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Sade's revenge: racial neoliberalism and the sovereignty of negation

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The present moment in US politics is one marked by a number of stark contradictions. Foremost among them is the popular perception that the nation's vicious legacy of racial exclusion and exploitation has been recognized and largely redressed through civil-rights-era advances and is now officially consigned to the past with the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama while, at the same time, racially indexed humiliation, harassment, violence and 'civilizational war' ruthlessly persist. A corollary paradox resides in a renewed belief in the pre-eminence of American values, moral leadership and purity of purpose, and the sadistic impulses that simultaneously course through the national culture, energizing its corporatism, militarism, religious fundamentalism, its punishment empire and its vast entertainment industry. Giroux examines the work of David Theo Goldberg, one of the world's most eminent philosophers of race, whose recent contribution The Threat of Race offers a new analytics and critical vocabulary to illuminate these tensions with unparalleled historical precision and theoretical sophistication. Because, as Goldberg rightly maintains, the pervasive contemporary commitment to 'racial neoliberalism' is predicated on historical amnesia, Giroux seeks to offer a comparative examination of present and past 'times of terror'. In specific, she moves between late eighteenth-century and early twenty-first-century expressions of sovereign imagination and the claims to honour and virtue that subtend their policies of isolation, segregation, punishment, brutalization, torture and murder. The self-assigned moral imperative to 'rid the world of evil' comes increasingly to mean a declaration of war on a world of Others racially conceived, a project that invariably ends in the will to self-destruction.
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Keywords: David Theo Goldberg; Marquis de Sade; The Threat of Race; antiracialism; antiracism; neoliberalism; race; racism; sadism; sovereignty; terror; violence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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