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction is best understood as a study of the construction, deconstruction and reformation of the racialized state in order to reestablish white power over the former slaves, the work force in general and the nation. Du Bois shows this was a necessary condition for the establishment of state monopoly capitalism and US imperialism. In his book, Race and Civilization: Rebirth of Black Centrality, Clarence J. Munford (2001) traces the ideological roots of the racialized state to Europe and European ideology. He asserts that the Euro-American state is the principal agency of white civilizational power in the modern world. As such, it is connected to more than class power, but to the more enduring cultural and civilizational patterns that are based on white supremacy.
BESIDES HISTORICAL, sociological and philosophical studies of the racialized state and state theory, the nature of mass political mobilization to legitimate the state confirms its racialized nature. Clearly the legitimization of the American state rests upon a broad white consensus and the mobilization of that consensus by the principal institutions of white power, including the main political parties–the Democratic and Republican parties–the media, religious institutions, labor organizations, right-wing organizations, even liberal organizations and women’s organizations, to name but a few.
IN FACT, the racialized state achieves legitimacy to the degree that it resolves the class, ethnic and gender problems and contradictions among white people. In other words, the state meditates these socio-economic, ethnic, gender and politico-ideological fissures in ways that races trump these fissures in the politics of the nation. In this regard, I define the mediation of class issues to mean not only economic class issues, but above all ideological class issues. Thus Du Bois’s idea of a wage for whiteness, a nonmaterial or ontological wage, is crucial to understanding the legitimization of the state. Seymour Lipset writes, “A system in which the support of different parties corresponds too closely to basic sociological divisions cannot continue on a democratic basis, for such a development would reflect a state of conflict among groups so intense and clear cut as to rule out all possibility of compromise (1959:93).” When Lipset in this classic statement references sociological differences he is referring to economic and ideological differences among white people. In the two-party system both parties are multi-class (and in a certain way multiparty, consisting of coalitions of parties based on sectionalism, economic interests, programs and class constituencies) structures that compete to achieve the upper hand in determining the modalities by which white privilege is dispensed and defended. They cooperate to legitimize a white consensus.
Once class is no longer an issue and working-class seizure of state power is resolved, and when the state is legitimized through democratic and electoral processes, the question is what then defines the state and whom does it operate for and against.( n12) The two sources of the state’s legitimization are, first, the fear (real and imagined) of domestic unrest sparked by blacks and the global threat either from international communism in the past, or anti-imperialist and anti-globalization movements and militant Islam in the present. And second, that the subtle yet open message of the elite representatives of the racialized state is that it defends white privilege and whiteness against these domestic and foreign threats.( n13)
Du Bois and Bourgeois Democracy: A History
of the United States
DU BOIS STATES in Black Reconstruction, “The record of the Negro worker during Reconstruction presents an opportunity to study inductively the Marxian theory of the state (1992:381).” Charles Lemmert (2000:222) is right when he insists that Black Reconstruction “thinks race through in more enduringly substantial ways” than The Souls of Black Folk. It is, moreover, global in its scope and its intellectual and ideological implications. In thinking about Reconstruction, Du Bois was also thinking about the present and future of race, democracy, class conflict and the state. In Black Reconstruction he goes beyond themes that had appeared in his John Brown (1909): insurrectionary violence, the political and ideological agency of the slaves and state power. In Black Reconstruction Du Bois openly discusses the possibility of the dictatorship of the proletariat in several states of the former Confederacy, counterrevolutionary violence, the race-class dynamic and racialized democracy. He also looks at what we today would call racialized relationships of production. At the core of this set of production relationships is what he called “a wage for whiteness.” It is a work of theory and empirical research. Its point is to talk about the future. The paradigm it presents is revolutionary and transgressive. It establishes a framework for a larger revolutionary research project concerning US democracy, the racialized state and the relationship of class and class conflict to race and race conflict. It carries enormous predictive power. Which is to say, its categories of analysis provide a way to explain and indeed predict the modalities and regulatory principles of institutions, social structures and social classes and groups that make up American society.
