Cedric de Leon, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Providence College
Talk: Crisis Politics: Comparing the decline of “inclusive” racial Democracy in the U.S. Secession Crisis and the Election of Donald Trump
Abstract. Existing explanations of political crises suggest that the latter express or reflect social relations on the ground; party politics, by contrast, play a limited or passive role. Historians of the so-called “fundamentalist” school argue that the U.S. Secession Crisis and Civil War were caused by the conflict over slavery, especially the threat to the largest slaveowners’ economic interests. Likewise, research on populism and the contemporary Far Right tends to emphasize the causal role of economic downturns, voter alienation, and changing class relations. But existing theories are hard pressed to explain the timing of such crises. For example, the conflict over slavery had existed in the U.S. colonies and Early Republic for over a century without a civil war – why then did the U.S. Secession Crisis take hold in 1861 and not before? We might ask a similar question of ethnic nationalism: why, despite the longstanding dislocations of neoliberalization, has the Far Right come to power only now? Drawing on the “modern revisionist” school of U.S. historiography, social scientists of the European Far Right like Herbert Kitschelt and Jack Veugelers, and neo-Gramscian sociologists of racial hegemony and political parties, I argue in contrast that the U.S. Secession Crisis and the election of Donald Trump were the endpoints of sequences of partisan reactions and counter-reactions that undercut the hegemony of “inclusive” forms of racial democracy, namely, those of a slaveholding republic in the historical case and postracial neoliberalism in the contemporary case.