In his 1953 novel of ideas, The Outsider, Richard Wright ominously predicted that industrial capitalist society would inexorably result in “the total and absolute in modern life.” Wright did not mean that Soviet communism would prevail, capturing the hearts and minds of Americans. His point was that the West's capitalist democracy was just as capable of slouching toward a dystopian, totalitarian future as the Soviet Union. How might Wright’s prescient thoughts on the death of liberal democracy inform our attempts to save ourselves from the “totalitarian danger” looming in the United States? As multiracial American democracy, voting rights, and the rule of law are under assault from the U.S. far right, it is abundantly clear that anti-Black racism animates the enemies of democracy and those who would establish and support autocratic rule. These reflections seek to historicize the assault on democracy in the US and the epochal events of 2020, including: the global protests following the murder of George Floyd by police; the death of hundreds of thousands in the US during the global Coronavirus pandemic; and concerted efforts by Trump and the far-right to destroy multiracial democracy before and after the 2020 election, culminating in the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
This was originally published on Wiley: Peace & Change: Table of Contents.