Gregory Laski, "Untimely Democracy: The Politics of Progress after Slavery" (Oxford UP, 2018)


Gregory Laski approaches the concept of democracy in his text, Untimely Democracy: The Politics of Progress after Slavery (Oxford University Press, 2018) from a variety of dimensions and perspectives, integrating the concept of temporality to considerations of liberty and justice within an analysis of American political thought and history, especially in the period following the Civil War. Laski's complex and sophisticated text will have great appeal to political theorists and political philosophers as well as scholars of American political development and American letters and literature. Laski explores the idea of temporality in context of American democracy, and democracy generally, and the concept of progress as we often consider it in relation to post-slavery America. Untimely Democracy highlights an often-under-explored area of American politics, in the post-bellum writers and their discourse that examines a period of stasis as Reconstruction comes to an end and African-American liberty does not, in fact, expand. Laski approaches these theoretical considerations through post-Civil war writers like Stephen Crane, Pauline Hopkins, Callie House, W.E.B Dubois, Charles W. Chesnutt, Frederick Douglass and others. The thrust of this exploration is to reposition, in a sense, the concept of racial progress and the quest for liberty---providing a counter-discourse to the expected linear arc generally associated with racial progress. Laski's examination is multilayered and examines these written and rhetorical works, especially within an analysis that explores our understanding of time, memory, recollection, and progress as an only-forward moving trajectory. This book takes the reader on a journey through concepts of temporal distinctions or horizons within a democratic quest, examining what Laski titles "untimely democracy"---neither clear progress, nor a forgetting of the past, but a consideration of democracy and the concept of expanded liberty from within a context that is bracketed in time and that explores this tension within time.

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Lilly Goren

Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI.

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