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1NC

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The 1AC badly misreads historyslavery was not based on racial antagonism but
economic exploitation
Alexander 2010 (Michelle, associate professor of law, Ohio State University, Kirwan Institute for the
Study of Race and Ethnicity, former direct of A!U"S Racial #ustice $ro%ect, #&'&, Stanford !aw School(
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, )he *ew $ress +,-,, pa.es +/0+1
)he concept of race is a relatively recent development& Only in the past few centuries, owin. lar.ely to European
imperialism, have the world"s people 2een classified alon. racial lines& 3ere, in America, the idea of race
emer.ed as a means of reconciling chattel slavery4as well as the e5termination of American Indians 4
with ideals of freedom preached 2y whites in the new colonies& In the early colonial period, when settlements remained
relatively small, indentured servitude was the dominant means of securin. cheap la2or & Under this system,
whites and 2lac6s stru..led to survive a.ainst a common enemy, what historian !erone 7ennett #r& descri2es as
8the 2i. planter apparatus and a social system that le.ali9ed terror a.ainst 2lac6 and white 2ondsmen&: Initially, 2lac6s
2rou.ht to this country were not all enslaved; many were treated as indentured servants& As plantation farmin.
e5panded, particular to2acco and cotton farmin., demand increased .reatly for 2oth la2or and land& )he demand
for land was met 2y invadin. and con<uerin. lar.er and lar.er swaths of territory & American Indians 2ecame a .rowin.
impediment to white European 8pro.ress,: and durin. this period, the ima.es of American Indians promoted in 2oo6s, newspapers,
and ma.a9ines 2ecame increasin.ly ne.ative& As sociolo.ists Keith Kilty and Eric Swan6 have o2served, eliminatin. 8sava.es: is
less of a moral pro2lem than eliminatin. human 2ein.s, and therefore American Indians came to 2e understood as a lesser race4
uncivili9ed sava.es4thus providin. a %ustification for the e5termination of a native peoples& )he .rowin. demand for la2or
on plantations was met throu.h slavery & American Indians were considered unsuita2le as slaves, lar.ely 2ecause
native tri2es were clearly in a position to fi.ht 2ac6 & )he fear of raids 2y Indian tri2es led plantation owners to
.rasp for an alternative source of free la2or& European immi.rants were also deemed poor candidates for slavery,
not 2ecause of their race, 2ut rather 2ecause they were in short supply and enslavement would, <uite naturally,
interfere with voluntary immi.ration to the new colonies& $lantation owners thus viewed African, who were relatively
powerless, as the ideal slaves& )he systematic enslavement of Africans, and the rearin. of their children under 2onda.e,
emer.ed with all deliberate speed4<uic6ened 2y events such as 7acon"s Re2ellion& *athaniel 7acon was a white
property owner in #amestown, =ir.inia, who mana.ed to unite slaves, indentured servants, and poor whites in a revolutionary effort
to overthrow the planter elite& Althou.h slaves clearly occupied the lowest position in the social hierarchy and suffered the most
under the plantation system, the condition of indentured whites was 2arely 2etter, and the ma%ority of free whites lived in e5treme
poverty& As e5plained 2y historian Edmund Mor.an, in colonies li6e =ir.inia, the planter elite, with hu.e land .rants, occupied a
vastly superior position to wor6ers of all colors& Southern colonies did not hesitate to invent ways to e5tend the terms of servitude,
and the planter class accumulated uncultivated lands to restrict the options of free wor6ers& )he simmerin. resentment a.ainst the
planter class created conditions that were ripe for revolt& =aryin. accounts of 7acon"s re2ellion a2ound, 2ut the 2asic facts are
these> 7acon developed plans in -?@1 to sei9e *ative American lands in order to ac<uire more property for himself and others and
nullify the threat of Indian raids& Ahen the planter elite in =ir.inia refused to provide militia support for his scheme, 7acon retaliated,
leadin. an attac6 on the elite, their homes, and their property& 3e openly condemned the rich for their oppression of the poor and
inspired an alliance of white and 2lac6 2ond la2orers, as well as slaves, who demanded an end to their servitude& )he attempted
revolution was ended 2y force and false promises of amnesty& A num2er of people who participated in the revolt were han.ed& )he
events in #amestown were alarmin. to the planter elite, who were deeply fearful of the multiracial alliance of 2ond wor6ers and
slaves& Aord of 7acon"s Re2ellion spread far and wide, and several more uprisin.s of a similar type followed& In an effort to
protect their superior status and economic position , the planters shifted their strategy for maintainin.
dominance& )hey a2andon their heavy reliance on indentured servants in favor of the importation of more 2lac6 slaves& Instead of
importin. En.lish0spea6in. slaves from the Aest Indies, who were more li6ely to 2e familiar with European lan.ua.e and culture,
many more slaves were shipped directly from Africa & )hese slaves would 2e far easier to control and far less
li6ely to form alliances with poor whites & Bearful that such measures mi.ht not 2e sufficient to protect their
interests, the planter class too6 an additional precautionary step, a step that would later 2ecome 6nown as a racial
bribe!" 'eli2erately and strate.ically, the planter class e5tended special privile.es to poor whites in an
effort to drive a wedge 2etween them and 2lac6 slaves & Ahite settlers were allowed .reater access to *ative
American lands, white servants were allowed to police slaves throu.h slave patrols and militias, and 2arriers were created so that
free la2or would not 2e placed in competition with slave la2or& )hese measures effectively eliminated the ris6 of future
alliances 2etween 2lac6 slaves and poor whites& $oor whites suddenly had a direct , personal sta6e in the
e5istence of a race02ased system of slavery & )heir own pli.ht had not improved 2y much, 2ut at least they
were not slaves& Once the planter elite split the la2or force, poor whites responded to the lo.ic of their situation
and sou.ht ways to e5pand their racially privile.ed position&
A myopic focus on racial violence elides this production relationship that
constituted slaverythat prevents radical collective organi#ing
$eed, professor of political science C University of $ennsylvania, %1&
(Adolph, 8'%an.o Unchained, or, )he 3elp> 3ow 8ultural $olitics: Is Aorse )han *o $olitics at All, and
Ahy,: *onsite Issue DE, Be2ruary +1
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, http>FFnonsite&or.FfeatureFd%an.o0unchained0or0the0help0how0
cultural0politics0is0worse0than0no0politics0at0all0and0why(
On reflection, it"s possi2le to see that '%an.o Unchained and )he 3elp are 2asically different versions of the same
movie& 7oth dissolve political economy and social relations into individual 'uests and interpersonal transactions
and thus effectively saniti9e, respectively, slavery and #im row 2y dehistorici#ing them & )he pro2lem is not so
much that each film invents cartoonish fictions; it"s that the point of the cartoons is to ta6e the place of the actual relations of
e5ploitation that anchored the re.ime it depicts& In )he 3elp the 2uffoonishly 2i.oted housewife, 3illy, o2sessively pushes a pet 2ill
that would re<uire employers of 2lac6 domestic servants to provide separate, #im row toilets for them; in '%an.o Unchained the
sensi2ility of -E@,s 2la5ploitation ima.ines 8comfort .irls: and 8Mandin.o fi.hters: as representative slave %o2 descriptions& It"s as
if #im row had nothin. to do with cheap la2or and slavery had nothin. to do with ma6in. slave owners
rich& And the point here is not (ust that they .et the past wron.4it"s that the particular way they .et it wron.
ena2les them to .et the present %ust as wron. and so their politics are as misbegotten as their history& )hus, for
e5ample, it"s only the dehistorici9ation that ma6es each film"s entirely neoli2eral (they could have 2een scripted 2y Oprah( happy endin. possi2le& )he 3elp ends with S6eeter and the 2lac6 lead, the maid Ai2ileen, em2ar6in. %oyfully on the new, e5citin.ly uncharted
paths their 2oo64an account of the master0servant relationship told from the perspective of the servants4has opened for them& 7ut dehistorici9ation ma6es it possi2le not to notice the .reat distance 2etween those paths and their li6ely tra%ectories& Bor S6eeter the
2oo6 from which the film ta6es its name opens a career in the fast trac6 of the %ournalism and pu2lishin. industry& Ai2ileen"s new path was forced upon her 2ecause the 2oo6 .ot her fired from her intrinsically precarious %o2, more at0whim than at0will, in one of the
few areas of employment availa2le to wor6in.0class 2lac6 women in the se.re.ationist South4the precise li6elihood that had made her and other maids initially reluctant to warm to S6eeter"s pro%ect& Get Ai2ileen smiles and strides ever more confidently as she
wal6s home 2ecause she has found and articulated her voice& )he implication is that havin. 2een fired, rather than portendin. deeper poverty and economic insecurity, was a moment of li2eration; Ai2ileen, armed with the confidence and self06nowled.e conferred
2y 6nowin. her voice, was now free to venture out into a world of unlimited opportunity and promise& )his, of course, is pure neoli2eral 2ullshit, of the same variety that permits the odious Michelle Rhee to assert with a strai.ht face that teachers" defined02enefit
pensions deny them 8choice: and there2y undermine the <uality of pu2lic education& 7ut who 6nowsH $erhaps S6eeter 2rou.ht with her from the +,,,s an *IO to arran.e microcredit that would ena2le Ai2ileen to start up a culturally authentic pie0ma6in. venture or
a day spa for harried and stressed domestic servants& In the #ac6son, Mississippi of -E?/, no such options would e5ist for Ai2ileen& Instead, she most li6ely would 2e 2lac62alled and una2le to find a compara2le menial %o2 and forced to toil under even more
undesira2le conditions& '%an.o Unchained ends with the hero and his lady fair ridin. happily off into the sunset after he has van<uished evil slave owners and their henchmen and henchwomen& '%an.o and 7roomhilda4whose name is spelled li6e that of the -E@,s
comic strip character, not the fi.ure in *orse mytholo.y, presuma2ly a pointless )arantino inside %o6e4are free& 3owever, their freedom was not won 2y his prodi.ious 2loodlettin.; it was o2tained within the le.al framewor6 that accepted and re.ulated property
ri.hts in slaves& Each had 2een purchased and manumitted 2y the Ierman 2ounty hunter who, as others have noted, is the only character in the film to condemn slavery as an institution& '%an.o is no insurrectionist& 3is sin.ular focus from 2e.innin. to end is on
reclaimin. his wife from her slave master& $resuma2ly, we are to understand this solipsism as indicative of the depth and intensity of his love, pro2a2ly also as homa.e to the 2orderline sociopathic style of the spa.hetti westernF2la5ploitation hero& Re.ardless,
'%an.o"s <uest is entirely individualist; he never intends to challen.e slavery and never does& Indeed, for the purpose of 2uttressin. the credi2ility of their ruse, he even countermands his 2ounty hunter partner"s attempt to save4throu.h purchase, of course4a
recalcitrant 8Mandin.o fi.hter: from 2ein. ripped apart 2y do.s& 3e is essentially indifferent to the handful of slaves who are freed as incidental 2yproducts of his actions& )he happy endin. is that he and 7roomhilda ride off to.ether and free in a slavocracy that is
not a whit less secure at the moment of cele2ratory resolution than it was when '%an.o set out on his mission of retrieval and reven.e& In 2oth films the 2o.us happy endin.s are possi2le only
