The necessity of abolition

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2021 Number 78

The necessity of abolition
Matt Sandler pages 109-123
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.78.09.2021


The international outpouring of abolitionist sentiment in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the spring of 2020 came as a surprise even to experienced activists and researchers. The context of the pandemic had thrown into stark relief the consequences of fraying commitments to social welfare and excess commitments to security, policing, and incarceration. This essay argues that the moment laid bare the necessity of abolition, not only of police and prisons but also of the industries which exacerbate ecological disaster. To support this argument on the basis of political theory and intellectual history, it returns first to W.E.B. Du Bois’s account of “abolition-democracy” as prompted by a recognition of necessity. The essay then goes on to define “necessity via the philosophical dialectic of freedom and necessity, before finding that conception of abolition as necessity expressed in nineteenth century Black abolitionist thought. It concludes by returning to the present, in which the pathological freedoms of neoliberalism seem to call up the necessity of abolition in response.

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To cite this article
Matt Sandler (2021) The necessity of abolition, Soundings, 2021(78), 109-123.

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