Critique of Black Reason.


Mbembe, Achille. Critique of Black Reason. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

Achille Mbembe's Critique of Black Reason, translated from French with an insightful introduction by eminent historian Laurent DuBois, is a philosophical study of the meaning of Blackness within its historical development. It examines race as a biological and social phenomenon constructed by, within, and for the benefit of western capitalist traditions. Mbembe asserts the concepts failure to function as an authentic description of humanity in contemporary society. He draws upon a discourse developed in critical race theory using literary and social forms of thought and historical and political analysis of market economies. Mbembe argues that from the time of the western expansion of the Atlantic slave trade in the fifteenth century to the second half of the twentieth century, the mercantilist labor and extractive requirements of Europe's plantation economies and the global colonization and apartheid that followed created and then nurtured the concept of race within the context of mercantilist labor and extractive industries. From these origins, the "subaltern" idea of Blackness was constructed, as was the associated meaning of African as the "other," a degraded form of humanity (35, 37, 45). Thus, Africa and Blackness, Mbembe reasons, today represents "two notions" that "took shape together" during a "long historical process aimed at producing racial subjects" (38).

Mbembe's range of thought is not limited to his critique of global capitalism and the ideas about racial difference that he argues must be attributed to its development. His focus in this work includes the intellectual productions that emerged in response to this development, including what he calls the "politics of Africanity," understood as "an expose of humanity" (87). While the objective of this "black discourse" may be "a final universal destination," its "redeployment of cultural difference," Mbembe argues, problematically "depends upon a racial subject" (88). "This approach, taken up by ideological currents linked to progressivism and radicalism" established "a quasi-identity between race and geography" that was immediately followed by "a cultural identity that flowed from the relationship between the two terms" (91). As a result, "racial authenticity and territoriality were combined, and in such...

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