Read Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition by Cedric J. Robinson Online


In this ambitious work, first published in 1983, Cedric Robinson demonstrates that efforts to understand black people's history of resistance solely through the prism of Marxist theory are incomplete and inaccurate. Marxist analyses tend to presuppose European models of history and experience that downplay the significance of black people and black communities as agents ofIn this ambitious work, first published in 1983, Cedric Robinson demonstrates that efforts to understand black people's history of resistance solely through the prism of Marxist theory are incomplete and inaccurate. Marxist analyses tend to presuppose European models of history and experience that downplay the significance of black people and black communities as agents of change and resistance. Black radicalism must be linked to the traditions of Africa and the unique experiences of blacks on western continents, Robinson argues, and any analyses of African American history need to acknowledge this.To illustrate his argument, Robinson traces the emergence of Marxist ideology in Europe, the resistance by blacks in historically oppressive environments, and the influence of both of these traditions on such important twentieth-century black radical thinkers as W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, and Richard Wright....

Title : Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition
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ISBN : 9780807848296
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Number of Pages : 480 Pages
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Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition Reviews

  • Andrea
    2019-05-16 07:01

    A book of immense scope and impressive in its immensity. It felt absolutely overwhelming as I read it, but going back over it, it feels more like some kind of treasure trove that will continue to yield new things every time you open its cover -- so some initial lengthy yet also paradoxically brief notes...It begins at the European beginning of Capitalism, going through the rise of the bourgeoisie through first cities, then absolutist and colonial states. As Robinson states: "European civilization is not the product of capitalism. On the contrary, the character of capitalism can only be understood in the social and historical context of its appearance." [25] And because this is true, the age-old conceptions of race, enemy and exploitable other simply translated itself into new terms as the world changed: "As an enduring principle of European social order, the effects of racialism were bound to appear in the social expression of every strata of every European society no matter the structures upon which they were formed. None was immune. [29]"He moves on then to look at the English working class, and how their formation was also entwined with racialism. Marx and Engels both acknowledged the existence of racial divisions, but believed that these would be erased as capitalism developed, even though there did not appear to be signs of it happening. As Robinson pointedly notes: Neither Marx nor Engels were unaware of the proletariat's failure to become a universal class.76 Both studied the Irish Question closely, were active in the attempt to resolve its destructive impact on the historical processes of English working-class formation, and commented on its import for future proletarian organization. Nevertheless, the impact of their experience with the English proletariat on their theory of the proletariat's historical role appears to have been slight. [51]He's scathing of the whole Socialist tradition really, particularly in its early stages, and in my opinion entirely rightly. Its solid basis lies in the bourgeoisie itself, with no connection to the working classes:It is a period dominated by eccentrics, visionaries, and didacts. The wistful trails of Godwin, Paine, Fourier, Saint-Simon, Cabet, Pecquer, lesser and grander lights, preoccupy the historians, along with the most often short-lived utopian communities associated with some ofthem. The agitations, rebellions, riots, and struggles of artisans, wage laborers, peasants, and slave laborers are largely irrelevant to the tradition in the early nineteenth century and mostly constitute a background "noise" in this the era of the socialist writer. ... Their work becomes a demonstration of the independence of socialist theory and social movements from one another. When once again they collide, in the 1840S, 1870S, and early 1900S, each had assumed forms and prerogatives only slightly tolerable to those of the other. He returns Marx to his time and place, from 1848 to the rise of Bismarck in 1862. He traces the ambiguities of Marx and Engels' positions on nationalism, and argues that they did not