Black America in the Shadow of the Sixties: Notes on the Civil Rights Movement, Neoliberalism, and Politics

Series: Class: Culture

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Combining interdisciplinary scholarship, political reportage, and personal reflection, this daring book measures the current celebrations of 1960s-era civil rights anniversaries against the realization of a black American presidency, and the stark social and economic conditions of contemporary Black America. Clarence Lang argues that the ways inwhich we remember the 1960s have serious repercussions for how we characterize the progressive legacies of that period; understand the concepts of black community, leadership, and politics; and approach the limitations and prospects for social change today. The persistence of the Sixties in the political outlook of scholars and activists highlights the need for frameworks more closely aligned with a current historical context shaped by the damaging effects of neoliberalism. On the rise since the 1970s, neoliberalism rejects social welfare protections for the citizenry in favor of individual liberty, unfettered markets, and a laissez-faire national state. Neoliberalism's effects have included the transition from industrial production to an economy driven by financial capital; market deregulation and austerity; privatization; anti-union policies; the erosion of work conditions and pay in order to generate greater productivity and higher corporate profits; declining family income and rising household debt; heightened state surveillance, harassment and imprisonment of people of color, as well as racial terrorism by white civilians; greater class stratification, both between andwithin racial/ethnic groupings; and a heightened concentration of wealth among the top one percent in this nation. The current commemorations of 1960s black freedom milestones, as well as the celebration of the nation's first black president, are important and meaningful. Yet they also expose the necessity of a more fully critical interpretation of the Sixties and suggest the significant factor of African American history - both as subject and practice - in propelling us forward.