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Stirrings in the Jug

Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era

1999
Author:

Adolph Reed Jr.
Foreword by Julian Bond

Stirrings in the Jug

A penetrating look at the state of racial politics by one of our nation’s most important writers on the subject.

Adolph Reed Jr. has been called “the smartest person of any race, class, or gender writing on race, class, and gender” (Katha Pollitt, Mother Jones) and “refreshing and radical. . . . Serious, even courageous” (Adam Schatz, The Nation)—as well as many less polite terms—for his bare-knuckled approach to political analysis. In Stirrings in the Jug, Reed offers a sweeping and incisive analysis of racial politics during the post-civil rights era.

I have always found Adolph Reed’s essays intelligent, penetrating, and very angry. Stirrings in the Jug reinforces my high opinion of his work.

Frances Fox Piven

Adolph Reed Jr. has been called “the smartest person of any race, class, or gender writing on race, class, and gender” (Katha Pollitt, Mother Jones) and “refreshing and radical. Serious, even courageous” (Adam Schatz, The Nation)—as well as many less polite terms—for his bare-knuckled approach to political analysis. In Stirrings in the Jug, Reed offers a sweeping and incisive analysis of racial politics during the post-civil rights era.

Skeptical of received wisdom, Reed casts a critical eye on political trends in the black community over the last thirty years. He examines the rise of a new black political class in the aftermath of the civil rights era, and bluntly denounces black leadership that is not accountable to a black constituency; such leadership, he says, functions as a proxy for white elites. Reed debunks as myths the “endangered black male” and the “black underclass,” and punctures what he views as the exaggeration and self-deception surrounding the black power movement and the Malcolm X revival. He chastises the Left, too, for its failure to develop an alternative politics, then lays out a practical leftist agenda and reasserts the centrality of political action.

“In the early 1960s,” Reed writes, “Ralph Ellison lamented the disposition ‘to see segregation as an opaque steel jug with the Negroes inside waiting for some black messiah to come along and blow the cork.’” In Stirrings in the Jug, Reed challenges us to advance emancipatory and egalitarian interests in black political life and in society at large—“to look within the jug, examine its varied contents, and pour them freely into the world.”

Stirrings in the Jug

Adolph Reed Jr. is professor of political science at the New School for Social Research. Among his books are W. E. B. Du Bois and American Political Thought (1997) and the forthcoming Class Notes. He has written for The Nation, Village Voice, The Progressive, and other publications.

Stirrings in the Jug

To enter the world of Adolph Reed is to return to that time when intellectuals believed that they held the keys to history. Forcefully ringing changes on a remark by Ralph Ellison—that segregation was wrongly seen as ‘an opaque steel jug with Negroes inside waiting for some Black messiah—Adolph Reed Jr. uses these essays to examine where black leadership has failed and where black action may yet succeed.

New York Times Book Review

In his latest book, Reed, a professor of political thought a a critic of black and pop culture, pushes along his academic and journalistic project, which is nothing less than the undoing of black pretension and fakery in American politics, and of those who make such pretensions into a political convenience. Reed hangs out his own banner for class politics against the liberal consensus; his special rhetorical and dialectical skill lies in demonstrating how conservative many of the supposedly ‘threatening’ black icons have been. Reed is at his strongest when challenging the terms that everybody takes for granted, or the terms that have insinuated themselves, unexamined, in to the argument. It is a disgrace that a sensibility like Reed’s is not more regularly consulted and more extensively published. Redress the balance by getting hold of this book and passing it along.

Christopher Hitchens in the Voice Literary Supplement

This is a collection of hard-hitting critiques of black liberal and radical politics in the post-segregation era.

Grace Lee Boggs, The Michigan Citizen

“The smartest person of any race, class, or gender writing on race, class, and gender.”

Katha Pollitt, Mother Jones

These essays present a coherent and valuable analysis, and they display Reed’s formidable talents as a critic of liberalism, racism, and nationalism.

Contemporary Sociology

Stirrings in the Jug is a trenchant, sometimes bare-knuckled, but always thickly reasoned assessment of the transformation and demobilization of African-American politics in the post-civil-rights era. Anyone interested in a historically astute, grounded, yet critical, perspective on the stagnation of an organized and contentious progressive thrust to African-American politics will find Reed’s work timely and insightful.

American Journal of Sociology

Reed challenges the prevalent myths about black community and politics not so that he can establish new or ‘better’ myths and symbols, but to advocate practical, pragmatic organized, and organizational changes in urban planning law and economic policy.

Minnesota Review

I have always found Adolph Reed’s essays intelligent, penetrating, and very angry. Stirrings in the Jug reinforces my high opinion of his work.

Frances Fox Piven