understand it, in the same way that they failed to understand racialism: that it was neither an aberration nor a stage, but something as determined by history as their world revolution failed to be. He argues that ideologies have in fact "helped to abort those social and historical processes believed to be necessary and inevitable; have catalyzed rebellions and revolutions in often unlikely circumstances and among unlikely peoples; and have assisted in extraordinary historical achievement where failure was "objectively" immanent." [82] Only then do we return to race:In short, there were at least four distinct moments that must be apprehended in European racialism; two whose origins are to be found within the dialectic of European development, and two that are not: 1. the racial ordering of European society from its formative period, which extends into the medieval and feudal ages as "blood" and racial beliefs and legends. 2. the Islamic (i.e., Arab, Persian, Turkish, and African) domination of Mediterranean civilization and the consequent retarding of European social and cultural life: the Dark Ages. 3. the incorporation of African, Asian, and peoples of the New World into the world system emerging from late feudalism and merchant capitalism. 4. the dialectic of colonialism, plantocratic slavery, and resistance from the sixteenth century forward, and the formations of industrial labor and labor reserves. It is now a convention to begin the analysis of racism in Western societies with the third moment; entirely ignoring the first and second and only partially coming to terms with the fourth. ... In each instance, the root of the methodological and conceptual flaws is the same: the presumption that the social and historical processes that matter, which are determinative, are European. All else, it seems, is derivative.This book is a refutation of such a framework. It proceeds to look at moments of struggle, rebellion and uprising in Africa and its diaspora flung across the world by the European slave trade. He writes:Black radicalism, consequently, cannot be understood within the particular context of its genesis. It is not a variant of Western radicalism whose proponents happen to be Black. Rather, it is a specifically African response to an oppression emergent from the immediate determinants of European development in the modern era and framed by orders of human exploitation woven into the interstices of European social life from the inception of Western civilization: [97]Robinson finds how this was ignored in a deep historical look at previous contacts between Blacks and whites, the shift of Blacks being seen as Islamic militants and soldiers to slaves and a very different set of stereotypes. From there he looks at the long history of the slave trade, mentioned earlier was the Italian trafficking of 'Tartars' and 'Poles' and 'Cathays', but now it has expanded into the extraordinary movement of tens of thousands of people in the trans-Atlantic trade. Thus we arrive at black radicalism. As he states at the opening of chapter 6:However, Marx had not realized fully that the cargoes of laborers also contained African cultures, critical mixes and admixtures of language and thought, of cosmology and metaphysics, of habits, beliefs, and morality. These were the actual terms of their humanity. These cargoes, then, did not consist of intellectual isolates or deculturated Blacks-men, women, and children separated from their previous universe. African labor brought the past with it, a past that had produced it and settled on it the first elements of consciousness and comprehension. This was the embryo of the demon that would be visited on the whole enterprise of primitive accumulation. [173]And thus follows a whole splendid history of Black resistance through the ages, uprisings and revolts, some of the marron comunities you might have heard of like Palmares but many that you probably have not. It ends with Africa: Revolt at the Source. In delving deeper into the nature of the Black radical tradition, he finds in fact that "one note has occurred and recurred: the absence of mass violence." [242], in contrast to the 'massive and often indiscriminate' brutality of the Europeans in quelling such revolts. He claims that such an absence shows that This was a revolutionary consciousness that proceeded from the whole historical experience of Black people and not merely from the social formations of capitalist slavery or the relations of production of colonialism. It becomes clear, then, that for the period between the mid-sixteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, it was an African tradition that grounded collective resistance by Blacks to slavery and colonial imperialism.He goes on to argue for a particularly African tradition of granting primacy to the metaphysical, not the material. A tradition of resistance