American Civilization

This edition published by Blackwell, 1993

In the introduction to the book, Anna Grimshaw explains that CLR James completed his long essay on American Civilization in early 1950. His work on the manuscript was abandoned as he became swept up in a fight to avoid deportation from the USA and he never again found the circumstances in which to complete the original work he planned. Robert Hill, James’ Literary Executor write’s in an illuminating afterword; “America bears a heavy responsibility for CLR James….America provided him with the freedom and opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of the discourse of modern civilization.”

The work was finally published in 1993 by Blackwell Publishers and Anna Grimshaw worked on the introduction while James was still alive.

As the book jacket tells us:

In the tradition of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, James addresses the fundamental question of the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Ranging widely across all aspects of American politics, society, and culture, James integrates his analysis of American society in transition with a broad and fascinating commentary on literature and the popular arts. The book also provides a discussion of the role of blacks, women, and intellectuals in modern America.

This long-awaited publication may be seen as the most wide-ranging expression of James’s thought, the indispensable link between his mature writings on politics and his semi-autobiographical masterpiece, Beyond a Boundary.

“The publication of American Civilization fills a crucial gap in the efforts to extract a usable past from the monumental work of C.L.R. James. His broad, eclectic survey of the state of the labour movement, literature, popular culture, race relations, and industrialization in the United States shows us James, the international socialist, making sense of culture is at once fiercely individualistic and scarily conformist.”
Andrew Ross

The book is available to purchase here.