Adolph Reed What Are the Drums Saying

Adolph Reed: What Are the Drums Saying

Adolph Reed is a prominent political scientist and professor known for his critical analysis of race and class in American society. In his thought-provoking essay, “What Are the Drums Saying,” Reed delves deep into the issues of identity politics and its impact on social movements. Through his incisive critique, he challenges the prevailing narratives that prioritize symbolic representation over material change.

Reed begins highlighting the increasing emphasis on identity politics within progressive movements. While acknowledging the importance of recognizing and addressing social inequalities, he argues that the current focus on identity has detracted from the pursuit of economic justice. Reed contends that the fixation on identity has allowed neoliberalism to thrive diverting attention away from material concerns, such as income inequality and corporate power.

In his essay, Reed questions the effectiveness of identity-based movements in achieving substantive change. He argues that these movements often prioritize representation in political and cultural spheres without challenging the underlying structures that perpetuate inequality. According to Reed, this focus on representation without addressing the material conditions faced marginalized communities ultimately serves to maintain the status quo.

Reed further critiques the intersectionality framework, which emerged as a response to the limitations of identity politics. While recognizing its potential for highlighting the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression, Reed argues that intersectionality has also been co-opted to emphasize identity over class. He contends that this shift allows for the incorporation of individuals from privileged backgrounds, effectively diluting the radical potential of social movements.

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Moreover, Reed argues that the current obsession with identity and representation has led to an individualistic approach to politics. He argues that this focus on individual experiences and identities undermines collective action and solidarity, which are essential for effecting meaningful change. Reed calls for a return to a class-based politics that addresses the material concerns of all working-class individuals, regardless of their racial or gender identities.

Ultimately, Reed’s essay challenges the prevailing narratives of identity politics and calls for a renewed focus on class-based struggles. He argues that the pursuit of substantive change requires a broader understanding of social structures and a rejection of the neoliberal agenda. By centering economic justice, Reed believes that progressive movements can create a more equitable society for all.


1. What is identity politics?
Identity politics refers to the political framework that focuses on the experiences and struggles specific to various social groups, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. It emphasizes the importance of representation and recognition for marginalized communities.

2. What is the critique of identity politics?
Critics argue that identity politics often prioritizes symbolic representation without addressing the underlying economic and structural inequalities. They contend that this focus on identity can distract from pursuing meaningful material change.

3. What is neoliberalism?
Neoliberalism is an economic and political ideology that advocates for free-market capitalism and limited government intervention. It emphasizes individualism, deregulation, and privatization, often leading to increased income inequality and corporate power.

4. What is the intersectionality framework?
Intersectionality is a concept that recognizes the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, and classism. It highlights how these intersecting identities can compound and shape an individual’s experiences.

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5. How does Adolph Reed critique intersectionality?
Reed argues that while intersectionality has the potential to expose the interconnectedness of various forms of oppression, it has been co-opted to prioritize identity over class. He believes this dilutes the radical potential of social movements.

6. Why does Reed believe identity politics is individualistic?
Reed argues that identity politics often centers individual experiences and identities, which can undermine collective action and solidarity. He contends that a focus on personal narratives can distract from broader structural change.

7. What does Reed propose as an alternative to identity politics?
Reed advocates for a return to class-based politics, which prioritizes economic justice and challenges neoliberalism. He believes that a broader understanding of social structures is necessary to address the material concerns faced all working-class individuals, regardless of their identities.

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