The Time is Always Now: Black Thought and the Transformation of US Democracy

ISBN : 9780190640842

Nick Bromell
202 ページ
156 x 234 mm

"Why," asks Nick Bromell, "should the political thought of white Americans remain the only theory to which Americans of all ethnicities turn when constructing and reconstructing their understanding of democracy? Must Americans remain locked in an apartheid of experience and perception even after whites have become a minority population in this nation? Hasn't the 2012 presidential election made clear that the time has come to build not just on the votes of citizens of color, but on the varieties of democratic thought their experience has engendered?" In his answers to these questions, Bromell brings to light an underappreciated stream of democratic reflection by black writers and activists from David Walker to Malcolm X. Bromell argues that these thinkers urge Americans to fundamentally re-imagine the nature of their democracy and recognize that indignation can be a powerful and productive democratic emotion; that dignity is just as important to democracy as equality and liberty; that national citizenship can be infused with a sense of responsibility to the world; and that faith can actually promote rather than threaten democratic pluralism. A literary critic and intellectual historian, Bromell draws on a wide range of fiction, essays, speeches, and oral histories, deftly synthesizing recent work in U.S. history, literary and cultural studies, and political theory. Like the figures he discusses, he puts this thought to work in the present moment, this "now." Black democratic insights, he shows, are strikingly relevant to the challenges facing US democracy today, and they provide the basis for a new, post-liberal public philosophy with which to turn back the rise of radical conservatism. Historian Robin D.G. Kelley writes: "In this work of enormous breadth, depth, and imagination, Nick Bromell makes what may be the most original contribution to political theory in the past decade. In this age of alleged color blindness, Bromell has the vision and the chutzpah to turn to African American thought-ideas born of struggle, anchored in questions of dignity, human relationships, and faith-in order to revitalize American democracy. "


Introduction: "'Black and More than Black'"

Chapter One: "The Tension Perpetually Sustained"
Democratic Indignation and the Dynamics of Black Philosophy

Chapter Two: "An Almost Contemptuous Fairness"
Styles of Democratic Indignation

Chapter Three: "This Is Personal"
Human Relationships and the Production of Democratic Dignity

Chapter Four: "The Network of Complex Relationships Which Bind Us Together"
Chesnutt, Larsen, and Baldwin on Seeing and Knowing Others

Chapter Five: "The Full Understanding of My Relationship to America"
Black Imaginings of Patriotic Cosmopolitanism

Chapter Six: "The Moral Force of the Universe"
Faith and Pluralism in the Black Democratic Imagination

Chapter Seven: "The Moment We're In"
The Democratic Imagination of Barack Obama


Nick Bromell is the author of By the Sweat of the Brow: Labor and Literature in Antebellum American Culture and Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the Sixties, both published by the University of Chicago Press. His articles and essays on African-American literature and political thought have appeared in American Literature, American Literary History, Political Theory, Raritan, and The Sewanee Review. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he blogs at thetimeisalwaysnow.org.