Few subjects of social scientific inquiry need interpretive analysis more than the topic of racial politics, yet most US political science employs a narrowly behavioralist orientation. This book argues that it is time for political scientists studying race to more fully engage the issues that generate its political significance.
Drawing on the work of interpretive political scholars and methods, Ron Schmidt, Sr. addresses core questions regarding racial politics in the US to demonstrate the value of using interpretive methods to better understand the meaning and significance of political actions, structures and conflicts involving racial identities—not instead of behavioral research but as a necessary addition.
Interpreting Racial Politics in the United States will greatly enhance the evolving conversations concerning race and inequality within the US. It will be of great interest to students and scholars of politics and sociology, but also to those interested in deepening their understanding of racial politics.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Racial Politics and Interpretive Methods
2. Political Ontology: What is the Place of Race in US Politics?
3. Racialization and Its Extent: Are Latinx Racialized?
4. What is Entailed in the Empowerment of People of Color?
5. Conclusion: Toward an Interpretive Racial Politics Agenda for Social Science
Ronald Schmidt, Sr. is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at California State University, Long Beach. He is former co-president of the APSA’s Organized Section on Race, Ethnicity and Politics and has authored numerous books, articles, and presentations on the subject. In 2014, he received the Frank J. Goodnow Award, the flagship career distinction bestowed by the American Political Science Association.
"This incisive book pushes scholars to be more skeptical of the notion of value-free knowledge, and instead challenges us to do better by engaging in intentional interpretive research. Schmidt’s argument brings together perspectives from a wide range of fields and advances in a new and original way a framework for conducting deeper and more meaningful analyses of the dynamics of race and ethnic politics in the US. We need now, more than ever, Schmidt’s intellectual insight and clarity of vision."
Jane Junn, Professor of Political Science & Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Southern California
"In this compelling work, Ron Schmidt grapples with the centrality of race and racialization to the American political project and shows why an interpretive approach to political science is essential if White supremacy is to be eradicated from the discipline and the political system."
Mary Hawkesworth, author of Embodied Power; Demystifying Disembodied Politics
"In this nuanced and very timely volume, Schmidt lays out a compelling argument for why the behavioral turn in the social sciences has precluded the meaningful understanding of how race has shaped US politics and affected the life experiences of racialized subjects. With careful and elegant argumentation, Schmidt makes visible the many blind spots inherent in current approaches. Schmidt persuasively demonstrates how all social scientific analysis is, by definition, interpretive, and why embracing that approach is the only way scholars can truly understand how race operates in the United States and the role of power in that process. This volume should be required reading for all students of US politics and anyone interested in better understanding racial dynamics in the United States."
Lisa Garcia Bedolla, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies & Dean of the Graduate Division, and Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
"Drawing from a life-long intellectual journey, Interpreting Racial Politics in the United States argues that an interpretive approach is needed to more fully understand racial politics. To back up his claims, Ron Schmidt explores three central political questions: the ontology of race in US political life; what racialization is and how it works in the contemporary US polity, specifically for the Latinx; and what leads to the democratic empowerment of people of color. Schmidt’s work appears in the wake of the racial rising precipitated by the murder of George Floyd and the Coronavirus Pandemic. It provides political science and racial and ethnic politics scholars and faculty with the analytical as well as the critical interpretive resources appropriate to make sense of centuries of American political life."
Dianne Pinderhughes, Past-President, American Political Science Association; Chair and Professor, Africana Studies and Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame
"In this pioneering and must-read book, eminent political scientist Ronald Schmidt, Sr. reminds us that all political life, and especially the politics of racialization in the United States, is socially constructed. He makes the persuasive case that the meaning-making at the very heart of politics, racialization and power requires a self-consciously interpretive political analysis, and advances a framework for social scientists studying racial politics to use their knowledge in conscientious public engagement toward racial justice. This timely book should be mandatory reading for students and scholars alike of racial politics for decades to come."
Dorian T. Warren, President, Community Change & Co-Chair, Economic Security Project