racism and the rise of capitalism

George Snedeker snedeker at concentric.net
Sun Jun 3 13:52:20 MDT 2001

Andrew says:
The problem with this view is that racism is not a reflection of social
class, which is what is assumed in Cox's assumption of the
base-superstructure model. That Cox treats racism as a reflection of the
economic base is my strongest objection to his work.

I guess this is where we disagree. Cox's analysis of racism situates racism
within the rise of capitalism. in this sense, his work is quite similar to
that of people like Ted Alan and the other Marxist historians of racism or
"whiteness." for Cox, race is a category of thought whose purpose is to
allow the exploitation of Black labor, first under slavery and then under
formally free labor. it also serves to divide the working class and empower
the capitalists. now you might disagree with this kind of analysis, but it
is fundamental to the Marxist analysis of racism. we cannot conceive racism
as some universal attribute of society or the human condition.

myrdal's work was important within the framework of liberal social science.
it put into question some of the racist assumptions which were quite common
place in social science and the larger society. he and other liberal social
scientists were trying to open up space for liberal reforms of the existing
system . Cox  was saying that this kind of reformism would not work. he
supported both the civil rights agenda of the NAACP and the strategy of
class struggle being pushed by the USCP. he rejected both nationalism and
accomodationism. he felt that the liberal project would run into the wall of
capitalism. now, you might think that his position is vulgar Marxism, and in
some ways, it was. here I am talking about  Oliver Cox before he had
discovered the capitalist world system. his early analysis of racism focused
primarily on the U.S. experience. in the context of the period in which he
was writing his work was politically progressive.

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