At last, Black Reconstruction is successful as an act of ideological and theoretical displacement. It displaces liberal, social democratic and Marxist analysis of the state and democracy. In their place he proposes that race and racialized relationships of production are the organizing principles of American society. And that class taken outside of this historically constituted framework is theoretically impoverished. It is rare that so ambitious a project is so successful in realizing its intended goals, as is Black Reconstruction.
BLACK RECONSTRUCTION asserts that the twentieth century is a long century that begins with the overturn of Reconstruction; that out of this defeat comes the modern US state, modern class and race relations and so on. But more than this the book sums up the seventy-five-year historical period from 1860 to 1935, and on this basis establishes the ideological, philosophical and political framework for the struggles for civil rights and bourgeois democracy through the middle to end of the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. The work insists upon the centrality of African Americans as the principal agency of progressive and revolutionary change. And points to the conservative and at times reactionary impulses that animate white working people’s consciousness.
Du Bois is the first to establish whiteness as a social category and as such a critical core dynamic in the American social structure. In the end Du Bois redefines what class analysis is. He takes it beyond class reductionism and dogmatism to recognition of the embeddedness of class in race and that classes in the US context are racialized. For black people, the class conflict and bourgeois democracy are shaped in the context of the struggle against white supremacy and for freedom. Black freedom and democracy, Black Reconstruction argues, is the beginning and end of class analysis.
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN Du Bois had done considerable study in the methods of political economy. The German social science academy distinguished itself in that it sought to join historical and political economic studies with concrete empirical research. Du Bois’s research while in Berlin reflected this, especially his study of the small and large-scale agricultural production in the American South during slavery.( n14)
This line of research unfolded throughout his career, eventuating in his notion of a racialized system of production. Political economy as understood at the end of the nineteenth century meant exactly that, the joining of economic analysis to an analysis of the state and economic and social policies. From a reformist, indeed Fichtean and Fabian standpoints, this meant using the state as an instrument of advanced and progressive consciousness and policies.( n15) Hence, socialists imbued the state with programs and policies that reflected their scientific findings and progressive ideas, geared to improve the conditions of working people. There is no doubt that Du Bois throughout his career saw this as one way to advance the immediate and practical interests of the racially oppressed black people. A clear conclusion of his 1896 work, “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America 1638-1870,” pertains to the failure of the state to enforce the 1808 treaty outlawing the international slave trade. The practical lesson that he drew from this. study was that the state has the power to move events in one or another direction, either towards the moral good or its opposite. Hence, it is clear that Du Bois as a young Ph.D. believed that knowledge linked to state power could alter race relationships. This represented his early commitment to positivism and a scientistic sensibility. This stance perhaps reflected practical necessity given that blacks were almost completely powerless and disenfranchised and living under what was virtually a fascist dictatorship in the southern states.
DU BOIS’S PROFESSIONAL CAREER started in the period of the Nadir, when blacks had been completely deprived of civil and human rights. The justification for this denial was that blacks were less than human, without history, and had no standing as equal citizens within society. As a political text Du Bois’s 1897 speech before the American Negro Academy “The Conservation of Races” is a defense of the rights of citizenship for blacks based on their being part of human history and civilization. Likewise, the political and ideological meaning of The Souls of Black Folk should be read as a passionate defense of the civil and human rights of black folk within the context of bourgeois democracy. The argument made in Souls and “The Conservation of Races” is that blacks had made fundamental contributions to US culture and the shaping of its democracy, were in fact at once the most consistent democratic force in the nation, but ironically were themselves without full legal and human rights. He insists this was attested to by their collective strivings; making black folk the best defenders of the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.
Du Bois argues that the current situation of blacks was occasioned by the overturn of Reconstruction and the return, as he says, of blacks back toward a new form of slavery. The courts, he points out, had become the universal device for the reenslavement of blacks. Du Bois’s intellectual work is overarchingly political and confronts him not just with the color line, but the racialization of society’s hegemonic political and social institution, the state.
