race and gender determination

Valerie Scatamburlo valeries at YorkU.CA
Thu Sep 7 19:02:55 MDT 1995

On Sep 6, 11:13pm, Kenneth Mostern wrote:
> Subject: race and gender determination

> If I understand you correctly, you are arguing, consistently with most
> contemporary cultural studies, that because class is always experienced
> in a raced and gendered way, therefore it is formed (or determined) in a
> socially similar fashion to race and gender.  This is something I
> intended to challenge.  Of course class is experienced in a raced and
> way, but to say this is to only analyze experience, which is to say
> forms of subjectivity.

Kenneth, I concur with your assertion here.  I too do not believe that a
politics based solely on experience is sufficient grounds from which to
launch an oppositional politics.  Nor am I suggesting that we analyze only
the realm of experience, however, I am saying that we cannot ignore it.
Experience is an important starting point, but it should not be the be all
and end all i.e. a rich description of experience is an indispensable point
of beginning but it must expand into a complex analysis of capitalist social
relations.  To me the appeal to "experience" so often found in essentialist
versions of identity politics is deeply problematical especially in those
instances when they do not go on to situate that experience in the broader
matrix of concrete material conditions.

My intent of raising the questions of race and gender in terms of "class" was
motivated in part by the limitations engendered by abstract and overly
economistic readings of "Capital".  In these narratives what is often
disattended is Marx's analysis of capital as a "social relation" and not a
"thing" - that racism and sexism are necessary social relations for the
organization of colonial or modern imperialist capitalism in the West seems
to figure as an afterthought.

Kenneth wrote:

> capitalism determines
> class formation requires going beyond the analysis of consciousness to
> the analysis of deeper social forces.

Yes, but I would argue that without a materialist and historical view of
consciousness, without a theory of a "conscious" and transformative relation
between self, society and labor, the notion of self or subjectivity remains
unconnected to social organization or history in any formative sense.  This
is where I think Marx's concept of mediation discussed in "Capital" and the
"Grundrisse" is important in showing how a mode of production is an
historically and socially concrete formation.  By further developing this
concept, one is able to capture the interplay between the subjective and
objectie movements.  Having said that, perhaps obscurely,  what is needed is
a reflexive and relational social analysis which incorporates experience, but
expereince as a starting point.  For experience to be politicized it must
then be recounted within a borader framework that addresses the larger social
organization which contain and shape everyday lives.

	n general, it seems that your concerns and my concerns are closely
> related.  I feel that I would benefit greatly from a more specific
> discussion with you of critical and perhaps also literary texts off list.
> Kenneth Mostern
> Assistant P-funkster of English
> University of Tennessee
> I would welcome such engagement with you on some of these issues! 8-)

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>-- End of excerpt from Kenneth Mostern

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