This talk is the presidential address prepared for the one hundred seventeenth annual Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association and originally delivered January 16, 2021. Through an engagement with Africana philosophy, analytical Marxism, and black radicalism, I defend a distinctive approach to philosophical theory and the problem race, what I call “afro-analytical Marxism.” I contrast this approach with the one Cedric Robinson defends in his classic book Black Marxism. Specifically, I take issue with (1) Robinson’s aggressive critique and almost wholesale repudiation of Western Marxism; (2) his account of what makes the black radical tradition “black”; (3) his conception of the relation between theory and practice; and (4) his interpretation of W. E. B. Du Bois.
Tommie Shelby writings focus on racial justice, economic justice, and criminal justice and on the history of black political thought. His numerous articles have appeared in journals such as Philosophy & Public Affairs, Ethics, Political Theory, Critical Inquiry, Du Bois Review, Critical Philosophy of Race, and Daedalus. He has served as the President of the American Philosophical Association (Eastern Division) and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform (Harvard University Press, 2016), We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Harvard University Press, 2005). He and Derrick Darby coedited Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason (Open Court, 2005). Shelby and Brandon M. Terry coedited To Shape a New World: Essays on the Political Philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2018). Shelby is currently completing a book titled “The Idea of Prison Abolition,” which is based on his 2018 Carl G. Hempel Lectures at Princeton University.