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10 thoughts on “Class Notes Posing As Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene

  1. says:

    Not every single essay in this book is earth shatteringly good And Reed is sometimes overly dismissive of what I consider to be developments on the Left that aren't particularly harmful or insignificant But reading this book made me feel like a serious weight had been lifted off of my shoulders It gave me permission to admit to myself that developments or ideas within the Left that I've long had internal personal doubts about but have never wanted to admit out loud or even to myself may in fact be right—or if not right at least worth voicing and debating The Left as anyone who's been around it in the past few decades already knows is in really rough shape And when you're in such rough shape you're desperate for anything that you can claim as a victory or even just a positive development When victories around major society wide issues that reuire real mass movement building and thus are really difficult to win—issues like ending racial segregation in housing universal health care affordable housing workers' rights etc—are in short supply it can be really depressing and debilitating So it makes sense that many of us would choose to set the bar a bit lower for ourselves to battles that we are capable of winning many of which of course as Reed notes several times in the book are also extremely important to fight over and win But Reed's basic case here is about not indulging in that temptation He's arguing here that we need to keep our eyes on the prize; that we can't give up on those bigger picture goals and that there's no substitute for a mass movement reuired to win them—no shortcuts to achieving mass social change And the sooner we can admit that to ourselves the sooner we can get to the business of actually creating that kind of movement and winning those victoriesIt's a message that's a bit depressing in its sobriety But if we're going to ever win victories around those issues we don't really have another choiceAlso I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Reed has some of the most scorching prose I've ever read from an academic Seriously It's so white hot and so brutal that I'm afraid to have the man read anything I've ever written lest he take issue with any piece of it and write such a blistering merciless takedown that I'll be paralyzed from ever writing anything again


  2. says:

    This stellar collection of essays most of which were first printed in issues of the Village Voice was released in 2000—yet the issues discussed here have only become amplified through their aggregation via social media platforms The essays are grouped into three categories which 1 combat the “personal is political” modes of “resistance” as it particularly relates to black political involvement 2 combat strange technical notions of euality and their bizarre manifestations in American political life and 3 offers practical ways forward to move beyond the essentialist deadlock which the self proclaimed “left” finds itself inA running thread in this collection is Reed’s aversion to the use of words such as “community” and “grassroots” to refer to a mystical like black voting bloc who all thinks and does alike The presumption here is that the black “community” does not suffer from the same contradictions as other groups ie whites stemming from class and status Thus the uestion of proper treatment of issues in relation to blacks in America takes a tone of the paranoiac “what must They think of us? whites” This racial cultural essentialization of the “community” results in a deadlock where blacks are never addressed fully as eual citizens called upon to participate in a political decision making process“But who exactly is the “community”? How can we assess the claims of those who purport to represent it? These uestions are seldom raised much less answered A strain of Jeffersonian romanticism obscures them among the left for whom community implies an organic entity animated by a collective mind and will From that perspective we don’t need to ask how the community makes its decisions how it forms its will because it reflects and almost mystical identity of interest and common feelingBecause whites by and large don’t see black Americans as a complex population of differentiated individuals the organic community imagery seems reasonable and natural to them”Instead whites look for black spokespeople to speak on “the community’s behalf It goes without saying that this is particularly the case when this spokesperson does not effectively challenge the way in which political power is actually distributed and maintained which would of course need to take on the difficult task of historical materialist analysis which went beyond charges of the perils of “whiteness” or the “authenticity” of cultural “blackness” This theme of the pitfalls of the “leadership” impulse reaches a fever pitch in the essay ‘What Are the Drums Saying Booker?’ a tongue in cheek reference to the need for whites to have access to their black whisperer in the form of the black public intellectual Instead Reed argues that “What the current environment demands from black intellectuals who would comment on public affairs is not whining about disparagement of the “black body” in Western culture as if that were news or examination of representations of representations or noodling about how if we apply the right spin everything black people do is resistance or oppression And most of all there is no need for interpretations that presume an uncomplicated conveniently mute black reality; there’s already a surfeit of analysis propelled by the collective black subject—“black people want feel etc” As is true on the left generally what is desperately called for is stimulation of informed discussion among black Americans and between blacks and others that presumes proprietorship of the institutions of governance and policy processes on an identical basis with other citizens and aims at crafting agendas that define and realize black interests accordingly”The other main strand I found was Reed’s excellent citation of the morality play of the “responsibility” ethos as it began to spring up on both the so called left and the right after Reagan and the failure of McGovern which still haunts us to this day I’m afraid Though cloaked in a cloth most Americans do not find fault with this ethos is used to justify some of the most horrific theories normalized in public discourse—that there is a sector of the population usually with darker skin fancy that who essentially belongs to a different species of person This characterization is ever dangerous when you throw into the mix the rigid biological claims such as those found in ‘Bell Curve’ If some of us are hard wired criminals and derelicts why what’s the point of fighting for reform and access to resources? Such a figuration of the problem lets the government off the hook as a body which ought to be responsible to the people and breeds the atomized cynicism I’m sure we’ve all cozied up to at some point in our livesIt is refreshing to hear all of this Reed is a statist and I respect that I think many who consider themselves to be in the left find it fashionable to proclaim their orientation against “The State” and simply leave it at that It’s what fosters this docile “everyday resistance” politics which does not beg of us to actually engage with power and assume responsibility for its euitable proper distribution Call yourself whatever you will but an engagement with power is absolutely necessary if you wish to change the game No the aim is not to help people make choices and exercise a flimsy democratic right—surely the goal is to enable people to determine their own choices This can only result from being unafraid of engaging with power in a real way So yes your revolutionary ideas do need to eventually become principles of governance That probably sounds boring but this is something we need to think about Reed knows this Hell as an organizer he does this Reed’s analysis of the left’s slow decline into lukewarm parables which used to be the handmaid of the right particularly as it relates to black public life is second to none


