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The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
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The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

by Frantz Fanon

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A psychological exploration of the oppressed and the oppressor. Analyzing the evolution of the native, he provides extraordinary insights into revolutionary change. Fanon was no champion of violence, he simply embraced the truth and portrayed the reality of a situation and the unfolding dialectic. He accurately describes the pitfalls of a postcolonial state, where the national bourgeoisie would turn into a profiteering caste, too glad to accept the dividends the formal colonial state hands out to it. This is very true of the Indian bourgeoisie who were very unconscious of their revolutionary role and demobilised the masses. For Fanon, only a radical democracy that involves the complete mobilisation and rising the consciousness of the masses can save a post-colonial society from the "caste of profiteers", military dictatorships and from the nation getting torn apart from tribal and religious differences. In countries where the urban proletariat were a minute faction, he was a champion of the peasant class and the lumpenproletariat as the revolutionary classes.

At the end, he provides a list of wartime psychological case studies in harrowing detail. In the powerful conclusion, his ultimate message was of humanity. His warnings against the path of aping the west, against the obsession with the notion of catching up with the west.
" European lifestyles should not tempt us to go astray. In European lifestyles and technology I see a constant denial of man, an avalanche of murders."
How accurately he describes the "United States of America where the flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions". This is exactly what Gandhi feared too, that India would go on a path of trying to emulate western consumerism. In a world where there are limited resources, what happens when India tries to follow the unsustainable path of emulating the western levels of accumulation and consumption? Especially considering the fact that all the riches of the west were the result of the plundering of the third world. When India decided to follow the American path, the result is exactly what we see today, one very small section of the population extremely rich and a huge section of the population extremely poor.

He wanted the third world to be the champion of new humanism. In today’s world where massive inequalities have been built up consciously, deliberately and systematically, where large sections of population live in a de-humanised condition, Fanon’s passionate message is very important to address the urgent need of radical redistribution of wealth and the means of production. ( )
  kasyapa | Oct 9, 2017 |
A classic text, but one more for academics. Fanon's ideas work better as epigrammatic statements to open books than as a whole book by themselves. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
A very interesting study of the devastating effects of colonization on it's subjects long after the exit of the colonizers. The french in particular do not seem to have learnt a whole lot despite the inhuman slaughter of WWs I and II.
  danoomistmatiste | Jan 24, 2016 |
A very interesting study of the devastating effects of colonization on it's subjects long after the exit of the colonizers. The french in particular do not seem to have learnt a whole lot despite the inhuman slaughter of WWs I and II.
  kkhambadkone | Jan 17, 2016 |
http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2441890.html

The classic anti-colonialist text, with foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre, explaining and legitimising violence against a colonial regime; the author was thinking particularly of Algeria to which he gave the last few years of his life, but also of the whole area dominated by European colonisation, particularly the rest of Africa. It's passionate and well-argued, and I can see why it has remained a key political text for the last half-century (and will endure much longer). He is particularly good on the psychological consequences of manipulation by unaccountable regimes for those governed by them.

However, I have several problems with Fanon's analysis. The biggest is that in justfying violence, he rather fetishises it - I've seen this with other commentators too, the assumption that a resort to violence is in itself evidence for the purity and legitimacy of its perpetrators. I'm not convinced by that. The IRA's supporters used to argue that violence was the natural outcome of the situation in Northern Ireland, and convinced a lot of people of the purity and legitimacy of their cause, before they settled for a deal which was essentially what had been on offer 25 years and hundreds of deaths earlier. Some politically motivated violence is really crime, even if perpetuated by the oppressed.

That's tactics, in a way; there's an error also of strategy, in that Fanon calls on internal differences in a country to be ironed out, or preferably just ignored, in favour of making common cause against the colonial oppressor. That's all very well; but it doesn't address the issue of sharing out power and other resources internally once the colonial oppressor has withdrawn (or even beforehand). Questions of regional autonomy, deals between ethnic and religious groups, and indeed emancipation of women, sexual minorities and other groups, can't simply be handwaved away by focussing on the national struggle. Privileging the national struggle above all else allows for discrimination against groups who are deemed insufficiently committed to the cause, and Fanon's arguments legitimise this.

He also gets wrong the economic and political trajectory of post-colonial states, though I don't think he can really be blamed for this as nobody else saw it coming either. And he rejects any connection between the Algerian war and the struggle for civil rights in the USA; which is one link that I'm quite happy to allow, given the parallels in power and wealth structures and the use of state coercion as a political tool.

Still, I'm glad I have now read it. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 8, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frantz Fanonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Banisadr, Abu al-HasanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farrington, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Philcox, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sartre, Jean-PaulPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth: whatever may be the headings used or the new formulas introduced, decolonization is always a violent phenomenon.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802141323, Paperback)

Frantz Fanon (1925-61) was a Martinique-born black psychiatrist and anticolonialist intellectual; The Wretched of the Earth is considered by many to be one of the canonical books on the worldwide black liberation struggles of the 1960s. Within a Marxist framework, using a cutting and nonsentimental writing style, Fanon draws upon his horrific experiences working in Algeria during its war of independence against France. He addresses the role of violence in decolonization and the challenges of political organization and the class collisions and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country's national consciousness. As Fanon eloquently writes, "[T]he unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps."

Although socialism has seemingly collapsed in the years since Fanon's work was first published, there is much in his look into the political, racial, and social psyche of the ever-emerging Third World that still rings true at the cusp of a new century. --Eugene Holley, Jr.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Frantz Fanon was one of the twentieth century's most important theorists of revolution, colonialism, and racial difference, and this, his masterwork, is a classic alongside Orientalism and The Autobiography of Malcolm X." "The Wretched of the Earth is an analysis of the psychology of the colonized and their path to liberation. Bearing singular insight into the rage of colonized peoples and the role of violence in historical change, the book also incisively attacks postindependence disenfranchisement of the masses by the elite on one hand, and intertribal and interfaith animosities on the other. A veritable handbook of social reorganization for leaders of emerging nations, The Wretched of the Earth has had a major impact on civil rights, anticolonialism, and black-consciousness movements around the world. This new translation updates its language for a new generation of readers and its lessons are more vital now than ever."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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