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Class Notes


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About the Author

Adolph Reed Jr. is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the editor of Race, Politics, and Culture and Without Justice for All and the author of The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon, W.E.B. Du Bois and American Political Thought, and Stirrings in the Jug.


Reed (The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon) doesn't have much patience with what he views as the mushy liberals of the Democratic Party and black intellectuals like Michael Dyson and Cornel West. In these essays (most of which have appeared in publications such as the Progressive and the Village Voice), Reed offers his bracing opinions on race and politics in the 1990s from a "left-critical perspective." Black "leadership" substitutes for popular mobilization, he argues, while nostalgia for black unity under segregation falsifies the past and serves reactionary interests. He finds consonance between the black establishment and Louis Farrakhan in that they consider the inner-city poor "morally defective," and contends that the white Left won't confront the complexity of black politics ("They simply do not see political differences among black people"). In perhaps the most memorable essay, Reed pungently analyzes what he calls the "crisis of black intellectual [life]" (in which a "lucky few," West and Henry Louis Gates Jr., for instance, direct themselves more to a white audience than to blacks). The author, a leader in the nascent Labor Party, values the primacy of class politics over so-called cultural or identity politics ("If we don't organize on a class basis, we'll be picked off one at a time, as we were with `welfare reform' "), preferring "real" class politics, based on people's daily lives. But his snapshots of such organizing based on class are too briefly presented for readers to evaluate. Similarly, his forceful but too-brief argument against stigmatizing the "underclass" ("poor people are just like everyone else") invites a deeper critique of the work of those (e.g., Nicholas Lemann) whom he attacks. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Everything [Reed] writes is informed by a strong historical memory of a time when there was a 'Movement' and when the distance between rhetoric and conviction was much less than it is now." Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Review

"Class Notes sparkles with wit and wisdom. Reed's essay on the political and intellectual left since the 1960s is the best analysis of American radicalism in print." Judith Stein, professor of history, The City University of New York

"Provocative." Booklist

"Opening Adolph Reed's Class Notes is like boarding a roller coaster. What follows is an opinionated, headspinning loop, brilliantly executed, through the controversies of the recent past and immediate future. I strongly recommend taking the ride." David Levering Lewis, author of W. E. B. DuBois: Biography of a Race, 1868 1919, winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in Biography

"Brutally frank. . . . This book is definitely not your father's old mobilization rhetoric." Bill Quigley, professor of law, Loyola University

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