through collectivity. I'm not entirely convinced by the psychology of it, but there's definitely something there. "They lived on their terms, they died on their terms, they obtained their freedom on their terms." He argues that this cast doubt on the idea that capitalism was able to 'penetrate and reform' all social life, or strip life down to bare survival. The book then moves on to the third section: the formation of the Black intelligentsia. He looks at W.E.B. DuBois, C.L.R. James and Richard Wright. It is an immensely rich look at DuBois, my favourite passage distilling some of the wealth in Black Reconstruction:And in every instance, peasants and agrarian workers had been the primary social bases of rebellion and revolution. Nowhere, noteven in Russia, where a rebellious urban proletariat was a fraction of the mobilized working classes, had a bourgeois social order formed a precondition for revolutionary struggle. Revolutionary consciousness had formed in the process of antiimperialist and nationalist struggles, and the beginnings of resistance had often been initiated by ideological constructions remote from the proletarian consciousness that was a presumption of Marx's theory of revolution. The idiom of revolutionary consciousness had been historical and cultural rather than the "mirror of production." The oppositions that had struck most deeply at capitalist domination and imperialism had been those formed outside the logic of bourgeois hegemony. [324]C.L.R. James loved fiction! Who knew. This section looks more at his critiques of Marxism, some interesting reflections on Black Jacobins and this interesting passage: "It implied (and James did not see this) that bourgeois culture and thought and ideology were irrelevant to the development of revolutionary consciousness among Black and other Third World peoples. It broke with the evolutionist chain in, the closed dialectic of, historical materialism." [386] And the section on Wright, so rich on how writing and experience and political consciousness fold together, there is so much here, I can't sum up. There's this:For Wright, it was not sufficient for Black liberation that his people come to terms with the critique of capitalist society. He had observed: "Marxism is but the starting point. No theory of life can take the place of life."55 As a critique of capitalist society, Marxism was necessary, of course, but it was ultimately an internal critique. The epistemological nature of historical materialism took bourgeois society on its own terms, that is, presuming the primacy of economic forces and structures.56 As such, the historical development from feudalism of the bourgeoisie as a class served as a logical model for the emergence of the proletariat as a negation of capitalist society. Wright appeared quite early to have understood this thesis as a fundamental error in Marxist thought. Even as early as 1937, he had begun to argue that it was necessary that Blacks transform the Marxist critique into an expression of their own emergence as a negation of Western capitalism.Brilliant stuff on ideology and violence, the importance of experience, but I will let Robinson himself do the final summing up of the contributions of each to a valid theory of liberation:DuBoisIt was, DuBois observed, from the periphery and not the center that the most sustained threat to the American capitalist system had materialized. ... Just as important for him, however, was the realization that the racism of the American "white" working classes and their general ideological immaturity had abnegated the extent to which the conditions of capitalist production and relations alone could be held responsible for the social development of the American proletariat. The collective and individual identities of American workers had responded as much to race as they had to class. The relations of production were not determinant. [448]JamesNo revolutionary cadre, divorced from the masses, ensconced in state bureaucracy, and abrogating to itself the determination of the best interests of the masses, could sustain the revolution or itself. [449]WrightWright evoked in his writings the language and experience of"ordinary" Black men and women. In this way he pressed home the recognition that whatever the objective forces propelling a people toward struggle, resistance, and revolution, they would come to that struggle in their own cultural terms. [449]And my final quote which I believe deserves much thought:Western Marxism, in either of its two variants-critical-humanist or scientific-has proven insufficiently radical to expose and root out the racialist order that contaminates its analytic and philosophic applications or to come to effective terms with the implications of its own class origins. As a result, it has been mistaken for something it is not: a total theory of liberation. [451]