DU BOIS UNDERSTOOD that the modern US state was both liberal and racialized, which meant that he had observed the contradiction between expanding democratic rights for whites and the equally significant fact that the state operated as an instrument of racial subordination. This feature could be found in European states as well. The difference was that European powers primarily exercised the racialized dimension of state power in their colonies and in wars of national conquest and suppression (see Du Bois’s “African Roots of the War”). The uniqueness of the American situation is that both features were exercised within the national boundaries of the US nation-state. The liberal view is that the state constitutes a neutral player standing apart from, or above race and class, as the legal arbiter of societal relationships. The proto-fascist, authoritarian view is that the state is an open instrument of the interest of a race-class in its struggle for liberty, national consolidation and progress. These views coexist and are mutually supportive. The liberal view is almost solely associated with social contract theory and with the liberal view of the state advanced by John Rawls (1971).( n16) The proto-fascist or authoritarian view is as American as Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Lincoln.( n17)
Moreover, while present throughout Du Bois’s early works, including The Souls of Black Folk, is a clear predisposition to support the insurrectionary path to changing the racialized American state; this aspect becomes more pronounced in his writing after 1920, reaching its peak in Black Reconstruction. His view would supersede several extant socialist and communist constructions. On the one hand, his view would supersede the Fabian idea that the state plays a technical function and organizes the intellectual resources of society for the purpose of advancing the technical and social relationships of society.( n18) It would also go beyond the classical Marxist-Leninist position, that the state is the concentrated expression of the repressive power of the dominant class. In superseding these views Du Bois would insist that the Western state was racialized and thus constituted the concentrated power of the white race and hence defended existing race relationships within their national boundaries and internationally through colonialism and imperialism.
THERE EMERGES from the analytic dimension of his work the paramount role of African American political and moral agency in the context of the American republic. The slave rebellions and insurrections, the role of the Haitian Revolution and its leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture contributed to Du Bois’s conclusion that the role of the white masses in the history of resistance to repression was exaggerated by historians and had not measured up to the maroon and slave resistance. Du Bois’s startling view that the slaves refusal to work after 1862 constituted a general strike represented a revolutionary approach to American history writing. From this the sense that the crisis of slavery from 1860 to 1880 constituted a revolutionary situation and that black folk were the principal agents of revolutionary change lead logically to the hypothesis that in several southern states a “dictatorship of the proletariat” to use his language, could have possibly emerged. It is as important to examine how these ideas worked themselves out in strategy, tactics, organization and politics. The bulk of his work addressing the pressing need for blacks to achieve bourgeois democratic rights and liberties as a part of the struggle for full liberation, would require practical day-to-day organization, education and agitation.
Du Bois’s organizational work speaks above all else to his attempt to implement his ideas. In every stage of his career he was in some organization, or organizing and editing some political or scholarly journal. However, it is apparent that he fully understood that the path of bourgeois democracy for blacks would not proceed as it had in Europe or for that matter as it had for whites in the United States. It would be, in the end, a struggle for bourgeois democratic rights without the leadership of an existing or aspiring bourgeoisie. It would be as he conceptualized it in Souls a struggle for these rights by a people. The texture of this struggle was similar to what became the national liberation struggles of the mid twentieth century. At the start of the twentieth century rather than a revolutionary path to achieve these rights the reform path was the only available option available to blacks.( n19)
The Contemporary American State
THE ORIGINS of the modern American state can be traced roughly to the end of Reconstruction. The Hayes-Tilden Compromise of 1877 can be thought of both as a coda and the inauguration of the modern state system in the US. The South is back in the Union and blacks are being pushed back into a new form of slavery. The US is again a continental nation. America’s victory in the Spanish American War is the nodal point in the political and ideological consolidation of the US state as racialized and imperialist; seeking global reach. Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency (1901-1909) and with it the style of the strong man executive who is at once a man of action, vigor, and an intellectual defined the political and personal characteristics associated with contemporary American executive leadership. The presidency from Theodore Roosevelt’s time until now has usurped Congressional power, usually justifying this by a reference to one or another crisis that demanded centralized state leadership.
