racism and the rise of capitalism

Austin, Andrew austina at uwgb.edu
Sun Jun 3 15:35:28 MDT 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: George Snedeker
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Sent: 6/3/2001 2:52 PM
Subject: racism and the rise of capitalism

"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."

I do disagree with this. That is my point. I'm glad you see this in Cox.
Race is much more than a category of thought. It is a social reality just as
class is. It is objective and largely operates independent of consciousness.
The racial system is a real social structure.

I also disagree with this other claim. The claim that race as a category of
thought is fundamental to the Marxist analysis of race is not warranted.
True, some Marxists treat racism in this idealistic fashion (Cox, Fields),
but other Marxists do not, e.g., DuBois. There are current radical scholars,
such as Jalata and Harrison, who are treating race from a historical
materialist fashion, as well.

Now race as a category thought IS fundamental to liberal thinking.
Unfortunately this sort of idealism has invaded some of the better radical
conceptualizations of race in America, for example Winant, Omi, and
Roediger's work, who, while getting past such vulgar constructions as "race
was created capitalists to divide the working class," still fail to explore
racial systems with the same ontological commitment they do social class.

Finally, connecting Cox with whiteness studies seems a awfully big leap. I
would argue that his theory is somewhere else entirely.

Andrew Austin
Green Bay, WI

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