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The black rebellions injected a new sense of urgency into the urban crisis and prompted the

corporate elite to reassess its role in handling the problems of the cities.  The strategy evolved by the

corporatists calls for the establishment of a black elite that can administer the ghettos. 

Where possible, black workers will be reintegrated into the economy. 



Books by Floyd W. Hayes, III

A Turbulent Voyage: Readings in African American Studies / Forty Acres and a Mule: The Rape of Colored Americans

*   *   *   *   *

Politics of Knowledge

Black Policy Professionals in the Managerial Age   


By Floyd W. Hayes, III 


A major feature of the evolving managerial society is the expanding roles of formal knowledge and professional experts in the public policymaking process.  The increasing professionalized management of people accompanies this development.  Theorists of managerialism do not agree, however, on the extent to which these roles have expanded.  Hence, competing perspectives about the relationship between knowledge and power in the policymaking process appear in the literature.  Some thinkers hold that in contemporary advanced technological society professional experts dominate the political decision-making process.  Others contend that elected officials are still in control.  The issue remains unclear.

This essay focuses on the roles Black policy specialists and their knowledge play in the public policy deliberation process of America’s developing knowledge-intensive managerial society.  With the coming of the conservative Reagan regime, the 1980s represented a major turning point in American public policy in the form of an assault on the welfare state, which was established during the 1930s New Deal policy agenda of the Roosevelt administration.  The 1980s also witnessed the emergence of Black policy experts as major actors in the public debate about policies designed to handle the problem of poverty in contemporary American society. 

In the past, Black policy intellectuals were largely ignored in the national debate about public policy development.  What is significant about the evolution of the contemporary debate is the ascendancy of a collection of conservative Black policy entrepreneurs and their challenge to liberal policy ideas.   Because of their association with the Reagan regime, these conservative Black policy actors gained public visibility.  My specific aim is to examine critically the debate between some conservative and liberal Black policy intellectuals regarding the complex problem of urban poverty within a changing American social order. 

I will assert that in America’s managerial society, Black professional experts and policy specialists—as members of a rising professional-managerial class—have come to play a major role in influencing the content and contours of the national policy deliberation process by means of their discursive power: argumentation and persuasion.  In the developing managerial order, the importance of mental capacity and the ability to manage the people are challenging the singular authority of money and finance. 

In what follows, I will discuss the ascendancy of managerial society, the growing convergence of knowledge and power in the policymaking process of that society, the debate between conservative and liberal Black policy specialists during the 1980s, and an alternative perspective to the politics of expertise and social management.

The Rise of the Managerial Class

In the United States, the professional-managerial class emerged during the Progressive era at the dawn of the 20th Century.  The development of a core of social engineers devoted to helping and managing the working class and the urban poor served as the basis for the rise of the professions.  Social engineers assumed that the fundamental organization of society was progressive and just, and they viewed education as the major form of human engineering.  Social managers desired a smoothly running, socially efficient, stable social order in which professional management would replace politics; science would replace tradition; and experts would adapt education to the conditions of modern corporate life (Callahan 1962; Tyack 1974; Tyack and Hansot 1982). 

With corporate America’s sponsorship, this new cadre of social engineers sought specialized training and formal accreditation as professionals.  Here is the genealogy of the professional-managerial class of salaried professionals, engineers, managers, administrators, and planners (see Abbott 1988; Ehrenreich 1985; Larson 1977; Reich 1983).  As Gouldner argues, the old moneyed class gave birth to a new cultural class whose capital is specialized knowledge (1979).

As descendants of the old moneyed class, the new cadre of professional managers initially was dependent upon and subservient to its benefactors.  Largely synonymous early on with the old or traditional middle class of independent farmers, small-business men, and self-employed professionals, the members of the emerging professional-managerial class, even those who were social engineers of the working class and the urban poor, maintained a certain attachment to the tradition of rugged individualism.

However, the Great Depression proved to be the definitive event that transformed this development.  The middle classes underwent an ideological change from rugged individualism to New Dealism.  The professional-managerial class embraced an ostensible “reform” of capitalism that was in fact a revolution.  Of course, it was a revolution not in the interest of the working class, but on behalf of the new middle classes themselves.  Efficiency, expertise, and professionalism gained hegemonic ideological power as the professional-managerial class sought the rationalization and regulation of society.

This commences James Burnham’s “managerial revolution”—in the crucible of unparalleled capitalist crisis (Burnham 1941).  This is the historical setting for the development of the self-conscious commitment to large-scale national economic regulation and policy planning, buttressed by the systematic collection of information and the development of national income accounts.  This set of historical forces and political-economic arrangements laid the foundation for the modern liberal welfare state, where the federal government de facto took a free hand in developing various policies and programs to manage the economy and the people.

Governing elites jettisoned Adam Smith’s (1937) minimalist theory of the state and embraced the principle of unlimited state power.  Federal government expansion meant that the welfare state cushioned both the members of the middle and working classes from the exigencies of the capitalist business cycle.  In addition, however, the expansion of the state meant increased employment opportunities for the middle classes, giving them a dual benefit.

