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Thread: Race, Gender , and Class

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    Default Race, Gender , and Class

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhao
    i find interesting the notion that it is not race, but class, that is the central dynamic of inequality. and that race conflict is actually staged entertainment and distraction for the masses...
    Matters may have been very different in a feudal or a despotic-theocratic world, but we don't live in one of those. Here's one view.

    What is the relationship between race, gender, and class?

    The power analysis version of the primacy of class takes the economy as the primacy expression of power in capitalist society. In that sense, then, class struggle is the most important power struggle because success in the class struggle impacts a greater number of social processes and power struggles than any other. This version amounts to the view that class is primary in that class struggle is the most important political project in the present. That is, the most important project is the abolition of class via struggle at the economic base.

    Class processes are the primary form which processes of power take in capitalist society, such that class struggle is not merely one form of struggle among others. This was Marx’s view, though Marx, at least in the Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, overstated this point. Marx held that the working class “has radical chains.” This means that the working class’s grievance against capitalism “has a universal character because its sufferings are universal, and which does not claim a particular redress because the wrong which is done to it is not a particular wrong, but wrong in general.” The class “claims no traditional status but only a human status.” The class is thus “totally opposed” to all forms of oppression or power process. This means that the working class “cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all other spheres of society, without, therefore, emancipating all these other spheres” (Marx-Engels Reader, 64).

    Radical here means “to grasp things by the root” (Marx-Engels Reader, 60). For Marx, “radical chains” are chains which are, so to speak, chained at the root of all forms of social inequality and oppression. Thus, the severing of radical chains will sever all forms of chaining of human beings. The proletariat’s severing of its chains will sever all chains. In other words, Marx held that the end of the class process or class processes will end all forms of power processes, or at least all forms of undesirable power processes.

    This is an overstatement on Marx’s part. There is no reason why the end of class will end all other forms of oppression or undesirable power process. If class is abolished it is entirely possible that racism, sexism, homophobia, and other contradictions or reactionary ideas and practices will still exist. The important point remains, however, that these other contradictions or power processes will not, however, have any economic expression. In that sense, class can still be held to be primary.

    If class is abolished via the abolition of capitalism, abolition of the appropriation of surplus labor, much of the teeth of other contradictions will be abolished. Gaybashing, racist violence, sexual assault, domestic violence and other atrocities may all still exist in post-capitalist society. There will not, however, be economic power present which serves to reinforce them. Companies will no longer be able to decide whether or not same-sex partners shall be covered on the company insurance plan, because healthcare will be provided to all. Racists will not be able to appeal to the lie of immigrants lowering wages, because wages will not exist. Abusive partners will not be able to use their partners’ economic dependence on them to trap the partner in the violent relationship. Employers and privileged employees will not be able to use their power in the workplace to provide them with the power to inflict sexual harassment with impunity upon those below them in the workplace hierarchy, because the institution of the waged workplace will not exist.

    Any preferential/discriminatory practices in hiring, firing, wage levels, housing, access to healthcare, or other forms of inequality in the distribution of means of subsistence will not exist after capitalism is abolished. This is the meaning of the slogan Marx liked, describing communism as “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need!” (Marx-Engels Reader, 531). There may well still be contradictions, reactionary ideas and practices remaining after the abolition of capitalism. These will need to be dealt with. With the end of capitalism, there will be more resources available for education to erode some of the bases for reactionary ideas. In addition, because we will no longer be having so much of our time stolen by the capitalist class’s forcing of surplus labor upon us, we will all have more time available to support those victimized by reactionaries and more time to deal in the requisite fashion with reactionaries.

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    Was waiting for you to respond to Zhao on that

    It's an interesting question, but it seems obvious that things like racism, sexism, etc., will exist after capitalism. They existed before it, after all.

    But don't you think that class antagonism adds all sorts of dimensions to racism and sexism that wouldn't otherwise be there?