  3. says:

    Adolph Reed Jr is a relatively new find for me and has a no bullshit uality I like in a public intellectual This book is a commentary on the dreary politics of the 1980s and 1990s the summer of our discontent made glorious by the winter of Trump Reed speaks at the intersection of race and class which is a very important hinge in our society and writes of the decline of the left that has been going on since right after the postwar period And the gestural politics it mostly embodies this day which puts symbolism ahead of substance I think the left is a little stronger now than it was in the 1990s but some of these pathologies persist to the present Good stuff


  4. says:

    Adolph Reed Jr is one of my favorite left wing intellectuals This collection of essays primarily focuses on political strategy racism and ineuality Reed provides a valuable materialist insight into the uniue features of black communities and politics as well He is very critical of the Postmodern turn of the academic left and substance less identity politics while still taking a strong class based and anti racist position himself Ultimately I found this book somewhat inspiring and refreshing He breaks down many problems I have with the modern left but he both understands them better than I and what potential solutions may be I highly recommend it


  5. says:

    Adolph Reed is not only a compelling straightforward and remarkably engaging writer he is also fearless His collection of occasional pieces and topical essays together make for an excellent collection and introduction to his central themes the diversity of black American politics and perspectives the centrality of economic ineuality and the urgent need for state oriented political activity that is rigorous intelligent and implementable Another clear theme across these essays and foregrounded by the introduction is that Reed has little time for the vague pronouncements of theory after the linguistic turn and less time for the increasingly dominant performances of cultural criticism as he argues that both of these traditions unhelpfully guise their accommodations with the status uo in a misleading and ineffectual language of resistance He thus prises apart the claims of identity politics from their effects to argue that politics based in particularist identities form the burgeoning paralysis of socially atomized politically active neoliberalism It's bracing stuff and you don't need to agree with Reed to see the clarity of his arguments Reed's mode of critiue here clearly occupies a moment in many ways alien to our own but bears lessons for contemporary political analysts and strategists His central concerns are certainly timely poverty exploitation racialized power political agency and the active participation of a broad assortment of people in political movements


  6. says:

    Incredible political writing Very funny I'm amazed that this book is 20 years old and still rings so true


  7. says:

    Adolph Reed where have you been all my life? Class Notes is a collection of essays on black politics the labor movement left strategy the underclass debate the suckiness of liberals and a range of other issues all addressed with Reed's ascerbic wit and razor sharp political analysis His introductory analysis of the retreat of the left into the academy and postmodern identity politics since the 1960s should be reuired reading for all leftists His essay What Do the Drums Say Booker should be put in the same category as it definitively debunks the claims of the last wave of black public intellectuals to Voice ofthe Black Community status and manages to be completely hilarious at the same time What's best about Reed's perspective is that it allows him to walk and chew gum at the same time; while recognizing the need for historically oppressed identity groups to organize around their specific grievances he argues persuasively that these oppressions are ultimately experienced through political economy and that class organization in the interest of all working people needs to remain the foundation of a real progressive political movement This seems so painfully obvious to me but unfortunately many of us on the left have lost sight of this reality How I wish Reed was an Honorary Co Chair of my own organization Democratic Socialists of America rather than Cornel West I think we'd be much better off


  8. says:

