Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left

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The blues, celebrated, so to speak, on a Saturday night - the traditional time slot allotted to this activity - in the rural juke-joints and roadhouses or in the ghetto bars and clubs, may be seen as a collective ritual which evokes a tragic history known to all but still constantly and consciously recollected.

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This is probably what most blues artists confusedly feel when, despite the ever-decreasing number of practitioners of the tradition, they firmly claim that the blues will never die. And, in the same way that for archaic peoples myths are perceived and received as true stories, 11 the blues are the true story of black Americans, with even more claim to realism in fact: "the blues is true story songs," says Mance Lipscomb.

Thus, it is with good reason that today's blacks who, consciously or not, adhere to what has been termed "the new black consciousness" have rejected the blues as a music which reminds them too much of the plantation and of slavery - although this reaction might seem strange to those who believe that the blues are only about men, women and unrequited love.

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Even if the blues as a genre emerged only towards the end of the 19th century, there is only an apparent paradox here for the blues tirelessly and relentlessly recalls an original condition, all the more easily as the practices of sharecropping - the crop-lien system, as it has been called by historians - and peonage, until two or three decades ago, were still part of real life for the black inhabitants of the rural South. Sad when you sick and home alone, won't nobody come around, twice Just look like everybody tellin' everybody else, 'Poor boy's sinkin' down.

Thousand years my peoples was slave, when I was born they teach me this way, twice Tip your hat to the peoples, be careful, son, what you say'. Didn't make no difference if it was rainin ' , do you know, man, you just had to go, twice But I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm so glad it ain't slavery time no more.

Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left. (Reviews)

Grandma told grandpa one mornin': 'I'm tired of livin', I'd just sooner die. Why these peoples treatin' us this-a-way, I just can't see the reason why. Grandpa told grandma, if he could call back just twenty years ago, 'If I could only call back, old lady, I'm talkin''bout twenty years ago, Yes, I would get my shot-gun and I wouldn't be a slave no more.

However, rather than pushing the audience to the sidelines, personalization brings it closer to the performer in so far as the experiences depicted and retold are not only readily recognizable but are generally reproduced frankly - even crudely at times - and without adornments. Right on!

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That's the truth. Tell it like it is! When the audience identifies with the situation and the content of the song or responds to the often disguised message, one witnesses the sharing of a common experience which sustains all the participants. The bluesman is actually most convincing and effective in a performance which leads to dancing, linking the participants together without their having to touch each other and even though they seem to be moving to their own beat, oblivious to anything else.

The preacher and the blues singer, like two high priests, though they deal with different topics, have a common goal which consists in increasing solidarity, boosting morale and strengthening the consensus within the black group.

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As a rule, he speaks exclusively for his race and class, two aspects which are often difficult to dissociate, for black Americans, quite legitimately, often see their racial and their social condition as an un separable whole. But he may also address more specifically, or even exclusively, a more restricted audience. In "Blue Harvest Blues," for instance, Mississippi John Hurt apparently seeks comfort among the community of black sharecroppers, while trying to promote their moral unity, by dealing with a problem they are familiar with and which sums up their economic situation and their plight.

However, sharecropping was such a common occupation in the South in those days - the 's - that the topic was probably familiar to all blacks:.

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Standin' on this mountain, far as I can see, Standin' on this mountain, just as far as I can see, Dark clouds above me, clouds all around poor me. Feelin' low and wearied, Lord, I've got trouble in mind, Feelin' low and weary, Lord, I've got a trouble in mind, Everything's against me, everybody's so unkind. Harvest-time's comin' and will catch me unprepared, Harvest-time is comin' and will catch me unprepared, Haven't made a dollar, bad luck is all I've had.

Lord, how can I bear it, Lord when the harvest bring, Lord, how can I bear it, Lord, what will the harvest bring, Spent off all my money and haven't got a doggone thing. Ain't got no mother, father left me long ago, twice I'm just like an orphan, where my folks is I don't know.


Blues around my shoulders, blues all around my head, twice With my heavy burden, Lord, I wished I was dead. Painted almost always, with or without camouflage, as personal experiences - thus they also have something of a testimonial function -, they are seen as situations that all blacks have experienced: the material or physical obstacles to migration:. I went down to the landin'to see if any boats were there And the ferryman told me he couldn't find no boats nowhere. Soon in the mornin'you get ham and egg, twice Ring that bell, you better catch that grey mule's head.

Dinner-time come, you get your bread and beans, Dinner-time come, you get bread and beans, Ring that bell, you better catch that hurlin'team. I pickin' up the newspaper and I lookin' in the ads, Says, I pickin' up the newspaper and I lookin'in the ads And the policeman came along and he arrested me for vag. It won't do! Back Institutional Login Please choose from an option shown below. Need help logging in? Click here. Don't have access?

View purchasing options. Find in this title Show Hide Page Numbers. On This Page. Copy to Clipboard. I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. Plus the Greek crisis, the Taksim Square revolt and the Gaza war.

The last quarter century of globalisation has witnessed the largest reshuffle of global incomes since the Industrial Revolution. The global Gini index declined by about 2 points over the twenty-five year period , while within the global distribution of income three changes stand out.

These three changes open up the following three political issues. In the developing world the big question is how to manage the rising expectations of meaningful political participation in emerging countries like China. In the rich countries, it is how to "placate" the relative losers of the last 30 years so that they do not turn away from globalisation and towards populist anti-immigrant policies. Cutting across all countries, and directly implicated in both of these questions, is how to constraint the rising economic and political power of the global elite.

Where is the world now heading? Is the post-Cold War era over? In the Cold War ended. American pundit, Francis Fukuyama, confidently announced the end of history with the complete victory of liberalism word-wide. Globalisation and democracy represented the wave of the future. But thirty year later the tide of history appears to have turned.

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Fukuyama now talks bleakly of the crisis of democracy and the possible demise of the liberal order. And globalisation itself is in question. We connect academic knowledge of diplomacy and strategy with the people who use it. Speaker s : Professor Daniel Markovits Merit is not a genuine excellence but rather a pretence, constructed to rationalise an offensive distribution of advantage.

Merit, in short, is a sham. The meritocratic ideal—that social and economic rewards should track achievement rather than breeding—anchors the self-image of the age.

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Aristocracy has had its day, and meritocracy is now a basic tenet of civil religion in all advanced societies. Meritocracy promises to promote equality and opportunity by opening a previously hereditary elite to outsiders, armed with nothing save their own talents and ambitions. But today, middle-class children lose out to rich children at school, and middle-class adults lose out to elite graduates at work.

At the same time, meritocracy entices an anxious and inauthentic elite into a pitiless, lifelong contest to secure income and status through its own excessive industry. In spite of its promises, meritocracy in fact installs a new form of aristocracy, purpose-built for a world in which the greatest source of income and wealth is not land but human capital and free labor.

Markovits works in the philosophical foundations of private law, moral and political philosophy, and behavioral economics. This event is the Morishima Lecture. Latest Most played Most popular Search. Listen Listen again Continue Playing Listen later Listen later. Britain and Europe: how did we get here, and where do we go next?