A double book event on reparations, climate change, and the politics of radical solidarity.
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On Reconsidering Reparations
Reparations for slavery have become a reinvigorated topic for public debate over the last decade. Most theorizing about reparations treats it as a social justice project - either rooted in reconciliatory justice focused on making amends in the present; or, they focus on the past, emphasizing restitution for historical wrongs. Olúfemi O. Táíwò argues that neither approach is optimal, and advances a different case for reparations - one rooted in a hopeful future that tackles the issue of climate change head on, with distributive justice at its core. This view, which he calls the "constructive" view of reparations, argues that reparations should be seen as a future-oriented project engaged in building a better social order; and that the costs of building a more equitable world should be distributed more to those who have inherited the moral liabilities of past injustices.
"Colonialism isn't over. Instead of men in pith helmets, the rich now send pollution, climate catastrophe, development consultants and philanthropists. In this sweeping, subtle and sophisticated analysis, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò presents an iron-clad case for why colonialism's end must coincide with a reparative transformation in relations between the colonizer and colonized, in the Global North and South. It's required reading for anyone looking for the arguments to support a just, and healing, future." —Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing and co-author of Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice
On Elite Capture
“Identity politics” is everywhere, polarizing discourse from the campaign trail to the classroom and amplifying antagonisms in the media, both online and off. But the compulsively referenced phrase bears little resemblance to the concept as first introduced by the radical Black feminist Combahee River Collective. While the Collective articulated a political viewpoint grounded in their own position as Black lesbians with the explicit aim of building solidarity across lines of difference, identity politics is now frequently weaponized as a means of closing ranks around ever-narrower conceptions of group interests.
But the trouble, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò deftly argues, is not with identity politics itself. Through a substantive engagement with the global Black radical tradition and a critical understanding of racial capitalism, Táíwò identifies the process by which a radical concept can be stripped of its political substance and liberatory potential by becoming the victim of elite capture—deployed by political, social, and economic elites in the service of their own interests.
Táíwò’s crucial intervention both elucidates this complex process and helps us move beyond a binary of “class” vs. “race.” By rejecting elitist identity politics in favor of a constructive politics of radical solidarity, he advances the possibility of organizing across our differences in the urgent struggle for a better world.
“I was waiting for this book without realizing I was waiting for this book.” —Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition
“Olúfémi O. Táíwò is a thinker on fire. He not only calls out empire for shrouding its bloodied hands in the cloth of magical thinking but calls on all of us to do the same. Elite capture, after all, is about turning oppression and its cure into a (neo)liberal commodity exchange where identities become capitalism’s latest currency rather than the grounds for revolutionary transformation. The lesson is clear: only when we think for ourselves and act with each other, together in deep, dynamic, and difficult solidarity, can we begin to remake the world.” —Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of California Los Angeles. He has published in academic journals ranging from Public Affairs Quarterly, One Earth, Philosophical Papers, and the American Philosophical Association newsletter Philosophy and the Black Experience.
Táíwò’s theoretical work draws liberally from the Black radical tradition, anti-colonial thought, German transcendental philosophy, contemporary philosophy of language, contemporary social science, and histories of activism and activist thinkers.
His public philosophy, including articles exploring intersections of climate justice and colonialism, has been featured in The New Yorker, The Nation, Boston Review, Dissent, The Appeal, Slate, Al Jazeera, The New Republic, Aeon, and Foreign Policy.
Lester Spence is a Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in the study of black, racial, and urban politics in the wake of the neoliberal turn.
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