Labor and aristocracies

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at
Mon Feb 10 14:16:57 MST 2003

On Mon, 10 Feb 2003 15:08:46 -0500 Charles Brown <BrownBingb at>
> From: "LouPaulsen" <LouPaulsen at>
> clip...  I think that all the debate is about
> whether (a) imperialism, racism, etc. are in the short term
> beneficial to
> the 'privileged' / less oppressed group, while being against their
> long-term
> class interests, or (b) whether they are against the interests of
> the
> 'priviliged'/less oppressed group in the short term  AND in the long
> term.
> Some people then think that they have to prove (b) in order to prove
> that it
> is in the 'material interest' of the less oppressed workers to join
> in the
> revolution.  I don't think we do in fact have to prove (b), so I'm
> less
> concerned about whether it is true or not.
> For example, Al Szymanski once published a study in a sociological
> journal
> which purported to demonstrate (b) with respect to racism in the US.
>  He
> claimed to demonstrate that wage rates for whites were lower in
> states where
> there was 'more racism' against African-Americans.  It wasn't a very
> good
> study, unfortunately, from the methodological point of view.

A couple of other studies which make the argument that racism
and racial discrimination benefit capitalists, by dividing workers
against themselves include:

Reich, Michael, *Racial Inequality: A Political Economy Analysis*,
Princeton, NJ: Prince-ton University Press, 1981.

Roemer, John, "Divide and Conquer: Microfoundations of a Marxian
Theory of WageDetermination," Bell Journal of Economics, 10 (Autumn

Michael Reich's empirical studies on racism and workers' incomes
leads him to take a class struggle perspective. He links the
existence of inequalities on the basis of racial discrimination
to the existence of increased inequalities among white workers.
And he perceives a inverse relationship between the degree of
racial discrimination in hiring to the degree of unionization of workers.

Reich's studies sound rather similar to the study by Szymanski
that Paulsen cites, but offhand I am not familiar enough with the
details of Reich's work, to say whether or they are methdologicall
superior to Szymanski's

John Roemer's work, so I have been told, attempts
 to show how capitalists  as individuals are able to benefit
from the divide-and-conquer consequences of racism (and sexism),
contrary to the contentions of neoclassical economists, like
Gary Becker or Milton Friedman, that racial discrimination,
from the standpoint of capitalists, in a competitive market,
is economically irrational.  I am not sure, to what extant
Roemer's work would address (if at all) Paulsen's
issue (b).

Jim F.

> CB

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