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    thanks for article but it does not refute the idea that class is the central expression of power and the underlying method of oppression. it actually goes to show how all other kinds of injustices will beome more or less impotent, and their grip on social reality much loosened, if class differences were to be abolished.

    i tend to think all the other kinds of oppression listed are secondary, superficial "effects" stemming from, and added onto, the basic and primary structural backdrop of class inequity under which we all toil. and it is important to recognize them as such, because the role they play in the struggle, more than anything else, is that of befuddlement and confusion...

    i love the part where Marx says that liberation has to come from the roots, and severing of ties to power must be fundamental; and is not possible without severance in all spheres of life.

    so true.

    which is why I'm so interested in the evolution of social organization since the dawn of agriculture and the rise of "civilization"... only by examining the very beginning of centralized power (before which human life was much different), only by studying the roots of heirarchy can we have hope of finding a way toward any meaningful abolition of injustice and inequality.
    Last edited by zhao; 10-11-2008 at 02:37 PM.

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    It is a good quote - I like the way it recognises that "everything will be peachy - after the revolution" is utopianism but does show how many obstacles will be removed if that situation comes about.

    Turning this on its head it seems to me that another reason why class is primary is that capitalism can function effectively without sexism, racism etc but cannot function without class.

    Indeed it seems an entirely plausible scenario that capitalism could reform itself to minimise these prejudices rather than a revolution taking place. (Which is pretty pesimistic of me, but there it is).

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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden View Post
    Turning this on its head it seems to me that another reason why class is primary is that capitalism can function effectively without sexism, racism etc but cannot function without class.
    Why do you think that? I'm guessing your answer is related to some kind of LTV-type analysis of profit -- but do such notions really have any validity nowadays?

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    Race and gender clearly pre-date capitalist class relations.
    so does power and hierarchy, and inequality along class lines certainly existed too, only slightly different from what we experience today.
    Last edited by zhao; 10-11-2008 at 03:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden View Post
    It is a good quote - I like the way it recognises that "everything will be peachy - after the revolution" is utopianism but does show how many obstacles will be removed if that situation comes about.

    Turning this on its head it seems to me that another reason why class is primary is that capitalism can function effectively without sexism, racism etc but cannot function without class.

    Indeed it seems an entirely plausible scenario that capitalism could reform itself to minimise these prejudices rather than a revolution taking place. (Which is pretty pesimistic of me, but there it is).
    Turning this upright again, capitalism's deterritorializing of traditional social and geographic (nationalism, religion, family) structures, including gender and racial divisions, along with the pomo obsession with identity/cultural politics, would indeed produce a 'pure capitalism', where all that would remain is the primary social antagonism - the real of class conflict, so increasing the likelihood of revolution. Identity politics, which is what mainly characterizes political discourse in the West, denies and deflects from the critique of political economy, seeking to re-territorialize against capital's obliteration of all social significations, often seeking out and inventing easy scapegoats (immigrants, the foreign Other, the poor, etc) and/or resorting to 'unifying' nationalisms (Obama certainly appealed repeatedly to the latter in his campaign, invoking everyone to 'come together' etc), or ultimately, (imperial) war. Many are currently arguing that Obama's success reflects a move from identity politics on to an emphasis on the economy; this may be so to a token extent, but the emphasis appears to be a continuation of neo-liberal policies via an appeal to nationalism ("We can make America Great Again" etc).

