The Drum Major Instinct
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The Drum Major Instinct

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Theory of Political Service

Title Details

Pages: 132

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 03/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5554-2

List Price: $29.95


Pub Date: 03/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5552-8

List Price: $104.95


Pub Date: 03/15/2019

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5553-5

List Price: $104.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Sarah Mills Hodge Fund

The Drum Major Instinct

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Theory of Political Service

A theoretical framework for understanding the writings of Martin Luther King Jr.

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Though there are several studies devoted to aspects of Martin Luther King Jr.’s intellectual thought, there has been no comprehensive study of his overarching theory of political service. In The Drum Major Instinct, Justin Rose draws on Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons, political speeches, and writings to construct and conceptualize King’s politics as a unified theory.

Rose argues that King’s theoretical framework—as seen throughout his wide body of writings—has three central components. First, King posited that all of humanity is tied to an “inescapable network of mutuality” such that no member of society can fully flourish if there are structural barriers preventing others from flourishing. Second, King’s theory required that Americans cultivate a sense of love and concern for their fellow members of society, which would motivate them to work collectively toward transforming others and structures of injustice. Finally, King contended that all members of society have the responsibility to participate in collective forms of resistance. This meant that even the oppressed were obligated to engage in political service. Therefore, marginalized people’s struggles against injustice were considered an essential aspect of service.

Taken together, King’s theory of political service calls on all Americans, but especially black Americans, to engage in other-centered, collective action aimed at transforming themselves, others, and structures of injustice. By fully exploring King’s thoughts on service, The Drum Major Instinct is an invaluable resource toward understanding how King wanted us all to work to create a more just, democratic society and how his thoughts continue to resonate in contemporary struggles.

Dr. Rose’s book aims to fill an important gap in the literature on Martin Luther King Jr. by exploring King’s notions of political service. While historians, political scientists, theologians, and scholars in a myriad of other fields have examined King’s theology, ideas on nonviolence, and his organizing activities, there is no book length treatment on how King secularized and politicized Christian notions of service in constructing his political ideology. Rose thus calls for scholars to take King just as seriously as a political thinker as they’ve taken him as a religious intellectual. Doing so will enhance our scholarly understanding of King but will also provide a service to contemporary social and political activists, who can draw from King’s ideas on service in constructing political ideologies and movements today.

—Christopher Cameron, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

About the Author/Editor

JUSTIN ROSE is an assistant professor of political science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.