Robin Marie Averbeck
is a writer, activist and teacher at California State University, Chico. Liberalism is Not Enough: Race and Poverty in Postwar Political Thought
(The University of North Carolina Press, 2018) is a historical examination of postwar liberalism that powerfully shows how racist capitalism is at the heart of liberal thought. Through ideological laden invocation of pluralism, the “culture of poverty,” and faith in the workings of democratic institutions, liberals shared with conservatives support for an individualistic and racist social order. Demonstrating concern for poverty embodied in the vision of the Great Society, liberals attempted to effectively deny the issue of race for African Americans. Attention to poverty turned to finding an explanation in the pathological makeup of poor blacks and in the overarching “culture of poverty” that became identified with urban environments. After supporting Civil Rights legislation and Community Action Programs funded by the federal government, liberal thinkers were able to deny structural racism and capitalist inequality setting fire to radical resistance. The liberal ideology of white supremacy continues to manifest itself in mass incarceration of African Americans and the weakening of the welfare state. Averbeck demonstrates how the failure to confront the political and social structures that produce inequality stand in the way of true liberation for all Americans.
This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History
Lilian Calles Barger
is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology
(Oxford University Press, 2008).