[Marxism] The State of Racism

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Sun Aug 12 18:41:36 MDT 2007

On Sun, 12 Aug 2007 14:17:30 -0700 (PDT) Jon Baranov <jonburp at yahoo.com>
> You've just begun to answer your own question, no? Racism makes sense 
> when there is a sizable body of workers to "divide and rule". Plus 
> racism provides a dependable source of cheap labor, and it may "make 
> sense" to draw on only the most desperate workers. Michael Reich 
> wrote a book precisely about how racism is profitable at the micro 
> and the macro level.

Jojn Roemer in his 1979 paper, "Divide and Conquer: Microfoundations 
of a Marxian Theory of Wage Discrimination" sought to show as
described in the following abstract how wage discrimination as a
"divide and conquer" strategy can help employers hold down the
wages of their workers, both black and white.

"Microfoundations for a divide-and-conquer model of wage discrimination
are provided by positing that workers' psychologies permit racial
integration of firms to weaken workers' unity and hence reduce their
bargaining power against employers. In this bargaining -- as opposed to
competitive -- model of wage determination, there are discriminatory
equilibria at which both white and black workers are worse off and
employers are better off than would be the case without worker
dissension. Furthermore, owing to the bargaining structure, market forces
cannot unravel the discriminatory wage bargain."

In effect Roemer attempted to provide a theoretical rationale
for the sorts of phenomena (race and ethnic based wage discrimination)
whose existence  Michael Reich had demonstrated empirically.
Roemer's paper was noteworthy because he used strictly neoclassical
economic tools to prove his divide and conquer theorem, thus providing
a counterpoint to the arguments of neoclassical economists like
Gary Becker and Milton Friedman who argued that wage discrimination
was irrational from the standpoint of capitalists.

> Sayan Bhattacharyya <ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com> wrote:
> The _individual_ factory owner is better off hiring and paying any
> skilled labor they can find, be it black, white, male or female, as
> long as the job will get done well.
> .......
> For big firms, obviously there may be an incentive: their work 
> forces
> are large, and maintaining racism helps keep their own work forces
> divided. But do smaller firms have this incentive?
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