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Bayard Rustin: The Panthers Couldn’t Save Us Then Either
Rustin saw politics through a concrete, strategic lens, which provided a perspective that has become increasingly remote from both academic and activist experience. Indeed, as demonstrated in the essays selected here, he explicitly rejected the moralistic discourse that he saw undergirding much of Black Power and New Left politics, as well as the tendency to reduce the sources of inequality to psychologistic factors like prejudice, discrimination, or a generic racism.
Firebombs or a Freedom Budget?
This society never has and never will do anything special for the Negro. That is the reason we call it the freedom budget for all Americans. It is not that I do not know that Negroes are most brutalized by poverty for they are! But I also know that 67 percent of the poor are white and unless we are going to draw up programs which have to do with the elimination of poverty and not concerned with Negro poverty we will not get anywhere in the society.
Socialism or Moralism?
I maintain that there are two elements in our society which can block Nixon’s strategy and they are the labor movement and the minorities, particularly the blacks. I, therefore, say to the young people in the Socialist League: You ought to recognize that economic progress is the basis for maintaining our coalition—that we are going to win because we emphasize, above all others, the economic issues in this society. Because there is no possibility for black people making progress if we emphasize only race. You can psychoanalyze every white person in the United States until he comes out pristine pure tomorrow morning, filled with love for black people—and that will not provide jobs for blacks or build housing. That is a political task which we must face.
Otto Neurath’s Modern Man in the Making (1939) and Scientific Management
Otto Neurath’s Modern Man in the Making (1939) reflected the practical as well as ideological goals of managerial culture. Neurath rephrased these objectives in his concluding remarks: “men capable of judging themselves and their institutions scientifically, should also be capable of widening the sphere of peaceful co-operation…. The more co-operative man is the more ‘modern’ he is.” Because Neurath was only rarely explicit in his advocacy for Scientific Management, the aim of this essay is to flesh out the underlying managerial goals implicit in Neurath’s proposal.
Wilderness and Shelter: A Portfolio in the Geography of Hope
An extraordinary number of aspirational architectural interventions in the wilderness or on its edges began to appear as America moved into the atomic era, as responses to the sublime, the intangible, the cosmic, or the simply inhospitable. They trace a changing, ‘wider’ state of mind towards the earth and the very concept of shelter, as we saw the earth anew from above and contemplated its destruction on a scale unheard of — two perceptual transformations that went hand in hand. The best known of those propositions, such as Saarinen’s St Louis Arch or Soleri’s Arcosanti, work at a metaphysical and material scale of some grandeur. The portfolio that follows – drawn from the collections of Drawing Matter — stands back from those monumental exercises to see what might be learned from more intimate explorations of the architectural path through wilderness and shelter, the proximate and the infinite.
Four Sonnets
And suddenly, the words are gone again
Cézanne’s Sensations
All of Cézanne’s “theory” seems to come down to what he calls “realization,” an operation of conversion that he was the first modern painter to attempt. Critics had a premonition of it, condemning his “too exclusive love of yellow” and warning the public: “If you visit the exhibition with a woman in an interesting position, pass quickly by the portrait of a man by Mr. Cézanne… That strange-looking head, the color of boot cuffs, could make too vivid an impression on her and give her fruit yellow fever before its entry into the world.”
Afropessimism, or Black Studies as a Class Project
The close parallel between fin-de-siècle racist ideologues’ assertions of the primordial and immutable nature of white supremacy and contemporary race reductionists’ can provide perspective helpful for ascertaining what lies behind the impulse to insist, in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that nothing has changed for black Americans and, yet more strikingly, Hartman’s dismissal of Emancipation as a “nonevent.”
Red Aesthetics: Rodchenko, Brecht, Eisenstein
Abbas sees this musical Brecht as offering a fuller means of accessing the nature of fascism, an account that necessarily draws together “war, capital, and colony,” but also “patriarchy,” “supremacism” and the “colonializing … discourse of the expert,” what she also calls “knowledge systems of colonial and capitalist modernity.” Abbas warns the reader against the urge to “separate” these terms as these “systems are contained within each other,” so that for Abbas, addressing one is addressing the others. This is, I argue, a classically “inaccurate” picture of capitalism.
Black Political Incorporation under Neoliberalism: The Routinization of Interracial Urban Regimes
This essay traces the political development of black urban professionals and managers from the urban renewal era to the early period of federal devolution and privatization in the 1970s and 1980s. These periods are the foundation by which “generations” of black urban regimes have been generated. The staying power of black political entrepreneurs results from their capacity for populating, activating, and contracting black-led organizations in the nonprofit sector, which has allowed them to adjust to fiscal retrenchment and subsequent privatization. Black mayors have channeled demands for investment in public goods into contracts for black-led nonprofits and bootstrap social programs. In particular, the housing and community development field has allowed black political aspirants to cement ties to the real estate industry which plays an outsize role in postindustrial urban economies.
Introduction to Rustin’s Down the Line (1971)
Black capitalism is endorsed not only by Roy Innis of CORE but by President Nixon and various corporate interests. It does not cost much, and it leaves ghettos intact. The vast majority of black people, of course, are not capitalists and never will be, and they stand to lose from “buying black.” For black workers to define their problem primarily in terms of race is to ally themselves with white capitalists against white workers. It is the old strategy of Booker Washington in new guise. As Marcus Garvey put it, “The only convenient friend the Negro worker or laborer has in America at the present time is the white capitalist.”
Delegitimizing the Administrative State
Despite the glaring irony, Gorsuch is not talking about judges when he discusses “unaccountable ‘ministers.’” He is instead talking about civil servants in government agencies. In Gorsuch’s view, government agencies pose unique dangers to the American republic. Accordingly, it is essential that courts—and only courts—be tasked with reining in the power of agencies lest the power they wield—to regulate power plants emissions, to establish health and safety standards during a pandemic—destroy the lives of individual Americans.
Julius Shulman, Ezra Stoller, and the “Open” Work
Mid-twentieth century architecture reached a broad audience primarily through photographs, and photographers became essential early interpreters of the modern movement. In the United States, two major architectural photographers, Julius Shulman and Ezra Stoller, were known as innovators in the field, but a complete understanding of Shulman and Stoller requires addressing how they handled a defining artistic question of their time—the question of art and objecthood.
Simon Hantaï and the Reserves of Painting
In the encounter with another, seeing is always already reading. Expression, here, appears another name for the allegoresis of the soul as it unfolds into visibility—that is, legibility—by way of the body, with all the opportunities for misreading that inevitably follow. Yet there is no other, notionally more direct way for it to show itself. Warnock approaches Hantaï’s paintings as fields of expression in roughly this sense: places where thought becomes visible, where Hantaï works out ideas that necessarily take just this form.
Why Black Lives Matter Can’t be Co-opted
We absolutely do not need to figure out how to make anti-racism anti-capitalist. We need to figure out how to start trying to build a mass movement around appealing to the material needs of the broad working-class.