Thus, the growth of the public sector provided the professional-managerial class an opportunity to break free of corporate capital’s control.  World War II and, thereafter, the Great Society and civil rights movement constituted further bases for still more dramatic expansion.  The social programs of the 1960s, coupled with various civil rights acts, can be interpreted as a response to black rebellion; and black professionals and managers obtained disproportionately the new positions in the public sector welfare agencies.  Here was the essential source of growth in the black middle class of professionals and managers reported by scholars and journalists in the 1970s (for example, see Brown and Erie 1981). 

As Robert Allen has argued: The black rebellions injected a new sense of urgency into the urban crisis and prompted the corporate elite to reassess its role in handling the problems of the cities.  The strategy evolved by the corporatists calls for the establishment of a black elite that can administer the ghettos.  Where possible, black workers will be reintegrated into the economy.  Those blacks that can’t be absorbed into the work force may be pensioned off on some type of income maintenance program.  

From the corporate viewpoint, this strategy is more efficient, less costly, and more profitable than either traditional welfare statism or massive repression.  With the federal government (i.e., taxpayers) footing the bill, the corporations have all to gain and little to lose (1969: 206).

The combination of the Great Society and civil rights movement took the scope of government beyond the breakthrough achieved by the New Deal.  The judiciary, in particular, took on an activist role in public policymaking, including management of school systems and prison systems (Miller 1982; Shapiro 1979).  The inherent limitlessness of the managerial state was manifest as the politics of expertise came to overtake the politics of money.

The Basis of Professional-Managerial Class Power in a Knowledge Society

During a 1968 Senate hearing on “The Nature of Revolution,” an outline of the new political society was sketched when Senator Claiborne Pell sought confirmation of his interpretation of a paper delivered by Harvard University professor Louis Hartz:  

Another point that struck me was the progress of society as it moves along.  Through your paper I think I detected that you moved from a feudal stage where power is based basically on land, to another stage which is the bourgeois or capitalistic stage, where power is based on the possession of machinery, or the capital with which to buy machinery.  But you left it a little up in the air, because nothing is final, and nothing is permanent as to what the evolution of this trend is.  

Would you agree with Ken Galbraith’s theory that the next stage would be where the possession of mere money per se or ownership is not as important as the mental capacity to provide the direction for the intellectual and managerial estate which is now coming to the fore in our country?  Therefore, it is more and more the managerial and intellectual groups that are the ones that are becoming dominant.  Do you see this trend going on, or do you disagree with this interpretation of your paper (U. S. Senate 1968: 36)?  

Hartz’s response was direct:  “I would not say that that trend is in my paper.  However, that does not mean that I do not believe there is something in that.  I believe that this is and has been a development in American economic life” (U. S. Senate 1968: 36).

The managerial transformation of American society is distinguished by the transition from a capital-intensive economy based on physical resources, which dominated the first half of the 20th Century, to a knowledge-intensive economy based on human resources, which characterizes the last half of the 20th Century to the present.  The principal resource of America’s declining industrial-capitalist economy has been finance capital, invested in industrial plants, machinery, and technologies to increase the muscle power of human labor. 

In the evolving knowledge-intensive economy, the decisive resource is cultural capital: the nation’s investment in and management of education, knowledge, science, computers, and other technologies that enhance the mental capacity of workers (Botkin, Dimancescu, and Stata 1984; Drucker 1969, 1993; Reich 1991; Toffler 1990).  Important now are specialized knowledge, communication skills, the capacity to process and utilize collections of information in organizational decision-making arrangements, and increasingly professionalized approaches to managing people.  

With this expanding role for formal or specialized knowledge, professionals and experts—intellectuals and the technical intelligentsia—have become a “new class” in the public and private spheres, particularly with regard to public policymaking (Bazelon 1971; Derber, Schwartz, Magrass 1990; Ehrenreich and Ehrenreich 1979; Galbraith 1971).

Managerial society’s new power wielders are located in such organizational arrangements as government, elite universities, major policy research institutions, influential policy-planning groups, the mass media, elite law firms, philanthropic foundations, or political action committees (Alford and Freidland 1985; Benveniste 1972; Fischer 1990; Lebedoff 1981; Ricci 1993; Smith 1991).  

The influence of the professional-managerial class comes from the capacity to conceptualize the character of social problems and to design strategies for handling them.  Ensconced in knowledge-managing institutions and organizations, members of the new class also produce and shape ideas and images that direct the cultural, intellectual, and ideological development of the new society (see Smith 1991; Ricci 1993).

The emerging managerial class does not rise to power alone.  To be effective, the new power wielders must be allied to a political, legal, or organizational base.  Their power comes from their access to and their ability to influence policy makers in government and private organizations.  They operate at many levels to influence the intellectual direction, content, and contours of public policymaking.  

They may be policy specialists within the offices of political executives, intellectual activists who appear at local school board hearings, renowned university professors who consult with government officials on important policy matters, policy entrepreneurs whose research findings contribute to major court rulings, or more recently public intellectuals who gain attention through publishing their ideas in leading popular journals of opinion (Darity 1983, 1991; Fischer 1990; Luke 1989; Majone 1988, 1989).

The Convergence of Knowledge and Power: A Theory

There are competing perspectives about the relationship between knowledge and power in the policymaking process of the developing managerial society.  One view argues that in the evolving age of advanced science and technology, knowledge, especially specialized knowledge, dominates the public decision-making process.  This perspective can be summarized in terms of several key propositions: Knowledge in managerial society is an instrument of power.

