Social Justice Movements in a Liminal Age

By Bhargava, Deepak | Poverty & Race, May/June 2012 | Go to article overview

Social Justice Movements in a Liminal Age


Bhargava, Deepak, Poverty & Race


Liminal - 1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process; 2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold

Introduction

The brief, ecstatic Obama-centered period of 2008-2010 seems to resist all of the stories that have since been spun about it, from triumphant narratives of transformation, to angry jeremiads of betrayal of the progressive cause, to the apocalyptic stories of national ruin that animate the Right. In sober hindsight, it looks more like an opening chapter than a climax: a period in which a few major, hardfought breakthroughs that will tangibly improve people's lives were won; many opportunities were squandered, and many crises were left unaddressed; no grand ideological re-alignment occurred; and the social justice movement overall did honorable work, but struggled to make the most of an extraordinary moment.

I remember vividly now a moment in the heady days after the 2008 election, when some heralded the triumphant return of a Rainbow Coalition that might produce a lasting progressive governing majority. A close aide and friend to the President said to me that in his view nothing fundamental about American politics and society had changed, other than that there would be a new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and that it would be a mistake to over-read the election results, as many were doing. The balance of power among contending social forces in America was not essentially altered. Most Americans who voted for and against Obama, contrary to what ideologues of both left and right like to believe, subscribe to no coherent doctrine of any kind and are capable of holding utterly contradictory opinions without discomfort. There had been no tectonic shift in ideological underpinnings. And whatever one chooses to believe about the underlying commitments of the President, it is indisputable that he was elected by himself, not with legions of Members of Congress sworn to his or any agenda. In other words, we have gotten pretty much what might be expected, given the prevailing social conditions, political institutions and ideological contours of the country.

The achievements of this periodthe largest expansion of anti-poverty programs and the largest expansion of the New Deal state in 40 years- were far from trivial in policy terms. They were achieved largely through disciplined, hard-fought ground campaigns which have not received the appreciation or recognition they deserve, perhaps understandably so, given the period of backlash that followed. It is notable that what was achieved in policy terms was hi no way accompanied by a story that has stuck- and if there is a great failure of both the Obama Administration and the Left in this period, it has been (until Occupy!) a failure of story-telling.

That this period was brought to an abrupt end by the Tea Party, virulent right-wing populism and its electoral expression in 2010 also raises the questions about whether the country is now in for a lasting period of backlash and whether the hopes raised in 2008 were altogether unjustified.

It may be that the arc of the story is hard to decipher because we are still in the opening chapters. We are, I would argue, in a liminal period- a confusing, contradictory and highly unstable period of transition in which many futures are now possible- and aspects of those very different futures are manifest in our present. The confluence of the economic crisis, demographic change, and the radicalization of the Right have created a highly volatile situation, and we are probably not done lurching back and forth between the futures presaged by the elections of 2008 and 2010. Neither the hope for an inclusive, just world nor the prospect of a brutally unequal and racialized one are fantastical - they are both here, right now.

Perhaps what is most striking about the present moment is the extent to which, after such wild swings in the public debate, nothing definitive about our country's trajectory is yet decided. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Social Justice Movements in a Liminal Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.