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The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition [Kindle Edition]

George Lipsitz

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Book Description

In this unflinching look at white supremacy, George Lipsitz argues that racism is a matter of interests as well as attitudes, a problem of property as well as pigment. Above and beyond personal feelings and acts of individual prejudice, whiteness is a structured advantage that produced unfair gains and unearned rewards for whites while imposing impediments to asset accumulation, employment, housing, and health care for members of aggrieved racial groups. Reaching beyond the black/white binary, Lipsitz shows how whiteness works in respect to Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. Lipsitz delineates the weaknesses embedded in civil rights laws, the racialised dimensions of economic restructuring and deindustrialization, and the effects of environmental racism, job discrimination, and school segregation. He also analyzes the centrality of whiteness to U.S. culture, the racial appeals encoded within patriotic nationalism, commercialized leisure, and political advertising. Perhaps most important, he identifies the sustained and perceptive critique of white privilege embedded in the art and politics of the radical black tradition.
This revised and expanded edition includes an essay about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on working class Blacks in New Orleans, whose perpetual struggle for dignity and self determination has been obscured by the city's image as a tourist party town.

Product Description

Review

"Traversing a remarkably broad terrain of American social, political, and cultural history from the colonial period to the present, Lipsitz interrogates as an idiom of privilege and gain--a shared "investment" whose dividends for generations have accrued to white liberals, and white reactionaries alike... Building on the powerful logic and commitment of [the] opening discussion ... Lipsitz takes a variety of angles on the workings of whiteness... All of these discussions are productive; some of them are dazzling...These narrative turns create the dual impression that, first, there is virtually no corner of American politics, society, or culture where the discerning eye will fail to discover evidence of "race" and its workings; and, second, anywhere Lipsitz casts his gaze he will find something interesting and insightful to say. I have cause to question neither conclusion. This is a terrifically important book." Matthew Frye Jacobson, American Historical Review "The Possessive Investment in Whiteness is the product of painstaking research and rigorous analysis. It is a work of integrity that expresses indignation at the injustices to which some in society would like us to become inured. Lipsitz demolishes the smug homilies of the so-called neoconservative approach to race. His spirited writing recaptures a fire that has come close to being extinguished in this era. This is scholarship informed by a moral commitment now rarely seen, and often discredited, in the ivory tower. Lipsitz overturns the apple cart of comfortable resignation and brings us face-to-face with how the past has structured the painful racial issues of our day." Brenda Gayle Plummer, The Annals of the American Academy "This year, I am recommending only one book--George Lipsitz;s The Possessive Investment in Whiteness... Lipsitz is best known for showing how popular culture and the changing fortunes of the working class and people of color transformed the United States after World War II. This new book brings together his fierce passion for racial justice with his talent for cultural analysis." Susan Douglas, The Progressive.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2878 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; Rev Exp edition (28 Mar. 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001KW03Y0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #75,032 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 17 May 2014
By WJLJ / Fahim Jaga Kufu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's too bad America will read books like this quietly
but the politicians, school systems, law and society
in general will not do what they know they must,
a redistribution of the wealth, an official apology
to the UN, reparations for African Americans and
a graduating income tax system.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing read 23 Feb. 2012
By hollypenyo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
one of the best books i've read about this topic. it's also very easy to read and backed up by lots of facts and evidence. highly recommended.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 27 Nov. 2013
By Yocelin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I needed this book for class, but either way it was a really great book to read i learned so much from the book
16 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cultural Struggles Produced and Encaptured by Whiteness 5 Dec. 2006
By Esin Duzel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
George Lipsitz's Possessive Investment in Whiteness exposes the identity politics of whiteness in the US state and society concealed under two prevalent views about racism: racism has been overthrown after the civil rights era, and invisibility of overt racism proves this point. Reversing the problem of racism towards identification of whiteness, Lipsitz reviews major aspects of US state, society and culture, such as immigration, education, law, housing, war, art, etc., in order to reveal the pervasiveness of white identity politics and insidious predominance over liberalism in the country.

