Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The School as Prison (no pipeline required)

Friends, a proposal: Let's stop using the phrase "school-to-prison pipeline." It's misleading.

When going to school looks not a little like being in a prison, we're no longer talking about a subject's itinerary through discrete times and spaces—the narrative geography wherein a student, routed through a school that can only fail her, finds herself pushed into juvenile or adult criminal justice systems. The rigidity of disciplinarity in the post-public public school system intimates the tendential identity of the prison-function and the school-function. When a teacher calls an administrator who calls a cop who then brutalizes a student for failing to move from her seat when ordered, neither students nor observers need schooling in Althusser or Foucault to see the school operating as a prison.  

All the same, school and prison’s tendency toward an identity of function can be hard to see. First, it is only emergent, a tendency, a possible future that nonetheless enacts itself in the present and points us toward what is in the process of becoming. To read this process of becoming is not the same as declaring an accomplished identity. Indeed, to say today “the school is a prison” is also to compute with the fact that it also is not a prison, not really, not yet. In describing a tendential identity, then, one always risks a kind of overdramatization, the inflation of an instance into a sign of things to come.  

Second, this emergent identity is masked by the entrenched persistence of signifiers—and not a little sentiment, too. We continue to call “schools” institutions that are functionally indifferent to the task of fostering the creative, intellectual, and affective capacities of those whom we continue to call “students.” We continue to call “teachers” those people whose skills and good intentions are perverted by an apparatus and a world that doesn’t care about anyone’s intentions. And these signifiers are so sticky because they are so affectively saturated. We all have a favorite teacher, and few of us are prepared to acknowledge that we were bonding to someone who unwittingly substitutes for a cop. And then plenty of folks on the left are wary of critiquing school and schooling today for fear of sounding like a Milton Friedman acolyte. Let’s just remember that it is utterly possible for two opposed political orientations to have a critique of a shared object; that doesn’t mean they have a shared critique. One can mark the tendential identity of schools and prisons and (as I do) still support teachers unions—if only to block and roll back the recoding of schools by the police function.

The idea of the school-to-prison pipeline gets around these barriers through dissociation. The to situates the students in a cartography of linked but discrete spaces, which enables us to cognitively and affectively sunder school from prison. The case of the phrase is accusative, but the critical disposition and political fantasy it sustains is in the ablative. And so it becomes harder to see the prison in the school. 

My recourse to grammar might seem pedantic, but it’s not. Slogans are the residues of past struggles and the seeds of new ones. They travel so well because they are so economic in their language. And they are so powerful because they teach so quickly. (Try to recall the first time you heard the phrase “school-to-prison pipeline.” I actually can’t, because I can’t imagine not knowing it, the way it let me rethink the institutional fabric of the world. That’s powerful teaching, and all in just four words.) In a movement phrase, every word counts, every word is made out of and remakes a movement’s orientation toward the world.  

I wouldn’t dream of trying to coin a new slogan, but we need a different vocabulary—one that, in terms of grammar, opts for the conjunction over the preposition. Where the preposition posits discrete time-spaces, the logic of the conjunction allows us to see the overlapping but non-identical functioning of these two institutions and their rationalities. Non-identity matters: after all, the teacher called an administrator who called a cop; the teacher and administrator could not beat the student on their own authority. What that moment revealed was neither a school-to-prison pipeline nor the achieved identity of the two. Rather, that moment displayed school and prison operating in the same time-space as an articulated assemblage. Cop and teacher, hand in hand.

It also revealed, I think, the way that Spring Valley High School is situated in a broader social terrain where school functions as a prison—that is, where the labor of human cultivation is subordinated to simple and authoritarian order maintenance. In the school-as-prison, the aim and activity of pedagogy is repurposed to conform to the aims of the police. To be sure, schools have always worked to produce orderly subjects, but such ordered subjectivities were produced through the pedagogical process itself. (Just think of everything implied in the act of raising one’s hand.) Now, police are taking over the application of discipline in schools, and teachers and legislators are handing it over to them. Niya Kenny, the student who filmed the event, was arrested for “disturbing school,” an honest to Jesus law that legislators recently attempted to amend to increase fines from one to two thousand dollars and jail time from ninety days to one year. (Thanks to Ed Kazarian for sharing the “disturbing school” link.) This handoff in disciplinarity marks less a differentiation of function between cops and teachers and more a willed subordination of pedagogical space to the police. Think about this absurdity: a student refusing to leave her seat sparks an event that compels the Richland County Sheriff to fly back from the cop conference in Chicago like a sovereign returning to his troubled land. In this school-as-prison arrangement, cops rule.

