11 January 2012

Recommended Reading: Pragmatic Utopianism as "The Future of Black Politics"

You can find a smart and provocative essay by Michael Dawson (along with a set of pointed responses) here at The Boston Review. I agree with a much of what Dawson has to say about the crucial importance of African-Americans to any viable progressive political mobilization in the U.S.. Yet I am persuaded too by Tommie Shelby's insistence (in his comment on Dawson) on the importance of multi-racial political organizations. (More generally, I wonder if Dawson might craft a reply by building upon the distinction, articulated by Bob Moses and Charles Payne as they channel Ella Baker, between mobilization and organization and on the crucial importance of both for progressive politics.) Finally, and perhaps gratuitously, I wish Dawson had felt less need to rely on the pronouncements of obscurantist leftist "theorists" like Badiou and Žižek. I simply have no patience for them. He should stick with the tradition of African-American political thought from DuBois through King and Malcolm X to Walter Mosley. Reconnect that to the American political theory of pragmatism from Dewey to Unger and Cornel West, and you have more than sufficient resources to spell out the sort of pragmatic utopianism Dawson advocates.

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