2ecause they characteri9e their respective re.imes of racial hierarchy in the superficial terms of interpersonal
transactions& In )he 3elp se.re.ationism"s evil was small0minded 2i.otry and lac6 of sensitivity; it was more li6e 2ad manners
than oppression& In )arantino"s vision, slavery"s definitive in%ustice was its .ratuitous and sadistic 2rutali9ation and
se5uali9ed de.radation& Malevolent, ludicrously arro.ant whites owned slaves most conspicuously to de.rade and
torture them & Apart from servin. a formal dinner in a plantation house4and )arantino, the hance the Iardener of American
filmma6ers (and 7est Ori.inal ScreenplayH ReallyH( seems to draw his ima.es of plantation life from 7irth of a *ation and Ione
Aith the Aind, as well as old Aarner 7rothers cartoons4and the Mandin.o fi.hters and comfort .irls, )arantino"s slaves do
no actual wor6 at all; they"re present only to 2e 2rutali9ed& In fact, the cavalier sadism with which owners
and traders treat them 2elies the fact that slaves were , first and foremost , capital investments & It"s not
for nothin. that *ew Orleans has a monument to the estimated +,,,,,0/,,,,, ante2ellum Irish immi.rants
who died constructin. the *ew 7asin anal; slave la2or was too valuable for such lethal wor6 & )he 3elp
triviali9es #im row 2y reducin. it to its most superficial features and irrational e5tremes& )he master0servant ne5us was ,
and is, a labor relation & And the pro2lem of la2or relations particular to the se.re.ationist re.ime wasn"t
employers" 2i.oted lac6 of respect or failure to hear the voices of the domestic servants, or even 2eni.hted refusal to
reco.ni9e their e<ual humanity& It was that the la2or relation was structured within and sustained 2y a political
and institutional order that severely impin.ed on, when it didn"t alto.ether deny, 2lac6 citi9ens" avenues for pursuit of
.rievances and standin. 2efore the law& )he crucial lynchpin of that order was neither myopia nor malevolence; it was
suppression of 2lac6 citi9ens" capacities for direct participation in civic and political life, with racial disfranchisement and the constant
threat of terror intrinsic to su2stantive denial of e<ual protection and due process 2efore the law as its principal mechanisms& And
the point of the re.ime wasn"t racial hatred or enforced disre.ard; its roots lay in the much more prosaic concern of
dominant elites to maintain their political and economic hegemony 2y suppressin. potential opposition and in the lin6ed
ideal of maintainin. access to a la2or force with no options 2ut to accept employment on whatever terms employers offered& ()hose
who li6ed )he 3elp or found it movin. should watch )he !on. Aal6 3ome, a -EE, film set in Mont.omery, Ala2ama, around the 2us
2oycott& I suspect that"s the film you thou.ht you were watchin. when you saw )he 3elp&( '%an.o Unchained triviali9es slavery 2y
reducin. it to its most 2ar2aric and lurid e5cesses& Slavery also was fundamentally a la2or relation & It was a form of
forced la2or re.ulated4systemati9ed, enforced and sustained4throu.h a political and institutional order
that specified it as a civil relationship .rantin. owners a2solute control over the life, li2erty, and fortunes of others
defined as eli.i2le for enslavement, includin. most of all control of the conditions of their la2or and appropriation of its product&
3istorian Kenneth M& Stampp <uotes a slaveholder"s succinct e5planation> 8JBor what purpose does the master hold the servantH"
as6ed an ante02ellum Southerner& JIs it not that 2y his la2or, he, the master, may accumulate wealthH":- )hat a2solute control
permitted horri2le, unthin6a2le 2rutality, to 2e sure, 2ut perpetratin. such 2rutality was neither the point of slavery
nor its essential in%ustice & )he master0slave relationship could , and did, e5ist without 2rutality , and
certainly without sadism and se5ual de.radation& In )arantino"s depiction, however, it is not clear that slavery shorn of its
e5tremes of 2rutality would 2e o2%ectiona2le& It does not diminish the historical in%ustice and horror of slavery to note
that it was not the product of sui .eneris, transcendent Evil 2ut a terminus on a continuum of 2ound la2or
that was more norm than e5ception in the An.lo0American world until well into the ei.hteenth century, if not
later& As le.al historian Ro2ert Steinfeld points out , it is not so much slavery , 2ut the emer.ence of the notion of
free la2or4as the a2solute control of a wor6er over her person4 that is the historical anomaly that needs
to 2e e5plained&+ '%an.o Unchained saniti#es the essential in%ustice of slavery by not problemati#ing it and
2y focusin. instead on the e5tremes of 2rutality and de.radation it permitted, to the e5tent of ma6in. some of them up, %ust
as does )he 3elp re.ardin. #im row& )he 3elp could not ima.ine a more honest and comple5 view of se.re.ationist Mississippi
partly 2ecause it uses the period ultimately as a prop for human interest clichK, and '%an.o Unchained"s a2surdly ahistorical view of
plantation slavery is only 2ac6drop for the mer.er of spa.hetti western and 2la5ploitation hero movie& *either film is really a2out the
period in which it is set& Bilm critic Manohla 'ar.is, reflectin. a decade a.o on what she saw as a .rowin. 3ollywood penchant for
period films, o2served that such films are typically 8stripped of politics and historical factLand instead will find meanin. in appealin.
to seemin.ly timeless ideals and stirrin. scenes of love, valor and compassion: and that 8the 3ollywood professionals who em2race
accuracy most enthusiastically nowadays are costume desi.ners&:/ )hat o2servation applies to 2oth these films, althou.h in '%an.o
concern with historically accurate representation of material culture applies only to the costumes and props of the -E@,s film .enres
)arantino wants to recall& )o ma6e sense of how '%an.o Unchained has received so much warmer a reception amon. 2lac6 and
leftoid commentators than did )he 3elp, it is useful to recall Mar.aret )hatcher"s -EM- dictum that 8economics are the method>
the o2%ect is to chan.e the soul&:N Simply put, she and her element have won& Bew o2servers4amon. opponents and
2oosters ali6e4have noted how deeply and thorou.hly 2oth films are em2edded in the practical ontology of
neoliberalism , the comple5 of unarticulated assumptions and une5amined first premises that provide its
common sense, its lifeworld& O2%ection to )he 3elp has 2een lar.ely of the shootin. fish in a 2arrel variety> complaints a2out the
film"s paternalistic treatment of the maids, which .enerally have 2oiled down to an o2%ection that the master0servant relation is
themati9ed at all, as well as the standard, predicta2le litany of anti0racist char.es a2out whites spea6in. for 2lac6s, the film"s
inattentiveness to the fact that at that time in Mississippi 2lac6 people were 2usily en.a.ed in li2eratin. themselves, etc& An
illustration of this tendency that conveniently refers to several other variants of it is A6i2a Solomon, 8Ahy I"m #ust Sayin. *o to J)he
3elp" and Its 3istorical Ahitewash: in olor !ines, Au.ust -,, +,--, availa2le at>
http>FFcolorlines&comFarchivesF+,--F,MFwhyOimO%ustOsayin.OnoOtoOtheOhelp&html& 'efenses of '%an.o Unchained pivot on
claims a2out the social si.nificance of the narrative of a 2lac6 hero& One node of this ar.ument emphasi9es the need to
validate a history of autonomous 2lac6 a.ency and 8resistance: as a politico0e5istential desideratum& It
accommodates a view that stresses the importance of reco.nition of re2ellious or militant individuals and revolts in
2lac6 American history& Another centers on a notion that e5posure to fictional 2lac6 heroes can inculcate the sense of personal
efficacy necessary to overcome the psycholo.ical effects of ine<uality and to facilitate upward mo2ility and may undermine
some whites" ne.ative stereotypes a2out 2lac6 people& In either re.ister assi.nment of social or political importance to
depictions of 2lac6 heroes rests on presumptions a2out the ne5us of mass cultural representation, social
commentary, and racial %ustice that are more si.nificant politically than the controversy a2out the film itself& In 2oth versions,
this ar.ument casts political and economic pro2lems in psycholo.ical terms& In%ustice appears as a matter of
disrespect and denial of due reco.nition, and the remedies proposed4which are all a2out ima.es pro%ected and the distri2ution of
%o2s associated with their pro%ection4loo6 a lot li6e self0esteem en.ineerin.& Moreover, nothin. could indicate more
stri)ingly the e5tent of neoli2eral ideolo.ical he.emony than the idea that the mass culture industry and its
representational practices constitute a meanin.ful terrain for stru..le to advance e.alitarian interests & It is
possi2le to entertain that view seriously only 2y i.norin. the fact that the production and consumption of mass
culture is thoroughly embedded in capitalist material and ideolo.ical imperatives & )hat, incidentally, is why I prefer
the usa.e 8mass culture: to descri2e this industry and its products and processes, althou.h I reco.ni9e that it may seem archaic to
some readers& )he mass culture v& popular culture de2ate dates at least from the -E1,s and has continued with occasional
crescendos ever since&1 Bor two decades or more, instructively in line with the retreat of possi2ilities for concerted left political
action outside the academy, the popular culture side of that de2ate has 2een dominant, alon. with its view that the products of this
precinct of mass consumption capitalism are somehow capa2le of transcendin. or su2vertin. their material identity as commodities,
if not avoidin. that identity alto.ether& 'espite the do..ed commitment of several .enerations of American Studies and
cultural studies .raduate students who want to valori9e watchin. television and immersion in hip0hop or other specialty
mar6et niches centered on youth recreation and the most ephemeral fads as 2oth intellectually avant0.arde and
politically 8resistive,: it should 2e time to admit that that earnest disposition is intellectually shallow and an ersat#
politics ! )he idea of 8popular: culture posits a spurious autonomy and or.anicism that actually affirm mass
industrial processes 2y effacin. them, especially in the putatively re2el, frin.e, or under.round mar6et niches
that depend on the fiction of the authentic to announce the 2irth of new product cycles& )he power of the hero is a cathartic trope that
connects mainly with the sensi2ility of adolescent 2oys4of whatever nominal a.e& )arantino has allowed as much, respondin. to 2lac6 critics" complaints a2out the violence and copious use of 8ni..er: 2y proclaimin. 8Even for the film"s 2i..est detractors, I thin6
their children will .row up and love this movie& I thin6 it could 2ecome a rite of passa.e for youn. 2lac6 males&:? )his response stems no dou2t from )arantino"s arro.ance and opportunism, and some critics have denounced it as no 2etter than racially
presumptuous& 7ut he is hardly alone in defendin. the film with an assertion that it .ives 2lac6 youth heroes, is .enerically inspirational or 2oth& Similarly, in a #anuary E, +,-+ interview on the 'aily Show, Ieor.e !ucas adduced this line to promote his even more
e5ecra2le race0oriented live0action cartoon, Red )ails, which, incidentally, triviali9es se.re.ation in the military 2y reducin. it to a matter of 2ad or outmoded attitudes& )he ironic effect is si.nificant understatement of 2oth the o2stacles the )us6e.ee airmen faced
and their actual accomplishments 2y renderin. them as 2ac6drop for a 2lac6face, slapped0to.ether rema6e of )op Iun& (*orman #ewison"s -EMN film, ASoldier"s Story, adapted from harles Buller"s ASoldier"s $lay, is a much more sensitive and thou.ht0provo6in.