School and prison, school as prison, yes. But the most troubling possibility, I think, is school or prison. By using this locution, I don’t intend to invoke the uplift narrative that posits education as a means of avoiding criminality or, really, criminalization—a narrative that the “school-to-prison pipeline” concept has already undone. The or of my “school or prison” marks not a choice between alternatives but an identity produced through the indifferent interchangeability of functions. It is sort of like the sive in Spinoza’s “Deus sive natura.” It would sound like this: “School or prison—whatever, what’s the difference.” The school is rapidly and intensively being inscribed as an institution in the state’s carceral network; the logics of policing are overwriting the ideal logics of pedagogy. The racialized poor of the U.S. are sent to school to learn how to do time in prison, and the effectiveness of this pedagogy indicates the tendential interchangeability of school and jail.

The minimal demand to combat this tendency is very simple: No cops at school. Neither police nor private security guards should ever be involved in administering ordinary classroom discipline. No teacher or administrator should ever have the thought that this could be a good idea or a necessary thing. These are pretty easy fixes, because incredibly concrete. But minimal demands are just that—minimal—and the prison-function of the school is not limited to the fact that cops are on campus. To think beyond the minimal requires some account, perhaps, of the multiple systemic forces that overdetermine the becoming-prison of the school. But the question is not simply one of knowledge, of planning, of finding the best systemic points at which to undo the carceralization of the classroom. It is also one of dispositions and orientations and the creation of new imaginings of the world. I’m thinking of the student who was beaten in South Carolina. By media accounts, the student wasn’t participating in class but also refused to leave it. Maybe she doesn’t like the subject, maybe she didn’t like the pedagogical mode, maybe she was just tired and having a bad day, maybe she just hates school. But her refusal to participate in a given pedagogical arrangement interacts dynamically with her refusal to leave the scene of learning; indeed, we might say she was beaten because her refusals to participate and to leave staged the difference between the learning she wanted and the schooling she got. The cop, then, was not simply enforcing order but reproducing a pedagogical norm: You will learn this subject in this way and not express dissatisfaction with this fact. This command links pedagogical modes across varied institutional terrains, from the underfunded public schools to the neoliberal charters to, indeed, my own classroom, probably, alas. Getting cops out of schools will be meaningless if a post-police pedagogy is unimaginable; the cop will always be invited back in and, indeed, will never have left. What I want, then, is to imagine the time, place, and form of encounter whose possibility is conjured in the student’s refusal to participate and in her refusal to leave—a world of learning otherwise where desiring alternatives won’t get you clubbed by a cop.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Civil War and Farcical Politics

Well, it happened: We got Bill Kristol to quote Marx. He writes

Kristol is, of course, citing the opening of Marx’s 18th Brumaire. Let’s quote it in full:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidière for Danton, Louis Blanc for Robespierre, the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the Nephew in place of the Uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances surrounding the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire!

We’ve been fighting a second-edition Civil War for some time now—since the electoral season that led to Obama’s first term. I've called it antebellism. It’s tiring and tiresome. The primary problematic effect of mobilization around the Confederate flag in South Carolina has been to displace concerns to take down white supremacist organizing into the symbolic field of the Civil War. (Of course, I’m happy it’s not flying, but we’re talking effects here, not moral norms.) In this regard, Kristol’s citation of Marx is telling. White supremacists and their mainstream allies have undertaken a discursive operation that attempts to shunt the possibility of a world-historical tragedy—a robust, decisive encounter between competing nomoi, a decisive encounter between the racists and the anti-racists—into something farcical, a re-enactment of the Civil War undertaken entirely through cultural symbolics. Kristol wants this farce. It’s far better than a material challenge to white supremacy, racial capitalism, and the racial state.