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    Quote Originally Posted by vimothy View Post
    Why do you think that? I'm guessing your answer is related to some kind of LTV-type analysis of profit -- but do such notions really have any validity nowadays?
    It has validity to the extent that capital's primary interest vis-a-vis labour is the reproduction of labour power via a wage adequate for that purpose (and to the extent that it can do so without discriminating on the basis of gender or race or some other prejudice). The problem arises with the LRPF (the long term tendency of the rate of profit to fall), which is always on-going in many industries (in desperation, finance capital attempts to deal with this profit erosion by creating enormous virtual capital bubbles via credit generation: property bubbles, derivitive bubbles, commodity bubbles, leveraged asset stripping bubbles, etc, prolonging the inevitable, so accentuating the collapse, as we've recently witnessed), which first gears up industry towards an export-led orientation (profits re-invested indigenously), but ultimately to foreign off-shoring, sub-contracting, down-sizing etc (with even 'egalitarian' Silicon Valley tech companies increasingly subcontracting out/offshoring production operations to Chinese/Indian sweatshop labour [is there such a thing as a laptop that isn't small-print "Made in China" anymore?] ie capital remains abroad, domestic skilled labour shrinks/is down-graded/casualized, identity politics, etc then filling out/covering over/displacing the underlying economic problem, the problem of capital itself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by waffle View Post
    resorting to 'unifying' nationalisms (Obama certainly appealed repeatedly to the latter in his campaign, invoking everyone to 'come together' etc), or ultimately, (imperial) war. Many are currently arguing that Obama's success reflects a move from identity politics on to an emphasis on the economy; this may be so to a token extent, but the emphasis appears to be a continuation of neo-liberal policies via an appeal to nationalism ("We can make America Great Again" etc).
    This has always baffled me about Obama, the insistence on unifying the U.S. in order to make it "great" again. I can't help but think that Obama's nationalism is purely hyperstitional--he knows that talking like this works, he knows how efficient nationalistic rhetoric is in circumventing peoples' concerns about his being too radical. I hope I'm right, but so far I have to admit it looks like we're in for a new Clinton Era, this time with an alternative tech sector boom rather than a Silicon Valley.

    Uck and possibly more Bobos and another Starbucks. Grunge II.

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    Quote Originally Posted by waffle View Post
    [is there such a thing as a laptop that isn't small-print "Made in China" anymore?]
    Isn't it funny or even a little ironic that communists are now the world's Industrial Giant?

    I actually think Obama is a closet "America needs to be the center of low-wage production/manufacturing jobs" capitalist. He's nostalgic for a time when wars mattered (were fought between world powers) and America was the center of the world economy.

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    the big glaring mistake all of this is making is confining the discourse within the boundaries of your favorite obsession: capitalism.

    capitalism is only the latest convolution in the history of power and subjugation.

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    Capitalism isn't my favorite obsession. Drugs are.

    But the sad fact of the matter is that, because capitalism is the system that exists NOW, the only way we can talk about political circumstances now is with regard to capitalism.

    Many people but most notably Foucault I suppose talked about power and subjugation on a broader "time horizon" (as they say in the White House)...

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    by "yours" i meant not specifically anyone here... or rather a lot of people here, and in other places

    Quote Originally Posted by nomadthesecond View Post
    most notably Foucault I suppose talked about power and subjugation on a broader "time horizon" (as they say in the White House)...
    yes. is why i like dood a lot

    that and the fact he did acid in the desert and wrote eloquently about it

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    On the TRPF, three questions --

    Is there any empirical proof of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall?

    Doesn't Marx's explanation rely on his (dubious, classical) value theory?

    And even if you were to accept both TRPF and Marxian labour theory of value, how would you demonstrate a causal relationship between the two?
    Last edited by vimothy; 10-11-2008 at 09:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zhao View Post
    the big glaring mistake all of this is making is confining the discourse within the boundaries of your favorite obsession: capitalism.
    I suppose I could instead confine it within the boundaries of the political economy of Ancient Egypt, as mysterious to us as it was, no doubt, to the Ancient Egyptians, and that too would therefore be a 'big glaring mistake', especially if I am an Ancient Egyptian.

    capitalism is only the latest convolution in the history of power and subjugation.
    Except that it isn't, unless you adopt an ahistorical view of history, that there is some unchanging (mysterious) Master Signifier magically outside of history dictating all of history. History is contingent (just as the emergence of modern capitalism was contingent, not pre-ordained). Indeed, efforts at ascertaining the "ahistorical" limit of historicization/resignification repeatedly demonstrate that we don't ever have to accept this ("end of history") limit in any kind of resigned way, but that every historical figuration of this limit is itself contingent and, as such, always subject to a radical questioning and replacement.

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