Social complexity and rapid rates of change have the effect of making pre-existing forms of knowledge and information obsolete—particularly such things as practical experience, common sense, or intuitive judgment. The problems of managerial society require specialized knowledge and information, which establish the primary roles of experts.

The problems of managerial society are thought to be amenable to solution through the application of specialized knowledge and technical expertise.

Because of the technical complexity of most policy decisions, professional experts increasingly are brought into the policymaking process in order to provide specialized information and technical advice. The political power of professional experts increases due to this special role.  Politicians, because they depend upon experts’ knowledge and specialized information, experience an erosion of their political power. In the evolving managerial order, policy experts are agents of change and responsible for societal management.

Policy experts dominate the policy process because they possess knowledge necessary for making difficult technical choices that are inherent in complex public policy issues of managerial or postindustrial society (Bell 1973; Ellul 1964; Gouldner 1979; Harvey 1989; Lapp 1965; Meynaud 1964; Straussman 1978).

An opposing formulation of the social roles of expert knowledge and policy professionals contends that they do not dominate the policymaking process.  Rather, this view argues that the political roles of expertise and policy specialists are limited to the symbolic ratification of politicians’ decisions.  This perspective can be summarized in terms of the following major propositions:

The primary political role of experts is to legitimize policy decisions made by politicians and high-level appointed officials, the real power holders. Major policy alternatives reflect the balance of power within the political system. After making decisions, policymakers often look for ways to legitimize their decisions; hence, they use technical explanations and justifications in order to diffuse conflict. The image of the professional expert who is “above politics” is a useful legitimizing tool.  

Moreover, since they are expendable, specialists serve as convenient scapegoats for policies that have failed (Benveniste 1972; Milban 1980; Roszak 1973).

However, while both sets of propositions appear reasonable and persuasive, they suggest that the expert-politician connection is an all-or-none situation in which either experts or politicians rule.  It may not be that these statements, taken separately, are necessary incorrect; rather, they inadequately describe the complex nature of the interaction between expertise and politics in the policy deliberation process.

What is apparent is that in the evolving managerial society, a new professional-managerial class is gaining increasing authority because of a growing confluence of knowledge and power (see Aberbach, Putnam, and Rockman 1981).  Policy intellectuals provide ideas and concepts for public debate.  They help put the issues in context.  Policy experts make concrete recommendations and affect specifics, but experts seldom are in agreement among themselves (Hayes 1985; Majone 1988, 1989). 

What is clear is that in the policymaking process of managerial society, the power of the professional-managerial class is exhibited not by physical force or financial wealth but by rhetoric, persuasion, data analysis, and argumentation.  The result is a politicization of specialized knowledge or expertise.  This is the case because political leanings among new class members may be left, center, or right; what unites them is a belief in the centrality and utilization of specialized knowledge in the policy process.  

This development was exemplified by the growing significance of neo-conservative, especially a small group of Black neo-conservative, policy entrepreneurs whom the ultra-conservative Reagan administration sponsored in the early 1980s (see The Fairmont Papers 1981; Faryna, Stetson, and Conti 1997; Megalli 1995).

Neo-conservative Policy Discourse in Black

By the end of the 1970s, the liberal social agenda had reached a point of diminishing returns, at least for under-income Blacks.  That is, the two decades of the Great Society’s social welfare measures—specifically, public employment, public assistance, and job training programs—resulted in the growing economic polarization of Black people.  Along side a fledging middle-income group employed as professionals and managers within urban federal social service bureaucracies emerged an increasingly under-income and impoverished urban collectivity who were the clients of the social welfare system.  

Hence, strong evidence suggests that the Great Society’s social service state provided economic advancement for a rising class of Black professional-managers, while linking the historic practice of economic dependency to the contemporary era and applying it to the urban dispossessed (Brown and Erie 1981; Darity 1980; Jones 1992, 1998; Lipsky 1990; Prottas 1979; Westcott 1982).

The 1980 ascendancy of the Reagan regime with its ultra-conservative policy agenda set in motion a practical and ideological assault on social policies and programs associated with the liberal welfare state’s burgeoning federal government (Piven and Cloward 1982).  Utilizing the rhetoric of getting government off the people’s backs, the Reagan forces sought to slash the budgets of the Medicaid, Medicare, and food stamp programs and to terminate the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (America’s New Beginning 1981; Hayes 1982, 1983, 1994).  

It was perhaps the power of the Reagan leviathan’s right-wing political rhetoric and symbolism—the media dubbed Reagan a great communicator—and an emerging budget crisis that helped to interrupt a fragmented and weakened liberal social policy agenda and effectively redirect the American public’s social outlook to the far right with white supremacist overtones (Green 1987; Lashley and Jackson 1994; Reed 1999; Schram 2000; Steinberg 1995; Tullis 1987).

In addition, the persistent growth of urban economic impoverishment provided an opportunity for political elites and policy technocrats associated with the ascendancy of Reaganism to put forward conservative policy prescriptions for handling the worsening predicament of the urban dispossessed.  

Perhaps recalling the controversy surrounding the 1965 Moynihan Report, leading white liberal policy specialists during the 1970s largely ignored researching and discussing problems related to the urban dispossessed, fearing that their observations and findings might be considered as blaming under-income Blacks for being impoverished (see Steinberg 1995; Wilson 1987). 