rumination on the comple5ities of race and racism in the #im row U&S& Army4an army mo2ili9ed, as my father, a veteran of the *ormandy invasion, never tired of remar6in. sardonically, to fi.ht the racist *a9is&( !ucas characteri9ed his film as 8patriotic, even
%in.oistic: and was e5plicit that he wanted to create a film that would feature 8real heroes: and would 2e 8inspirational for teena.e 2oys&: Much as '%an.o Unchained"s defenders compare it on those terms favora2ly to !incoln, !ucas hyped Red )ails as 2ein. a
.enuine hero story unli6e 8Ilory, where you have a lot of white officers runnin. those .uys into cannon fodder&: Of course, the film industry is sharply tilted toward the youth mar6et, as !ucas and )arantino are acutely aware& 7ut !ucas, unli6e )arantino, was not
2ein. defensive in assertin. his desire to inspire the youn.; he offered it more as a 2oast& As he has said often, he"d wanted for years to ma6e a film a2out the )us6e.ee airmen, and he reports that he always intended tellin. their story as a feel0.ood, crossover
inspirational tale& )ellin. it that way also fits in principle (thou.h in this instance not in practice, as Red )ails 2om2ed at the 2o5 office( with the commercial imperatives of increasin.ly de.raded mass entertainment& 'ar.is o2served that the ahistoricism of the recent
period films is influenced 2y mar6et imperatives in a .lo2al film industry& )he more a film is tied to historically specific conte5ts, the more difficult it is to sell elsewhere& )hat lo.ic selects for special effects0driven products as well as standardi9ed, deconte5tuali9ed and
simplistic48universal:4story lines, prefera2ly set in fantasy worlds of the filmma6ers" desi.n& As 'ar.is notes, these films find their meanin. in shopworn clichKs puffed up as timeless verities, includin. upliftin. and inspirational messa.es for youth& 7ut somethin.
else underlies the stress on inspiration in the 2lac60interest films, which shows up in critical discussion of them as well& All these films4)he 3elp, Red )ails, '%an.o Unchained, even !incoln and Ilory4ma6e a claim to pu2lic attention 2ased partly on their social
si.nificance 2eyond entertainment or art, and they do so 2ecause they en.a.e with si.nificant moments in the history of the ne5us of race and politics in the United States& )here would not 2e so much discussion and de2ate and no Iolden Ilo2e, *AA$ Ima.e, or
Academy Award nominations for )he 3elp, Red )ails, or '%an.o Unchained if those films weren"t defined partly 2y themati9in. that ne5us of race and politics in some way& )he pretensions to social
si.nificance that fit these films into their particular mar)et niche don"t conflict with the mass0mar6et film industry"s
imperative of infantili9ation 2ecause those pretensions are only part of the show; they are little more than empty
2romides , product differentiation in the patter of 8seemin.ly timeless ideals: which the mass entertainment industry
constantly recycles& (Andrew O"3ehir o2serves as much a2out '%an.o Unchained, which he descri2es as 8a three0hour trailer
for a movie that never happens&:@( )hat comes throu.h in the defense of these films, in the face of evidence of their failin.s, that,
after all, they are 8%ust entertainment&: )heir su2stantive content is ideological; it is their contri2ution to the
naturali9ation of neoli2eralism"s ontolo.y as they propa.andi9e its universali9ation across spatial,
temporal, and social conte5ts& $urportedly in the interest of popular education cum entertainment, '%an.o Unchained and
)he 3elp, and Red )ails for that matter, read the sensi2ilities of the present into the past 2y divestin. the latter of its specific
historicity& )hey reinforce the sense of the past as .eneric old0timey times distin.uisha2le from the present 2y superficial
inade<uacies4outmoded fashion, technolo.y, commodities and ideas4since overcome& In )he 3elp 3illy"s o2session with her pet
pro%ect mar6s se.re.ation"s petty apartheid as irrational in part 2ecause of the e5pense ri.orously enforcin. it would re<uire; the
2readwinnin. hus2ands e5press their frustration with it as financially impractical& 3illy is a mean0spirited, narrow0minded person
whose ri.id and tone0deaf commitment to se.re.ationist consistency not only reflects her limitations of character 2ut also is
economically unsound, a fact that further defines her, and the cartoon version of #im row she represents, as irrational& )he
deeper messa.e of these films, insofar as they deny the inte.rity of the past, is that there is no thin)able alternative
to the ideolo.ical order under which we live & )his messa.e is reproduced throu.hout the mass entertainment industry; it
shapes the normative reality even of the fantasy worlds that mas<uerade as escapism& Even amon. those
who laud the supposedly cathartic effects of '%an.o"s insur.ent violence as reflectin. a .reater truth of a2olition than
passa.e of the )hirteenth Amendment, few commentators notice that he and 7roomhilda attained their freedom throu.h a mar6et
transaction&M )his reflects an ideological hegemony in which students all too commonly wonder why planters
would deny slaves or sharecroppers education 2ecause education would have made them more
productive as wor6ers& And, tellin.ly, in a .lowin. rumination in the 'aily Kos, Ryan 7roo6e inadvertently thrusts mass
culture"s destruction of historicity into 2old relief 2y declaimin. on 8the se.re.ated society presented: in '%an.o Unchained and
2a22lin. on4with the a2surdly ill0informed and pontifical self0ri.hteousness that the 2lo.osphere ena2les4a2out our need to ta6e
8responsi2ility for preservin. racial divides: if we are 8to put se.re.ation in the past and fully fulfill 'r& Kin."s dream&:E It"s all an
indistin.uisha2le mush of 2ad stuff a2out racial in%ustice in the old0timey days& 'ecoupled from its moorin.s in a historically
specific political economy, slavery 2ecomes at 2ottom a pro2lem of race relations , and, as historian Michael R&
Aest ar.ues forcefully, 8race relations: emer.ed as and has remained a discourse that substitutes eti'uette
for e'uality !-, )his is the conte5t in which we should ta6e account of what 8inspirin. the youn.: means as a %ustification for
those films& In part, the claim to inspire is a simple platitude, more filler than su2stance& It is, as I"ve already noted,
2oth an e5cuse for films that are cartoons made for an infantili9ed, .eneric mar6et and an assertion of a claim to a particular niche
within that mar6et& More insidiously, thou.h, the ease with which 8inspiration of youth: rolls out in this conte5t resonates with three
related and distur2in. themes> -( underclass ideolo.y"s narratives4now all Americans" common sense4that lin6 poverty and
ine<uality most crucially to (raciali9ed( cultural inade<uacy and psycholo.ical dama.e; +( the 2elief that racial ine<uality stems from
pre%udice, 2ad ideas and i.norance, and /( the co.nate of 2oth> the neoli2eral renderin. of social %ustice as e<uality of
opportunity, with an aspiration of creatin. 8 competitive individual minority a.ents who mi.ht stand a 2etter
fi.htin. chance in the neoli2eral rat race rather than a positive alternative vision of a society that
eliminates the need to fi.ht constantly a.ainst disruptive mar6et whims in the first place&:-- )his politics seeps
throu.h in the chatter a2out '%an.o Unchained in particular& Erin Au2ry Kaplan, in the !os An.eles )imes article in which )arantino
asserts his appeal to youth, remar6s that the 8most distur2in. detail Pa2out slaveryQ is the emotional violence and de.radation
directed at 2lac6s that effectively 6eeps them at the 2ottom of the social order, a place they still occupy today&: Aritin. on the
Institute of the 7lac6 Aorld 2lo., one 'r& Kwa 'avid Ahita6er, a -E?,s0style cultural nationalist, declaims on '%an.o"s testament to
the sources of de.radation and 8unendin. servitude PthatQ has rendered P2lac6 AmericansQ almost incapa2le of ma6in. sound
evaluations of our current situations or the 6ind of steps we must ta6e to improve our condition&:-+ In its 2lindness to political
economy, this notion of blac) cultural or psychological damage as either a le.acy of slavery or of more
indirect recent ori.in4e&.&, ur2an mi.ration, crac6 epidemic, matriarchy, 2a2ies ma6in. 2a2ies4comports well
with the reduction of slavery and #im row to interpersonal dynamics and 2ad attitudes& It su2stitutes a
8politics of recognition : and a patter of racial uplift for politics and underwrites a conflation of political
action and therapy & Aith respect to the ne5us of race and ine<uality, this discourse supports victim02lamin.
pro.rams of personal reha2ilitation and self0esteem en.ineerin.4inspiration4as easily as it does multiculturalist
respect for difference, which, 2y the way, also feeds 2ac6 to self0esteem en.ineerin. and inspiration as nodes within a lar.er
political economy of race relations& Either way, this is a discourse that displaces a politics challen.in. social
structures that reproduce ine<uality with concern for the feelin.s and characteristics of individuals and of
cate.ories of population statistics reified as sin.ular .roups that are e<uivalent to individuals& )his discourse has made it
possi2le (a.ain, 2ut more sanctimoniously this time( to characteri9e destruction of low0income housin. as an uplift strate.y for poor
people; curtailment of access to pu2lic education as 8choice:; 2ein. cut adrift from essential social wa.e protections as
8empowerment:; and individual material success as socially important role modelin.& Neoliberalism*s triumph is affirmed
with unselfconscious clarity in the ostensi2ly leftist defenses of '%an.o Unchained that center on the theme of slaves" havin.
