W.E.B Dubois liberal collectivism and the effort to consolidate a black elite: an Afro-American response to the development of mass-industrial society and its ideologies in the twentieth century united states
Date of Award
University or Center
Atlanta University (AU)
School of Arts and Sciences
Although DuBois has been the subject of considerable scholarly work, little of that scholarship has concentrated on his political thought. This dissertation addresses that lacuna in the literature on DuBois by analyzing his writings from the standpoint of a concern with their political and philosophical dimensions and their relation to the social and intellectual contexts within which DuBois wrote and acted. Most significant in this research among the contexts within which DuBois' work was constituted are those aspects related to: (1) rise of the corporation as a central organizing force in United States political economy; (2) development of intellectuals as a self-conscious, discernibly interested stratum in twentieth-century American society; and (3) the continuing efforts of elites within the Afro-American population to congeal a social and political agenda for themselves and hegemony over the organization of the race.
This study identifies collectivism as a useful critical concept in interpretation of the intellectual and institutional thrusts of those three elements of the environment of DuBois' theoretical development and points of similarity and confluence among them. Collectivism is seen as a meta-theoretical outlook that values specialized expertise in social decision-making, rational organization and planning and asserts the primacy of the economy in society. To that extent collectivism provides a rubric subsuming the principal ideological stances common among intellectuals during the early decades of this century-i.e., socialism, progressivism, and the varieties of managerialism--and their derivatives.
DuBois' thought is found to demonstrate sharp continuities at the philosophical or meta-theoretical level. These continuities are most significant in his attitudes concerning the nature and purposes of knowledge and the proper organization of society in general and of the Afro-American population in particular, and they resonate with the attitudes of his collectivist contemporaries.
Notwithstanding DuBois' movements into and out of the university and "activism," the Socialist Party, the NAACP, Pan-Africanism and finally the CPUSA, he is found to have maintained throughout his career commitment to: (1) a positivist-pragmatist view of knowledge; (2) a rationalistic, collectivist view of proper social organization, including a preference for meritocracy; and (3) a belief that the elite of "ability" or the "Talented Tenth" should have primacy in and over the Afro-American population.
Reed, Adolph Leonard Jr., "W.E.B Dubois liberal collectivism and the effort to consolidate a black elite: an Afro-American response to the development of mass-industrial society and its ideologies in the twentieth century united states" (1982). ETD Collection for AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library. 2832.