Cloth $70.00 ISBN: 9780226817118 Published October 2012
Paper $22.50 ISBN: 9780226817125 Published October 2012
E-book $7.00 to $22.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226817149 Published September 2012

Awakening to Race

Individualism and Social Consciousness in America

Jack Turner

Jack Turner

216 pages | 15 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Cloth $70.00 ISBN: 9780226817118 Published October 2012
Paper $22.50 ISBN: 9780226817125 Published October 2012
E-book $7.00 to $22.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226817149 Published September 2012

The election of America’s first black president has led many to believe that race is no longer a real obstacle to success and that remaining racial inequality stems largely from the failure of minority groups to take personal responsibility for seeking out opportunities. Often this argument is made in the name of the long tradition of self-reliance and American individualism. In Awakening to Race, Jack Turner upends this view, arguing that it expresses not a deep commitment to the values of individualism, but a narrow understanding of them.
 
Drawing on the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin, Turner offers an original reconstruction of democratic individualism in American thought. All these thinkers, he shows, held that personal responsibility entails a refusal to be complicit in injustice and a duty to combat the conditions and structures that support it. At a time when individualism is invoked as a reason for inaction, Turner makes the individualist tradition the basis of a bold and impassioned case for race consciousness—consciousness of the ways that race continues to constrain opportunity in America. Turner’s “new individualism” becomes the grounds for concerted public action against racial injustice.

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Princeton University
Jack Turner has written a bold and provocative book. In his deft hands, appeals to personal responsibility become the basis for a robust democratic individualism attuned to the ugliness of racism, rather than a conservative justification that leaves racial inequalities in place. Awakening to Race is American political thought at its best.

Lawrie Balfour, University of Virginia
Does individualism have anything to offer the struggle for racial justice? Awakening to Race offers a resounding yes! Jack Turner’s book punctures the myths of American individualism that have helped to sustain racial hierarchies and advances fresh interpretations of self-reliance and personal responsibility stripped of their dishonesty. His writing embodies the spirit of the democratic citizen he finds in the work of Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Ellison, and Baldwin: rigorous in its questioning of present conditions, compassionate, and intensely engaged.

David W. Blight, Yale University, author of American Oracle
In Awakening to Race, Jack Turner carves up American thought with a clean, theoretical scalpel, shredding the dangerous myths of individualism and self-reliance through which so many Americans still think about race. We desperately need these reminders of how many of our greatest writers, from Douglass to Baldwin, have prepared us for our enduring racial agony, if only we could wake up from our mythic slumber. An extraordinarily smart and timely book.

Charles Mills, Northwestern University
Jack Turner has canvassed a remarkable range of sources to develop a profoundly revisionist take on individualism, a theme absolutely central to the nation’s founding and which has ongoing—in fact heightened—relevance in the ‘postracial’ age-of-Obama United States. Turner both makes a convincing case that individualism as a central American value needs to be recaptured from the right and demonstrates that the rich tradition of American political thought does indeed provide us with the necessary conceptual resources for doing so.
Choice
“Exercised by claims that race no longer matters as a bar to full participation in US society, Jack Turner writes a lively scholarly polemic seeking to move beyond ‘simplistic debates pitting advocates of self-reliance and personal responsibility against analysts of historical inheritance, structural constraint, and inequality of opportunity.’”
Teachers College Record
"Turner's work is thoughtful, bold, and a refreshing framework in which to rethink American political thought surrounding issues of race."
Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Journal of American Philosophy
"Don't let the size of this slim volume fool you: Awakening to Race is chock-full of fresh insights and original arguments regarding individualism and race in the American democratic tradition. Individualism in America often takes atomistic forms that are antithetical to a rich sense of the social constitution of the self. For that reason, individualism often is viewed as antithetical to a critical consciousness of how race and white racism operate. In Awakening to Race, Jack Turner boldly takes the bull of American individualism by its horns. He argues that the rhetoric of individualism can be used against, rather than in service of, an allegedly colorblind society in which independent, post-racial individuals pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. The result of Turner's skillful intervention into American political philosophy is to take back individualism from conservative forces and refashion it into a progressive tool for racial justice movements. . . . My only criticism of this book is that it ended."
Contents
List of Figures 
Preface

Chapter 1. Awakening to Race
    Racial Injustice and Individualist Ideals 
    The Problem of Acknowledgment 
    Democratic Individualism 
    From Emerson to Baldwin 
    A Usable Past? 
    Talking to Strangers 
 
Chapter 2. Self-Reliance and Social Responsibility 
    Atomistic Individualism 
    Awakening 
    The Idea of Complicity 
    Self-Reliance and Complicity 
    Action and Citizenship 
    Self-Reliance and Justice 
    Democratic Individualist Responsibility 

Chapter 3. Self-Help and Social Structure 
    Self-Help 
    Social Structure 
    Liberal Democracy, Properly Understood 

Chapter 4. Race and Democratic Individuality 
    Democratic Individuality in Black 
    Diagnosing White Supremacy 
    Reconstructing Vision 
    Love, Fraternity, Gender, and Democracy 
    Awakening to Power 

Chapter 5. Democratic Reconstitution 
    Creative Individuality, Radical Responsibility 
    The White Innocence of American Liberalism 
    Democratic Reconstitution 
    Speech and Self-Understanding 
    Democratic Individualism Revisited 

Chapter 6. A New Individualism 
    Rhetorical Jujitsu 
    All That Beauty 

Notes 
Works Cited 
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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