Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition” as Want to Read:
Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  715 ratings  ·  68 reviews
In this ambitious work, first published in 1983, Cedric Robinson demonstrates that efforts to understand black people's history of resistance solely through the prism of Marxist theory are incomplete and inaccurate. Marxist analyses tend to presuppose European models of history and experience that downplay the significance of black people and black communities as agents of ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published January 24th 2000 by University of North Carolina Press (first published January 24th 1983)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Black Marxism, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Black Marxism

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  715 ratings  ·  68 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent theoretical and historical story about slavery, oppression, Marxism, and an intellectual history of Dubois, Wright and other black radicals. It is like 8 books in one--all of them worth reading. The title does not quite describe what this book is about--it is a critique of Marxism. Marxism was stuck in Feudalistic problems and was Eurocentric. Robinson talks about the state of the world around Europe (the Islamic world and Africa) and how those trends were forgotten even tho ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theory, race
A book of immense scope and impressive in its immensity. It felt absolutely overwhelming as I read it, but going back over it, it feels more like some kind of treasure trove that will continue to yield new things every time you open its cover -- so some initial lengthy yet also paradoxically brief notes...

It begins at the European beginning of Capitalism, going through the rise of the bourgeoisie through first cities, then absolutist and colonial states. As Robinson states: "European civilizatio
Quin Rich
May 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this for fun with a friend who is by far better informed about Marxist theory than I am. Which was important, because although Black Marxism is a rewarding read, it is at times a dense and difficult one.

The argument is that an autonomous, Black radical tradition exists outside of Western Marxism. This book offers an important corrective to hegemonic Western historiography and white Marxism.

However, the author somehow failed to discuss gender or sexuality in any significant way, making f
 Imani ♥ ☮
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to be reading this book for the rest of my life. ...more
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of those extremely rare works of scholarship that towers so high above others that it just about takes your breath away. BLACK MARXISM is in that rare class of books with the power to radically transform one's worldview, and the words one has been using to describe it. Impeccable as a work of historiography, but even more incredible as a work of Marxist theory. ...more
Oct 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: theory
I think that this is sort of a masterpiece, even if I disagree with him in many ways. I interviewed him about this book and other topics around a decade ago (it's online) and the dialogue was extremely fun and informative. ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
lol i usually don't write reviews but for any1 interested - this book was extremely dense as far as the breadth of its historical scope and theoretical analysis (and i have never actually read marx shh...) but i would say if you are at all interested in the history of the Black radical tradition / confused about why Black radicalism and Western socialism often conflict ideologically - reading just the introduction and conclusion of this book will be VERY helpful in condensing centuries of the hi ...more
Sep 06, 2010 rated it did not like it
I first bought this book six years ago, on a whim in leftist bookstore. After a glance at Robin Kelley's introduction, I decided the book was best put aside until I could devote some real time to it. Kelley's description of the book's momentous accomplishment, its range of erudition, and its radical challenge to Marxist theory proved a bit intimidating, and I resolved to return to the work when I could devote the appropriate amount of time to the encounter.

Having just turned the last page, I hav
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I appreciated this as a good faith and thoughtful critique of Marx(ism). So much critique of Marx in Black studies is "Marx never talked about racism!" which is simply not true (although not his primary focus, Marx was very interested in slavery and colonialism). Robinson takes a different approach, beginning by critiquing Marx for not being attentive to the power of nationalism as both a revolutionary and counter revolutionary force. For example, Marx suggests England as a route place for revol ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love this book for the simple fact that he wrote this while teaching at Binghamton University, my alma mater! Most people on the outside don't know this, but BU is a hotbed of radical political theory. Marxists who truly understand the full breadth of post-colonial theory accompanied by anarchism and who have actually taken the time to read Capital are a dying breed. There are maybe a half a dozen people in America who could have written a book like this without selling out to some sort of pet ...more
Paul Crider
This book is worth reading if you want a Black radical critique of Marxism, a wide-spanning history of rebellious movements in the African diaspora, and a history of how three central Black radical figures evolved out of orthodox Marxism to further the Black radical tradition.

