Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics (The National Conference of Black Political Scientists W. E. B. Du Bois Distinguished Book Award for 2012) is the first book-length work to both empirically examine the various claims made about rap and hip-hop’s politics and to critically interrogate the degree to which black popular culture sometimes reproduces rather than contests the neoliberal turn. Combining insightful critique with both qualitative and quantitative analysis, its multi-method approach does the subject matter justice. 

“In Stare in the Darkness, Lester K. Spence brings an essential degree of clarity and precision to our understandings of popular culture and political expression. This book is engaging and nuanced, and it will enrich in an original fashion our understanding of hip-hop as well as black politics.” –Richard Iton

Stare in the Darkess offers brilliant insight into the political realities of contemporary black life. More important, Stare in the Darkness is remixed, chopped, and screwed in ways that hip-hop heads will certainly love and more than a few social scientists will find great value in.” –Mark Anthony Neal

Over the past several years scholars, activists, and analysts have begun to examine the growing divide between the wealthy and the rest of us, suggesting that the divide can be traced to the neoliberal turn. “I’m not a business man; I’m a business, man.” Perhaps no better statement gets at the heart of this turn. Increasingly we’re being forced to think of ourselves in entrepreneurial terms, forced to take more and more responsibility for developing our “human capital.” Furthermore a range of institutions from churches to schools to entire cities have been remade, restructured to in order to perform like businesses. Finally, even political concepts like freedom, and democracy have been significantly altered. As a result we face higher levels of inequality than any other time over the last century.

In  Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics, Lester K. Spence writes the first book length effort to chart the effects of this transformation on African American communities, in an attempt to revitalize the black political imagination. Rather than asking black men and women to “hustle harder” Spence criticizes the act of hustling itself as a tactic used to demobilize and disempower the communities most in need of empowerment.