By this time the US was second only to England as an industrial nation and sea power. The two-party system became the institutional framework through which ideological and psychological mobilization of the masses occurred. Appeals to whiteness, Manifest Destiny( n20) and scientific racism( n21) were fashioned to give a progressivist cover to this mobilization. (See Audrey Smedley, Race in North America: Origins and Evolution of a Worldview  and Tukufu Zuberi, Thicker Than Blood: How Racial Statistics Lie, [chapter 1]) The centrality of this period in defining the twentieth-century US nation-state is being examined by any number of establishment historians. Warren Zimmerman’s First Great Triumph: How Americans Made Their Country a Great Power tells a tale of the men who changed US state policy and ideology in such ways as to prepare it to assume a role on the global stage. I detect a direct lineage to the unilateralist policies and present war of the current Bush Administration from that period and the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.
WITH THE PRESIDENCY of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, the state as the guarantor of the economy’s health and as the principle regulator of social and economic processes was established. Keynesianism became the policy and philosophical framework for this new state interventionism. At the same time Congress’s power became profoundly diminished. The Cold War occasioned a renewal of the political and ideological rationale for the US state as the instrument of US imperialism and the global reach of its power. The nineteenth-century doctrine of Manifest Destiny, and the trope that white Americans were a chosen people, became a global doctrine in the struggle against “communism” This was best enunciated in the Truman Doctrine, which informs each stage of the American struggle against “the threat of communism.” The scope of Manifest Destiny included the vast majority of the world’s peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Social Darwinist aspects of this doctrine were clear to any who would dare to look. Twentieth-century post World War II Manifest Destiny targeted Africa as the principal site of the Cold War conflict.
THE CURRENT PHASE of the formation of the US state begins roughly with the Reagan Administration. The balance between the Welfare and Warfare aspects of the US state, which had been maintained between 1945 and 1980, was upset in favor of the military-industrial side. One could speak of the period up to the first Reagan Administration as one where the policy and philosophical line on the state’s role in the economy as a Keynesian-neo-classical synthesis wherein the state serves the free market system and at the same time maintains the balance between classes and social strata within the white population.( n22) It was, therefore, a barrier to class conflict among whites, while holding to its racialized, repressive and control dimension vis-à-vis blacks. Thus, the twenty-three year period of shifting the balance of state power increasingly to the military industrial and police dimensions of the state has been completed. The process leading to this moment has been uninterrupted. Both parties supported it, albeit, with differing rhetoric, programs and tactics for achieving it. As such the competition dimension of the two-party system was lessened and the differences are today so slight as to be inconsequential. Milton Friedmanite neo-liberal economics prevail. Keynesianism as policy is either severely compromised or dead.
Empire, War and the Social Science
IN THE FACE OF THE CRISIS in the world system and the war and empire strategy of the Clinton and Bush Administrations, the social sciences are in crisis; a crisis which most professional social scientists seem to have no awareness of. American social science has been fashioned by the exigencies of the Cold War. As a consequence, American social scientists have tended to conservatism and forms of professionalism which self-define them away from political and ideological engagement with the state. This approach has served the overall needs of white supremacy and colonialism. The question is which side of the struggle for global democracy the social sciences will stand.
