W. E. B. Du Bois was not in any obvious sense a political theorist and could be sharply critical of theories and theorizing. However, because his writings do not fit plainly within the canonical tradition of political thought, they can enrich, enlarge, and fundamentally transform the field. Over the course of his long career, Du Bois frequently changed his methods of analysis and his political positions, although he returned again and again to the question of race. For Du Bois, race was an intrinsic component of the social, historical, and political issues faced by the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whereas other political theorists of the time were reluctant to treat race and racial injustice as fundamental components of the study of modern democratic life. Today, race is recognized as a pivotal element of both Western modernity as well as in the principles and practice of American democracy. As such, much of Du Bois’s work remains topical a century after it was written.
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