- Series: Critical Social Thought
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (March 24, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415908647
- ISBN-13: 978-0415908641
- Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (Critical Social Thought) 2nd Edition
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Authors Omi... and Winant... explore how concepts of race are created and changd. This scholarly must-read provides a conceptual structure within whihc we may deal with issues involving race..
San Francisco Review of Books
[An] interesting and critical work . . . The authors assert that `the rearticulation of racial ideology' began in the 1970s and has reached its maturity in the 1980s. The sources for this rearticulation are the far right, the new right, and neoconservatism. How this new transformation will be contested `remains open.' A provocative book.
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Top Customer Reviews
Importantly, and borrowing from the field of social criticism, they introduce the notion of a "racial project," a more or less tribal mechanism for advancing group motivated racial interests. And in doing so, they greatly clarify many ideas about racial thinking that had previously been overlooked or remained dormant or inaccessible to the lay mind. With skillful use of this and related concepts, these authors are able to open up new spaces for a much expanded dialogue on race, one that slowly begins to pull away the barely hidden veil (in the subtext of our collective complicity) that maintains a blind eye to the role "being white" plays in defending the hierarchy and the prerogatives of the "white racial project."
Their main theoretical concern here is with social meanings and with attaining a true sense of social balance: the way we understand, explain, and behave with racial justice and empathy within U.S. society. Their innovation is to frame the dialectic of race as an exercise in negotiating between competing "racial projects," each of which comes to us with their own sets of foundational assumptions and their own behavioral repertoire, and with their own implicit hierarchies. The whole contraption, when taken together, is coterminous with U.S. society.
Thus, those who are either born into U.S. society, or who might have immigrated here, whether they want to be or not, find themselves inserted into a "complex racialized stew" that has an ongoing history of messy confrontations. Yet, this struggle is what constitutes the social structure of American society. The unwritten imperative is that one entering the U.S. must quickly learn to sink or swim in the swift moving racial currents, which is a "life-or-social death" struggle about racial meanings. Failure to learn quickly enough to negotiate the implicit rules of engagement in the U.S., even in 2012, is equivalent to consigning oneself to a likely early social death.
In sum, these authors argue essentially that race is a social construct given expression through ongoing political, cultural and especially our ever-changing ideological struggles. The primary dialectic is between the white race (or tribe) and challenging races (or tribes). The "white racial project" tends to view the struggle as a zero-sum affair: anything gained by one race can only come at the expense of long-held illicit white racial prerogatives, therefore white resistance (which is also illicit) has been folded into the American norm. Non-white races, on the other hand, see the struggle as a negotiation about fairness, and ultimately about how the U.S. will eventually live up to the full tenets of its founding principles.
Surprisingly, these authors are optimistic about America society finally although begrudgingly, opening itself and the dialectic up to morally-driven negotiations about racial fairness and incremental changes in the meaning of race vis-a-vis the U.S. Constitution and American culture more generally. And in this sense, the struggle best can be characterized as a multi-generational dialectic about the meaning and defense of white privilege as it gets played out over time. A resolution of this dialectic and these negotiations will define what the contract containing the ultimate meaning of America will be.
This struggle for national meaning takes place daily, within private minds as well as publicly out in the open, and is one that totally absorbs and envelops U.S. social consciousness. It is the unwritten rules and assumptions about race and proper racial behavior,that constitute the contract that makes up America's "common sense." Knowing how to properly and smoothly negotiate the rules of race still defines what it means "to be American."
In contemporary American politics, since the 1990s, the battle about race has become a more sublimated one expressed mostly through "coded" ideological language and discourse. Invariably this discourse is an emotionally heated and yet cryptic one, that today is framed as being about "cultural," "family" or differences in values. But as this book suggests, the truth is that all these issues are "coded language" that eventually vectors back to one issue: the respective "racial projects" of the color coded tribes. The racial project that hold the keys to America's racial dictatorship and thus to America's future, is of course, the "White racial project."
I believe these authors essentially get it right when, following Gramsci, they suggest that America has, since the Civil War, been a white run cultural hegemony, in short, a "white racial dictatorship." They exhibit the historical evidence that supports this view. For instance, they show that from America's founding fathers up through the civil war an attempt was made to enshrine as "common sense," the understanding that what it means to be American is to focus exclusively on only one "racial project:" the one that put into place many of the evils of American society: things such as the racial meanings that limit the full participation in American society of dark-skinned races, blacks in particular. It is this racial project that suggests that blacks still remain barely human and thus their continued denigration is always justified. At the same time that it is denigrating blacks, the "white racial project" also is trying to justify and rationalize what became (in the aftermath of D.W. Griffith's movie "Birth of a Nation), "One White nation United under a racist God" and a white "racial and cultural dictatorship."
This is a challenging book but well worth the effort. Five Stars