The World Is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy since World War II

The World Is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy since World War II

The World Is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy since World War II

The World Is a Ghetto: Race and Democracy since World War II


Why is racism so hard to overcome? Why is the world still beset by racial inequality and injustice, even after the supposed successes of the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements? In The World Is a Ghetto Howard Winant reinterprets post-WWII racial dynamics on a global scale by comparing postwar racial politics in four world centers: the U.S., South Africa, Brazil, and the European Union.

Winant suggests that as the twenty-first century dawns, movements for racial justice are confronted by new obstacles. His critique of new forms of racial exclusion and inequality (for example, the supposedly "color-blind" racial policies and largely symbolic multiculturalism now in vogue around the world) provides provocative views on such global questions as continuing hostility to immigration, the breakdown of the welfare state, and the weakening of social movements.

This is a timely and important book by a major theoretician of race relations. Winant not only deepens our understanding of race as both a contemporary and historical phenomenon but he also explains the continuing significance of racial justice for our ideals of democracy, of human well-being, and for cultural innovation in the years ahead.


This book is an effort to explain why race is such an important social fact. I wrote it because I wanted to situate race at the turn of the twenty-first century, the start (according to Western, Christian-inflected calendars, anyway) of a new millennium. I wanted to understand our racial history, our collective, world‐ wide racial history: how did we get to this racial present?

This huge agenda came, of course, from my personal as well as my intellectual trajectory. For many years, when asked about my background and my interests, I would reply that like so many others I was a child of "the movement." I was an adolescent in the early 1960s, and a university student in the later years of that decade. I was politically active in youth groups and especially in college; I was drawn into anti-racist activities when I was still quite young; and I have remained so ever since. So my response to such questions would run.

But actually the sources of my political and intellectual commitments, and thus of this book, go deeper than that. They involve fascism and the primordial racism it represented: anti-semitism.

My parents were refugees, Jewish refugees from Nazism. My late father Karl Weininger (1918-91) grew up in Vienna, and experienced the Anschluss of March 1938 (he was twenty years old that same month). Soon after, knowing that Jewish men and boys were being rounded up and sent off to forced labor or worse, he went to the train station and took the first train he could out of town. He was determined to escape, but escape was not so easy. the train took him to Berlin! and there, in the Nazi capital, he encountered far less anti-semitism than he had in Vienna. Berlin, then as now, was a relatively "progressive" city. He went to the museums, and swam in the Wannsee (of course prohibited to Jews). He was in Berlin on the night of June 22, 1938, when Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in New York (many Berliners, he said, welcomed Schmeling's defeat). As the news of the "brown bomber's" triumph came through—it was already the morning of the 23rd—my dad determined to make it to the United States. Through a complex series of maneuvers he finally arrived there, sick and broke but young and safe, before war began in Europe.

So I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. I was born in 1946. My parents were not tremendously political, but they hated fascism and knew racism when they saw it. (My mom Dé Haagens was a refugee too, from the Netherlands; she had had an easier time getting out of Europe.) Who were the fascists . . .

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