Why has contemporary radical political theory remained virtually silent about the stunning rise in inequality in the United States over the past thirty years? Schwartz contends that since the 1980s, most radical theorists shifted their focus away from interrogating social inequality to criticizing the liberal and radical tradition for being inattentive to the role of difference and identity within social life. This critique brought more awareness of the relative autonomy of gender, racial, and sexual oppression. But, as Schwartz argues, it also led many theorists to forget that if difference is institutionalized on a terrain of radical economic inequality, unjust inequalities in social and political power will inevitably persist.
Schwartz cautions against a new radical theoretical orthodoxy: that "universal" norms such as equality and solidarity are inherently repressive and homogenizing, whereas particular norms and identities are truly emancipatory. Reducing inequality among Americans, as well as globally, will take a high level of social solidarity--a level far from today's fragmented politics. In focusing the left's attention on the need to reconstruct a governing model that speaks to the aspirations of the majority, Schwartz provocatively applies this vision to such real world political issues as welfare reform, race relations, childcare, and the democratic regulation of the global economy.
Joseph M. Schwartz is Professor of Political Science at Temple University. Schwartz chaired the department from 2000-2005. He teaches courses in the history of political thought; contemporary democratic theory; American political development; race and American politics; and the radical tradition (and its critics) in theory and practice. He is a past recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Teaching Award, Temple University’s Lindback Prize for Teaching Excellence, and the Temple University College of Liberal Arts Alumni Association Eleanor Hofkin Award for Excellence in Teaching. Schwartz received his PhD in Political Science from Harvard University; his second B.A. at Oxford University (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) on a Marshall Scholarship; and his first B.A. as a Telluride Scholar at Cornell University.
Schwartz’ recent book, The Future of Democratic Equality: Reconstructing Social Solidarity in a Fragmented America (Routledge, 2009), just won the 2011 American Political Science Association’s David Easton Award in political philosophy.
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