Franz Fanon (1967), Michel Foucault 1972), Edward Said (1978), V.Y. Mudimbe (1988), and Lewis Gordon (1995) have drawn attention to the crisis. Fanon, for example, demonstrated that the European social and philosophical sciences evidence not the superiority of European man, but the crisis of European man. He pulled the mask off the claims to reason and objectivity of European science. They were, he tells us, mere manifestations of the colonial and racist predispositions of European thought. Foucault’s contribution to understanding, if not resolving the crisis, was to place the social scientist as subject/agent at the center of interrogation. In so doing the field, or discursive space, becomes a legitimate area of investigation, and not above the fray. By establishing knowledge as contingent, conditioned and underdetermined, he focuses upon the agents of knowledge production and their discursive praxis and the ways discursive formations come about. Foucault believes that European social thought is in crisis; unlike Fanon he believes the crisis is resolvable on European terms through epistemic rupture. Fanon allows that only through revolutionary rupture based upon the revolutionary agency of the colonized masses will the crisis be resolved. Said and Mudimbe show the anti-Asian and anti-African moorings of European thought. Said interrogated the claims to objectivity of European knowledge especially about the “Oriental” Other; showing the imagined space that frames European knowledge, in which the Other is imagined to justify European hegemony and colonialism. European knowledge is self-referential and egotistic, and operates in a circular and insular manner to justify European hegemony and colonialism.
Du BOIS was a committed social scientist. He was deeply invested in the project of scientifically explaining human relationships, particularly race relationships. His bold and cutting edge approach to the human sciences displaced the old eugenics and Social Darwinist approaches and anticipated a good part of what is contemporary human science. In Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace (1945) he observed that the rise of the US to the hegemonic economic and military power in the world did not occasion a democratic efflorescence. In fact it occasioned the opposite. The situation of the US as the main threat to peace and democracy compelled Du Bois to look anew at his political direction, but also to reconsider the ideological, political and epistemological foundations of the human sciences. He thus found himself in a situation of epistemic rupture in relationship to the social sciences. In their majority American social scientists were moving to the right and retreating into new forms of positivism and he was moving to the left and searching for new modes to critically investigate the epistemologies, methods and politics of the socials sciences. At the core of his renewed investment in social research was that uppermost must be the transformation of world economic and political relationships. For the human sciences to be truly human they must be global, they must be rooted in actual history and begin with the anti-colonial liberation struggles. At this stage in his life Du Bois had superseded the Fabian orientation of his early career. He now understood the strategic necessity of the seizure of the state by the oppressed. Since the racialized state functioned to uphold white supremacy and colonialism on a global scale, in dialectical fashion he grasped that the power of the oppressed would have to be actualized in state power.
To answer the question what is to be done, a study and extension of Du Bois’s understanding of the racialized state is paramount. The situation of anti-democratic and white supremacist assault upon the people’s rights is in a very profound sense the outcome of America’s racial history. To defend bourgeois democracy demands either radical reforms of the existing state system or its complete overthrow. Du Bois at various moments in his career argued both positions and suggested tactics, strategies and organizational modalities to achieve each.( n23)
(n1.) In Foreign Affairs (November/December 2002:149) Richard Holbrooke, in examining a body of new revisionist scholarship writes:
Max Boot, for example, has shown recently in The Savage Wars of Peace that, contrary to the ‘Powell Doctrine’ and the views of the current leaders of the American military, the United States has conducted endless small military interventions with success throughout its history. Walter Russell Mead, in Special Providence, has identified four different themes in American foreign policy and found continuity stretching back to the founding of the republic. Looking at events that straddle the Cold War but from a wholly post-Cold War perspective, Samantha Power has offered up ‘A Problem from Hell,’ her wholly original examination of consistent American failure to act in the face of genocide. And Eliot Cohen’s Supreme Command is a somewhat different sort of book: a study of four historical events designed to prove the indisputable thesis that war is still too important to leave to the generals.
What Holbrooke suggests about this scholarship is that America has been a warfare state since the beginning of the twentieth century. Zimmerman (2002) concurs and persuasively argues that the US entered upon a path of imperialism and global conquest as policy from the start of the twentieth century.
