[Marxism] Walter Benn Michaels

E Hofstadler e.hofstadler at gmail.com
Tue Jul 20 22:49:08 MDT 2010

> James Holstun wrote:

> http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n16/walter-benn-michaels/what-mattersWhat
> Matters Walter Benn Michaels
> Who Cares about the White Working Class? edited by Kjartan P?ll
> Sveinsson Runnymede Perspectives, 72 pp, January 2009, ISBN 978 1
> 906732 10
> Louis, Walter Benn Michaels is a "Marxist contrarian" the same way
> Pat Buchanan is--i.e., not.
> In fact, in the very essay you link, he provides a classic example of
> the sort of structurally racist and patriarchal thinking that has
> been roiling (some of) us on this list: "My point is not that
> anti-racism and anti-sexism are not good things. It is rather that
> they currently have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and that,
> insofar as they function as a substitute for it, can be a bad thing."

I think the emphasis in this passage is on "insofar as they function as 
a substitute for it [i.e. left-wing politics]"

> What a fucking mendacious moron. The idea that resistance to racism
> and sexism have nothing to do with left-wing politics would come as
> news to Engels, Lenin, Fanon, Sartre,

well, i think he's talking about *mainstream* anti-racism/anti-sexism,
which in my understanding is sadly not left-wing, and especially certain
academic discourses of it. In academic sociology, my impression is that 
"class" is indeed treated increasingly in a "culturalized" way as
"classism" (see his reference to B. Skeggs in the article). Also e.g. 
mainstream sociological
research on educational inequality is mainly concerned with establishing
"equal opportunities", which, in perfect line with meritocracy, has no
concern at all with abolishing inequality, but of criticizing any
group-specific "bias" within this inequality. As long as people end up
in certain low educational/income categories "by their own merit", it's no
problem at all for most mainstream sociologists that they have less
life-chances, and I think this type of anti-racism/anti-sexism
is what he criticised for strengthening and legitimizing economic 

I think he has a point there, even though I agree that he should have
made the connection between anti-racism/anti-feminism and left wing
politics clearer, i.e. qualify his criticism better. But at least I 
didn't understand his criticism (in this article as well as in the book 
"the trouble with diversity") as directed against *all*
anti-racism/anti-sexism struggles.

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