[Marxism] David Roediger on slavery
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 25 08:42:44 MST 2005
Seth: The effects of the American Civil War spurred a major "moral impetus"
for the U.S. working class, you write, citing Marx. Which writings of his
have been most useful in your research and teaching, and why?
David: My use of particular parts of Marx's work very much depends on what
I am working on. For example, my first book was (with the late Philip
Foner) a history of movements for a shorter working day in the United
States and it sent me continually back to Capital and especially to Marx's
incomparable sections on the hours of labor. In my undergraduate classes I
am most apt to assign Marx's very early manuscripts on alienation, often
alongside Herman Melville's short stories on labor, and for graduate
students I frequently suggest Marx's later writings on ethnology, so
brilliantly evoked in Franklin Rosemont's "Karl Marx & the Iroquois." Both
of these choices show how passionately Marx hoped for alternatives to the
misery of the capitalist order, for new worlds. I'm also very much a
partisan of Marx's writings on slavery and the Civil War, especially those
on U.S. slavery in relation to both capitalism and misery. Unfortunately,
the work of Eugene Genovese, who for a time advertised himself as a
Marxist, spread the notion among many U.S. historians that Marxism places
slavery outside of the capitalist world and even as an honorable
alternative to it. Reading Marx on the U.S. quickly dispels such a view.
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