Left Is Not Woke
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About the Author
"Susan Neiman's powerful new book calls out to everyone who hopes to advance the cause of justice for all. She envisages a progressive movement drawing from the full range of the human family, from people of all classes, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual identities. She urges them to renew the values articulated by Enlightenment thinkers: not to confine human beings by ancestry or biology, not to settle for merely replacing one oppressive regime of power by another, not to abandon the hope of genuine human progress. When those values are discarded, she argues, we acquiesce in important losses. In her characteristically lucid and accessible prose, she exhorts all of us to aspire to more."
Philip Kitcher, Columbia University
"Susan Neiman is one of our most careful and principled thinkers on the genuine left. In this nuanced and impassioned plea for universalism she has done a public service for readers of every political stripe. If an alliance of conservatives, liberals, and progressives is to succeed in fending off an increasingly undemocratic far right, lucid thinking is our only hope. Left Is Not Woke is an urgent and powerful intervention into one of the most pressing struggles of our time."
Thomas Chatterton Williams, Bard College, Contributing writer, The Atlantic
"In these bleak times, Susan Neiman's book arrives as a breath of fresh air. Calmly but fiercely defending the principles of universalism and progress that once defined the left, she gives us a counter to the narrow tribalism that threatens to derail progressive politics."
Vivek Chibber, New York University
"Philosophy, for Susan Neiman, is a martial art. Her sharp argument that woke is not left because left is universalist while woke is progressive-styled tribalism will stir a much-needed debate."
Ivan Krastev, Chair, Centre for Liberal Strategies
"Susan Neiman's provocative book is an impassioned defense against the corrosive particularisms that have eroded solidarity on the left. She argues that we must reclaim the kind of universalism that historically helped to forge diverse coalitions of activists in struggles for progress. To build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world, we need to acknowledge past victories, recognize the contingencies of our present, and embrace a radical politics of hope for our future."
Kristen Ghodsee, University of Pennsylvania
"[I]ncisive ... crucial to the future of the left."
"Let no one confuse what this book has to say with the tired right-wing denunciation of 'identity politics.' The right-wing critique charges promoters of difference and multiculturalism with undermining the shared legacy of the national culture. It is a battle pitting one avowed particularism against another alleged particularism. Left Is Not Woke accuses some trendy voices of the left of a fatal self-betrayal: renouncing the very grounds on which the left has traditionally stood, the concepts and principles in the name of which it has fought its battles and advanced its ends, above all, universalism."
Ato Sekyi-Otu, Emeritus Professor of Social and Political Thought, York University and author of Left Universalism, Africacentric Essays
"Succinct and compelling... Neiman devotes a chapter to each of [the] components of wokeness, laying out their ideological forebears and then skilfully dismantling them.... Neiman's fluid writing carries readers along."
Marx and Philosophy Review of Books
"The flinty, readable Left is Not Woke by Susan Neiman, the director of the Einstein Forum think tank, explores [woke views] usefully... Woke [she writes] 'begins with concern for marginalized persons, and ends by reducing each to the prism of her marginalization... Woke demands that nations and peoples face up to their criminal histories. In the process it often concludes that all history is criminal.' Neiman critiques pioneering texts of this kind of view, And the problem, she adds, is that 'those who have learned in college to distrust every claim to truth will hesitate to acknowledge falsehood.'"
John McWhorter, New York Times
"Provocative, insightful, sure to stir controversy."
Joyce Carol Oates
"Illuminating and thought-provoking."
The Irish Times
"Susan Neiman's aim in Left Is Not Woke is to remind the left of the importance of universalist values. Her clarity of thought and expression, coupled with her beautiful prose, means that this must-read book should be read by everyone concerned with equality and justice."
Stephen Bush, Financial Times
"Neiman's short, punchy, and brilliantly articulated argument is essentially a call for those who regard themselves as being on the left to remember the distinction between skepticism and cynicism."
New York Review of Books
"Like a latter-day Thomas Paine, she is in the first instance pleading for understanding the commitment to social progress and the above-mentioned first principles animating it not as some otherworldly idealism but as common sense."
Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective