Toward the end of World War II, scholars and writers reeling from the politics of racism stressed the unity of humankind, but by the early 1970s, dominant voices proclaimed ongoing diversity—sometimes irreconcilable antagonism—among human cultures. To study this transition from universalism to cultural particularism, Richard King focuses on the arguments of major thinkers, movements, and traditions of thought, attempting to construct a map of the ideological positions that were staked out and an intellectual history of this transition.

King’s range is international, from North American and European concerns, to the Negritude movement of Africa and the Caribbean, to arguments raised at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. And his comparisons embrace a diversity of subjects, such as anti-Semitism and anti-black racism, and political, psychological, and sociological models of oppression, accommodation, and resistance. This study explores the intellectual roots of current debates over such topics as affirmative action, multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and humanism. Among thinkers who receive sustained attention are Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Bruno Bettelheim, Harold Cruse, Stanley Elkins, Ralph Ellison, Frantz Fanon, E. Franklin Frazier, Raul Hilberg, Max Horkheimer, C. L. R. James, Albert Memmi, Albert Murray, Gunnar Myrdal, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Richard Wright.

Richard H. King is a professor of American intellectual history at the University of Nottingham. He is the author of Civil Rights and the Idea of Freedom and the editor, with Helen Taylor, of Dixie Debates: Perspective on Southern Cultures. He was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 1997–1998.



Part. I. Analyzing Racism and Anti-Semitism
1. Race, Caste, and Class: Myrdal, Cox, and Du Bois
2. Jean-Paul Sartre and the Creation of the Jew
3. The Europeanization of American Prejudice: Adorno and Horkheimer
4. Hannah Arendt: Race, History, and Humanism

Part II. Modernization and Dominated Cultures
5. African American Culture and the Price of Modernization
6. Culture, Accommodation, and Resistance I: Rethinking Elkins’s Slavery
7. Culture, Accommodation, and Resistance II: The Eichmann Trial and Jewish Tradition

Part III. The Triumph of Cultural Particularism
8. From Roots to Routes: Wright and James
9. Negritude, Colonialism, and Beyond
10. The Cultural Turn: Rediscovering African American Culture in the 1960s



“In his readings and critique of Arendt, Adorno, Horkheimer, Myrdal, Cox, DuBois, Frazier, Negritude, and the Black Arts movement King displays a dazzling range of erudition. No historian so far has drawn together an analysis of these diverse scholars and social movements and shown their interconnectedness and divergences. King gets an A+ in my book for breadth of conceptualization and ability to handle so many intellectual trends cogently."—Clarence E. Walker, Professor of History, University of California, Davis

“A sophisticated description and analysis of traditions of thought during a period when notions of race were under intense reconsideration.”—Jewish Book World

“A deeply researched and valuable account of some of the most troubling questions of the second half of the twentieth century.”—John P. Jackson Jr., Journal of Southern History

“Covers such widespread terrain and does so in such a compelling fashion. If you are looking for an overview of the key thinkers and debates about racism and antisemitism in the aftermath of the Holocaust…the essential starting point is this book.”—Jonathan Judaken, Patterns of Prejudice