Unfortunately the book was mostly lost on me, as I'm not a Marxist or even Marx-adjacent. That said, the history of race and capitalism in the first part of the book was very informative and engaging. But the history of ma
Ai Miller
This is a book I think I would rate higher if I was smarter/had read more of the source material. Robinson is relentlessly thorough, and this is a book I'm going to have to go back through again and again probably to get a real sense of. Nonetheless, I found especially the latter chapters about DuBois, James, and Wright really interesting, and it's made me want to go back and read and reread the works of Wright in particular through a new lens. I'm going to be working through what James means by ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great doesn't even begin to describe this book. It's a shame it isn't more popular in radical & socialist circles.

It starts off tracing historical roots of racism. It is not unique to the era of European & U.S. Colonialism or Capitalism, but has roots throughout humanity's history of conquest & war. There were always groups of people that were othered. Later came the hierarchy of white "races" used to divide them as well as divide them from "colored races" as better than them. Contends that the
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was the first book in the Black History folder that someone put together and shared on Facebook - so it was a free e-book, for me - that I started. It's very intense, and I hoped it would give insight into Marxism from another perspective. Perhaps it was because I was it as an e-book on my laptop that made me stop and start so much, but regardless it was interesting. Par 1 I read straight through, Part 2 I faltered a bit, Part 3 was a bit of both.
I definitely want to re-read it and make no
Joe G
Jun 15, 2020 added it
The first half of this - the deep dive into the development of humankind and interracial relations - was pretty excellent, and overall this book is one of the most well researched things I've read. The chapters on the individuals like DuBois, James and Wright were interesting but structurally it didn't make a whole lot of sense. I'm unsure why he transitioned from speaking about radical slave uprisings and resistence to more academic historians and intellectuals. Whilst their contributions were ...more
210620: haven't started this yet but there's a new episode of millennials are killing capitalism about it if anybody's interested in supplementary materials! definitely moving it up my tbr. ...more
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Still processing, and tbh, I feel I understand what Robinson means by 'racial capitalism' much better than I understand what he means by 'the Black radical tradition, but this is just such a fertile, unique, and intellectually invigorating book. It is dense, and probably suits the needs and interests of social or economic historians more than intellectual or cultural historians, but for me it is extremely valuable. ...more
Julia Ortiz
Nov 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the most incredible and compelling books I've read in the last couple of years. Can't recommend it enough. ...more
Laura McCafferty
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
genuinely a work of art,, such a thorough book which explores so much. took me ages to read as so much is covered (it helps to reread chapters to get a clear picture).
Aug 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Black Marxism is obviously incredible in so many ways. The sheer breadth of its study is astounding. It gives us several crucial arguments still helpful today: the internal character of the emergence of racism to Europe; the torsion by which capitalism reinvigorates feudalism; the rehabilitation of otherwised demonized traditions of African and Black diasporic culture. Robinson rightly takes to task the Marxist tradition for several of its most well known insufficiencies.

But in examining Black
Jul 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, Robinson responds to Eugene Genovese’s supposition “that the [B:]lacks did not establish a revolutionary tradition of much significance,” with a tremendous amount of theory and evidence to the contrary. (176) Robinson suggests rather that it is the refusal of the theoretical ground of Marxist analysis to abide by the reality in which it arises that allows for an poorly formed analytic of political praxis with regard t ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a great study of some of the difficulties that Marxism in the west has had with addressing the problems associated with petit-bourgeois (and IMO labor aristocratic) class consciousness and how they relate to issues of race (which is often directly class). I'm not convinced by the pessimism Robinson has about the project of Marxism in general, largely because there are important traditions in Marxism that have done work in addressing the issues that Robinson raises, they just tend no ...more
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political-theory
Can be revisited over and over. A book that understands the weight of its own force. Kelley's foreword is so beautiful.

"Marx's conceit was to presume that the theory of historical materialism explained history; but, at worst, it merely rearranged history." (xxix)

"This study attempts to map the historical and intellectual contours of the encounter of Marxism and Black radicalism, two programs for revolutionary change. I have undertaken this effort in the belief that in its way each represents a s
J. Turner
Dec 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Western Marxism, in either of its two variants--critical-humanist or scientific--has proven insufficiently radical to expose and root out the racialist order that contaminates its analytic and philosophic applications or to come to effective terms with the implications of its own class origins. As a result, it has been mistaken for something it is not: a total theory of liberation...The Black radical tradition suggests a more complete contradiction."