    This book is worth re reading which I should probably do before giving an extensive and deserved treatment to the thoughts and ideas Reed puts forth For now a few thoughtsI had a professor whose historical understanding was vast and seemingly all encompassing Nonetheless he told me once that the best thing about philosophy through philosophical writing is its never being out of date; that is even philosophical schools of thought whose main tenets have fallen entirely out of favour present one the opportunity for a particular object of historical interest as much as a tour of thought as thought History in the form of historical writing he told me did not always hold in this same senseReading Reed today I would now like to extend this idea to political writing good political writing will always maintain a kind of relevance in part and like philosophy because of its ability to demonstrate how and not simply what someone should think How to approach a splintering left politics for instance or how to think in terms of worn out and idealist leftist tendencies et cetera serve to demonstrate Reed's commitment to the instrumental as opposed to purely expressive forms of political actionA critiue of another's political stance with no substantive response or formulation of one's own ie expressing opposition can often act in favour of those you hope to oppose A purely expressive politics exists and operates within a framework of existing tendencies and historical realities; it rides the waves of both action and inaction leverages its attitudes off of existing realities often enough without concern for those realities themselves it complicates and individualizes the experience of the political as the personal No solidarity movement at home nor abroad can be built off the purity of the individual as an abstraction which the politics of individualism has proven and the borrowing of such abstractions from an oppositional heritage based self understanding rooted in the tyrannical pursuit of civilization as a colonial construction mentality with ever new packaging in contemporary culture The main concern of gaining cultural hegemony is representation in things like already established consumer markets thus stripping the political dimension of a reality prior to the purchases we are allowed to make the forms of entertainment we take in the clothes we wear and so onIt is telling on this front that the response to the carbon tax here in Canada by fervent industry defenders besides a purposeful turn away from 'their' science meaning the global scientific community to 'ours' meaning a bought and sold intelligentsia operating through the think tankapparatus was also meted out along consumer lines of increased prices in grocery storesThus the discussion of the responsibility of the individual in one class context is turned against communities whose political inaction a sign of being left in the dark while civilization is held to be booming all around is the fault of themselves and themselves alone The failures of a large enough portion of the American public to understand social structural forces as a dance between badly formed racial and class categories with their pressures on political institutions the destructive nature of industry on our ecology and other super citizenry meaning those over and above any individual citizen issues become filtered through the language of individual responsibility no housing rampant drug use crumbling infrastructure? Try cleaning up and going to church Global warming polar caps melting and carbon emissions at an all time high? Have you recycled adeuately this week or turned off your lights before leaving the house?Alongside the abstraction of the individual as the sole vehicle for social change Reed delineates the mythological idea of the community as it was currently is held against the people Just as the individual is told to set his house in order before he has any expectation of changing the world an incredible irony considering the state of the housing crisis and the history of the politics of housing in America the community as a symbolic entity must gain some sense of a monolithic nature in order to have any sway in politics In other words it is the lack of black community not any political economic carry over from pre Civil Rights the Jim Crow era and a historical subjugation of chattel slavery that has lead to generational ineuities in the American conception of 'blackness' as defined from withoutThere is much to touch upon here but I will simply say this for now this idealist politics using abstractions to belie the reality of the instrumental policy and impact of state apparatuses on citizens has lead to the funnelling of the ideas of race gender and similar lines of oppressive social structures to be slowly but surely embraced in academic settings and ever moving from institutional analysis and policy based action to the academic context of expressive politics whose presence carries its own tensions and contradictions as well the perpetual underclass the working class and so on generally alienated from such high falutin settings finds the abstractions and symbolism of a right wing politic to beat the ever moving target of academic representationalism and contemporarily intersectionality and the boogie man of today's iteration of cancel cultureReed largely demonstrates a return to the political as rooted deeply than the cultural a discussion of culture already demonstrates a moving of the goalpost from action to reflection pressing issue politics built off of demonstrable unity with a sort of conceptual theological unity which though much needed is often enough used against the policy battles of the instrumental left coalition Reed's contention is the need to realign the interests of the left with its fight to dispel a mythological anti establishment resistance movement to face head on the need for coalition building to undertake any form of effective political action and to understand the left as an organizing force not one of disorganization


  9. says:

    Great book and will have to revisit soon to really digest the arguments Read this at the suggestion of Michael Brooks RIP Left is Best


  10. says:

    I first read this book several years ago and have been coming back to it ever since along with everything else Reed has ever written He has probably been the most influential thinkerwriter for me in the past 3 4 years He really offered a way of thinking about class race American politics and left strategy that I was hungering for He is really one of the shrewdest political thinkers alive As for being a black public intellectual he's got honest substance in one essay than all the blathering Cornell Wests and Michael Eric Dysons have in their entire oeuvre combined Anyways this book is a great and very readable intro to Reed's thoughtAnd he's actually an ACTIVIST too Especially with the Labor Party I almost wish he wasn't as active as he is so that he would write


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Summary Ç PDF, eBook or Kindle ePUB ☆ Adolph L. Reed Jr.

