Cover of Counterrevolution by Stephen Steinberg
The Crusade to Roll Back the Gains of the Civil Rights Movement
Stephen Steinberg


January 2022
312 pages.
from $25.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503630024
Paperback ISBN: 9781503630031
Ebook ISBN: 9781503630048

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Silver Medal in the History (U.S.) Category for the 2023 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs).

In Black Reconstruction W.E.B. Du Bois wrote, "The slave went free; stood for a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery." His words echo across the decades as the civil rights revolution, marked by the passage of landmark civil rights laws in the '60s, has seen those gains steadily and systematically whittled away. As history testifies, revolution nearly always triggers its antithesis: counterrevolution. In this book Steinberg provides an analysis of this backlash, tracing the reverse flow of history that has led to the current national reckoning on race.

Steinberg puts counterrevolution into historical and theoretical perspective, exploring the "victim-blaming" and "colorblind" discourses that emerged in the post-segregation era and undermined progress toward racial equality, and led to the gutting of affirmative action. This book reflects Steinberg's long career as a critical race scholar, culminating with his assessment of our current moment and the possibilities for political transformation.

About the author

Stephen Steinberg is a sociologist and Distinguished Emeritus Professor at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is a foremost scholar of the political economy of race, having conducted research and published in race and ethnicity for more than forty years. He is the author of The Ethnic Myth (1981. 1989. 2001); Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy (1995, 2001), which received the Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award for Distinguished Anti-Racist Scholarship; and Race Relations: A Critique (2007).

"This is an important intervention in the post-Floyd national debate about why the problem of race in the republic has been so long-lasting."

—Charles W. Mills, author of Black Rights/White Wrongs

"In this book, Stephen Steinberg concludes his incisive meditation on the race relations paradigm, the discipline of sociology, and what he now calls the 'frontlash' of the contemporary surge of the U.S. toward a revanchist anti-Black society. Steinberg accomplishes the rare feat of producing a third volume of a trilogy—Turning Back: The Retreat from Racial Justice in American Thought and Policy and Race Relations: A Critique—that raises the project to dazzling new heights. He does this by illuminating the depths to which contemporary U.S. racial ideology and policy have plummeted. At the core of Steinberg's analysis, he resurrects the unrealized possibilities of affirmative action to power a third Reconstruction by tracing its birth, murder, death, and transmutation into diversity."

—Sundiata Cha-Jua, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

"Stephen Steinberg has done it again! With the wit, verve, and intellectual rigor that we have come to expect from him, Steinberg exposes the zeal with which conservatives (and their white liberal accomplices) worked to roll back the gains of the US civil rights movement. Counterrevolution paints a harrowing picture of the revanchist intellectual and political forces that coalesced in opposition to Black freedom and equality in the United States in the period between the 1960s and 2010s. The depth and breadth of Steinberg's scholarship will surely make the book essential reading for a new generation of scholars and activists fighting against racial oppression today."

—Jeff Maskovsky, CUNY Graduate Center

"Steinberg's Counterrevolution is a harrowing and important read. Striking a cautionary tone, he warns of the dangers of ignoring the whittling down of hard-fought civil rights gains. As the rights of minorities are trounced in this reactionary response to their political, social and economic gains, Steinberg's book is well researched and of crucial importance in the current socio-political landscape."

—Denise N. Obinna, Ethnic and Racial Studies

"We have needed this book. Stephen Steinberg has produced a brilliant overview of the decades-long campaign by business and the organized right to reverse the victories of the mid-twentieth-century Civil Rights Movement.... What makes this book so valuable is the force of its argument about how the counter-revolution gains by moving relentlessly from one civil rights rollback to the next, culminating in the ongoing Republican campaign to limit voting rights, especially the voting rights of African Americans."

—Frances Fox Piven, New Politics