  • Chuck
    2019-05-15 07:41

    I think that this is sort of a masterpiece, even if I disagree with him in many ways. I interviewed him about this book and other topics around a decade ago (it's online) and the dialogue was extremely fun and informative.

  • Quin Rich
    2019-05-08 03:41

    I read this for fun with a friend who is by far better informed about Marxist theory than I am. Which was important, because although Black Marxism is a rewarding read, it is at times a dense and difficult one. The argument is that an autonomous, Black radical tradition exists outside of Western Marxism. This book offers an important corrective to hegemonic Western historiography and white Marxism. However, the author somehow failed to discuss gender or sexuality in any significant way, making for an androcentric text that ignores the crucial contributions of Black women to the struggle for Black liberation. As my friend pointed out, Ida B. Wells did the essential work of exposing lynching as white supremacist violence. How could any account of a Black radical tradition overlook her work, as just one example of many. This was a deeply disappointing component of the text. As such, I would recommend this book be supplemented with Dorothy Robert's Killing the Black Body, Angela Y. Davis' Women, Race, & Class, and Patricia Hill Collins' Black Feminist Thought as necessary complements to this text.

  • J.P.
    2019-05-19 02:44

    Great doesn't even begin to describe this book. It's a shame it isn't more popular in radical & socialist circles.It starts off tracing historical roots of racism. It is not unique to the era of European & U.S. Colonialism or Capitalism, but has roots throughout humanity's history of conquest & war. There were always groups of people that were othered. Later came the hierarchy of white "races" used to divide them as well as divide them from "colored races" as better than them. Contends that the impact "The Industrial Revolution", not unlike many stories or legends we are sold, is a bit exaggerated as less attention is typically given to all other factors that allowed it to come to be, i.e. banking, finance, political economy of trade itself & so on.Early resistance of workers to the impoverishment of their personal lives, of their existence by the I.R. & their attempts for concessions show how the system can & will use your own desires & beliefs against you in order for you to buy their dream & keep the status quo in tact. Again, exemplified by how easy it was for the nationalism of the English working classes to be manipulated to feed into racism that existed before capitalism & was modified & made more virulent to suit the system's own needs. The division between the English & the Irish is a great example of how working class consciousness did not & does not necessarily follow the strict form that it was assumed to follow using French Revolution as an example; there are other factors that influence consciousness.He traces Marx & Engels ideas towards nationalism, as well as their own, & shows how they & their followers over the years have been reluctant to embrace nationalist sentiments for fear they are always a tool of the state, neglecting how nationalist sentiments have & do inform liberation movements. It can have a role to play for workers because culture can be a means to transmit historical consciousness & to recognition of the right to self-determination. So to dismiss it outright can be a mistake considering its role in many liberation movements that sought to overthrow imperialist & capitalist rule.Robinson also talks about what is mistaken to be European's first contact with Africans with the appearance of the colonies. He explores the dynamics of racism & slavery & how the destruction of knowledge of our past was used as a means to construct a negative image of Africans, divorcing us from our history & traditions, passing on the same negative characteristics they would give to all whites that weren't of Anglo Saxon descent. They used tactics that they had been using for centuries. He taps into that history, explaining our contact with the Greeks, how they realized their civilization was young & inexperienced, tracing some history of Egypt, Nubia & Kush & their advancements. He shows that there was contact between African civilization & the elites of early European civilization & it is because of it being restricted to elites & their civilizations being cut off & far from early Western European peoples, that after the fall of Rome & the emergence of the church as the leader among Europeans, that most traces of contact with black civilizations were lost. This historical amnesia was key to the dehumanizing that occurred in later contact as previous contact had produced no significantly know color prejudice. So that in tandem with the racializing of non Anglo Saxon Europeans helped produce racism of Western Europe. While most of western Europeans were still distant, the rest of the world was thriving & slowly via conquest by Eastern people's & trade did western European people come in contact again. Divorced from knowledge of their previous historical contact, with the rise of Christianity as the guide & leader of Europeans & their culture they constructed their own image of themselves & the world which was constantly challenged by the reality of African civilizations, Muslim civilizations & Asian civilizations. Muslim Civilizations were particularly important as with their rise & conquests, unlike their European counterparts would do later, they kept in tact the knowledge & histories of those they came in contact with or conquered. Faced with this reality, as the Church grew in power, so did their use of legends to justify the existence of those in power. These legends in conjunction with the history of dehumanizing outsiders that goes back to the use of the term Barbarian by the Greeks would go on to serve the purpose of elevating themselves in their own eyes & laid the foundation for the racism that came with Transatlantic