For anti-racists, the solution is to not get entrapped in this symbolic field—although this is hard. In the next paragraph of the 18th Brumaire, Marx writes

The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living. And, just when they appear to be engaged in the revolutionary transformation of themselves and their material surroundings, in the creation of something which does not yet exist, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they timidly conjure up the spirits of the past to help them; they borrow their names, slogans and costumes so as to stage the new world-historical scene in this venerable disguise and borrowed language. Luther put on the mask of the apostle Paul; the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately as the Roman republic and the Roman empire; and the revolution of 1848 knew no better than to parody at some points 1789 and at others the revolutionary traditions of 1793-5.

Here, Marx encourages us to think symbolic belatedness as an index of a movement’s political and social weakness in the time of its unfolding. It looks back because it possesses no idiom of itself to address the composition of the present—or the future. White supremacists present their politics indirectly, in the garb of future’s past, because the future of a white politics is the undoing of any futurity, the dissolution of the world. A fully whitened world would radiate disaster triumphant, and so the content needs to hide in ambiguous or illegible phrasing. A Confederate flag is obviously nostalgia for slavery—but no, it’s heritage! Hitler can’t be heiled without a numerical transcription of the alphabet. And most white nationalists, in their public remarks, deploy the idiom of liberal multiculturalism in order to pose whiteness as just any other political-racial-cultural identity. Political whiteness knows it can’t be present in its presence. To be sure, symbolic weakness does not equate to political inefficacy or an incapacity for outrageous violence; moreover, the order of the world remains white supremacist regardless of the political strength of white-supremacist movements. The point here, I think, is that the cultural-symbolic remains a safe space for white supremacists in public because it is the point at which politics can be articulated that otherwise can’t be, and in polysemous, unstable ways that refuse—at least notionally—fixity. Heritage, not racism.

White supremacy presents itself through “world-historical necromancy,” in other words, because it can’t offer a vision of the present or the future that most of the world would want. This is not to say, of course, that an anti-racist, non-anti-black world is a vision of the present or the world that most of the world would want, either. I do want to suggest, though, that we would do well to cede this past in our quest to build an anti-racist future. Most of the past—especially if white people, the state, and capitalism are involved—has very little to offer us, anyhow. So let’s let it go. It’s a field where, at best, to win is to break even. As Marx put it, as he attempts to call it quits with this necromancy, “The social revolution…can only create its poetry from the future, not the past.” In that claim I hear Fanon, whose poetry from the future seems to haunt Marx in the past: “comrades, we must make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to create a new man [sic].”      

Poiesis, not history. We need to dedicate time to writing pieces that will train people in practical anti-racist tactics for the present, pieces that will circulate with the speed and popularity that three dozen articles on the cultural symbolics of the Civil War do. We need to materially organize to develop new ways of thinking in order to create the new human. What if think-piece publishers gave space to this endeavor, instead of shadowboxing with history's poltergeists? When we make our new world, the Confederate flags will burn, anyhow, and the monuments of Confederate generals will topple, too.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Police Shoot, Kill [X]"

“Police shoot, kill [X].” It’s the formula for an all too formulaic event. I’ve read it hundreds of times; so have you. Google News returns 19300 results when you search for it. It would be wrong to say, though, that one has read the formula “Police shoot, kill [X]” hundreds of times. I haven’t, at least. I realized this upon encountering this headline a few days ago: “Police Officers in South Jersey Shoot, Kill Man During Traffic Stop.” Normally I would click through, accumulate information about the event, and become angrier and angrier at cops who kill and the journos who invariably carry their water.  (Consider the first sentence: “A traffic stop turned deadly overnight in South Jersey.” Serving as the grammatical subject of the sentence, it as if the traffic stop mutated of itself, as if the stop itself turned itself into something else. The scenario absorbs agency and de-localizes responsibility.) This time, though, the formula arrested my attention. I don’t know why.

“Police shoot, kill [X].” We might consider it a masterstroke of journalistic economy. Not only does it communicate a great deal of information, but it economizes the communiqué by truncating the relationship between shooting and killing. Grammar itself becomes the grammar of the event: a comma links the event of shooting and the event of killing. “Police shoot, kill [X].” Rhetoricians might call this diazeugma, a figure of speech wherein a single subject controls multiple verbs. It’s not, though: “shoot, kill” has achieved the status of a legal doublet (like “aid and abet” or “cease and desist”), and so functions as a complex but functionally unitary verb. The comma marks the complexity of a unitary process, then, but it does so by leaving unremarked the substantive relations between the terms. The formula is unreadable because it gives nothing to be read, substituting the contingency of apposition—even if this contingency, this being-beside-one-another, of “shoot, kill” seems ineluctable—for a reasoned articulation of the terms.