(n2.) Of Du Bois’s time in Germany and his professors Gustav Schmoller, Adolf Wagner and Heinrich von Treitschke he says (1940/1986: 588) “I began to see the race problem in America, the problem of the peoples of Africa and Asia, and the political development of Europe as one.” Barkin (Fall 2000:86) argues that Du Bois’s attraction to von Treitschke, the ultranationalist and racist, is explained by von Treitschke’s recognition that lynching showed that blacks remained outside the law, which pointed to the feebleness of American law, institutions and democracy.
(n3.) In Color and Democracy: Colonies and Peace, Du Bois insists, “…The mounting pressure of popular demand for democratic methods must be counted on throughout the world as popular intelligence rises. Its greatest successful opponent today is not Fascism, whose extravagance has brought its own overthrow, but rather imperial colonialism, where the disfranchisement of the mass of people has reduced millions to tyrannical control without any vestige of democracy (1945:84).” In The World and Africa, speaking of the global economy based upon capitalism and colonialism, Du Bois says that the global economy is a social process and “if not socially controlled sinks to anarchy with every possible crime of irresponsible greed. Such was the African slave trade, and such is the capitalistic system it brought to full flower.” He goes on, “A process of incredible ingenuity for supplying human wants became in its realization a series of brutal crimes.” He then insists that if capitalism can reform itself “by means other than Communism… Communism need not be feared.” However, “if a world of ultimate democracy, reaching across the color line and abolishing race discrimination, can be accomplished by the method laid down by Karl Marx, then that method deserves to be triumphant no matter what we think or do (1947:258).”
(n4.) David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century (2000: 496-553) chastises Du Bois for moving to the “far left” in his later years. Gerald Horne (1986:289), contrary to Lewis, argues, “The trip from the NAACP in 1944 to the Communist Party in 1961 was not as convoluted as some might suspect; their immediate goals were closely congruent…The black community was probably the most left sector of the United States polity, and Du Bois was a leader of both Blacks and the left.” In The Autobiography Du Bois declares, “I have studied socialism and communism long and carefully in lands where they are practiced and in conversation with their adherents, and with wide reading. I now state my conclusion frankly and clearly: I believe in communism. I mean by communism a planned way of life in the production of wealth and work designed for building a state whose object is the highest welfare of its people and not merely the profit of a part” (57). This is a logical progression of his theory of the color line, capitalism and the state and that to alter world economic and political relationships the world system, especially its capitalist part, would have to be radically transformed.
(n5.) Franz Fanon (1967) makes a similar point. His critique of European socialism is precisely at the point that it retreats from an all-out attack upon the color line and white supremacy. He concludes, therefore, that the revolutionary initiative in world terms has shifted to the “Third World” and the anti-colonial struggles. At one point Fanon insists that the socialism imagined by the representatives of the Western working class is of a socialism of luxury, which would make imperative some form of neocolonialism.
(n6.) See “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html): “Remarks by the President at 2002 Graduation Exercise of the United States Military Academy” (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/release/2002/): “Vice President Speaks at VFW 103rd National Convention” (http://www.Whitehouse.gov/news/release/2002/). Here we have laid out the policy of global military domination and the strategy for enduring war and preemptive warfare.
(n7.) It should be noted that American history lacks a Jacobin or revolutionary democratic tradition, except among African Americans. In general, progressivism in the American setting has meant, in the main, progressivism for whites. This has been seen in the trade union, women’s rights and radical movements among whites.
(n8.) Slaves were the principal form of property in the period of the early accumulation of capital in the Unites States. The slaves occupy a peculiar, almost paradoxical, space in the political economy of world capitalism. The slaves are a proletariat who as human beings are the property of their “employers.” This against the classic European situation where the employer owns the labor power of the worker, not the worker him/herself. This slave condition and capitalist production based on slave labor produced a situation of super exploitation.