Slave Trade. This allowed them to construct reality to see themselves & the world regardless of facts that contradicted them.This takes us to the Transatlantic Slave Trade & it passing through the hands of the Spanish, the Dutch, to the Netherlands & later to be ruled by Britain. It is through the combination of the historical roots of European racism, it's losing knowledge of previous historical contact, later re-introduction to Africans, the emergence of mercantile capitalism & it's transformation into industrial capitalism & it's need for "free" & cheap labor that lays the foundation for black radical traditions. He ties them all together to demonstrate the historical conditions that inform our liberation movements & make them distinct from what Marxism typically assumes to be working-class movements that would spring forth because of capitalism due to its Eurocentric influences. How could they not be different? As Marxism tends to hold that historical conditions inform the movements, seeing as how the histories of labor for Europeans & Africans are similar but not even close to identical, the history given shows where missteps have occurred on assessing & recognizing how black liberation movements came to be & function. He shows us that uprisings & rebellions were constant despite the best efforts to keep them obscured. Rebellious acts weren't just uprisings either, they were acts of sabotaging tools, work slow-downs, intentionally not reproducing  & any other imaginative way to frustrate the slave masters & their system. Denying this was by design. The powers that be would take note, send out people to make record of events & distort the details as they saw fit depending on their needs at the time. Locals of course would write as well & do the same, even if only out of spite for their notions of superiority being contradicted by the reality of the actions of black people. The fact that most of the slaves, whether they be in North America, South America or any islands that had slave colonies were actually recently brought from Africa played a significant role in these uprisings & rebellions. They brought their traditions, their culture & thus their memories, they saw themselves not at all as slaves & that is what informs the radical traditions as opposed to what is considered to be the "universal" view of that of the working class or an under-class. Robinson makes it evident that African people have always defined themselves & their realities, something that most people miss.The tradition & beliefs of W.E.B. Du Bois & their evolution through his life are traced as well as early black nationalist movements & their interactions with Socialist & Communist elements are given attention. A good chunk of the focus is on the failure of their interactions or why some never came to be, mainly due to lack of understanding of the traditions & history that informed black radicals & how working class whites were averse to blacks in general & how they became pawns for northern industrialists for racism to keep them divided. That, in tandem with the fact that despite their best efforts & desire to incorporate black people into the movement, the Soviet Union's lack of historical perspective for black people's experience led to a failure to manifest what could have been a crucial unification. Next, he gives some history of C.L.R. James, his experiences & how they transformed him. He was raised to be part of the upper class & had shunned politics, especially those involving black people, but his racial identity & events of the world forced him to contend with this & get involved. Robinson also shows how James traced the bourgeoisies' appropriation of sports, which often come about as a means of building comradery amongst "lower" classes, specifically using the example of cricket, as a way to justify their rule. The appropriation springs forth its own ideology & justification that serves the status quo of the state & makes the "upper" classes appear more cultured & therefore better. Certainly, not the first to do this, it is a practice that goes back to earlier civilizations & is a practice that continues today.Lastly, he juxtaposes the progression of Richard Wright's views with how they are portrayed in his popular works, what it meant for Wright himself, his contemporary audience & the audience of later generations. Wright saw clearly the limitations of Marxism for dealimg with the racial experiences of blacks. For him, Marxism was useful, especially for the rise of radicals of all oppressed groups, but only the beginning. He was able to display the experiences of black people not of the bourgeoisie, that are pertinent for organization & change. "At the moment when a people begin to realize a meaning in their suffering, the civilization that engenders that suffering is doomed."It isn't just the conditions created by capitalism that inform the lives & any social eruptions that may spring forth, but also their beliefs, mores & morals, that usually stem from previous beliefs. All of these, these cultures, because of any breaks brought about via exploitation, colonialism & imperialism, survive & develop in defiance of that oppression. It has been so with any oppressed group as historically, with or without contact with Marxist thought, they have most often been able to push Marxism further than most western European radicals as their existence & experience show a unique contradiction with the system that spares them most illusions of assimilation. This is the important distinction that most Marxists miss: For Europeans it has been their immediate exposure to capitalism & it's exploitation that has created their radicalism. For Africans it has been that via slavery, colonialism & imperialism PLUS our struggles to keep our cultures in tact however we can & develop our own whereever we are displaced, all in defiance, that creates our black radical traditions."One does not need education or encouragement to cherish a dream of freedom."Best book I've read in a while! Truly a gem!

