[Marxism] The New Deal State and Segregation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 13 06:54:48 MDT 2019

The issue is not whether the Roosevelt administration was powerless or 
cowardly in the face of private segregation, but how and why the 
American state — at a moment of unprecedented economic crisis — made the 
choices it did. State actors, in this context, were imprisoned not just 
by the market but by what Ira Katznelson has dubbed “the southern cage.” 
In these confines, what was lost was not just a more progressive 
economic program, but any pretense of universalism or equal protection.

These were not reluctant compromises or corrupt concessions. Racial 
segregation — not just in housing but in social and labor policy as well 
— was elemental to the New Deal. The resulting “architecture of 
protection,” as Jennifer Mittlestadt has argued, “was built in part on 
the backs of those who were denied full economic and social 
citizenship.” Neither Rothstein’s dashed expectations nor Walker’s 
wistful nostalgia should distract us from these facts.


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