(n9.) David Roediger (1991:12) correctly interprets the meaning of Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, pointing out that the book is organized around issues of race and class, and that in teasing out these issues Du Bois “continually creates jarring, provocative theoretical images.” Roediger points out that at the center of the problem of the class struggle in the US is the problem of whiteness, or a wage for whiteness; as Du Bois calls it, “a public and psychological wage.” Charles Lemmert (2000) insists that Du Bois in writing the history of Reconstruction was actually writing the history of the present and future. The point is that Black Reconstruction and Du Bois’s theory of the class struggle and class formation speaks as much to the twenty-first as to the nineteenth century.
(n10.) On strategic actors and the manipulation of time see Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977). Kontopolous (1993:236) helps us conceptualize heterarchics. He says, “The combination of the dimensions of constraining, enabling and availing makes it possible to see each level, at least in reference to the top down aspect of interlevel relations as semi-independent and yet interdependent with others. And as it must be clear by now, we can extend this notion of availing to all level connections, thus positing considerable ‘degrees of indeterminacy’ or ‘degrees of creative discretion’ evidence [a] in the rise and differential strengthening of corporate and collective actors and forms of structures initiated by them at the quasi-global level; [b] in the formation of a variety of conjunctions and novel institutional forms, techniques of domination, technologies of invention and monopolization, and various forms of bio-power developed within them; and [c] in the emergence, within these novel settings, of a number of improvised or unauthorized strategies and practices, articulated and used by virtuosic strategic agents.”
(n11.) Charles Mills (1997:77) writes, “The black philosopher Bill Lawson comments on the deficiencies of the conceptual apparatus of traditional liberalism, which has no room for the peculiar post-Emancipation status of blacks, simultaneously citizens and non-citizens. The black philosopher of law Anita Allen remarks on the irony of standard American philosophy of law texts, which describe the universe in which ‘all humans are paradigm rights holders’ and see no need to point out that the actual US record is somewhat different.”
(n12.) Lipset (1996) makes the point that the US state and nation are basically conservative. He says that this conservatism during the New Deal period took on a social democratic tinge ( 38). Post-war economic growth lessened the class tensions that defined the Great Depression and returned the nation to its traditional conservatism. I would add that the conservatism is now tinged, to use Lipset’s word, with reactionism. This shift to the right and far right in American conservatism fuels the new drive towards global hegemony and empire.
(n13.) An aspect of this ideological function of the state is its treatment historically and in the present of black masculinity.
(n14.) David Levering Lewis (1993:143) says of this time in Du Bois’s life,” what kept Du Bois busiest was research for his seminar thesis, “Der Gross und Klein Betrieb des Ackerbaus, in den Sudstaaten der Vereinigten Staaten, 1840-1890,” or “The Large and Small-scale System of Agriculture in the Southern United States, 1840-1890. “Although he was able to build on his work under Hart at Harvard, the bulk of the essay was based on new reading, as well as new thinking about history and economics from, so to speak, the bottom up. Lewis says the two principal influences upon Du Bois in Berlin were Professors Gustav yon Schmoller and Adolph Wagner. Their theory of the state and the economy, Lewis tells us, came from Fichte’s notion that competing economic interests were kept in equilibrium by an intelligent state. This Fichtean idea of the relationship of the state to social and economic forces will find its way into Souls, but has all but disappeared by the time of Black Reconstruction. By this time the state is conceptualized as the instrument of white power.
(n15.) Adolph Reed (1997) identifies Du Bois’s early political thinking as within the bounds of Fabianism and its idea that science and scientific programs could act to advance progressivism from within the state.
(n16.) Modern communisms as well as modern social democracy emerge from the late nineteenth-century debates over the nature of the state, rather than over class per se. It is my view that while Hegel is a central influence, through his idea that the state transcends society and as such represents it (a view that seemed to inform the Boris Kautsky’s view of a “pure” democracy which resulted from the democratic evolution of society), Kant’s view that the state is both a moral and ethical arbiter of societal conflict has also left an enduring influence upon both social democratic and liberal theorists of the state.