And so I found myself, as I encountered the formula, generating a list of the possible relations that the formula’s skeletal structure makes articulable but occludes.

Police shoot, kill [X].
Police shoot and kill [X].
Police shoot and happen to kill [X].
Police shoot and therefore kill [X].
Police shoot and accidentally kill [X].
Police shoot without intending to kill [X].
Police shoot because they intended to kill [X].
Police shoot because they needed to kill [X].
Police shoot, and therefore [X] was right to be killed.
When police shoot, they kill.
When police shoot, they can kill.
When police can shoot, they kill.
When police shoot, they sometimes kill.
When police shoot, they sometimes don’t kill.
When police shoot, they intend to kill.
When police shoot, they sometimes intend to kill.
When police shoot, they don’t always intend to kill.

This list is hardly exhaustive. The skeletal quality of the formula “Police shoot, kill [X]” means that there is a nearly infinite number of ways that the relationship between shooting and killing could be enfleshed. We might say, then, that part of the formula’s work is to evacuate the event of any reason in the anticipation of reason’s post hoc construction. The forensic examination, the testimonies, the administrative review, sometimes the grand jury, sometimes the trial, and definitely us, as we read newspaper articles and debate on Twitter or Facebook: the formula incites us, all of us, to acts of post hoc reconstructive reasoning. And so we read past the headline, through it, in order to begin the work of articulating and adjudicating the contingent but ineluctable co-presence of shooting and killing. “Police shoot, kill [X]”: let the inquest begin. Just keep reading.

The problem, though, is that some of the possible ways by which the skeletal formula might be enfleshed are administrative and legal impossibilities for U.S. cops. Consider, for instance, “Police shoot without intending to kill [X].” It is inadmissible. If a cop feels himself or the public to be so threatened that shooting a gun is required, the administrative rule is always shoot to kill. (Indeed, it is when cops shoot and don’t kill that something has gone wrong—not legally, but practically. They missed.) Cops have roundly rejected shoot-to-wound initiatives, and they have had the Supreme Court on their side. With Graham v. Connor, the court ruled that the “objective reasonableness” of a cop’s use of force determined the legality of that use of force. Legally, this means that the 4th Amendment (with the protections it affords against “unreasonable searches and seizures”) trumps the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th Amendments (which the plaintiff cited as the basis of his legal beef). One is not entitled to due process in the scene of the law’s enforcement; due process always comes before and after. The juridical void that attends the evacuation of due process from the scene of enforcement is instead filled in with what cops determine to be reasonable (or unreasonable).

This is in part why it’s impossible to indict a cop. But it’s not just that the cops have “leeway” or that the system “protects” them. Rather, retroactive attempts to determine the legality of a police shooting shatter upon the realization that it is the cop himself who determines the legality of the force they apply.  Police supply the legal rule. But this rule turns out not to be law but situational reason. As Rehnquist put it in the court’s opinion on Graham, the very dictates of situational reason refuse regularization or formalization:

"The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight…The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” And earlier, citing a previous case, he notes, “The test of reasonableness is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application."

There is no canon of cop reason, but reason is all cops have. If there’s a bad shoot, cops haven’t so much broken the law as they have acted unreasonably. But we can’t know if they acted unreasonably, because the reason of hindsight differs from “the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.” We’re not cops, and certainly not the cops who were there. The activity of policing assembles a present asymptotic with law’s time, but it does so through the law: the provision against unreasonable search and seizure becomes legally grounded on the fluid, flexible, formless reason of cops.

Police render law inoperative in the act of enforcing it. And so the truth of the formula “Police shoot, kill [X],” which incites us to interpretive reason by its very refusal to articulate the relationship between its terms. When police shoot, kill, there is nothing legally judicable in the event—not for we who weren’t there, for we who aren’t cops. For us, there doesn’t need to be a legal or even reasonable connection between the components the event, because it is the inaccessible, incommunicable rationality of police that articulates them. The comma serves as an index of law’s presence at the event of its enforcement: it is there, but silent, a mark without semantic value, a connection that cannot speak what it connects because the cop’s reason will improvise the articulation each time, every time. Not an aporia of law but a sign of law’s infinite malleability. It just isn’t malleable for most of us.

