Andrew Jackson and the modern subject

Is racism a necessary part of the modern gestalt? Yes, say Mignolo, Denise da Silva, and my friend Nicky, each in their own way, and now Greg Grandin.

Writing in the Nation, he argues that racism is at the center of American individualism: individual rights were defined by racial domination. Andrew Jackson is his key example. NOTE that Jackson defended “small government” along with slavery, saw them as going together.

Grandin: the individual rights people are so opposed to social rights that a history of the country could be written in terms of that tension; this explains why racism is such an intractable problem (since the individual rights people base these partly on race). The individual rights people have waged a total war to keep social rights at bay, and this has become a cultural identity (so losing any ground individual rights feels like getting killed).

Individual rights absolutism got entrenched in white political culture during the age of Jackson, Grandin says. (Is “freedom” actually code for white men enjoying impunity and getting stuff?) The Freedmen’s Bureau was a antidote to that, but note that in Europe, the response to 19th century wars and struggles was to actually get some form of welfare/health; note also that Montesquieu’s rights weren’t all property rights.


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