Starting this month, I’ll be doing a brief rundown of upcoming books in intellectual history coming out for the following month. I began this post with the intention of writing about some of the most interesting works in intellectual history coming out this year, but after taking stock of how many wonderful books are coming out this month, decided to limit my post to just a few notable works coming out this month. Please add any books you know of coming out this month in the comments section—and, by all means, feel free to include fiction as well.
As this year will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Black Power movement, it’s fitting that a book on the Wilmington Ten case is being released this week. Kenneth Robert Janken’s The Wilmington Ten: Violence, Injustice, and the Rise of Black Politics in the 1970s offers a look at the struggle over desegregation in Wilmington, North Carolina. This was a landmark moment in the Black Power era, and an incident that was a reminder of the tenuousness of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. Already, I cannot help but to compare this book to Devin Fergus’ Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965-1980. Both showcase the importance of North Carolina, a “purple” state in the South that has both conservative and liberal traditions, to larger narratives of the African American freedom struggle.
Lester Spence’s Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics (which, in fact, came out in December 2015) offers a recent history of African American life. Spence situates African American culture—especially the idea of “hustling” that is prevalent in hip hop—within a larger neoliberal framework. His earlier writings on hip hop and African American history, most notably the book Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip Hop and Black Politics, indicate that Spence’s new work should be of interest to scholars interested not just in the African American experience, but in the relationship between economics, race, and political economy since the 1980s. I would add that Clarence Lang’s Black America in the Shadow of the Sixties would offer a good companion read—both works deal with African Americans, neoliberalism, and recent history, but using different analytical frameworks (Spence looking at African American culture, Lang looking at African American memory of the 1960s and the 1980s.)
Meanwhile, two other works highlight the continued importance of the New Deal to modern life. The New Deal: A Global History, by Kiran Klaus Patel, offers a fresh, international perspective on the New Deal. I am looking forward to this book after reading Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, which briefly situated the New Deal and its politics in an international context. Patel’s work promises to do that and more—it is a fascinating addition in Princeton University Press’s “America in the World” series, showcasing some of the best in the transnational turn in American history.
Finally, Jefferson Cowie (best known for Staying Alive, his magisterial history of 1970s America), returns with The Great Exception: The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics. Also from Princeton University Press, Cowie’s book picks up where his article co-written with Nick Salvatore, “The Long Exception: Rethinking the Place of the New Deal in American History” left off. The Great Exception promises to be another book in a growing list of monographs that re-evaluates the history of American liberalism from the 1930s until the present.
As you can see we’re in for a busy month of wonderful books in American intellectual history. As we revamp our book review list, and also make sure books from 2015 are also being sent out to reviewers at a timely pace, we look forward to spending 2016 talking about good books and important ideas that inform our present moment.