  • Alex
    2019-05-11 07:37

    This book is a great study of some of the difficulties that Marxism in the west has had with addressing the problems associated with petit-bourgeois (and IMO labor aristocratic) class consciousness and how they relate to issues of race (which is often directly class). I'm not convinced by the pessimism Robinson has about the project of Marxism in general, largely because there are important traditions in Marxism that have done work in addressing the issues that Robinson raises, they just tend not to have the same measures of success in the imperial core than the tendencies that Robinson describes. I found that coming into reading this book having already read Settlers helped inform my understanding of the history and material/social dynamics that underpin the cultural that Robinson describes, and I'd recommend it to anyone who got a lot out of Settlers is interested in an intellectual history of the responses of the black radical tradition to the dynamics described in Settlers.

  • Jeff
    2019-05-03 07:57

    This & DuBois Black Reconstruction can humble your Germanophile theory-bro pals and provoke a dramatic shift in people's thinking about political concepts and human history. Not actually about Black Marxists or Marxism in Black America but rather a reconsideration of the history of racialized class oppression from before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade arguing that protocapitalist class oppression never existed without racial, ethnic, or national "othering" of oppressed producers. Centers the mythological nature of the "world proletariat" concept and suggests Marxian class-for-itself struggle would not appear except as the result of millions of kotis of kalpas of struggles about class which could not, by definition, unite an imagined self-conscious "world proletariat." Very detailed discussion of the long-view of what Robinson calls the "Black Radical Tradition" from Palmares to present, and develops the notion of "racial capitalism" prior to European contact with the New World. A transformative book.

  • Jade Levandofsky
    2019-05-21 07:40

    Stupendous historiography! I started reading for class and ended up purchasing so that I could read the rest. With extreme detail Robinson describes the struggles of African Blacks in the Western Hemisphere as well as the faults in Marxist and pan-African theories that try to encapsulate this struggle to form revolution. Perhaps not the best read for someone new to Marxist theory and/or the Black Radicalism. Of which were new to me so I admit that during my course on racial capitalism I understood his argument but reading independently a few months after the fact was more difficult. I ended up passing on to a Marxist friend that I thought would enjoy a critique of the theory at this intersection.

  • blakeR
    2019-05-27 01:48

    The book is more important than it is enjoyable. It took me a long time to read, but I'm happy that I did. I very much respect Robinson's attempt to consolidate the Black Radical tradition into one tome, and I think he largely succeeds. That the book is so densely written, however, will be quite an obstacle to this ever becoming a widely-read analysis (as I would argue it should be).His main point is that Marxism/Communism/Socialism/what-have-you, while good entries for black intellectuals into the ideology of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism, can never go far enough in serving this oppressed minority due to the race and class context in which the ideology itself was created. Robinson compellingly argues that while Marxism may be a good starting point, it is incumbent on modern intellectuals to move past it, to use what they can of Marx but adapt it to modern needs (while fixing the flaws of eurocentrism).The most engrossing part of the book was when he chronicled three such intellectuals - W.E.B. Du Bois, C.L.R. James and Richard Wright -- on their journeys into and out of Marxism. While telling their stories, Robinson makes a compelling case of why we need to beware of all dogma, even that of the side with which we agree. While I wouldn't recommend this book to the layperson, I definitely hope it is being closely studied by today's black intellectuals, leftists and organizers. I wouldn't say this necessarily provides a roadmap to Black Liberation, but it is an excellent point of consolidation that comrades can use as a common reference.Not Bad [email protected]

  • Matthew Rohn
    2019-05-18 07:40

    Good material but very dated, the important information and theory from the first 2\3 is embedded throughout much more modern literature, and the last 1\3 mostly of interest to those interested in an intellectual history of leftist politics

  • Jason von Meding
    2019-05-01 01:03

    Just an incredible work. The scope is jaw dropping and the analysis so sharp that it's a real contribution to radical thought.

