chapter  3
14 Pages

White Supremacy as Sociopolitical System: A Philosophical Perspective

ByCHARLES W. MILLS

In their introductory pieces surveying, from an interdisciplinary perspective, recent “whiteness” literature, it is noteworthy that neither Margaret Andersen nor Woody Doane cite any philosophy text nor indeed refer to the discipline at all. Philosophy’s classic pretensions to be able to illuminate the human condition with the light of reason have, to many critics, collapsed in a retreat to an inbred hermeticism, opaque and irrelevant to the outsider. Particularly in the analytic mainstream of the profession, there is a reluctance to engage with the social and historical. Indeed, in an important recent book, John McCumber goes so far as to anoint analytic philosophy with the dubious honor of being “the most resolutely apolitical paradigm in the humanities today.” But McCumber argues that it would be a mistake to attribute this disengagement purely to internal factors. On the contrary, he claims that an examination of the pre-and postwar record shows an externalist account to be far more plausible: the impact of McCarthyism, which differentially targeted philosophers, making philosophy, in fact, “the most heavily attacked of all the academic disciplines” (2001:13, 37). Proportionally more philosophers lost their jobs through political harassment in the 1950s than academics in any other field.