The historic uprising in the wake of the murder of George Floyd transformed the way Americans and the world think about race and policing. Why did it achieve so little in the way of substantive reforms? After Black Lives Matter argues that the failure to leave an institutional residue was not simply due to the mercurial and reactive character of the protests. Rather, the core of the movement itself failed to locate the central racial injustice that underpins the crisis of policing: socio-economic inequality.
For Johnson, the anti-capitalist and downwardly redistributive politics expressed by different Black Lives Matter elements has too often been drowned out in the flood of black wealth creation, fetishism of Jim Crow black entrepreneurship, corporate diversity initiatives, and a quixotic reparations demand. None of these political tendencies addresses the fundamental problem underlying mass incarceration. That is the turn from welfare to domestic warfare as the chief means of regulating the excluded and oppressed. Johnson sees the way forward in building popular democratic power to advance public works and public goods. Rather than abolishing police, After Black Lives Matter argues for abolishing the conditions of alienation and exploitation contemporary policing exists to manage.
“A virtuoso performance! Weighing the successes and limitations of Black Lives Matter, Johnson concludes that identity-based mobilization—confusing what people look like with what they need—cannot substitute for majoritarian political coalition-building.”
“Cedric Johnson delivers that increasingly rare experience in political writing: surprise. Whether telling the story of Louis Armstrong’s first hearing of Mack the Knife or reporting on the inequities of Chicago’s public transportation system or mounting a mini-memoir of his encounter with crime in Louisiana and Rochester, Johnson invests the drama of Marxist theory with new energy and vital detail. No matter how dark and dreary the landscape may be, it gets lit up wherever Johnson casts his sharp and appraising eye.”
“A brilliant scholar who is first and foremost concerned with equality and justice. It’s those very commitments that lead him, in After Black Lives Matter, to question today’s antiracism and its nostrums.”
“A compelling argument for reinstating a meaningful anticapitalist analysis and politics into the fight to end police violence and the harms of the criminal justice system in the United States. Readers will undoubtedly come away with new perspectives that deepen their understanding of the successes and limitations of Black Lives Matter and its political vision.”
“Essential reading for those weary of platitude-driven texts on race and criminal justice and in the market for an empirically grounded political analysis that points to practicable solutions to one of the biggest problems of our day.”