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.
“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."
List of Figures
Chapter 1. Awakening to Race
Racial Injustice and Individualist Ideals
The Problem of Acknowledgment
From Emerson to Baldwin
A Usable Past?
Talking to Strangers
Chapter 2. Self-Reliance and Social Responsibility
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
Liberal Democracy, Properly Understood
Chapter 4. Race and Democratic Individuality
Democratic Individuality in Black
Diagnosing White Supremacy
Love, Fraternity, Gender, and Democracy
Awakening to Power
Chapter 5. Democratic Reconstitution
Creative Individuality, Radical Responsibility
The White Innocence of American Liberalism
Speech and Self-Understanding
Democratic Individualism Revisited
Chapter 6. A New Individualism
All That Beauty
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu