The Way Forward
There is something missing in the morally outraged narratives that have defined my thinking as a left leaning social critic. Take, for example, attitudes to racism and capitalism: the black historian Gerald Horne has written an essay that well captures outrage about being black in the USA. There can be no denying the importance and relevance of a black historian writing about life in the USA. That is, Horne’s social justice commitments and the necessity of telling black history in America are critically important. However, as one commentator puts it, ‘Horne files his detailed briefs with an urgency that match his commitment to a Black anti-capitalist internationalism’ (David Waldstreicher, ‘The Long American Counter-Revolution’, Boston Review, 1992, online). Racism and capitalism have always been a toxic combination requiring a sense of urgency and commitment in social movements, such as the black lives matter movement, as a counterbalance. But does commitment to a cause guarantee a successful outcome – say, an increase in social justice, or action in time to avert a climate change catastrophe? More fundamentally, does standard critical analysis do justice to the tenacity of capitalism, colonial and post-colonial history and culture, racism and sexism, and to draw a longer bow, to history and human nature in general? In this essay I will argue it does not. To be specific, I am arguing against many of the assumptions of left leaning critical analysis, whilst agreeing with many of its critical goals.
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