restricted access 2.1: Of Communism and Castration
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civil society in the United States shadows the arrogant punctuality of American liberalism on the global scene. The public sphere is sought to be intensified (by Taylor) and exported (by Habermas) so that modernity achieves its rightful, world-dominant place. Thus the internationalization of Western civic morality is paired today, uniquely and disturbingly, with a politics of civil rights illequipped to mobilize the grumbling exigencies of its own numbers. R E B I R T H O F A N A T I O N ? 66 AMERICA, NOT COUNTING CLASS The planetary petty bourgeoisie has . . . taken over the aptitude of the proletariat to refuse any recognizable social identity. —Giorgio Agamben Part One of this book began with a certain reluctance to repeat Du Bois’s famous maxim that “the problem of the twentieth century is . . .” et cetera. By way of introduction, my intention in leaving out the key term “color line” was to signal my sense of the overuse of this phrase. There has been no more repeated line in race scholarship over the last twenty years than that one, I remarked. The idea in not repeating it once again, or in almost not repeating it, was not just an academic language game. I wanted to signal a more substantive political problem having to do with subjective citationality at the beginning of the twenty-first century. This had to do with the way races repeat, or indeed, how races may fail to repeat, while they are encouraged by the state to proliferate. Perhaps the form of agency I was trying to pin down in the wake of 1.5 multiracialism resides in the elliptical part of the famous quote from Du Bois— the “et cetera” I used to replace his key phrase (which should have been an “et alia,” or rather, an “inter alia”). My abbreviation of the epigraph was meant to highlight a point about how time interrupts (and determines) what counts in America: the problem of the twenty-first century is and will be color lines, I said, with an indomitable emphasis on the plural. Racial self-recognition in one census category, I later said, always eventually means misrecognition in another. This is because race, as both activists and the federal government have hurried it along, changes, sometimes radically, over time. The subsequent account of the 2000 U.S. census and multiracialism was thus meant to keep what I have called the temporal index of race in play. With this term it was noted how racial identities historically multiply and eventually exceed the formal categories once presumed to contain them. Racial multiplicity thus tends to poise identity on the threshold of incalculable futures. Conservative policy makers have found clever ways of bringing this into line with a racially attentive disregard for race, as we have seen. The idea of a post-white America in the abstract looks equally good for the conservative right as for the liberal left. I then moved to argue that the liberal-Enlightenment (or simply modernist) racial state was in the process of being displaced by de-disciplinary modes of governance. But as I was careful to point out, this occurs from within a civil rights–based logic, which contains both the promise of individual freedom and identity’s eventual undoing. Race has officially become fluid, and perhaps too conveniently ineluctable, as the identity/state relation is torn apart at its historical seams. The state’s attention to race (and not incidentally, to whiteness) apparently intensifies to the point of its own ironic dissolution. Thus in response to David Theo Goldberg, I added that the state is no longer racial on the simple grounds of race-based exclusivity. Rather, oddly enough, contemporary governmentality is predicated on racial inclusiveness, if also, finally, the political dissolution of race-based claims to justice. Governmentality no longer operates merely by repressing color on behalf of white preservation. Its more effective tactic is to encourage racial diversity and redivision at every turn, so that the phantom of a post-white America is imagined as going beyond real political consequence. The so-called coming white minority is thus tragically shadowed by reversals of civil rights legislation. My account of a multiracial politics of self-recognition, a liberal ideal that has been perfidiously hinged to the ideological program of the right, has provided ample evidence of this. A strange multiplicity now burdens the legacy of civil rights. At the moment civil society and U.S. consumer culture reach their international zenith...


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Subject Headings

  • Heterosexual men -- United States -- Psychology.
  • Education, Higher -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Education, Higher -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Whites -- Race identity -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • Men, White -- United States -- Psychology.
  • National characteristics, American.
  • United States -- Census, 2000.
  • Multiculturalism -- United States.
  • Group identity -- Political aspects -- United States.
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