THE GREAT WELLS OF DEMOCRACY by Manning Marable

THE GREAT WELLS OF DEMOCRACY

The Meaning of Race in American Life

KIRKUS REVIEW

Marable (Black Leadership, 1999, etc.) examines the meaning of race in the US.

The focus here is a bit foggy. Certainly the title is meant ironically: there are no great wells of democracy for African-Americans and other minorities within the US. Marable (Political Science/Columbia) seems most interested in the social construction of blackness and whiteness as categories. He likens whites to first-class airplane passengers: “pampered, well fed, and . . . generally intoxicated.” It seems disingenuous for this Ivy League professor to place himself in the “uncomfortable coach middle seat,” and while Marable provides many cogent examples of racism as a cultural construct, he himself is guilty of frequent generalizations. When discussing corporate layoffs at the entry level and arguing that blacks are disproportionately affected by such downsizing, he writes, “Whites who lose their jobs usually have ample resources to fall back on, such as the equity in their homes, family savings, stocks, and other investments.” The author seemingly isn’t aware that much of the working-class of any race is without such safety nets. It doesn’t help his argument that he doesn’t follow a linear format. Rather, Marable examines those topics of interest to him: mini-profiles of Bill Clinton and Louis Farrakhan are followed by a discussion of the future development of American higher education and of how class and race affect educational opportunities. The study is filled with such turgid sentiments as, “To begin anew a counterhegemonic black political project, African-American progressive activists and intellectuals must learn from the experiences, successes and failures of these community-based coalitions, mobilizations, spontaneous protests, and even voluntary, self-help groups.”

Rambling, repetitious, and disappointing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-465-04393-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2002




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