li2erated themselves& )rots6yists, would02e anarchists, and psycho2a22lin. identitarians have their respective
sectarian .arnishes> )rots6yists see everywhere the 2u.2ear of 82ureaucratism: and mystify 8self0activity;: anarchists
similarly fetishi9e direct action and voluntarism and oppose lar.e0scale pu2lic institutions on principle, and
identitarians romantici9e essentialist notions of or.anic, fol6ish authenticity under constant threat from
institutions& 3owever, all are indistinguishable from the nominally li2ertarian ri.ht in their disdain for
.overnment and institutional ly 2ased political action , which their common reflex is to dispara.e as
inauthentic or corrupt &
+ntologi#ing the historical prevents an accurate account of oppression,
rendering their strategy meaningless
-il)ie, Assistant $rofessor of ultural and 'i.ital Studies C U Aisconsin0!a rosse, %12
(Ro2, 8apitalismRs $osthuman Empire,: )he Red riti<ue =ol& -N, BallFAinter(
'espite their differences, what each film relies on in re0writin. the contradictions of race and class as an
epistemolo.ical confrontation 2etween human and animal is what 'errida theori9es as Sthe .a9e of the a2solute
otherS (--(; that is, the S.a9e of the animalS which Soffers to my si.ht the a2yssal limit of the human> the inhuman or
the ahumanS (-+(& Bor e5ample, durin. his time on the farm !urie 2e.ins to wor6 at the local rescue shelterFveterinary hospital
and, as part of his transition to an SethicalS posthumanist, helps to euthani9e the do.s and ta6e them to the incinerator& Most
si.nificantly in this conte5t, since it ultimately reflects the Sreali9ationS that !urie under.oes over the course of the film, the attac6 on
!ucy and him occurs after he has %ust told a story a2out the Si.no2ilityS of a male do. that was 2eaten until he hated his own desire&
As part of the attac6 the youn. men shoot !ucyRs do.s, which is meant to si.nal a sharp contrast to !urieRs adoptin. of an SethicalS
approach at the veterinary clinic& Ahat he ultimately comes to see is that recastin. his identity in the new post0Apartheid landscape
will mean, in his words, 2ein. ShumiliatedL li6e a do.&S )his, however, is meant to indicate not simply a personal humiliation, 2ut, 2y
the end of the film, an inversion of his previous e.oist SselfS and, throu.h identification with animals" perspective, the full reco.nition
of the epistemolo.ical conditions which produce otherness& Ahen, at the conclusion of the film, !urie leaves his car at the top of the
mountain and wal6s down to !ucyRs farm for tea, .ivin. up on his silent protest at the SdealS that !ucy has made with $etrus to
2ecome her SwifeS in e5chan.e for protection from future attac6s, the viewer has 2een positioned to see him as no lon.er a2le to act
on his desires and thus havin. 2een reduced to 2ein. Sa do.&S In this way, we are meant to see the deep connection that !urie
ma6es 2etween humans and animals& 3e sees that to 2e other, whether human or animal, means 2ein. ShumiliatedS 2y those in
power& Of course, the ima.e of the white professor who is powerless in the face of the 2lac6 farmers completely inverts the reality of
social relations in South Africa, in which unemployment is listed as anywhere from /-T to N+T, fallin. lar.ely on the 2lac6
population (Ueilin. and eruti(& 7ut this, I ar.ue, is the point& $osthumanism is an ideolo.y which separates culture from
reality and, instead, posits that regardless of the economic , social reality is always driven 2y divisions
which violently classify those whose desires place them outside the Snormal S 2ounds of society& In 'istrict E the
relationship 2etween race and class is represented throu.h the relay of science fiction& In the film, we learn that the e5traterrestrials
literally emer.e from nowhere, as their ship suddenly appeared without warnin. in the s6y over #ohannes2ur.& It is only when the
humans cut into the ship and find the aliens livin. in deplora2le conditions with no seemin. purpose that Sfirst contactS is made&
Ahile later in the film we learn that M*U is one of the worldRs leadin. arms manufacturers and their interest in mana.in. the
situation is o2tainin. the alienRs weapon technolo.y, there is no reason .iven for the initial se.re.ation of the aliens into townships
e5cept their Sanimal0li6eS difference& In other words, li6e the post0historical conclusion of 'is.race, 'istrict E turns the modern
history of e5ploitation and oppression into an ahistorical fear of the other driven 2y the instrumental desire to ScaptureS all life in
reductive classifications& Similar to !urieRs ta6in. up of the do.Rs perspective, it is throu.h Ai6usR adoptin. of the SprawnsRS
perspective that we learn that it is S2adS to ScaptureS or SimposeS upon life conditions which are alien to its e5istence4%ust as 'errida
and A.am2en su..est42ut4also li6e A.am2en and 'errida4not where these terms come from& Ai6usR decision at the filmRs
conclusion to sacrifice his own life to ma6e sure that hristopher #ohnson and his son escape is thus meant to si.nify the
posthumanist reali9ation that social chan.e hin.es on the individual decision of how one approaches the other& )here is no
broad social movement , no social collectivity , only the ethical acts of one for the other, one in de2t to
the other& )hus, Ai6us (and the viewer( end the film with the hope that the future will 2e different , simply throu.h
the act of individual ethics& )his is the limit of the posthumanist theory of S difference &S Insofar as it defines
otherness, oppression, and e5ploitation as the effect of an instrumental lo.ic of classification which is endemic to all
social relations, it denies that there is any history to the ways in which people live& Instead, transformative theory
2ecomes an SethicalS pra5is that, in the words of A.am2en, Smust face a pro2lem and a particular situation
each and every timeS (Ahat is An ApparatusH E(& In this way, it 2ecomes impossible to su..est that e5ploitation
and oppression are inherent to capitalism or would 2e any different under any alternative mode of production& In fact,
3ardt and *e.ri ar.ue precisely this when they declare that SSocialism and capitalismLare 2oth re.imes of property that e5clude
the commonS (i5(& )he conse<uence is that posthumanism effectively naturali#es capitalism 2y denyin. what Mar5 calls
Sspecies02ein.S4the 2asis of human freedom in the collectivity of la2or4and replacin. it instead with what A.am2en
calls Sspecial 2ein.S or that which Swithout resem2lin. any otherLrepresents all othersS ($rofanations 1E(& Ahen A.am2en
proclaims that, SJ)o 2e special Pfar specieQ can mean Jto surprise and astonish" (in a ne.ative sense( 2y not fittin. into esta2lished
rules, 2ut the notion that individuals constitute a species and 2elon. to.ether in a homo.eneous class tends to 2e reassurin.S (1E(
he replicates the 2our.eois theory of difference which, as Mar5 writes, is 2ased upon San individual separated
from the community, withdrawn into himself, wholly preoccupied with his private interest and actin. in accordance with his
private capriceS such that Sfar from 2ein. considered, in the ri.hts of man, as a species02ein.; on the contrary, species0life itself4
society4appears as a system which is e5ternal to the individual and as a limitation of his ori.inal independenceS (On the #ewish
Vuestion N/(& In other words, the very nature of the division of la2or under capitalism causes wor6ers to 2lame
ahistorical notions of .society. and .government. for the contradictions which reside in the economic
and, in turn, see6 refu.e in the SfreedomS of individuality which 2our.eois society promises& In this way, when A.am2en writes that
S)he transformation of the species into a principle of identity and classification is the ori.inal sin of our culture, its most implaca2le
apparatus PdispositivoQS (?,(, he reproduces the sense with which people respond to capitalist e5ploitation 2y 2lamin. the very idea
of Ssociety,S rather than the society of e5ploitation& 7y ta6in. the <uestion of identity and difference out of the social, A.am2en turns
e5ploitation into an e5istential crisis which can only 2e resolved 2y the ethical reco.nition of difference on its own terms, leavin. the
contradictions of society intact& )his is how the posthumanist theories of identity return to the same structures of
representation they claim to oppose 2ecause their opposition does not move 2eyond the economic
structures of capitalism & 7oth the 3e.elian theory of Sreco.nitionS and the posthuman theory of Ssin.ularityS are ultimately
theories of the isolated individual, which is an ideolo.ical fiction arisin. alon.side capitalism (a la SRo2inson rusoeS( as a result of
the economic shift toward wa.e0la2or& )hey conse<uently su2stitute for more radical theories of freedom from the
mar6et the freedom of the individual in the mar)et , as if ri.id structures of social interpretations and not the
system of wa.e0la2or were holdin. the individual 2ac6& If we are to truly see the world differently, not %ust as
isolated individuals, 2ut as a united community which uses new technolo.ies for freein. people from the drud.ery of
wa.e la2or and its corresponding ideologies of racism, se5ism, homopho2ia, and other forms of
oppression , what is necessary is a social transformation that ends the e5ploitation of la2or upon which
capitalism is 2ased& $lurali9in. identities doesn"t challen.e the lo.ic of e5ploitation, 2ut actually e5pands it
since private property esta2lishes individual responsi2ility as the very 2asis of oneRs SnaturalS e5istence 2y
strippin. people of any means of survival outside of wa.e0la2or& )hus, retreatin. into individualism is merely the ideolo.ical mas6
which is placed over the su2sumption of all life under the profit motive& 3owever, as Mar5 writes, re.ardless of appearances, Sthe
individual is the social 2ein.& 3is life, even if it may not appear in the direct form of a communal life carried out to.ether with others
isL an e5pression and confirmation of social lifeS (M?(& Althou.h posthumanism turns the alienation of the wor6er under capitalism
into the very pre0condition of all culture, I ar.ue that it is only 2y freein. la2or from the restrictions of capitalist
e5ploitation that, we can, as Mar5 writes, end racial oppression and find a S.enuine resolution of the conflict 2etween
man and nature and 2etween man and man4the true resolution of the strife 2etween e5istence and essence, 2etween
o2%ectification and self0confirmation, 2etween freedom and necessity, 2etween the individual and the speciesS (MN(&
They turn class into culture, displacing any serious challenge to the status 'uo in
favor of seemingly/radical pseudo/politics
0c1aren, 'istin.uished Bellow C ritical Studies W hapman U and U!A ur2an schoolin. prof, and
Scatam2urlo0'"Anni2ale, associate professor of ommunication C U Aindsor, %2
($eter and =alerie, 8lass 'ismissedH 3istorical materialism and the politics of Jdifference",: Educational
$hilosophy and )heory =ol& /?, Issue +, p& -M/0-EE(
Ea.er to ta6e a wide detour around political economy, post0Mar5ists tend to assume that the principal political
points of departure in the current Jpostmodern" world must necessarily 2e Jcultural&" As such, most, 2ut not all post0
Mar5ists have .ravitated towards a politics of %difference* which is lar.ely premised on uncoverin. relations
of power that reside in the arran.ement and deployment of su2%ectivity in cultural and ideolo.ical practices (cf&
#ordan X Aeedon, -EE1(& Advocates of Jdifference" politics therefore posit their ideas as 2old steps forward in advancin. the
interests of those historically mar.inali9ed 2y Jdominant" social and cultural narratives & )here is no dou2t that
post0Mar5ism has advanced our 6nowled.e of the hidden tra%ectories of power within the processes of representation and that it
remains useful in adum2ratin. the formation of su2%ectivity and its e5pressive dimensions as well as complementin. our
understandin.s of the relationships 2etween Jdifference," lan.ua.e, and cultural confi.urations& 3owever, post0Mar5ists have
2een woefully remiss in addressin. the constitution of class formations and the machinations of
capitalist social or.ani9ation & In some instances, capitalism and class relations have 2een thoroughly
