The Obama candidacy has provoked much deliberation over the current state of race relations, social movements and the nature of political campaigns in American politics. The historical significance of the Obama campaign, as well as its implications for the future, have been the subject of pontification by pundits and politicans alike.

We’ve assembled a collection of prominent sociologists to bring their expertise to bear on the question…

“What is the social significance of Barack Obama?”

To get the ball rolling, each author submitted a short statement on this question. After reading over each others’ submissions, Contexts’ Co-Editor Doug Hartmann lead the group in the moderated discussion below. Feel free to join in!


Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
“Rather than hope, his election may prolong hopelessness and reduce the space for open racial contestation…” Keep reading.
Josh PacewiczJosh Pacewicz
“In an election of historic firsts it is important to not overlook this one: Obama’s message attracted those with an increasingly dominant role in the economic and political life of the cities I studied…” Keep reading.
Gianpaolo BaiocchiGianpaolo Baiocchi
“There is a joke that if Barack Obama loses the general election in the Fall he should run for President of Brazil, given the fascination with his campaign there, as in many other nations around the world….” Keep reading.

Joe Feagin
“Senator Obama’s campaign and winning of the Democratic nomination have revealed two important societal realities: the growing political power and sophistication of voters of color, and the systemically racist character of U.S. society….” Keep reading.
Enid LoganEnid Logan
“Barack Obama’s matchup against Hillary Clinton has raised important questions about the contrasting ways race and gender function in the post-civil rights, “post-feminist” United States…” Keep reading.
“Sociologists are generally not very enthusiastic about “great man” theories of history…But every once in a while a combination of political opportunities arise to create new possibilities centering on a particular individual…” Keep reading.