Traditional liberal Black leaders and policy analysts remained largely wedded to the welfare capitalist state and, therefore, continued to ask for conventional civil rights policies and programs.  In contrast, an emergent group of conservative Black policy rhetoricians, who embraced the Reaganite dream of recapturing the laissez-faire capitalist state, charged that the liberal welfare policies and programs of the 1960s and 1970s not only failed to solve the “underclass” predicament but also exacerbated it (on the contested term “underclass,” see Katz 1993).  

Therefore, these Black neo-conservatives argued that Blacks, not the federal government, should help the Black urban dispossessed escape from moral and economic desperation.

If the discourse of liberal political elites and policy entrepreneurs dominated the conception of the urban crisis and the federal government’s supportive role in the 1960s, a new conservative discursive power came to dominate the 1980s with respect to these matters.  Significantly, the neo-conservative rhetoric about the urban dispossessed changed little, if any, from the traditional conservative perspective put forward in the 1960s.  It is largely the culture-of-poverty thesis, which liberals sought to discredit in the late 1960s and 1970s, resurrected and applied to the contemporary urban poor (see Banfield 1970; Ryan 1970; Valentine 1968). 

Focusing basically on the interrelationship among cultural traditions, family history, and individual character and behavior, conservatives argue that the “underclass” predicament is self-perpetuating.  That is, an impoverished “underclass” family, historically dependent on welfare and structurally unemployed, tends to produce children who lack ambition, a work ethic, and a sense of self-reliance and who participate in anti-social behavior (Auletta 1982; Mead 1986, 1992).  Some conservatives even maintain that the urban dispossessed must be culturally rehabilitated before they can function in civil society (Banfield 1970).

In light of the fact that the urban dispossessed are disproportionately Black and Latino, it should hardly surprise anyone that in the Age of Reaganism, with its ultra-right political and ideological dominance, America witnessed the latest manifestation of Black neo-conservative prominence within the ranks of the professional-managerial elite as a result of the Reagan regime’s sponsorship.  Representative of this rising nucleus of Black neo-conservatives were economists Thomas Sowell and Glenn Loury, who challenged the orthodoxy of liberal policy ideas. 

In contrast, Black sociologist William J. Wilson, a self-described neo-liberal, sought to articulate a new liberal perspective about the urban dispossessed.  Consistent with the managerial argument put forward earlier, it should be noted that what augmented the power and visibility of their pronouncements is the significant fact that each of these policy specialists was associated with elite knowledge-producing institutions.  In what follows, I will examine critically the neo-conservative analyses and prescriptions put forward by Sowell and Loury, as well as Wilson’s self-styled neo-liberal response.

Thomas Sowell, a prolific economist and scholar at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution, had long-standing conservative credentials that predated the coming of Reaganism.  However, he remained a largely obscure policy intellectual until the 1980 election when he emerged as a leading conservative figure in the national debate about social policy.  Significantly, it is because Sowell and his ideas were ideologically compatible with the conservative power of the Reagan regime that he gained considerable attention among governing elites, other policy intellectuals, and highly knowledgeable sectors of the lay public (Van Dyne 1985).

Sowell argued that Blacks actually would fare better in the long run under the Reagan administration’s socioeconomic policies and programs.  To the problem of Black inequality, Sowell insisted that the most appropriate solution was a program of laissez-faire capitalism plus rugged individualist initiative.  He asserted that racial discrimination does not explain adequately the substantial economic difference between Blacks and white Americans in particular, or between non-white American natives and the numerous American ethnic groups of European origin in general. 

Furthermore, according to Sowell, racism does not explain sufficiently why Black Caribbean groups are substantially more represented in the professional class than native Black Americans or why their education, income, and home ownership surpass those of native Black Americans.  Consistent with my earlier characterization of the conservative thesis, Sowell argued that the cause of “underclass” development was associated with cultural patterns, family background, and individual norms and behavior.  

In his view, Blacks born into poor families with a long history of welfare dependency may, in the absence of strong personal qualities, fail to acquire ambition, a work ethic, and a sense of personal worth and independence (Sowell 1975, 1981).

Sowell subscribed to and recommended the view that the great multitude of poor Blacks “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”  Contradicting history, real or fictionalized, he emphasized supposed past similarities between native Black Americans and European immigrants, leaving aside the reality that the former originally were brought to America involuntarily and largely stripped of the essential factors that underlie positive human development. 

Sowell overlooked the dehumanizing process of enslavement, which sought systematically to construct captured Africans and their American descendants as a class of sub-humanity; destroy African families, nations, and societies; deny enslaved Blacks literacy and education; exploit slave labor and make chattel slaves economically dependent; and deny Blacks all political and organizational rights (see Blackburn 1997; Blassingame 1972; Patterson 1982, 1998; Stampp 1956; Tannenbaum 1946; Williams 1944). 

In contrast to Sowell’s perspective, substantial scholarship evidences the fact that there has been an historic difference between the status of native Black Americans and European or other immigrants, even following the civil rights legislation of the 1960s (see W. D. Borrie et al 1959; Cox 1959; Feagin 2000; Schermerhorn 1970; Steinberg 1981).