%otheri#ed 3* in others, class is summoned only as part of the triumvirate of Jrace, class, and .ender" in which
class is reduced to merely another form of %difference! * Enamored with the Jcultural" and seemin.ly 2lind to
the Jeconomic," the rhetorical e5cesses of post0Mar5ists have also prevented them from considering the
star6 reality of contemporary class conditions under .lo2al capitalism & As we hope to show, the radical displacement
of class analysis in contemporary theoretical narratives and the concomitant decenterin. of capitalism, the anointin. of
Jdifference" as a primary e5planatory construct, and the Jculturali9ation" of politics, have had detrimental effects on Jleft"
theory and practice& Reconceptuali9in. J'ifference" )he manner in which Jdifference" has 2een ta6en up within Jpost0al"
framewor6s has tended to stress its cultural dimensions while mar.inali9in. and, in some cases, completely
ignoring the economic and material dimensions of difference & )his posturin. has 2een <uite evident in many Jpost0
al" theories of Jrace" and in the realm of Jludic"- cultural studies that have valori9ed an account of difference4particularly
Jracial difference"4in almost e5clusively Jsuperstructuralist" terms (Sahay, -EEM(& 7ut this treatment of Jdifference"
and claims a2out Jthe 8relative autonomy: of 8race:" have 2een Jena2led 2y a reduction and distortion of
0arxian class analysis* which Jinvolves e<uatin. class analysis with some version of economic determinism&" )he 6ey move in
this distortin. .esture depends on the Jview that the economic is the 2ase, the culturalFpoliticalFideolo.ical the superstructure&" It is
then Jrelatively easy to show that the (presuma2ly non0political( economic 2ase does not cause the politicalFculturalFideolo.ical
superstructure, that the latter isFare not epiphenomenal 2ut relatively autonomous or autonomous causal cate.ories" (Meyerson,
+,,,, p& +(& In such formulations the Jcultural" is treated as a separate and autonomous sphere, severed from its
em2eddedness within sociopolitical and economic arran.ements& As a result, many of these Jculturalist" narratives have
produced autonomist and reified conceptuali9ations of difference which Jfar from ena2lin. those su2%ects most
mar.inali9ed 2y racial difference" have, in effect, reduced Jdifference to a <uestion of 6nowled.eFpower relations"
that can presuma2ly 2e Jdealt with (ne.otiated( on a discursive level without a fundamental chan.e in the
relations of production" (Sahay, -EEM(& At this %uncture, it is necessary to point out that ar.uin. that J culture" is .enerally
conditionedFshaped 2y material forces does not reinscribe the simplistic and presuma2ly Jdeterministic*
2aseFsuperstructure metaphor which has pla.ued some strands of 0arxist theory ! Rather, we invo6e Mar5Rs own writin.s
from 2oth the Irundrisse and apital in which he contends that there is a consolidatin. lo.ic in the relations of
production that permeates society in the comple5 variety of its Jempirical" reality& )his emphasi9es Mar5Rs
understandin. of capitalism and capital as a Jsocial" relation4one which stresses the interpenetration of these
cate.ories, the realities which they reflect, and one which therefore offers a unified and dialectical analysis of history,
ideolo.y, culture, politics, economics and society (see also Mar5, -E@+, -E@?, -E@@(&+ Bore.roundin. the limitations of
Jdifference" and Jrepresentational" politics does not su..est a disavowal of the importance of cultural andFor discursive
arena(s( as sites of contestation and stru..le& Ae readily ac6nowled.e the si.nificance of contemporary theori9ations that
have sou.ht to valori9e precisely those forms of Jdifference" that have historically 2een deni.rated& )his has undou2tedly 2een an
important development since they have ena2led su2ordinated .roups to reconstruct their own histories
and .ive voice to their individual and collective identities& 4owever, they have also tended to redefine politics
as a signifying activity .enerally confined to the realm of Jrepresentation" while displacing a politics .rounded in the
mo2ili9ation of forces a.ainst the material sources of political and economic marginali#ation ! In their rush to avoid
the Jcapital" sin of Jeconomism," many post0Mar5ists (who often i.nore their own class privile.e( have fallen prey to an
ahistorical form of culturalism which holds, amon. other thin.s, that cultural stru..les external to class
or.ani9in. provide the cuttin. ed.e of emancipatory politics&/ In many respects, this posturin., has yielded an
Jintellectual pseudopolitics* that has served to empower %the theorist while explicitly disempower ing*
real citi#ens ()urner, -EEN, p& N-,(& Ae do not discount concerns over representation; rather our point is that
pro.ressive educators and theorists should not 2e strai.ht%ac6eted 2y stru..les that fail to move 2eyond
the politics of difference and representation in the cultural realm& Ahile space limitations prevent us from ela2oratin. this point,
we contend that culturalist ar.uments are deeply problematic 2oth in terms of their penchant for de0emphasi9in.
the totali9in. (yes totali9in.Y( power and function of capital and for their attempts to employ culture as a construct that
would diminish the centrality of class & In a proper historical materialist account, Jculture" is not the Jother" of class 2ut, rather,
constitutes part of a more comprehensive theori9ation of class rule in different conte5ts&N J$ost0al" theori9ations of Jdifference "
circumvent and undermine any systematic 6nowled.e of the material dimensions of difference and tend
to se.re.ate <uestions of Jdifference" from class formation and capitalist social relations& Ae therefore 2elieve that it
is necessary to (re(conceptuali9e J difference" 2y drawin. up on Mar5Rs materialist and historical
formulations & J'ifference" needs to 2e understood as the product of social contradictions and in relation to political
and economic or.ani9ation& Ae need to ac6nowled.e that Jotherness" andFor difference is not somethin. that passively
happens, 2ut, rather, is actively produced& In other words, since systems of differences almost always involve relations of
domination and oppression, we must concern ourselves with the economies of relations of difference that e5ist in specific conte5ts&
'rawin. upon the Mar5ist concept of mediation ena2les us to unsettle our cate.orical approaches to 2oth class and difference, for it
was Mar5 himself who warned a.ainst creatin. false dichotomies in the situation of our politics4that it was a2surd to Jchoose
2etween consciousness and the world, su2%ectivity and social or.ani9ation, personal or collective will and historical or structural
determination&" In a similar vein, it is e<ually absurd to see Jdifference as a historical form of consciousness
unconnected to class formation, development of capital and class politics" (7anner%i, -EE1, p& /,(& 7anner%i points to the
need to historici9e Jdifference" in relation to the history and social or.ani9ation of capital and class (inclusive
of imperialist and colonialist le.acies(& Apprehendin. the meanin. and function of difference in this manner necessarily hi.hli.hts
the importance of e5plorin. (-( the institutional and structural aspects of difference; (+( the meanin.s that .et attached to cate.ories
of difference; and (/( how differences are produced out of, and lived within specific historical formations&1
Capitalism causes inevitable crises, ine'uality, and dehumani#ationthe
alternative is a class/based criti'ue of the systempedagogical spaces are the
crucial staging ground for )eeping socialism on the hori#on
0c1aren, 'istin.uished Bellow C ritical Studies W hapman U and U!A ur2an schoolin. prof, and
Scatam2urlo0'"Anni2ale, associate professor of ommunication C U Aindsor, %2
($eter and =alerie, 8lass 'ismissedH 3istorical materialism and the politics of Jdifference",: Educational
$hilosophy and )heory =ol& /?, Issue +, p& -M/0-EE(
Bor well over two decades we have witnessed the %u2ilant li2eral and conservative pronouncements of the demise of socialism&
oncomitantly, historyRs presumed failure to defan. e5istin. capitalist relations has 2een read 2y many self0
identified Jradicals" as an advertisement for capitalismRs inevita2ility& As a result, the chorus refrain J)here Is *o
Alternative", sun. 2y li2erals and conservatives, has 2een 2uttressed 2y the symphony of post/0arxist voices
recommendin. that we .ive socialism a decent 2urial and move on& Aithin this conte5t, to spea6 of the promise of
Mar5 and socialism may appear anachronistic, even naZve, especially since the post0al intellectual van.uard has presuma2ly
demonstrated the folly of doin. so& Get we stu22ornly 2elieve that the chants of )&I&*&A& must 2e com2ated for they offer as a fait
accompli, somethin. which pro.ressive !eftists should refuse to accept4namely the triumph of capital ism and
its political 2edfellow neo0li2eralism, which have wor6ed to.ether to naturali9e sufferin., undermine collective
stru..le, and o2literate hope& Ae concur with Amin (-EEM(, who claims that such chants must 2e defied and
revealed as a2surd and criminal, and who puts the challen.e we face in no uncertain terms> humanity may let itself 2e
led 2y capitalism Rs lo.ic to a fate of collective suicide or it may pave the way for an alternative humanist
pro%ect of .lo2al socialism& )he .roste<ue conditions that inspired Mar5 to pen his ori.inal criti<ue of capitalism are
present and flourishin. & )he ine<ualities of wealth and the .ross im2alances of power that e5ist today are leadin. to
a2uses that e5ceed those encountered in Mar5Rs day (Ireider, -EEM, p& /E(& Ilo2al capitalism has paved the way for
the o2scene concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands and created a world increasin.ly divided 2etween
those who en%oy opulent affluence and those who lan.uish in dehumani9in. conditions and economic misery& In every
corner of the .lo2e, we are witnessin. social disinte.ration as revealed 2y a rise in a2%ect poverty and ine<uality& At
the current historical %uncture, the com2ined assets of the ++1 richest people is rou.hly e<ual to the annual income of the poorest N@
percent of the worldRs population, while the com2ined assets of the three richest people e5ceed the com2ined I'$ of the NM poorest
nations ($A, +,,+, p& /(& Appro5imately +&M 2illion people4almost half of the worldRs population4stru..le in
desperation to live on less than two dollars a day (McVuai., +,,-, p& +@(& As many as +1, million children are
wa.e slaves and there are over a 2illion wor6ers who are either un0 or under0employed& )hese are the concrete
realities of our time4realities that re'uire a vigorous class analysis, an unrelenting criti'ue of capitalism
and an oppositional politics capa2le of confrontin. what Ahmad (-EEM, p& +( refers to as Jcapitalist universality&"
)hey are realities that re<uire somethin. more than that which is offered 2y the prophets of Jdifference" and post0Mar5ists who would
have us rele.ate socialism to the scrapheap of history and mummify Mar5ism alon. with !eninRs corpse& *ever 2efore has a
Mar5ian analysis of capitalism and class rule 2een so desperately needed& )hat is not to say that everythin. Mar5
said or anticipated has come true, for that is clearly not the case& Many criti<ues of Mar5 focus on his strate.y for
movin. toward socialism, and with ample %ustification; nonetheless Mar5 did provide us with fundamental
insights into class society that have held true to this day& Mar5Rs endurin. relevance lies in his indictment of capitalism
which continues to wrea6 havoc in the lives of most& Ahile capitalismRs cheerleaders have attempted to hide its sordid under2elly,
Mar5Rs description of capitalism as the sorcererRs dar6 power is even more apt in li.ht of contemporary historical and economic
conditions& Rather than %ettisonin. Mar5, decenterin. the role of capitalism, and discreditin. class analysis,
radical educators must continue to en.a.e Mar5Rs oeuvre and e5trapolate from it that which is useful
pedagogically, theoretically, and, most importantly, politically in li.ht of the challen.es that confront us& )he
ur.ency which animates AminRs call for a collective socialist vision necessitates, as we have ar.ued, movin.
