Talk to Me Like I'm Stupid: Agrarianism, Marxism, and Slavery

Fair warning--this is a post for history nerds and wannabe history nerds. It's only a hair less obscure than my Warcraft post. 

Now then, I just put I'll Take My Stand on my Amazon wish list, mostly because I'm interested in Southern critiques of the industrial North. I recall some commenters noting a kind of Marxist critique that expressed some degree of sympathy for the antebellum South. As far as I can tell, the notion being that the South was "pre-capitalist." I don't know if that's an accurate assessment, and perhaps I'm paraphrasing the critique wrong. But either way, I'm interested to hear the thoughts of any historians, doctoral students, or just well-read human beings who can speak on quasi-Marxist sympathies for the antebellum South and even the pre-Civil Rights Movement South.

I tried Eugene Genovese's Roll Jordan, Roll but couldn't finish. I guess I'll have to go back to it. (Maybe I'll take it with me into the Woods.) I found its methodology rather frustrating. Drew Gilpin Faust admires the book quite a bit, but I found her style to be much more convincing. Genovese's hops around a lot--you get a three or four sentences about a slaveholder who may not even be named and without much context. Whereas Faust will draw out a study on five or six people, and contextualize their lives. In all honesty, this may just be the writer in me. I tend to like to think about individual characters. Moreover, I gather that some of the answers to the questions I pose above are covered in Genovese's work. 

For now, let's hear the wisdom of the crowd.

UPDATE: I'm going to clean the thread below up some. To be clear, we're not asking whether Marx defended the Confederacy or slavery, so much as we're asking about sympathies for the South among thinkers tracing their lineage to him. 

It also should go without saying that no one here is literally defending the antebellum or Jim Crow South. Comments outlining why such a defense is wrong, will be deleted. Again, I'm seeking something more than the kind of correctives we can all agree with.
Jump to comments

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



From This Author