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.
In this provocative study, Lester Spence opens the conversation about how black politics and the black community have been affected by the market-driven logic of neoliberalism. He at once gives us an understanding of the modern origins of the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore against social injustice and inequality and the relative advantage of educated blacks who can accrue so-called human capital. By situating black politics in the thick of the global crisis of economic and social inequality, Spence, rather than offering us bootless solutions, has set viable parameters for understanding and addressing problems that transcends racial and national boundaries. Those seeking to understand the crisis and the movement this time must read Knocking the Hustle. ~Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, author of Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996
Neoliberalism is the greatest political sleight of our time. Knocking the Hustle makes it plain. Drawing from political economy and personal crisis, Spence diagnoses the economic pains and existential threats neoliberalism poses for Black lives (and all others) in urban America. Why? To help us convert truth to power to knock neoliberalism off its pedestal. ~Michael Leo Owens, Emory University, author of God and Government in the Ghetto: The Politics of Church-State Collaboration in Black America
Lester K. Spence’s Knocking the Hustle is the book many of us have long been waiting for. Spence analyzes contemporary racism through the lens of hardnosed political-economic critique while offering a radical interpretation of neoliberalism that accounts for the structuring forces of whitesupremacy. Brilliantly caustic and eminently readable, Knocking the Hustle unravels the culture of insecurity, precarity, and dismal entrepreneurialism that has marked out the terrain of Black political life in a world completely turned over to the market. Necessary reading. —The Public Archive