2eyond the particularism and li2eral pluralism that informs the Jpolitics of difference&" It also re'uires
challen.in. the 'uestionable assumptions that have come to constitute the core of contemporary
Jradical" theory, pedagogy and politics& In terms of effectin. chan.e, what is needed is a co.ent
understanding of the systemic nature of e5ploitation and oppression 2ased on the precepts of a radical
political economy approach (outlined a2ove( and one that incorporates Mar5Rs notion of Junity in difference" in which people
share widely common material interests& Such an understandin. e5tends far 2eyond the realm of theory, for the
manner in which we choose to interpret and e5plore the social world, the concepts and framewor)s we use to
e5press our sociopolitical understandin.s , are more than %ust a2stract cate.ories& )hey imply intentions ,
or.ani9ational practices, and political a.endas & Identifyin. class analysis as the 2asis for our understandin.s
and class stru..le as the 2asis for political transformation implies somethin. 'uite different than constructin. a
sense of political a.ency around issues of race, ethnicity, .ender , etc& ontrary to JSha6espeareRs assertion that a
rose 2y any other name would smell as sweet," it should 2e clear that this is not the case in political matters& Rather, in politics
Jthe essence of the flower lies in the name by which it is called* (7anner%i, +,,,, p& N-(& )he tas6 for
pro.ressives today is to sei9e the moment and plant the seeds for a political a.enda that is .rounded in
historical possi2ilities and informed 2y a vision committed to overcomin. e5ploitative conditions& )hese seeds, we would
ar.ue, must 2e derived from the tree of radical political economy& Bor the vast ma%ority of people today4people of
all Jracial classifications or identities , all .enders and se5ual orientations"4 the common frame of
reference arcin. across Jdifference", the Jconcerns and aspirations that are most widely shared are those that are rooted in the
common e5perience of everyday life shaped and constrained 2y political economy* (Reed, +,,,, p& 55vii(&
Ahile post0Mar5ist advocates of the politics of Jdifference" su..est that such a stance is outdated, we would
ar.ue that the cate.ories which they have employed to analy9e Jthe social" are now losin. their usefulness,
particularly in li.ht of actual contemporary Jsocial movements&" All over the globe , there are lar.e anti0capitalist
movements afoot& In Be2ruary +,,+, chants of JAnother Aorld Is $ossi2le" 2ecame the theme of protests in $orto Alle.re& It
seems that those people stru..lin. in the streets haven"t read a2out )&I&*&A&, the end of .rand narratives of
emancipation, or the decenterin. of capitalism& It seems as thou.h the stru..le for 2asic survival and some sem2lance
of human di.nity in the mean streets of the dystopian metropoles doesn"t permit much time or opportunity to read the heady
proclamations emanatin. from seminar rooms& As E& $& )hompson (-E@M, p& --( once remar6ed, sometimes Je5perience wal6s in
without 6noc6in. at the door, and announces deaths, crises of su2sistence, trench warfare, unemployment, inflation, .enocide&"
)his, of course, does not mean that socialism will inevita2ly come a2out, yet a sense of its nascent promise
animates current social movements& Indeed, noted historian 3oward Uinn (+,,,, p& +,( recently pointed out that after
years of sin.le0issue or.ani9in. (i&e& the politics of difference(, the A)O and other anti0corporate capitalist
protests si.naled a turnin. point in the Jhistory of movements of recent decades," for it was the issue of Jclass"
that more than anythin. J2ound everyone to.ether&" 3istory, to paraphrase )hompson (-E@M, p& +1( doesn"t seem to 2e
followin. )heoryRs script& Our vision is informed 2y Mar5Rs historical materialism and his revolutionary socialist humanism, which
must not 2e conflated with li2eral humanism& Bor left politics and peda.o.y, a socialist humanist vision remains crucial ,
whose fundamental features include the creative potential of people to challen.e collectively the
circumstances that they inherit& )his variant of humanism see6s to .ive e5pression to the pain, sorrow and de.radation of
the oppressed, those who la2or under the ominous and .hastly cloa6 of J.lo2ali9ed" capital& It calls for the transformation of those
conditions that have prevented the 2ul6 of human6ind from fulfillin. its potential& It vests its hope for chan.e in the
development of critical consciousness and social a.ents who ma6e history, althou.h not always in conditions of
their choosin.& )he political .oal of socialist humanism is, however, Jnot a restin. in difference" 2ut rather Jthe emancipation of
difference at the level of human mutuality and reciprocity&" )his would 2e a step forward for the Jdiscovery or creation of our real
differences which can only in the end 2e e5plored in reciprocal ways" (Ea.leton, -EE?, p& -+,(& A2ove all else, the endurin.
relevance of a radical socialist peda.o.y and politics is the centrality it accords to the interro.ation of
capital ism& Ae can no lon.er afford to remain indifferent to the horror and sava.ery committed 2y capitalistRs 2ar2aric
machinations& Ae need to reco.ni9e that capitalist democracy is unrescua2ly contradictory in its own self0
constitution& apitalism and democracy cannot 2e translated into one another without profound efforts at manufacturin. empty
idealism& ommitted !eftists must unrelentingly cultivate a democratic socialist vision that refuses to for.et
the Jwretched of the earth," the children of the damned and the victims of the culture of silence4a tas6 which re<uires more than
a2struse convolutions and stri6in. ironic poses in the a.nostic arena of si.nifyin. practices& !eftists must illuminate the little
shops of horror that lur6 2eneath J.lo2ali9ation"s" shiny fa[ade; they must challen.e the true Jevils" that are manifest in the
tentacles of .lo2al capitalismRs reach& And, more than this, !eftists must search for the crac6s in the edifice of
.lo2ali9ed capital ism and shine light on those fissures that give birth to alternatives ! Socialism today,
undou2tedly, runs a.ainst the .rain of received wisdom, 2ut its vision of a vastly improved and freer
arran.ement of social relations 2ec6ons on the hori9on& Its unwritten te5t is nascent in the present even as
it e5ists amon. the fra.ments of history and the shards of distant memories& Its potential remains untapped and its promise needs to
2e redeemed&
+ur starting point of class analysis resolves the case better than the 1AC*s anti/
ethical stance
Cole, entre for Education for Social #ustice W 7ishop Irosseteste U olle.e !incoln, %12
(Mi6e, 8ritical race theory in education, Mar5ism and a2stract racial domination,: British Journal of
Sociology of Education, //>+, p& -?@0-M/(
Ahat then are the implications for educational practiceH $reston"s peda.o.ical solutions are the a2olition of 2oth
Jwhiteness" and capitalism, of which the former, accordin. to $reston, is perhaps capitalism"s Jwea6est lin6"
(+,-,, -+/(& )here are three ma(or problems with Jthe a2olition of whiteness" & Birst it is too va.ue to have any
practical implications (hardly surprisin. .iven the a2stract theori9in. that preceded its announcement(&-+
#ust how are white people to 2e persuaded to Ja2olish their whiteness" , and what would follow such
a2olitionH Second, .iven its va.ueness, it is seriously open to misinterpretation & Ahile $reston clearly does not
propose the a2olition of white people, his advocacy of the a2olition of Jwhiteness" is clearly open to 2ein. interpreted as such& )hird,
and followin. on from the first and second pro2lems, the a2olition of Jwhiteness" is useless as a unifier and counter/
productive as a political rallyin. point & Indeed, were the a2olition of whiteness to 2e routinely promoted in
educational establishments, it would most li6ely cause severe confusion and indeed mayhem&
Unproductive divisions on .rounds of Jrace", class and culture would undou2tedly accelerate &-/ As far as the a2olition of
capitalism is concerned, 2y its very nature, a2stract academic Mar5ism, as developed 2y $ostone and not lin6ed to
practice, is not appropriate for Mar5ist pedagogy ! Rather the ur.ent need is to parta6e in Mar5ist pra5is &
)his must entail a concrete en.a.ement with the real possi2ilities of twenty0first0century socialism (for
e5ample, !e2owit9 +,,?; Martine9, Bo5, and Barrell +,-,; Motta and ole +,-/, forthcomin.(& Rather than a2olish
Jwhiteness" , however perceived, it is more appropriate to unite around a common purpose & entral should 2e
a theoretical e5ploration of the concept of participatory democracy, 2ut lin6ed to concrete practice , such as in the
communal councils and communes of =ene9uela C a country where people are directly involved in decision0
ma6in. and where Mar5ism, in the form of twenty0first0century socialism, is 2ein. considered seriously as a via2le
alternative to capitalism&-N
2
5ialogue can*t solve6 subconscious identification overdetermines the debate
community*s response to their performance and ensures no change
-ilderson, full professor of 'rama and African American studies at the University of alifornia, Irvine,
2012
PBran6, Irvine RR onference 0 'iscussion with Bran6 7& Ailderson III March E,
https>FFwww&youtu2e&comFwatchHv\K5Mf!/1rVsA ->1,0->1/>-, Accessed /F+@F-N #$Q
7 would never say that what 7 have drawn from my conversations and the limited amount of
research that 7 have done, is the totality of the debate world , but 7 believe it is the truth of the
world, I 2elieve it is the truth of the world and 7 believe that debate is a set of institutional relations in
the world that cannot escape that truth& 8o it )ind of doesn*t matter to me if there is good will over
here and bad will over here and .ood intentions over here and 2ad intentions over here&
Bor two reasons, one 2ecause what you are tal6in. a2out is part 0 is only one initiative from the schema of
su2%ectivity that comes from preconscious interests and there are two other registers of sub(ectivity at
least, right, which is unconscious identifications and structural positions and so what 7 was trying
to single the limitations of debate as an institution towards the end of this tal) what 7 was
signaling was that the form of the institution is ideologically overdetermined 2ecause it press 0 it
forces discourse or tries to force discourse 0 this is part of the pro2lem ri.ht now 0 it tries to force
discourse into de2atin. discourse in the realm of preconscious interests in other words what one can
6now and say I am actually tal6in. a2out a process of identification how a..ression, fi5ation, desire also
wor6s to form institutions and I thin6 thatRs as vital if not more so than the political, sorry, the preconscious
aspects of political economy so I actually I can 2elieve that one could have a certain 6ind of no2le
intentions althou.h, I wouldn"t say any intentions in civil society are no2le, while at the same time 2ein.