(n17.) The American state is indeed a peculiar democratic institution. Like American society it is “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Hence, while democracy expanded throughout the nineteenth century for whites, repression and genocide increased for Native Americans and blacks. White populism as manifested by the presidency and ideology of Andrew Jackson stood for expanding rights for whites and the Trail of Tears for Native Americans and Fugitive Slave Act to protect the rights of slave owners. In the late nineteenth century, populism, as with the main thrust of trade unionism, signified to all sides of the “class struggle” expanding white identity and white rights.
(n18.) Adolph Reed (1997) discusses ways that Du Bois understood the state in the early part of his career as an instrument of altering race relationships in the US. This, Reed suggests, was an essentially technocratic view of the state and its functions, especially in addressing the color line. Hence, Reed sees Du Bois’s early effort as attempting to merge Fabianism to the struggle against racial oppression.
(n19.) Here there are two questions in the tactical and strategic struggles of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One is the stance of Booker T. Washington and later Marcus Garvey, who not only trivialized the struggle to realize and uphold bourgeois or civil rights to blacks, but also attempted to substitute what appeared as an economic program for them. The other was the socialist-Marxist view to substitute the struggle for bourgeois democracy with the struggle for socialism, formulated, as the class struggle is the struggle for black rights. Each side seems to disregard the nature of racialized state power.
(n20.) Smedley (1993:191) points out that the idea of Anglo-Saxon superiority became a central part of American racial thinking in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She continues:
It also became part of the American mythology associated with republicanism, Protestantism, democracy, laissez-faire economic theory, progress and empire building. The superior “racial” traits of Anglo-Saxons became a stimulus for American expansion. Indeed the myth was at the heart of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, by which white Americans expressed belief in themselves as a “chosen people,” destined to dominate others. Over time, many non-English whites also assimilated this myth because it provided the basis for the general ideology of white supremacy.
Important to the new racism of the early twentieth century was “scientific racism” or eugenics, fathered by Francis Galton. Tukufu Zuberi (2001:53) points out that “Eugenics required an essential difference among humans in order to justify racial and class stratification.” Zuberi (54) then continues, “He (Francis Galton) believed (intelligence) was biologically inherent and that Africans and other people of color were inferior in intelligence to the lighter skinned Europeans.”
(n21.) The idea of white Americans as chosen people is not adequate to meet the ideological needs of rising American imperialism. To appeal to progressivism and American optimism there was a need for a rational or scientific addendum to the chosen people mythological narrative to justify the white American nation’s status in the world. Hence, Manifest Destiny and scientific racism combine to produce a credible explanation of the rights of white Americans to dominate “lesser” peoples.
(n22.) The notion of a Keynesian neo-classical synthesis I take from Irina Osadchaya, From Keynes to Neo-classical Synthesis: A Critical Analysis (1974). She argues that neo-Keynesianism, or the Keynesian neoclassical synthesis attempts to take the static Keynesian model and make it dynamic by merging macro theory with micro, or market, economic theories. Robert Skidelsky in his John Maynard Keynes, The Economist as Savior, 1920-1937, (1992) insists that Keynes’ General Theory was as much vision as economic logic and that the disconnection between economic logic and vision has left his followers attempting to sort out what Keynesianism is in terms of state policy, or macroeconomic theory and policy. In this respect, while Keynesianism can be considered a way of thinking about the economy in new ways, just as Nietzsche thought about morality in new ways, the actual modeling of the post World War II economy was left to neo-Keynesians and those who promoted a Keynesian neoclassical synthesis.
(n23.) In this regard the views of Clarence J. Munford (1996,2001) and Bernard Magubane (1996) are critical. Both are “revisionist” theorists of the state and both draw upon Marxist class notions, but supersede them by arguing that the racialized dynamic is the core or central dynamic in state formation in the West. Munford asserts, “the modern Western state has legitimized white racism while constantly modernizing it” (2001:111). Magubane asserts that the South African example leads him to concur with Fanon and Césaire who regard fascism “not as an aberration, but as a logical outcome of European colonialism brought home to roost.”
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