Therefore, and consistent with his free market philosophy, Sowell criticized anything that limited individual choice.  His views can be briefly itemized.  First, he opposed government intervention into economic affairs.  Second, he attacked the minimum wage law, suggesting that it increased unemployment, particularly for Black youth.  In addition, Sowell argued that the minimum wage degraded Blacks and prevented them from gaining important employment experience and advancement.  Third, Sowell attacked the policies and practices of affirmative action as ambiguous and ineffectual (Sowell 1980).

Thomas Sowell was a leading neo-conservative Black policy entrepreneur just prior to and during the beginning of the Reagan presidency.  Economics professor Glenn Loury, (then of Harvard University and now Boston University) became the most vocal and visible right-wing Black policy specialist in the middle and last years of the Reagan regime.  But for a series of personal indiscretions, Loury would have received an influential appointment in the Department of Education during the Reagan administration.  

Loury proved to be one of the most outspoken neo-conservative Black policy rhetoricians in the discourse on the urban disenfranchised, the limits of the federal government to solve this complex problem, and the self-help responsibility of the Black middle class (see Loury 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987).

As with his neo-conservative colleagues, Loury was concerned with the Black community’s “underclass” predicament—the growing frequency of inner-city teenage pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, single-parent households, welfare dependency, joblessness, and crime.  

What was required, according to Loury, was the transformation of a constellation of strong-held “underclass” attitudes, values, and beliefs about sexual relationships, pregnancy, and childbearing.  He observed that peer group and community norms in the inner city played a significant role in the reproduction of “underclass” conditions. 

Loury challenged the Black middle class to interrupt and redirect the conditions that perpetuated the “underclass” dilemma.  He declared: “The condition of values, attitudes, and beliefs of African American youngsters who produce children for whom they cannot provide must be addressed; and, those aspects of government policy which reinforce, or reward, such values must be publicly questioned” (Loury 1986: 10).

A central theme in Loury’s discourse was the need to redefine the agenda for Black social development, focusing squarely on improving the life chances for the Black poor.  Loury asserted that liberal social welfare policies and programs worsened the problems within this sector of the Black population.  Therefore, he maintained that only the community itself could and should solve its own social difficulties.  

Severely criticizing traditional Black civil rights leaders and liberal political elites for avoiding public discussion of the need to change norms and values which he perceived as perpetuating urban poverty, Loury challenged Black leaders and professional-managerial elites to provide the moral leadership in the transformation of the Black community.  After all, he asserted, they and not the Black masses benefited from the Great Society’s welfare state policies and programs.

Loury advanced an agenda of Black self-help that focused on the moral and material redemption of the Black masses.  He called for the complete emancipation from Black civil rights and political elites who continued to beg for government handouts that, according to Loury, doomed the Black masses to permanent dependency.  

Although Loury acknowledged that the federal government could play a role, he urged that to eradicate the worst aspects of Black urban impoverishment, Black business, academic, and political elites should play the major role.  In Loury’s view, they needed to provide the moral and institutional leadership and develop the requisite and realistic economic program of action necessary to foster a sense of self-confidence and optimism among poor Blacks (Loury 1985, 1987).

Managerial Neo-liberalism in the Age of Reaganism

During the Reagan years, as previously described, dominant public discourse about urban poverty shifted considerably to the far right in order to focus on the behavior and attitudes of the urban dispossessed.  In the view of neo-conservative Black policy entrepreneurs, the “underclass” predicament resulted from a “culture of poverty” characterized by self-reproducing pathologies. 

To counter the mean-spirited assertions by Black neo-conservatives, sociologist William J. Wilson (then of the University of Chicago and now of Harvard University), a self-styled neo-liberal, attempted to shape an alternative social policy discourse that he hoped would be more humane.  In his book, The Truly Disadvantaged, Wilson sought to “address the problems of the ghetto underclass in a comprehensive analysis” and to “spell out, in considerable detail, the policy implications of that analysis” (1987: vii).

Wilson argued that historical discrimination and a migration to large metropolises that kept the “underclass” Black and Latino populations relatively young created a problem of weak labor force participation among them and, especially since 1970, made them particularly vulnerable to the industrial and geographical shifts in the American economy.  

The transition from the goods-producing economy of the industrial era to the service-producing economy of the postindustrial or managerial era, the increasing polarization of the labor market into low-wage and high-wage sectors, innovations in technology, the relocation of manufacturing industries out of central cities, and periodic recessions drove up the rate of Black and Latino unemployment, despite the passage of anti-discrimination legislation and the creation of affirmative action programs. 

According to Wilson, the rise of urban joblessness set in motion an increase in the concentrations of poor people, a growing number of poor female-headed families, a rise in teenage pregnancy, an increase in welfare dependency, and mounting crime.  He noted that these problems have been especially evident in inner-city neighborhoods of large cities, not only because the most impoverished Blacks and Latinos live there but also because the neighborhoods have become less diversified in a way that has severely worsened the impact of the continuing transformation of the economy.

Wilson pointed out that especially since 1970, inner-city neighborhoods have experienced an out-migration of working- and middle-class families previously confined to them by the restrictive covenants of higher-status city neighborhoods and suburbs.  Combined with the increase in the number of poor caused by rising joblessness, this out-migration has sharply concentrated the poverty in inner-city neighborhoods. 

The number of poverty rates that exceed 40 percent—a threshold definition of “extreme poverty” neighborhoods—has risen accordingly.  The dwindling presence of middle- and working-class households also has removed an important social buffer that once deflected the full impact of the kind of prolonged high levels of joblessness in these neighborhoods that results from uneven economic growth and periodic recessions.

