Why is There No Socialism in the United States? Law and The Racial Divide in the American Working Class, 1676–1964

Essay - Volume 94 - Issue 7

Pope takes a leaf from the great, unorthodox Marxist thinker, W.E.B. Du Bois, whose insights into the role of race in the formation of the United States’ white working class inform Pope’s answer to the old question: “Why is there no socialism in the United States?” Pope’s answer, like Du Bois’s, Derrick Bell’s, and others in this distinctive tradition, is that working-class identities in the United States took shape around racial identities; white working people in the United States spurned class solidarity across racial lines, settling instead for the psycho-cultural wages of whiteness, along with the material privileges whiteness brought in a political economy that, for most of U.S. history, relegated African-Americans (and often other racial others) to the most menial and “degraded” labor. Pope’s essay is a ranging synthesis of how centrally law figured in creating and enforcing these racial divisions, from the legal construction of black slavery in the mid-seventeenth century onward.

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