driven 2y unconscious fi5ations, attachments, and a..ression to what I am callin. anti02lac6ness& And
furthermore sayin. that it is not something that can be ad(udicated or gotten rid of through
dialogue, I am not sayin. that dialo.ue is 2ad we should all stop tal6in., 2ut I am sayin. that the
fundamental change which blac) embodiment portends is so big that most blac) people don*t
even want to be involved with it except in moments when we*ve come together around that
antagonism and those moments last for this long 9holding his fingers and inch apart: 2ecause
violence advance0 and I thin6 that one of the de2aters the other day, yesterday said was tryin. to C one
of the thin.s I see in the de2ate 2lo.s and stuff is how violence on the other side of the resistance is
theori9ed as state violence afropessimism theori9es violence as human violence so its not the state, itRs
the human his or her self&
The civil society of the debate community see)s to integrate blac) people in order
to stave off a crisis! Ta)ing pleasure in this move is an obscene eliding of the
terror of white supremacy
4artman and -ilderson, professor at olum2ia University speciali9in. in African American
literature and history and Associate $rofessor at U Irvine, 200&
PSaidiya =& 3artman and Bran6 7& Ailderson, IIISource> Vui $arle, =ol& -/, *o& + )3E $OSI)IO* OB )3E
U*)3OUI3) (Sprin.FSummer +,,/(, pp& -M/0+,Q
S&=3& 0 In many ways, what I was tryin. to do as a cultural historian was to narrate a certain impossi2ility,
to illuminate those practices that spea6 to the limits of most availa2le narratives to e5plain the position of
the enslaved& On one hand, the slave is the foundation of the national order, and, on the other, the slave
occupies the position of the unthou.ht& So what does it mean to try to 2rin. that position into view without
ma6in. it a locus of positive value, or without tryin. to fill in the voidH So much of our political
voca2ularyFima.inaryFdesires have 2een implicitly inte.rationist even when we ima.ine our claims are
more radical& )his .oes to the second part of the 2oo6 0 that ultimately the metanarrative thrust is
always towards an integration into the national pro(ect, and particularly when that pro(ect is in
crisis, blac) people are called upon to affirm it!
So certainly itRs a2out more than the desire for inclusion with in the limited set of possi2ilities that the
national pro%ect provides& -hat then does this language / the given language of freedom / enable ;
And once you reali#e its limits and begin to see its inexorable investment in certain notions of the
sub(ect and sub(ection, then that language of freedom no longer becomes that which res cues the
slave from his or her former condition, but the site of the re/elaboration of that condition, rather
than its transformation&
B&A 0 )his is one of the reasons why your 2oo6 has 2een called SpessimisticS 2y Anita $atterson&/ 7ut itRs
interestin. that she doesnRt say what I said when we first started tal6in., that itRs ena2lin.& IRm assumin.
that sheRs white 0 I donRt 6now, 2ut it certainly sounds li6e it&
S&=3& 0 <ut 7 thin) there=s a certain integrationist rights agenda that su2%ects who are variously
positioned on the color line can ta6e up& And that pro(ect is something 7 consider obscene6 the
attempt to ma)e the narrative of defeat into an opportunity for celebration, the desire to loo) at the
ravages and the brutality of the last few centuries, but to still find a way to feel good about our
selves& )hatRs not my pro%ect at all, thou.h I thin6 itRs actually the pro%ect of a num2er of people&
Unfortunately, the )ind of social revisionist history underta)en by many leftists in the 1 >?0s, who
were trying to locate the agency of dominated groups, resulted in celebratory narratives of the
oppressed&N Ultimately, it 2led into this cele2ration, as if there was a space you could carve out of the
terrori#ing state apparatus in order to exist outside its clutches and forge some autonomy& My
pro%ect is a different one& And in particular, one of my hidden polemics in the 2oo6 was an ar.ument
a.ainst the notion of he.emony, and how that notion has 2een ta6en up in the conte5t of loo6in. at the
status of the slave&
case
Anti/blac)ness isn*t inherent or ontologicalit*s historically contingent and
hence able to change
4udson, professor of political studies C University of the Aitwatersrand, %1&
($eter, 8)he state and the colonial unconscious,: Social ynamics: A !ournal of African studies
=ol& /E, Issue +, p& +?/0+@@(
)hus the self0sameFother distinction is necessary for the possi2ility of identity itself& )here always has to
e5ist an outside, which is also inside, to the e5tent it is desi.nated as the impossi2ility from which the
possi2ility of the e5istence of the su2%ect derives its rule (7adiou +,,E, ++,(& 7ut althou.h the e5cluded
place which isn"t e5cluded insofar as it is necessary for the very possi2ility of inclusion and identity may
2e universal (may 2e considered 8ontolo.ical:(, its content (what fills it( C as well as the mode of this fillin.
and its reproduction C are contin.ent& In other words, the meanin. of the si.nifier of e5clusion is not
determined once and for all> the place of the place of e5clusion, of death is itself over0determined , i&e& the
very framewor6 for decidin. the other and the same, e5clusion and inclusion, is nowhere engraved in
ontological stone 2ut is political and never terminally settled& $ut differently, the 8curvature of
intersu2%ective space: (ritchley +,,@, ?-( and thus, the specific modes of the 8otherin.: of 8otherness:
are nowhere decided in advance (as a cert ain ontolo.ical fatalism mi.ht have it( (see -ilderson +,,M(&
The social does not have to be divided into white and blac), and the meanin. of these si.nifiers is
never necessary C 2ecause they are si.nifiers& )o 2e sure, colonialism institutes a n ontolo.ical division, in
that whites e5ist in a way 2arred to 2lac6s C who are not& 7ut this ontolo.ical relation is really on the side
of the ontic C that is, of all contin.ently constructed identities, rather than the ontolo.y of the social which
refers to the ultimate unfi5ity , the indeterminacy or lac6 of the social& In this sense, then, the white man
doesn"t e5ist, the 2lac6 man doesn"t e5ist (Banon -E?M, -?1(; and neither does the colonial sym2olic itself,
includin. its most intimate structurin. relations C division is constitutive of the social, not the colonial
division& 8Ahiteness: may well 2e very deeply sediment in modernity itself, 2ut respect for the 8ontolo.ical
difference: (see 3eide..er -E?+, +?; Aatts +,--, +@E( shows up its ontolo.ical status as ontic& It may 2e
so deeply sedimented that it 2ecomes difficult even to identify the very possi2ility of the separation of
whiteness from the very possi2ility of order, 2ut from this it does not follow that the 8void: of 82lac6 2ein.:
functions as the ultimate su2stance, the transcendental si.nified on which all possible forms of
sociality are said to rest & Ahat .ets lost here, then, is the specificity of colonialism, of its constitutive
a5is, its 8 ontolo.ical: differential& A crucial feature of the colonial sym2olic is that the real is not screened
off 2y the ima.inary in the way it is under capitalism& At the place of the colonised, the sym2olic and the
ima.inary .ive way 2ecause non0identity (the real of the social( is immediately inscri2ed in the 8lived
e5perience: (vKcu( of the colonised su2%ect& )he colonised is 8traversin. the fantasy: (Ui9e6 +,,?a, N,C
?,( all the time; the void of the ver2 8to 2e: is the very content of his interpellation& )he colonised is, in
other words, the su2%ect of an5iety for whom the sym2olic and the ima.inary never wor6, who is left
stranded 2y his very interpellation&N 8Bi5ed: into 8non0fi5ity,: he is eternally suspended 2etween 8element:
and 8moment:1 C he is where the colonial sym2olic falters in the production of meanin. and is thus the
point of entry of the real into the te5ture itself of colonialism& 7e this as it may, whiteness and 2lac6ness
are (sustained 2y( determinate and contingent practices of si.nification; the 8structurin. relation: of
colonialism thus itself comprises a 6not of si.nifications which, no matter how ti.ht, can always 2e
undone& Anti/colonial C i&e&, anti08white: C modes of stru..le are not (%ust( 8psychic: ? 2ut involve the
8reactivation : (or 8de0sedimentation:(@ of colonial ob(ectivity itself& *o matter how sedimented (or
.lo2al(, colonial o2%ectivity is not ontolo.ically immune to anta.onism& 'ifferentiality, as Ui9e6 insists (see
Ui9e6 +,-+, chapter --, @@- nNM(, immanently entails anta.onism in that differentiality 2oth ma6es
possi2le the e5istence of any identity whatsoever and at the same time C 2ecause it is the presence of
one o2%ect in another C undermines any identity ever 2ein. (fully( itself& Each element in a differential
relation is the condition of possi2ility and the condition of impossi2ility of each other& It is this dimension of
anta.onism that the Master Si.nifier covers over transformin. its outside (Other( into an element of itself,
reducin. it to a condition of its possi2ility&M All sym2olisation produces an ineradica2le e5cess over itself,
somethin. it can"t totalise or ma6e sense of, where its production of meanin. falters& )his is its internal
limit point, its real>E an errant 8o2%ect: that has no place of its own, isn"t reco.nised in the cate.ories of the
system 2ut is produced 2y it C its 8part of no part: or 8o2%ect small a&:-, orrelative to this o2%ect 8a: is the
su2%ect 8stricto sensu: C i&e&, as the empty su2%ect of the si.nifier without an identity that pins it down&--
)hat is the su2%ect of anta.onism in confrontation with the real of the social, as distinct from 8su2%ect:
position 2ased on a determinate identity !