Let’s take the comma, then, as an incitement to move beyond normative idioms when relating to police violence. The police are unencumbered by any superordinate normativity; they give the law to themselves and to us through their situational reason. In this situation, police violence can only appear as a hyper-contingent materialization of force—because that is all it is. Police shoot, kill. You get it in the headline, and it’s all we need to know.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Where to Begin Reading CLR James?

[Some folks asked me where to start if they wanted to started reading CLR James. I was composing an email for them, but this actually seems easier. So here it is!]

Okay, so there is probably no good way of developing an overview of CLR James’ work. He wrote a lot, for a period of over forty years, and from and about a lot of places. The public archive of his writing is unstable, too. He wrote under multiple pen/party names for many publications, so it’s probable that occasional work in socialist or black radical papers are floating out there and we don’t know about it. Moreover, more and more stuff is being republished (or functionally published for the first time) as part of the CLR James Archive series at Duke. Finally, James himself is something of an authorial catachresis: many of his texts were co-written. The mass of writings, coupled with the heterogeneity of his concerns, means that any number of CLR Jameses are possible: James the Marxist historian, James the pan-African anticolonialist, James the cultural critic, even James the fiction writer. On and on.

The list of James assembled here reflects my own interests in James as someone whose work a) attempted articulating Marxism to black radical traditions and b) theorized key features of capitalism that align neatly with various forms of workerism and autonomism. (They align so neatly, I argue here, because the work of James and his coterie was actually read by those who would give us the sexy European post-marxisms we know and love; the black radical tradition is the denegated center of much Marxism today.) My aim is also, really simply, to keep reading manageable. I know y’all don’t have oodles of time, comrades.

These aren’t presented in any particular order. Publication dates can indeed matter a lot with James. A great deal of his work in the 40s was occasioned by sectarian squabbles in the world of U.S. Trotskyism, and so the immediate occasion for any writing might be localizable to the need to respond to Shachtman or Cannon. Moreover, James’ break with Trotsky—in terms of party affiliations, yes, but also intellectually—decisively impacted his work in the 50s and 60s. That said, all of this material has implications that exceed the polemics that occasioned them (e.g., party disputes on the status of the Soviet Union, debates over the Negro question, and so on).

On with the show.

* The Black Jacobins (1938/1963). I probably don’t need to say much about this one at all. If you can find it, I highly recommend reading James’ “Lectures on The Black Jacobins,” published in Small Axe. I say “if” because I’ve just gone through the journal online and haven’t been able to locate it; it’s supposed to be in Small Axe 8. It is worth finding, though, because James reads The Black Jacobins alongside Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction and it is pretty much amazing. I also highly recommend David Scott’s Conscripts of Modernity for a reading of the significant reorientation of the text’s political horizons in the second edition (which is the edition you would read anyhow). This could also be paired with (the somewhat sloppy) The History of Negro Revolt (1938), later republished as The History of Pan-African Revolt.

* “The Historical Development of the Negroes in American Society” (1943). (This is included in CLR James on the ‘Negro Question’, and I recommend the entire volume.) This is a crucial text for understanding the practical relationship that should obtain between black struggle and Marxist political organizing. He begins by sketching the dialectical tension of racial capitalism: “side by side with his increasing integration into production which becomes more and more a social process, the Negro becomes more than ever conscious of his exclusion from democratic privileges as a separate social group in the community.” For James, this dynamic means that black organizations and mass movements agitating for inclusion in the polity would necessarily bring it into a confrontation with capitalism itself. Indeed, “such today is their proletarian composition and such is the interrelation with the American proletariat itself that their independent struggles form perhaps the most powerful stimulus in American society” toward revolutionary socialism. James would argue, basically, that Marxist parties should trust to the intensity of this dialectic. Instead of trying to steer black democratic movements or subsume them into Marxist organizations, “the party, with the fullest consciousness of the significance of the mass independent struggles of the Negroes, considers that its main agitational work among Negroes is the stimulation and encouragement of these mass struggles.” Put simply, “[The party] sharply condemns that distortion of Marxist truth which states or implies that the Negroes by their independent struggles cannot get to first base without the leadership of organized labor.” To be sure, there is residual vanguard-y Party-talk in here; it was, after all, a party document. But it operates in tension with the analysis provided. So one thing to take away is that James’ ultimate break with the Party-form is very much an effect of his engagement with black activism—not simply a result of his interpretation of the emergent political economy of post-Fordism, as we’ll shortly see. Another thing to take away: I think that this is a crucial analysis for any leftist or left organization trying to map the potentialities of, and its own relation to, the ongoing revolt.  