In earlier decades, Wilson wrote, not only were most of the adults in segregated communities employed, but Black and Latino working and middle classes also brought neighborhood stability.  They invested economic and social resources in their communities, patronized the churches, stores, banks, and neighborhood organizations, sent their children to the local schools, reinforced societal norms and values, and made it meaningful for lower-class Blacks in these segregated enclaves to envision the possibility of some upward mobility.

However, Wilson argued, contemporary inner cities feature a population, the “underclass,” whose primary predicament is joblessness reinforced by growing social isolation.  Out-migration has decreased the contact between groups of different class and racial backgrounds and thereby concentrated the adverse effects of living in impoverished community.  These concentration effects, reflected, for example, in the residents’ self-limiting social dispositions, have been created by inadequate access to jobs and job networks, the lack of involvement in quality schools, the unavailability of suitable marriage partners for Black women, and the lack of exposure to informal mainstream social networks and traditional Black role models. 

Wilson concluded that these constitute the structural forces and conditions that have resulted in the growth and development of a self-perpetuating “underclass.”

Accordingly, Wilson asserted, in The Truly Disadvantaged and later in When Work Disappears (1996) that the factors associated with the increases in inner-city social dislocation are complex and complicated.  They cannot be reduced to the easy explanations of a “culture of poverty” that have been advanced by those on the right, or simply of racism, posited by those on the left.  Although the inner city is a product of historical racism and although present-day racism has undoubtedly contributed to the deepening social and economic crisis of its residents, to understand the dramatic expansion of these problems requires the specification of a complex web of other factors, including the postindustrial or managerial transformation of the American economy.

Wilson’s explanation of urban impoverishment in the new age of knowledge, science, and technology received much attention from the media and government, liberal politicians and policy specialists, and informed sectors of the lay public.  Significantly, his analysis was closely aligned or compatible with the neo-conservative perspective.  Conservatives tend to view social difficulties and their solutions in personal or individual terms; liberals tend to see social problems and their solutions as structural or societal. 

Hence, conservatives seek to change the individual, and liberals want to change aspects of the social structure.  Very similar to neo-conservative policy entrepreneurs Thomas Sowell and Glenn Loury, Wilson viewed impoverished Black urban communities as largely pathological, characterized by high levels of female-headed households, out-of-wedlock births, teenage pregnancies, crime, etc.  For neo-conservatives, as discussed above, the decisive factor is the role of individual attitudes and values in shaping the initial responses of “underclass” members to social and economic conditions. 

Notwithstanding his differences with neo-conservatives on whether labor-market shifts, changes in Black expectations, or a combination of the two factors were originally responsible for the growth of the “underclass,” Wilson’s analysis of the contemporary predicament placed substantial emphasis on the role of individual attitudes and values.  He insisted that the social isolation of inner-city life “generates behavior… associated with a life of casual work (tardiness and absenteeism)” (1987: 60). 

These norms develop, in Wilson’s view, because urban Blacks live in communities in which most families lack a steadily employed breadwinner.  Young Black women find out-of-wedlock childbearing acceptable.  For Wilson, it was not a culture of poverty but social isolation that generated these negative norms and responses to economic conditions.  Although Wilson admitted that cultural traits are significant dimensions of behavior, he insisted that social isolation can be reversed through appropriate changes in public policy and improved economic opportunities. 

Here, Wilson argued for changes not in the individual as do conservatives but, rather, in the social conditions that affect poor Black people’s lives.  On the question of improving the life chances for the urban Black dispossessed, Wilson’s neo-liberal perspectives proved to be ambivalent, at best, and neo-conservative, at worst.

To handle the “underclass” predicament, Wilson argued that universal—as opposed to race-specific or income targeted—policies were likely to be more effective.  Race-specific policies—whether they call for equal opportunity or for preferential treatment—tend to aid the more advantaged members of the Black community, since only they can qualify for preferred positions.  

Although affirmative-action programs have assisted some less advantaged Blacks obtain employment in law enforcement, construction work, and craft jobs in large companies, Wilson stated that members of the urban “underclass” are severely underrepresented among those who actually benefit from such programs.  Income-targeted program, he asserted, lack long-term political support by whites and have too marginal an impact on the employment opportunities for inner-city Black men.

Wilson, thus, called for implementing policies that would appeal to the more advantaged groups of all races or nationalities in America, but that would have an especially large impact on the inner-city “underclass.”  He advocated the adoption of the Western European model of social policy, whose major elements are full employment and a national labor-market strategy, perhaps involving training programs integrated with the education system very much like apprenticeships.  

Wilson also proposed other broad-based programs, such as child-care credits, assure child-support payments, and family assistance.  Despite his criticism of race-specific and income-targeted programs, Wilson wanted to maintain these programs, but more effectively implemented.

Wilson’s policy prescriptions were persuasive to largely white neo-liberal and neo-conservative policy watchers and policymakers; he came under heavy criticism from most Black, especially Black left leaning, scholars.  Significantly, Wilson’s discussion did not draw on policy lessons from past American and Western European experiences. 