  • Paul
    2019-05-04 07:02

    I first bought this book six years ago, on a whim in leftist bookstore. After a glance at Robin Kelley's introduction, I decided the book was best put aside until I could devote some real time to it. Kelley's description of the book's momentous accomplishment, its range of erudition, and its radical challenge to Marxist theory proved a bit intimidating, and I resolved to return to the work when I could devote the appropriate amount of time to the encounter.Having just turned the last page, I have to say that the wait was not worth it. Though extensively documented and exceptionally wide ranging, Black Marxism is a bad book. I simply cannot imagine any reader who has a decent acquaintance with Marxist theory being convinced by any of the claims raised against it in this work. To seize on a small but telling example, Robinson refers on multiple occasions to the 'contradiction between the mode of production and the relations of production.' Now, as anyone even basically familiar with Marxist theory would tell you, a mode of production is the result of a certain combination of the forces of production (technology and organization of the labor process) and the relations of production (how the exploiting class appropriates the surplus from the producing class). While the forces and relations may come into conflict, there is no such thing as a contradiction between the relations and the mode. This may seem the height of sectarian quibbling, but it reveals a rather appalling ignorance on Robinson's part. What kind of critique of Marxism can we expect from someone who cannot even discuss its most basic conceptual architecture?Unfortunately, this is only one example of the sloppiness which pervades Black Marxism. Perhaps the gravest example of this is Robinson's definition of capitalism. While Marx held that capitalism was a system of competitive accumulation based on wage labor, Robinson more or less equates capitalism with large scale mercantile activity. As Robert Brenner pointed out long ago (and as Robinson should have known), this is Adam Smith's definition of capitalism, not Karl Marx's. Robinson's efforts to score points against Marx by pointing out the various ways in which mercantile activity in early modern Europe contradicted Marx's account of capital are thus only so many sorties mounted against windmills.In short, Black Marxism is a book which relies for its effectiveness on its readership's ignorance of the object of its critique. While parts of the book are informative (the sections on the slave trade and on slave resistance, for example), the overall thrust of the book is towards caricature and misrepresentation. This is unfortunate, as a rigorous critique of Marxism from the perspective of an autonomous black radical tradition could be an important work.

  • tartaruga fechada
    2019-04-29 04:59

    “For the vast majority of the planet’s peoples, the global economy publicizes itself in human misery.”“These events were to leave tell-tale marks on Western consciousness: the fear and hatred of “blackamoors”; the demonization of Islam; the transfiguration of Muhammad the Prophet into the anti-Christ. Not surprisingly, Europeans, that is “Christendom,” still experience recurrences of antipathy toward what became their shared phantasmagoria.” “Black radicalism is a negation of Western civilization, but not in the direct sense of a simple dialectical negation … it is not a variant of Western radicalism whose proponents happen to be Black Rather, it is a specifically African response to an oppression emergent from the immediate determinants of European development in the modern ear and framed by orders of human exploitation woven into the interstices of European social life from the inception of Western civilization.” “Some of the realities of colonial America were hardly the stuff from which national legend could be easily formed."Du Bois: “We are as a nation ignorant of the function and meaning of money, and we are looking around helplessly to see if anybody else knows. This is not, as some assume, the failure of democracy -- it is the failure of education, of justice, and or truth. We have lied so long about money and business, we do not know where truth is.” Wright: “I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo; and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human.” “Without myth, that is, without meaning, consciousness is set adrift into terror.” “Violence is the final, the last possible form that social action may assume.” “[A]fter some centuries of racial indulgences the substratum of Western thought was unprepared for anything else. Even the shift in eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century Western thought from a basis of a religious and philosophical epistemology to that of modern science had made little difference. In point of fact, it had merely served to extend the terms and rationales for the fantasy of racial inferiority (for the Jews, Irish, Slavs, and Asians as well as for Black). Western scientific thought simply took its places as the latest formal grammar for the expression of a racial metaphysics to which its most natural response was acquiescence. Indeed, during much of the nineteenth century, one of the most persistent projects for which Western science was employed was the attempt to demonstrate what was already understood to be the natural orders of races.”

