The Problem of the Future World

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Race Concept at Midcentury

The Problem of the Future World
Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: November 2010

Author: Eric Porter

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

The Problem of the Future World is a compelling reassessment of the later writings of the iconic African American activist and intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois. As Eric Porter points out, despite the outpouring of scholarship devoted to Du Bois, the broad range of writing he produced during the 1940s and early 1950s has not been thoroughly examined in its historical context, nor has sufficient attention been paid to the theoretical interventions he made during those years. Porter locates Du Bois’s later work in relation to what he calls “the first postracial moment.” He suggests that Du Bois’s midcentury writings are so distinctive and so relevant for contemporary scholarship because they were attuned to the shape-shifting character of modern racism, and in particular to the ways that discredited racial taxonomies remained embedded and in force in existing political-economic arrangements at both the local and global levels. Porter moves the conversation about Du Bois and race forward by building on existing work about the theorist, systematically examining his later writings, and looking at them from new perspectives, partly by drawing on recent scholarship on race, neoliberalism, and empire. The Problem of the Future World shows how Du Bois’s later writings help to address race and racism as protean, global phenomena in the present.


“[I]llustrates the way in which Du Bois’ work at midcentury can inform interpretations of race and racism in the contemporary world as mutable and globalised, due to his attuned, visionary awareness of entrenched racial categorisations at work in the political and economic structures of his time, both at national and world-wide levels.” — Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World,

“Porter has written a very good book from which Du Bois scholars across a variety of disciplines have much to gain.”
— Robert Gooding-Williams, Journal of American History

“Covering such issues as WW II, Pan-Africanism, and feminism, Porter is successful in explaining the broad import of Du Bois’s later work. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.” — Y. Kiuchi, Choice

“DuBois was an international figure, and Porter’s study reminds us of his importance during his lifetime as well as his continued relevance in how we currently view concepts of race, class, and citizenship. For DuBois scholars in particular, ... Porter’s ... intriguing text [is] recommended.” — Tara T. Green, American Literature

“Eric Porter is highly aware that today the late Du Bois is neither deeply studied nor particularly well regarded. He agrees that the great man’s later work suffered from ‘political dogmatism’ in comparison to his vast earlier contributions (Porter, p. 155). Still, drawing on a wide reading of recent literature on Du Bois as well as on race and racism in the contemporary world, Porter argues that ‘the Doctor’s’ late work nevertheless has something to teach us today.” — Howard Winant, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“Porter’s The Problem of the Future World is a timely treatment of the lessons we can learn from Du Bois’s texts on critically gauging the past and present to bring about a democratic present and future. . . . Porter’s book is a must read for scholars and graduate students in the fields of African American studies, Africana studies, and American studies.“ — Shannon King, History: Reviews of New Books

The Problem of the Future World is in every respect a superior work of scholarship. It is a major contribution to the field of Du Bois studies, where sustained, careful examinations of the theorist’s later writings are especially lacking; to midcentury U.S. intellectual history; and to contemporary theories and criticism of U.S. racial formations.” — Nikhil Pal Singh, author of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy

“As the title of Eric Porter’s excellent intellectual biography warns us, the problem of the future world may have been anticipated by the severe racial and economic judgments of W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the last century’s greatest engaged thinkers.” — David Levering Lewis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868–1919


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Price: $25.95
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eric Porter is Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of What Is This Thing Called Jazz? African American Musicians as Artists, Critics, and Activists.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Rewriting Du Bois's Future 1

1. Race and the Future World 21

2. Beyond War and Peace 63

3. Imagining Africa, Reimagining the World 103

4. Paradoxes of Loyalty 145

Notes 179

Bibliography 217

Index 227
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper: 978-0-8223-4808-5 / Cloth: 978-0-8223-4812-2
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