Friday, December 31, 2021

The New Deal, Racism, and Imperialism


The New Deal, Racism, and Imperialism

Peter Schultz


            In his book, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time,” Ira Katznelson asserts: “The ability of the New Deal to confront the era’s most heinous dictatorships by reshaping liberal democracy required accommodating the most violent and illiberal part of the political system, keeping the South inside the game of democracy.” [p. 25]


            This is most interesting in that Katznelson argues that US imperialism, an imperialism dedicated allegedly to promoting democracy throughout the world, required accommodating racism as it existed throughout the United States, but especially in the South. That is, triumphant nationalism fed racism, not vice versa. This suggests that to deal with, to undermine racism required and requires subverting US imperialism or its transcendent nationalism by which the US sees itself as the “exceptional nation,” one capable of reforming others and defeating “heinous dictatorships.” Thus, it is imperialism, not racism, that must be dealt with insofar as it was and is imperialism that required and requires “accommodating the most violent and illiberal parts” of the American political order. And, of course, these "most violent and illiberal parts" of our political order will change over time, even if they remain significantly racist. They could also take the form of "Islamophobia" or sexism.


            [A further question arises as well: Was this “accommodation” merely the result of calculation? Or does the compatibility of imperialism and "the most violent and illiberal parts of the political system" cut even deeper? Was this situation really an accommodation?] 

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