From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, Genovese made an indelible mark—drawing, it seems, equal parts of praise and criticism—with the rapid-ﬁre publication of four classic texts: The Political Economy of Slavery (1965), The World the Slaveholders Made (1969), In Red and Black (1971), and ﬁnally Roll, Jordan, Roll (1974). Armed with a sophisticated understanding of Marxist theory he made a valiant effort to reorient the discipline of American history. At the time, the study of slavery in the United States was mired in parochial notions of American Exceptionalism that presumed slavery was an aberration to the United States’ core ideals, a nation that was ultimately viewed as having, through godly ordinance, the mission to spread liberty and democracy. Inspired by Antonio Gramsci’s concept of cultural hegemony (see Genovese 1967), he found within pro-slavery ideology an antagonism to the market-based bourgeois society of the antebellum North. In the end, he showed that the southern planters constituted a forceful opposition to the expansion of modern capitalist social relations (Lichtenstein 1997). Yet it produced a class hegemony through paternalism—a process that bound planters and slaves into fraught yet tight social relationships, which he chillingly described in the opening passage of Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made:
Cruel, unjust, exploitative, oppressive, slavery bound two peoples together in bitter antagonism while creating an organic relationship so complex and ambivalent that neither could express the simplest feelings without reference to the other. By deﬁnition and in essence it was a system of class rule, inwhich some people lived off the labor of others. American slavery subordinated one race to another and thereby rendered its fundamental class relationships more complex and ambiguous; but they remained class relationships. The racism that developed from racial subordination inﬂuenced every aspect of American life and remains powerful. But slavery as a system of class rule predated racism and racial subordination in world history and once existed without them (Genovese1974: 3–4).
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