* Facing Reality: The New Society: Where to look for it & How to bring it closer (1958), written with Grace Lee (soon Grace Lee Boggs) and Cornelius Castoriadis. “The whole world today lives in the shadow of the state power. This state power is an ever-present self-perpetuating body over and above society…Against this monster, people all over the world, and particularly ordinary working people in factories, mines, fields, and offices, are rebelling every day in ways of their own invention.” Facing Reality marks James’ starkest break with vanguardism, and it makes sense: the text was published in the wake of the Hungarian workers revolution of 1956, which exemplified for James the ordinariness of the desire for freedom and the extreme level of political sophistication possessed by “ordinary working people” everywhere. For James et al., this event signaled the definitive end of the Party-form, whose logic of organization was as monstrous as that of the state. In a Negrian idiom, Party and State organizations were functionally apparatuses of transcendence that blocked or appropriated the immanent functioning of the social. (He and his crew articulate this wonderfully in State Capitalism and World Revolution [1950].) We also get a sense in this text of why it was that James became so preoccupied with the cultural fabric of U.S. life, as shown in texts like American Civilization and Mariners, Renegades and Castaways. For James, culture isn’t just a repository of prolie dreaming, although it is that. It is more importantly a primary place at which the cognitive, affective, and social competencies of people are enhanced—an inchoate articulation of the social factory thesis. What remained for radical organizations? Aside from showing up—at the demo, at the strike, at the barricades—nothing more than publishing a newspaper, elucidating the global state of things and the tendential drift of the world.

* “Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and the Caribbean,” “Marx’s Capital, the Working-Day, and Capitalist Production” (late 1960s) in You Don’t Play with Revolution. These are lectures that James gave to some Caribbean students in Montreal in the late 60s, and whoa: they are amazing. I mean, the entire collection is just fantastic, but James is actually a wonderful reader of Marx. The Brumaire essay is in many ways an attempt to read the current political scene of Trinidad (and Eric Williams in particular) through Marx. For James, it doesn’t quite translate: the political and social composition of Trinidad scrambles the operative analytic categories of Marx’s text. It’s James at his best, putting two things together in order to transform our understanding of both of them. His reading of the “Working Day” section of Capital is equally brilliant, and tracks the theoretical developments of workerism and autonomism neatly. Basically, the scene of production is constituted by political antagonism, and capital is reactive to the self-activity of workers. Rad stuff.

* Selma James, “A Woman’s Place” (1952) and The Power of Women & the Subversion of the Community (1972, with Mariarosa Dalla Costa, should include “A Woman’s Place”). A few things to say here. First, I think that it is impossible to understand CLR’s theoretical trajectory through the 50s without considering the impact of Selma James’ work on his thinking. Selma published “A Woman’s Place” in Correspondence in 1952, three years before she married CLR. Selma’s exploration of the doubly worked working-class woman, the way that a particular form of subjectivity is shaped in the unendingness of labor, not only shaped CLR’s thinking about gender and capital; it also attuned him more concretely, I think, to the necessity of recovering the concrete particularity of workers’ subjectivity. As for The Power of Women: I’m never sure how to understand the authorial relationship that obtained between James and Dalla Costa. Some versions do not cite James as a co-author. I also think I recall encountering James saying she doesn’t care to talk about disputes over the text’s authorship. (But see here.) Whatever the case, it is a brilliant extension and concretization of some of the concepts that were only incipient in CLR’s work. That is to say, in addition to all of its billion merits, The Power of Women allowed me to re-read CLR in a more productive fashion.

So, that’s it! Like I said, I wanted to reduce the reading load. Some of my favs aren’t on here: his book on Nkrumah (which has the best dedication ever), “Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity,” and on and on. But if you find this useful and trust my taste, I’m totally willing to do another. Or feel free to yell at me for my omissions.