Crimes of Liberty: Race, War, and the Unfinished Business of Abolition

Lecture Description

Beginning with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and moving back to the 17th century, this lecture examines the ways in which liberalism has long served as the legal and ideological scaffolding that promoted and protected slavery and other forms of unfree labor, Jim Crow, dispossession, and colonialism. Neoliberalism and the crisis it has engendered lay in the very origins of the nation, in a liberty defined by one’s ability to control and dispose of property, and the rise of a state whose main purpose is to arbitrate property, justice, and control a laboring class. By revisiting key moments such as the Dred Scott decision, John Brown’s revolt, Reconstruction and the modern Civil Rights movement, I will argue that the most radical of these movements were informed not by liberalism but what Du Bois called abolition-democracy. And the rise of neoliberalism, mass incarceration, and the current wave of police violence, among other things, represents a defeat of abolition.


Intellectual Race

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