A number of arguments have been made to explain the relative
weakness of the American Left. A preference for individualism, the
effects of prosperity, and the miscalculations of different
components of the Left, including the labor movement, have been
cited, among other factors, as possible explanations for this
puzzling aspect of American exceptionalism. But these arguments,
says Richard Iton, overlook a crucial factor--the powerful
influence of race upon American life.
Iton argues that the failure of the American Left lies in its
inability to come to grips with the centrality of race in the
American experience. Placing the history of the American Left in an
illuminating comparative context, he also broadens our definition
of the Left to include not just political parties and labor unions
but also public policy and popular culture--an important source for
the kind of cultural consensus needed to sustain broad social and
collectivist efforts, Iton says.
In short, by exposing the impact of race on the development of the
American Left, Iton offers a provocative new way of understanding
the unique orientation of American politics.