To start with Lipsitz's usage of the concept of identity politics, he both `clears' the term from euphoria as well as maintaining it for subversive political knowledge and alliances. According to Lipsitz, identity politics is "a political project aimed at creating identities based on politics rather than politics based on identities." (67) Generally confusion stems from the birth of identity politics, the groups who entered to the political sphere by defining their identities and trying to reclaim them especially through rewriting the history. However, identity politics is not always practiced by self-defined, identity-conscious groups; whites who seemingly do not intervene in politics can indeed be the very practicers, as well as beneficiaries, of these politics. Lipsitz refers to Michael Omi's distinction between referential racism and inreferential racism; the latter, is "a system of structured inequality that allows white people to remain self-satisfied and smug about their own innocence." (46) "Americans encouraged to remain true to an identity that provides them resources, power and opportunities" (vii)

Yet, Lipsitz also counters two main criticisms against identity politics; against essentialism argument, the situated knowledge argument takes place, which, together with historical experiences and current struggles, determines the main shape and agenda of the identity politics (69). Secondly, against its fragmentary forms and egoistic agendas rather that fighting together against social inequality and injustice, Lipsitz not only provides examples of diverse interethnic alliances, but also contends that "we can be unified eventually only if we examine honestly and critically the things that divide us in the present." (58)

Lipsitz's work is crucial in establishing linkages between cultural realm and economics and state. His work is an exposure and refusal of the cultural explanations for structural social problems, while at the same time identification of the problems within the framework of liberal individualism in a Western capitalist society. Demonization of black people for their poverty stems from the illusion of present non-racist moment as well as the successful concealing of conservatives and neo-liberals of the collapse of the welfare state, the devastating consequences of tax regulations, urban renewal programs, segregatory practices in education, nepotism in hiring, etc. Similarly, immigrants are degraded in various cultural ways in order to deny them citizenship albeit paradoxically preservation of their roles as `illegal' workers. Another example, the harsh deportations of Asian-Americans have utilized cultural ideologies such as nationalism, patriarchy, and heterosexuality in justifying the war and fostering racial discrimination. Here Lipsitz reminds us "for more than twenty years, reassertions of nationalism in the United States have taken place in the context of an ever-increasing internationalization of commerce, communication, and culture." (74)

Lipsitz uses the "consumer citizenship" as the name of the neoliberal state's imagination of its subject. Consumerist citizens seek the protection of their consumer power, on the individual basis, and the expense of the others. Thus, public needs are replaced by private desires, so as to enable the continuity of the inequality through private means of accumulation and inheritance. When capitalism is ingrained in an ideology of the state, this notion of the subject is not new at all. What Lipsitz emphasizes is the backlash in public mind and the idea of public goods in the post-civil rights era, contrary to the common view.

Lipsitz also draws on the uses of cultural productions against the social injustices and its masking power. For example Gilroy's concept of `diasporic intimacy' points to the various agency formation processes of aggrieved groups drawing upon their home-based cultural reservoirs. These include not only remembrance and collectivity, but also creativity and innovation for social change. Artistic, intellectual and other forms of cultural productions, as Gilroy, West and Goldberg demonstrates, are the ways through which situated knowledges and experiences of the aggrieved people are transformed into constructive powers.

Lipsitz's work is peculiar not for its theoretical uniqueness, nor the thoroughness of its subject matters, but rather the broadness of its audience, its solid ground that almost speaks for itself, and the author's mode of speech that is neither dramatic nor arrogant (of his rightfulness). Moreover, the work is strengthened by the illuminative use of the empirical data and legal matters, not as matters of facts in themselves, but as a complementary to social and cultural history. It is like a pocket-book for an activist.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whiteness Revealed! 7 Jan. 2015
By Simon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great book when it comes to understanding race, politics, and economics.
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