Cedric Robinson's "Black Marxism" is about t
Omar Orestes
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Cedric Robinson sets out to accomplish two very ambitious tasks. The first is to critique orthodox Marxism and revoke the universal applicability of its ideas and second is to highlight a revolutionary force not considered by Marx and Marxists.

Robinson introduces the concept of racial capitalism. He emphasizes how, from the very beginning, Europe was very much dependent on slave labor for its production and justified its domination/exploitation of "other" Europeans (e.g., Slavs, Roma) by exagger
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: educate-yourself

A little bit of background: I was at a Democratic Socialist of America Meeting where I disagreed with a black woman that capitalism needs racism to function. I'm glad I made that comment to spur her giving me this book that both challenges that notion and a lot more. I must also admit that much of the book's thorough historical references made reading it sometimes difficult since I lack a lot of historical knowledge of the subject, but worth it without a doubt.

Robinson basically gives a relative
L. Hanley
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In light of contemporary history, Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism jumped off my book shelf and straight into my hands. I first read Black Marxism back in the mid-80s when I was gobbling up everything about Marx, Marxism, and capitalism. Then, as now, I was blown away by Robinson's magisterial revision of the history of modern capitalism - - excavating the deep, pre-modern symbiosis of race, capital, and labor. Robinson is guided by Marx's analysis but at the same time "recovers" Africa - - as a ...more
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Robinson describes four myths of Western Marxism that are recognized by the "black radical tradition":

(1) Industrial workers are the locus of revolution under capitalism, not agricultural workers. (pp 183, 209, 230, 314)
(2) White industrial workers in the Global North have more solidarity with workers in colonized nations than with the capitalists in their own nation. (pp 183, 210, 239, 383n84)
(3) Capitalism is a force against nation-states in the long run, not an intrinsically colonial mode of
Mar 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“Western Marxism [...] has proven insufficiently radical to expose and root out the racialist order that contaminates its analytic and philosophic applications or to come to effective terms with the implications of its own class origins. As a result, it has been mistaken for something it is not: a total theory of liberation.” (p.317)

“Harbored in the African diaspora there is a single historical identity that is in opposition to the systemic privations of racial capitalism. Ideologically, it cem
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This & DuBois Black Reconstruction can humble your Germanophile theory-bro pals and provoke a dramatic shift in people's thinking about political concepts and human history. Not actually about Black Marxists or Marxism in Black America but rather a reconsideration of the history of racialized class oppression from before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade arguing that protocapitalist class oppression never existed without racial, ethnic, or national "othering" of oppressed producers. Centers the myt ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Black Skin, White Masks
  • The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
  • Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America
  • How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
  • Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance
  • Discourse on Colonialism
  • Afropessimism
  • In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
  • Caliban and the Witch
  • The Wretched of the Earth
  • Carceral Capitalism
  • Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code
  • Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism
  • Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
  • Anarcho-Blackness
  • Are Prisons Obsolete?
  • The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study
  • Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
See similar books…
Cedric Robinson was a professor in the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He headed the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Political Science and served as the Director of the Center for Black Studies Research.

News & Interviews

  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
49 likes · 9 comments
“Somewhat paradoxically, the more that Africans and their descendants assimilated cultural materials from colonial society, the less human they became in the minds of the colonists.” 6 likes
“I trust you will not be as scared by this word as you were Thursday [Du Bois was referring to the audience’s reaction to a speech by Dr. Broadus Mitchell of Johns Hopkins University]. I am not discussing a coming revolution, I am trying to impress the fact upon you that you are already in the midst of a revolution; you are already in the midst of war; that there has been no war of modern times that has taken so great a sacrifice of human life and human spirit as the extraordinary period through which we are passing today. Some people envisage revolution chiefly as a matter of blood and guns and the more visible methods of force. But that, after all, is merely the temporary and outward manifestation. Real revolution is within. That comes before or after the explosion—is a matter of long suffering and deprivation, the death of courage and the bitter triumph of despair. This is the inevitable prelude to decisive and enormous change, and that is the thing that is on us now. We are not called upon then to discuss whether we want revolution or not. We have got it. Our problem is how we are coming out of it. 67” 5 likes
More quotes…