  • Bradley
    2019-05-26 04:59

    I love this book for the simple fact that he wrote this while teaching at Binghamton University, my alma mater! Most people on the outside don't know this, but BU is a hotbed of radical political theory. Marxists who truly understand the full breadth of post-colonial theory accompanied by anarchism and who have actually taken the time to read Capital are a dying breed. There are maybe a half a dozen people in America who could have written a book like this without selling out to some sort of petty "Identity Politics" shenanigans. Ok, maybe a bakers dozen. As a white male the title struck me as something I might not be interested in, but after the first few chapters I realized that this is truly an awe-inspiring work of really wonderful scholarship and cutting edge "critical race theory"... we need more level-headed black intellectuals of the Marxist persuasion in the Western Academy. Too often Marxists are tyrannical misanthropic alienated wage-laborers at the local jerk store. Robinson makes scathing critiques of euro-centric thinking that has over-coded a lot of Marxist ideas, but he does so in a diplomatic way. The intro. by Robin G. Kelly really puts it into perspective; written by someone who was not interested in silly intellectual turf wars, but for people interested in forwarding revolution at a grassroots level. Yes! Factual based analysis from a World Systems Marxist not named Immanuel Wallerstein... that is radical in and of itself.

  • david
    2019-05-21 07:57

    In Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, Robinson responds to Eugene Genovese’s supposition “that the [B:]lacks did not establish a revolutionary tradition of much significance,” with a tremendous amount of theory and evidence to the contrary. (176) Robinson suggests rather that it is the refusal of the theoretical ground of Marxist analysis to abide by the reality in which it arises that allows for an poorly formed analytic of political praxis with regard to what Genovese calls “a revolutionary tradition.” Robinson observed that “the tendency of European civilization through capitalism was thus not to homogenize but to differentiate—to exaggerate regional, subcultural, and dialectical differences into ‘racial’ ones,” but that this point is rarely the focus of Marxist analysis. (26) Robinson suggests rather that the praxis of the Black radical tradition precedes and exceeds the forms of that of the Marxian tradition, and the practitioners of the Black radical tradition exceed the ontological possibilities of their specific structures of domination that they survive and oppose; that is to say, in the wake of the Black radical tradition, “the total configuration of human experience requires other forms.” (167).

  • Alexandros Orphanides
    2019-05-27 03:36

    The book is an immense work and an attempt at establishing a coherent sense of A Black Radical Tradition that exists prior to European epistemological conceptions, as the a whole the thrust of the argument is unconvincing -- but that doesn't mean this is a bad or worthless book -- perhaps Robinson's most important tradition is the historical counternarrative he supplies as an antidote to the pitfalls of Eurocentricity as epistemology that teleologically rationalizes exploitation.

  • Kristina
    2019-05-26 07:42

    Challenging and complex, but such an important read!

  • Kathleen
    2019-05-06 07:51

    this book is amazing. i was lucky enough to take a seminar with cedric in which he taught this book. i only wish i would have had more time to read it slowly and really enjoy it thoroughly. one day i will have some time to come back to this, i hope...

  • raj
    2019-05-22 23:58

    Read selected chapters: Introduction, Chapter 1 on racial capitalism, Chapters 4 and 6, under "The Roots of Black Radicalism," Chapter 7 on the nature of the black radical tradition, and Chapter 10 on "C.L.R. James and the Black Radical Tradition."

  • Brian
    2019-05-26 04:35

    Actually only read a little piece (Chapter 1) but I'm impressed and intrigued. It's not just about Afro-centric theories on race since Marx (as the title led me to assume) but also a deep historical examination of race in a much broader sense as well.

  • Khary
    2019-05-27 02:41

    Amazing. Concise. Erudite. Robinson's text is a critical read when attempting to dissect or contextualize the development of racial theory and class in the American context.

  • Amai Freeman
    2019-05-09 03:42

    a necessary historical review and analysis of capitalism, racism, and marxism.

  • Sasha
    2019-05-02 03:38

    A book whose argument is completely dependent on the reader having no familiarity with Marxist theory. Even at its best, it's not great.

  • Zach
    2019-05-28 07:47

    I admit defeat.

  • Baseerakhan
    2019-05-28 06:58

    don't know yet, still reading