In a 1988 critique of The Truly Disadvantaged, radical political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. (then of the University of Illinois-Chicago and now of the New School for Social Research), argued that Wilson’s policy agenda failed to deal adequately with three critical problems.  First, it did not appear that Wilson’s policy proposals would substantially improve life chances for the urban dispossessed.  Wilson seemed to think that merely by improving Black male job options Black families would become stronger, encouraging delinquent fathers to contribute more to their children’s care and development.

Yet, improvements in employment possibilities would not necessarily override the much more lucrative potentialities of the underground economy.  Additionally, Reed reasoned, it was not certain that improved employment prospects for young Black men would be sufficient enough to deter gang members from attempts to dominate inner-city schools and streets.

A second difficulty Reed found with Wilson’s policy prescriptions was the possible conflict between achieving full employment without inflation and adding universal programs to the existing array of income-tested programs.  Wilson was not attentive to the major objection to universal programs—their high costs.  More importantly, he did not realize that only a few of the small Western European welfare states have been able to maintain both a full-employment economy and a good social-welfare system.

Reed’s third problem with Wilson was the sociologist’s failure to consider the political dimension of his argument.  This permitted Wilson, argued Reed, to subsume race neatly into the category of economic dynamics.  In short, Wilson overlooked the politicization of race in the affirmative policy apparatus.  

Careful analysis of the spatial colonization of American cities makes it impossible to distinguish purely racial from purely economic imperatives.  Heavily Black labor markets were assumed to be plagued by low skill levels and poor “work habits”; sections of land occupied by urban Blacks were underutilized and ripe for redevelopment because the presence of impoverished populations tended to lower market values.  Wilson himself noted that numbers of low-skill jobs were increasing nationally but not in those cities where “underclass” members were concentrated. 

In this context, the race/class debate was beside the point, according to Reed, because it ignored that the logic of markets is socially and politically constructed and that race enters into social and economic life in complex and indirect ways.  Racial subordination is reproduced through the impersonal operation of markets—with or without active anti-Black racism. 

Reed acknowledged that Wilson did correctly observe that racism—a notion that implies individual instances of prejudice and discrimination—did not explain the “underclass” predicament; however, like his neo-conservative antagonists, Wilson did accept a perspective that viewed only the alternatives of explicit white supremacy and color-blind structural forces as explanations for Black economic subordination.  This is in part because Wilson did not see that history is made by human action.  Contrary to the imputations of some left-leaning policy intellectuals, Wilson’s argument did not juxtapose race and class but race and economics, which he treated as beyond the scope of social intervention.

In this regard, Wilson’s apolitical approach seemed to view the urban dispossessed as objects of managerial problem-solving strategies.  Defined by Wilson as an urban “underclass,” members of the permanently poor appeared incapable of changing their circumstances; they were not agents of social change and, thus, could play no role in human affairs. 

Wilson’s conception of class was limited and ahistorical.  This allowed him to misread the racial and class dimensions of Black insurgence in the 1960s—when the Black professional-managerial class sought to contain and manage grassroots Black rebellion and opposition to a variety of national urban policy betrayals, such as urban renewal and the decline of quality education in inner-city public schools. 

Ultimately, Reed concluded, Wilson’s approach to policy discourse for improving the life chances of urban disinherited Blacks is managerial or technocratic (Reed 1988).

Conclusion: Managerial Challenge to Democratic Practice

What are the implications of the kind of elite policy discourse examined in this paper?   The expanding political role of policy specialists generally, and Black policy professionals specifically, demonstrates the increasing politicization of expertise in the policy discourse of America’s evolving managerial society.  Whether right, left, or center, policy experts—as members of the professional-managerial class—believe in the central importance of knowledge in the policymaking process.  They seek to shape the issues, define the problems, and prescribe solutions. 

Policy specialists seek to influence governmental policymaking by means of communication: rhetoric, persuasion, data analysis, and argument through publishing and speaking (Majone 1989).  This is a major dimension of political dynamics in the contemporary period.  Policy experts align themselves with organizational and ideological bases of power.  Neo-conservative policy entrepreneurs Thomas Sowell and Glenn Loury had political and ideological support from the powerful, ultra-right Reagan regime.  Sowell, Loury, and Wilson were associated with and spoke from the pedestal of powerful, elite universities.  Along with mass media attention, these Black policy professionals became prominent actors in the national debate about social policies directed at the urban poverty crisis during the 1980s and beyond.

In America’s increasingly knowledge-intensive society, expertise has become a key commodity for political policymaking and the professional management of people.  As this paper suggests, a fundamental characteristic of the policy deliberation process is a struggle to assert one definition of a problem over another.  The ability to control the definition of a problem is a major political resource in the determination of public policy. 

Power, in the policymaking process, is a function of the extent to which the management of others is accomplished by getting them to accept the power wielder’s views and perspectives about social reality.  “This is achieved by controlling, influencing, and sustaining your definition of the situation since, if you can get others to share your reality, you can get them to act in the manner you prescribe” (Hall 1972: 51). 

When it comes to policymaking, as Edelman asserts, “it is not the facts that are crucial, but language forms and socially cued perceptions” (Edelman 1977: 85.  See also Froman 1992). 

The discursive battle between neo-conservative and neo-liberal Black policy professionals, as discussed in this paper, demonstrated this theoretical perspective.  On the one hand, Thomas Sowell and Glenn Loury defined the “underclass” predicament in individual terms and relied on a culture of poverty explanation.  On the other hand, Wilson  defined the problem in more structural terms and relied on a much more complex argument about spatial confinement and postindustrial or managerial economic transformation. 