Last three decades Reed argues against the solipsistic approaches of cultural or identity politics and in favor of class based political interpretation and action Class Notes moves on to tackle race relations ethnic studies family values welfare reform the so called underclass and black public intellectuals in essays called ? Incredible political writing Very funny I'm amazed that this book is 20 years old and still rings so true Electing Judges underclass and black public intellectuals in essays called ? Incredible political writing Very funny I'm amazed that this book is 20 years old and still rings so true

Read Class Notes Posing As Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene

Class Notes Posing As Politics and Other Thoughts on the American Scene

??head spinning” and “brilliantly executed” by David Levering LewisAdolph Reed Jr has earned a national reputation for his controversial evaluations of American politics These essays illustrate why people like Katha Pollitt consider Reed “the smartest person of any race class or gender writing on race class and gender? Adolph Reed where have you been all my life? Class Notes is a collection of essays on black politics the labor movement left strategy the underclass debate the suckiness of liberals and a range of other issues all addressed with Reed's ascerbic wit and razor sharp political analysis His introductory analysis of the retreat of the left into the academy and postmodern identity politics since the 1960s should be reuired reading for all leftists His essay What Do the Drums Say Booker should be put in the same category as it definitively debunks the claims of the last wave of black public intellectuals to Voice ofthe Black Community status and manages to be completely hilarious at the same time What's best about Reed's perspective is that it allows him to walk and chew gum at the same time; while recognizing the need for historically oppressed identity groups to organize around their specific grievances he argues persuasively that these oppressions are ultimately experienced through political economy and that class organization in the interest of all working people needs to remain the foundation of a real progressive political movement This seems so painfully obvious to me but unfortunately many of us on the left have lost sight of this reality How I wish Reed was an Honorary Co Chair of my own organization Democratic Socialists of America rather than Cornel West I think we'd be much better off The Black Painting underclass debate the suckiness of liberals and a range of other issues all addressed with Reed's ascerbic wit and razor sharp political analysis His introductory analysis of the retreat of the left into the academy and postmodern identity politics since the 1960s should be reuired reading for all leftists His essay What Do the Drums Say Booker should be put in the same category as it definitively debunks the claims of the last wave of black public intellectuals to Voice ofthe Black Community status and manages to be completely hilarious at the same time What's best about Reed's perspective is that it allows him to walk and chew gum at the same time; while recognizing the need for historically oppressed identity groups to organize around their specific grievances he argues persuasively that these oppressions are Fire and Desire ultimately experienced through political economy and that class organization in the interest of all working people needs to remain the foundation of a real progressive political movement This seems so painfully obvious to me but The Forgotten Memoir of John Knox unfortunately many of The Illusionists us on the left have lost sight of this reality How I wish Reed was an Honorary Co Chair of my own organization Democratic Socialists of America rather than Cornel West I think we'd be much better off

Summary Ç PDF, eBook or Kindle ePUB ☆ Adolph L. Reed Jr.

Hailed by Publishers Weekly for its “forceful” and “bracing opinions on race and politics” Class Notes is critic Adolph Reed Jr’s latest blast of clear thinking on matters of race class and other American dilemmas The book begins with a consideration of the theoretical and practical strategies of the US left over the Not every single essay in this book is earth shatteringly good And Reed is sometimes overly dismissive of what I consider to be developments on the Left that aren't particularly harmful or insignificant But reading this book made me feel like a serious weight had been lifted off of my shoulders It gave me permission to admit to myself that developments or ideas within the Left that I've long had internal personal doubts about but have never wanted to admit out loud or even to myself may in fact be right—or if not right at least worth voicing and debating The Left as anyone who's been around it in the past few decades already knows is in really rough shape And when you're in such rough shape you're desperate for anything that you can claim as a victory or even just a positive development When victories around major society wide issues that reuire real mass movement building and thus are really difficult to win—issues like ending racial segregation in housing universal health care affordable housing workers' rights etc—are in short supply it can be really depressing and debilitating So it makes sense that many of us would choose to set the bar a bit lower for ourselves to battles that we are capable of winning many of which of course as Reed notes several times in the book are also extremely important to fight over and win But Reed's basic case here is about not indulging in that temptation He's arguing here that we need to keep our eyes on the prize; that we can't give up on those bigger picture goals and that there's no substitute for a mass movement reuired to win them—no shortcuts to achieving mass social change And the sooner we can admit that to ourselves the sooner we can get to the business of actually creating that kind of movement and winning those victoriesIt's a message that's a bit depressing in its sobriety But if we're going to ever win victories around those issues we don't really have another choiceAlso I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Reed has some of the most scorching prose I've ever read from an academic Seriously It's so white hot and so brutal that I'm afraid to have the man read anything I've ever written lest he take issue with any piece of it and write such a blistering merciless takedown that I'll be paralyzed from ever writing anything again