Black feminism

Kenneth Mostern kmostern at utkvx.utk.edu
Mon Aug 28 14:55:12 MDT 1995


Thank you to Ralph and Valerie for your responses.  Some clarifications:

(1)  As to white male identity, one of the primary things I have argued
on the list and many others places in the past is that it is precisely
the development of Black, feminist, and Black feminist theories that has
permitted and indeed made mandatory the theorization of such categories
as white male proletarian identity.  I therefore was not suggesting that
that Black women's texts should be studied because they contain something
categorically different from other texts, but rather that people
committeed to the study of subjectivity in its particularities will
generally do well to start with Black feminism and move to white men in
its context.

(2)  As to Marx and subjectivity:  certainly I would hold that Marx has
an immense amount to say about subjectivity.  Indeed, some time ago I
suggested on this list that marxism itself was an identity politics:  in
distinction from those theories which hold that politics is a largely
volunteerist phenomenon, marxism has also held that specific social
identities--specific those which congeal as the proletariat--are
necessary for the production of certain politics.  Inasmuch as a writer
like Patricia Hill Collins attempts (with mixed success) to provide a
dialectical standpoint epistemology, she is engaged directly with the
marxist tradition even while she doesn't understand this.  (Which is a
shame; how useful it might be if she engaged with marxism directly in her
work.)

It is also, in my view, important in answering the question "who
critiqued Decartes first?" not to get into a pointless shouting match.
What interests me most at present is this:  starting in the 1950s a
particular critique of the subject was launched by colonized peoples,
U.S. Blacks, and ultimately by women, homosexuals and other people of
color.  This particular critique, though initially phrased in marxist
terms (as by the left decolonizers, who themselves need to be
distinguished from the comprador decolonizers), quickly became
articulated by "first world" intellectuals in essentially Nietzchean
terms which we now recognize as postmodern or poststructuralist.
Obviously the story is much more complicated than the way I just told
it.  One small goal for theory is to reallign postmodern identity (I
don't object to the term "postmodern"--I follow Jameson in this way) with
materialist dialectics rather than bourgeois consumerism.

There is no sense in which I view marxism as an economism, as those who
have read me on this list before no doubt realize.

(3)  As to the related question about "traditional marxist cateogies",
I was referring to the ones which appear in Marx's work:  class
categories, which of course include not only bourgeois and proletariat
but also peasantry, aristocracy, and all the subclasses and divisions one
might find in a text like *18th Brumaire*; national categories, which
exist in Marx's work as national economies first and only secondarily as
subjectivities or social identities (which are not themselves identical,
of course).  If someone thinks I am overlooking a major set of Marx's
categories please let me know.

(4)  Finally, as to George Clinton:  the line I attribute to Clinton is a
quote.  The line I attribute to Marx is obviously not, and the joke I'm
trying to make obviously conceals the fact that Clinton and Marx would
not be using either "mind" or "ass" in the same sense.  If "ass", in
the Marx line, is read as the more well-known "chains" (as in when the
chains are unbound the workers' creativity will be unleashed) I believe
you will see what I was getting at.  I'm sorry if my joke seems theoretically
imprecise, but I must also say I am surprised, Ralph, that you would
question someone else's joke after your recent claims about your own
sense of humor.   As for Clinton's actual position, there is an obvious
sense in which he can be called a hustler, and an equally obvious sense
in which the name would be absurd.  The materialist dialectics of funk
necessarily favors non-market driven, humanistic pleasure.  George
Clinton is no way a marxist, but there is no reason for a socialist society
to deny his good works.

Kenneth Mostern
Assistant P-funkster of English
University of Tennessee

George Clinton:  Free your mind, and your ass will follow.
Karl Marx, paraphrased:  Free your ass, and your mind will follow.
. . . toward a materialist dialectics of funk . . . peace . . .



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