Even so, Wilson’s self-styled neo-liberal policy ideas proved to be nearly as conservative as those of his right-wing proponents, suggesting that neo-liberalism is conservatism with a sympathetic face.  Given the power of the Reagan regime’s political ideas and policy agenda, together with its war against the liberal welfare state, it is not surprising that the neo-conservative (and neo-liberal) assault on affirmative action and welfare policies has continued into the 21st Century (see Katz 2001; Meeropol 2000; Reed 1999).

The politics of managerial society, a virtual politicization of knowledge and expertise, necessarily marginalizes meaningful citizen participation (see Fischer 2000).  This development has had the most severe consequences for urban Black communities, which historically have been largely powerless.  In view of these circumstances, it is widely recognized that a major challenge to democratic theory and practice is the need to bring ordinary citizens back into the policymaking process (see DeSario and Langton 1987; Fischer 1990, 2000; Wilinsky 2000). 

The role of citizens in the United States of America has been increasingly weakened by the growth of powerful institutions—both public and private—where members of the professional-managerial class are lodged and where they shape policy agendas beyond the view of ordinary citizens.  In the evolving social order, the political ascendancy of policy intellectuals and professional experts exacerbates the disempowerment of citizens.  Indeed, power is exercised at the expense of the people.

This obstruction to citizen participation largely is a structural dimension of the increasing complexity of policy problems in managerial society.  Complexity demands expertise.  Professional experts and policy intellectuals gain increasing authority and autonomy (Brint 1994).  It also is a function of the mystifying technical discourse or language that serves—often intentionally—to intimidate those who attempt to contest or deliberate with professional experts (Forester 1989; Gouldner 1979; Hummel 1983). 

In short, this is one of the critical issues facing the future of democracy in the new age of knowledge, science, and technology.  Any credible theory of democratic practice needs to consider seriously the possibility of democratizing the mechanisms that integrate scientific expertise and political discourse.  Professional experts, and the powerful knowledge institutions to which they belong, are today clearly working in the interest of an elitist rather than a democratic political society.  More and more, policy professionals are being trained to become agents of a new system of technocratic power (Silva and Slaughter 1984).  In the new society, knowledge is used increasingly not for citizen participation but for social management.

The alternative to managerial politics is a reconstitution of the organization, mobilization, and power of ordinary citizens, particularly Blacks and Latinos at the level of local communities.  This means a renaissance in Black and Latino activism, initiative, self-reliance organizations, community-based development and service-delivery programs, political lobbying and policy advocacy efforts, and direct action political protest groups. 

In a knowledge-driven managerial polity, citizen activists and community leaders themselves need to view knowledge as a key resource in their efforts to resist the power of policy experts, the managerial-class, and of the institutions they represent.  In a manner of speaking, Black and Latino community activists will need to become policy analysts and advocates in order to put forward their own policy agendas for achieving social justice and to hold policy professionals accountable and to make them responsive to the people’s needs (see Fischer 1990, 2000; Schram 2000).  

As an additional strategy to challenge managerial power, community groups can also employ their own policy specialists in order to assert a counter-discourse that challenges and resists the power of professional-managerial policy entrepreneurs (see Hayes 1985). 

Indications are that politics and policymaking in America’s evolving managerial estate may be increasingly repressive, elitist, and anti-democratic (Fischer 2000).  In response, there is a growing cynical disillusionment among the people about the role of professional experts and policy technocrats, along with mounting distrust of government and other social institutions (Goldfarb 1991; 1998).  

In the face of increasing multitudes of impoverished and unwanted urban residents, the new social order is rapidly becoming a garrison-prison state, which is characterized by the increasing militarization of the police, the dramatic growth of prisons, and the unrestrained police murder and incarceration of Blacks and Latinos (see Donner 1990; Garland 2001; James 1996; Lasswell 1941; Parenti 1999). 

These developments, along with the expanding roles of policy intellectuals and the increasing politicization of expert knowledge, also signal the managerial imperative—the coming of an increasingly fragmented, nihilistic, and repressive society.  The new politics of policymaking is witnessing an increasing nexus between professional policy specialists and professional politicians—a veritable convergence of knowledge and power—which appears to dominate, monopolize, and manipulate the dynamics of public policy discourse. 

This springs from the growing complexity of social problems and the demand for expertise.  The great threat of the managerial polity is to the belief in and practice of democracy itself.  If there is to be a democratic society in America’s future, the role and responsibility of policy experts and their specialized knowledge cannot be to manage the people but to improve the quality of public discourse by probing assumptions, raising issues, and thereby helping the people to consider different formulations of problems and a wider set of possible solutions (Majone 1988, 1989).

Policy intellectuals need to become not servants of the powerful few but representatives of the silenced masses; policy intellectuals must become dissenters who speak truth to power (Said 1994). In the final analysis, knowledge must have a more public value and role so that the people can decide their own future (Willinski 2000).  As we stand at the dawn of the new millennium, a burning question is whether industrial-capitalism and American democracy can survive an increasingly technocratic, elitist policymaking process that more and more defines the managerial age.

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The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country's race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury's claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington's political outlook on race. The group's respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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