Race, Politics, and Social Change

Race, Politics, and Social Change

Race, Politics, and Social Change

Race, Politics, and Social Change


Drawing on a wealth of original sources, including interviews with politicians and activists this book explores the changing contours of the politics of race in the present social and political environment. The volume seeks to go beyond abstract generalisations in order to develop an account which takes seriously the everyday processes that have shaped social understandings of race and politics in British society. At the same time it links up to the broader debates about the impact of multiculturalism on contemporary politics, the role of minorities in political life and the limits of democratic government.
Its account of the role of black politicians within the context of party politics will be of particular appeal to those interested in the interplay between mobilisation and the development of racial justice and equality. Race, Politics and Social Changewill appeal to students of British Politics and Society and to all those with interests in the politics of race.


In the present political environment a key question, both from a conceptual and practical perspective, is the following: How can we explain the power of ideas about race and ethnicity in shaping political mobilisation and participation? In one way or another this is a question that is being asked today by social scientists in all the major advanced industrial societies. It is also the issue that has pre-occupied us in the course of our research and in the process of writing this book. Indeed, it is interesting to note that even in the short period during which we have worked on this project important transformations have taken place that have highlighted the complex ways in which race and ethnicity have become volatile political symbols in our postmodern political environment.

Within the spatial boundaries of Europe the extent of the transformations has taken many commentators by surprise. The growing role of racist and extreme nationalist social movements in both Eastern and Western Europe is perhaps the most noticeable aspect of these processes (Balibar, 1991; Miles, 1993; Wrench and Solomos, 1993). But it is also important to note that in practice a variety of localised, national and supranational processes have helped to give meaning to the political language of race and ethnicity and to create spaces for new forms of racial and ethnic ‘identity’ (Goldberg, 1993; Gilroy, 1993a). Moreover, it is worth noting that during the past decade we have seen a major transformation in forms of political mobilisation within minority communities, often in directions that have not been fully anticipated.

Race, Politics and Social Change has been written against this background of ongoing change and transformation of the politics of race in Britain and other industrial societies. It provides an account of the development and transformation of political debates about race and ethnicity through an analysis of the changing dynamics of racialised politics in Birmingham and in British society as a whole. Its major concern throughout is to remedy a marked absence in existing research by focusing on the dynamics of race, politics and social change over the past three decades. It is because of this concern that we have chosen to focus specifically on analysing processes of change and political mobilisation.

The book’s key arguments derive from our study of the everyday processes that have produced new forms of political discourse and mobilisation around the issue of race in Birmingham. The focus is therefore on contemporary British

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