No social death @ history proves
=incent <rown, $rof& of 3istory and African and African0American Studies W 3arvard Univ&, 'ecem2er
+,0>, SSocial 'eath and $olitical !ife in the Study of Slavery,S American 3istorical Review, p& -+/-0-+NE
)3E $REMISE OB OR!A*'O $A))ERSO*"S MA#OR AORK, that enslaved Africans were natally
alienated and culturally isolated, was challen.ed even 2efore he pu2lished his influential thesis, primarily
2y scholars concerned with 8survivals: or 8retentions: of African culture and 2y historians of slave
resistance& In the early to mid0twentieth century, when Ro2ert $ar6"s view of 8the *e.ro: predominated
amon. scholars, it was .enerally assumed that the slave trade and slavery had denuded 2lac6 people of
any ancestral herita.e from Africa& )he historians arter I& Aoodson and A& E& 7& 'u 7ois and the
anthropolo.ist Melville #& 3ers6ovits ar.ued the opposite& )heir research supported the conclusion that
while enslaved Africans could not have 2rou.ht intact social, political, and reli.ious institutions with them
to the Americas, they did maintain si.nificant aspects of their cultural 2ac6.rounds&/+ 3ers6ovits e50
amined 8Africanisms:4any practices that seemed to 2e identifia2ly African4as useful sym2ols of cultural
survival that would help him to analy9e chan.e and continuity in African American culture&// 3e en.a.ed
in one of his most heated scholarly disputes with the sociolo.ist E& Bran6lin Bra9ier, a student of $ar6"s,
who empha0 si9ed the dama.e wrou.ht 2y slavery on 2lac6 families and fol6ways&/N More recently, a
num2er of scholars have 2uilt on 3ers6ovits"s line of thou.ht, enhancin. our understandin. of African
history durin. the era of the slave trade& )heir studies have evolved productively from assertions a2out
.eneral cultural herita.e into more precise demonstrations of the continuity of worldviews, cate.ories of
2elon.in., and social practices from Africa to America& Bor these scholars, the preservation of distinctive
cultural forms has served as an inde5 2oth of a resilient social personhood , or identity, and of resistance
to slavery itself & /1
Scholars of slave resistance have never had much use for the concept of social death& )he early efforts of
writers such as 3er2ert Apthe6er aimed to derail the popular notion that American slavery had 2een a
civili9in. institution threatened 2y 8slave crime&:/? Soon after, studies of slave revolts and conspiracies
advocated the idea that resistance demonstrated the 2asic humanity and intracta2le will of the enslaved4
indeed, they often e<uated acts of will with humanity itself& As these writ0 ers turned toward more detailed
analyses of the causes, strate.ies, and tactics of slave revolts in the conte5t of the social relations of
slavery, they had trou2le s<uarin. a2stract characteri9ations of 8the slave: with what they were learnin.
a2out the en0 slaved&/@ Michael raton, who authored )estin. the hains> Resistance to Slavery in the
7ritish Aest Indies, was an early critic of Slavery and Social 'eath, protestin. that what was 6nown a2out
chattel 2onda.e in the Americas did not confirm $atterson"s definition of slavery& 8If slaves were in fact
J.enerally dishonored," : raton as6ed, 8how does he e5plain the de.rees of ran6 found amon. all .roups
of slaves4that is, the scale of Jreputation" and authority accorded, or at least ac6nowled.ed, 2y slave and
master ali6eH: 3ow could they have formed the fra.ile families documented 2y social historians if they
had 2een 8natally alienated: 2y definitionH Binally, and per0 haps most tellin.ly, if slaves had 2een
uniformly su2%ected to 8permanent violent domination,: they could not have revolted as often as they did
or shown the 8varied manifestations of their resistance: that so frustrated masters and compromised their
power, sometimes 8fatally&:/M )he dynamics of social control and slave resistance falsified $atterson"s
description of slavery even as the tenacity of African culture showed that enslaved men, women, and
children had arrived in the Americas 2earin. much more than their 8tropical temperament&:
)he cultural continuity and resistance schools of thou.ht come to.ether pow0 erfully in an important 2oo6
2y Aalter & Ruc6er, )he River Blows On> 7lac6 Re0 sistance, ulture, and Identity Bormation in Early
America& In Ruc6er"s analysis of slave revolts, conspiracies, and daily recalcitrance, African concepts,
values, and cul0 tural metaphors play the central role& Unli6e Smallwood and 3artman, for whom 8the
rupture was the story: of slavery, Ruc6er aims to reveal the 8perseverance of African culture even amon.
second, third, and fourth .eneration creoles&:/E 3e loo6s a.ain at some familiar events in *orth America
4*ew Gor6 ity"s -@-+ oromantee revolt and -@N- conspiracy, the -@/E Stono re2ellion in South
arolina, as well as the plots, schemes, and insur.encies of Ia2riel $rosser, 'enmar6 =esey, and *at
)urner4deftly teasin. out the African ori.ins of many of the attitudes and actions of the 2lac6 re2els&
Ruc6er outlines how the transformation of a 8shared cultural herita.e: that shaped collective action
a.ainst slavery corresponded to the 8various steps Africans made in the process of 2ecomin. JAfrican
American" in culture, orientation, and identity&:N,
The invocation of social death as ontologically inevitable inscribes a pessimism
towards politics which ma)es agency impossible and oversimplifies the history
of resistance
=incent <rown, $rof& of 3istory and African and African0American Studies W 3arvard Univ&, 'ecem2er
+,0>, SSocial 'eath and $olitical !ife in the Study of Slavery,S American 3istorical Review, p& -+/-0-+NE
Specters of the Atlantic is a compellin.ly sophisticated study of the relation 2e0 tween the epistemolo.ies
underwritin. 2oth modern slavery and modern capitalism, 2ut the 2oo6"s discussion of the politics of anti0
slavery is fundamentally incomplete& Ahile 7aucom 2rilliantly traces the development of 8melancholy
realism: as an op0 positional discourse that ran counter to the lo.ic of slavery and finance capital, he has
very little to say a2out the enslaved themselves& Social death, so well suited to the tra.ic perspective,
stands in for the experience of enslavement& Ahile this hei.htens the reader"s sense of the way
Atlantic slavery haunts the present, 7aucom lar.ely fails to ac6nowled.e that the enslaved performed
melancholy acts of accountin. not unli6e those that he shows to 2e a fundamental component of
a2olitionist and human ri.hts discourses, or that those acts could 2e a 2asic element of slaves"
oppositional activities& In many ways, the effectiveness of his te5t depends upon the silence of slaves4 it
is easier to describe the continuity of structures of power when one down/ plays countervailing
forces such as the political activity of the wea) & So 7aucom"s deep insi.hts into the structural features
of Atlantic slave tradin. and its afterlife come with a cost& Aithout en.a.ement with the politics of the
enslaved, slavery"s history serves as an effective char.e leveled a.ainst modernity and capitalism, 2ut
not as an uneven and evolvin. process of human interaction, and certainly not as a locus of conflict in
which the enslaved sometimes won small 2ut important victories&--
Specters of the Atlantic is self0consciously a wor6 of theory (despite 7aucom"s prodi.ious archival
research(, and social death may 2e lar.ely unpro2lematic as a matter of theory, or even law& In these
arenas, as 'avid 7rion 'avis has ar.ued, 8the slave has no le.itimate, independent 2ein., no place in the
cosmos e5cept as an instrument of her or his master"s will&:-+ 7ut the concept often 2ecomes a .eneral
description of actual social life in slavery& =incent arretta, for e5ample, in his au0 thoritative 2io.raphy of
the a2olitionist writer and former slave Olaudah E<uiano, a.rees with $atterson that 2ecause enslaved
Africans and their descendants were 8stripped of their personal identities and history, PtheyQ were forced to
suffer what has 2een aptly called Jsocial death&" : )he self0fashionin. ena2led 2y writin. and print 8allowed
E<uiano to resurrect himself pu2licly: from the condition that had 2een imposed 2y his enslavement&-/
)he livin. conditions of slavery in ei.hteenth0century #amaica, one slave society with which E<uiano had
e5perience, are descri2ed in rich detail in )revor 7urnard"s unflinchin. e5amination of the career of
)homas )histle0 wood, an En.lish mi.rant who 2ecame an overseer and landholder in #amaica, and who
6ept a diary there from -@1, to -@M?& )hrou.h )histlewood"s descriptions of his life amon. slaves,
7urnard .limpses a 8world of uncertainty,: where the enslaved were always vulnera2le to repeated
depredations that actually led to 8si.nificant slave dehumani9ation as masters sou.ht, with considera2le
success, to o2literate slaves" personal histories&: 7urnard conse<uently concurs with $atterson> 8slavery
completely stripped slaves of their cultural herita.e, 2rutali9ed them, and rendered ordinary life and
normal relationships e5tremely difficult&:-N )his was slavery, after all, and much more than a transfer of
mi.rants from Africa to America&-1 Get one wonders, after readin. 7urnard"s indispensa2le account, how
slaves in #amaica or0 .ani9ed some of 7ritish America"s .reatest political events durin. )histlewood"s
time and after, includin. the oromantee Aars of the -@?,s, the -@@? 3anover conspiracy, and the
7aptist Aar of -M/-C-M/+& Surely they must have found some way to turn the 8disor.ani9ation, insta2ility,
and chaos: of slavery into collective forms of 2elon.in. and strivin., ma6in. connections when confronted
with alien0 ation and findin. di.nity in the face of dishonor& Rather than patholo.i9in. slaves 2y allowin.
the condition of social death to stand for the e5perience of life in slavery, then, it mi.ht 2e more helpful to
focus on what the enslaved actually made of their
situation&
Amon. the most insi.htful te5ts to e5plore the e5periential meanin. of Afro0 Atlantic slavery (for 2oth the
slaves and their descendants( are two recent 2oo6s 2y Saidiya 3artman and Stephanie Smallwood&
Rather than eschewin. the concept of social death, as mi.ht 2e e5pected from writin. that 2e.ins 2y
considerin. the per0 spective of the enslaved, these two authors use the idea in penetratin. ways& 3art0
man"s !ose Gour Mother> A #ourney alon. the Atlantic Slave Route and Smallwood"s Saltwater Slavery> A
Middle $assa.e from Africa to American 'iaspora e5tend social death 2eyond a .eneral description of
slavery as a condition and ima.ine it as an e5perience of self& 3ere 2oth the promise and the pro2lem
with the concept are most fully apparent&-?
7oth authors see6 a deeper understandin. of the e5perience of enslavement and its conse<uences for
the past, present, and future of 2lac6 life than we .enerally find in histories of slavery& In 3artman"s
account especially, slavery is not only an o2%ect of study, 2ut also the focus of a personal memoir& She
travels alon. a slave route in Ihana, from its coastal forts to the 2ac6country hinterlands, sym2olically
reversin. the first sta.e of the tre6 now commonly called the Middle $assa.e& In searchin. prose, she
meditates on the history of slavery in Africa to e5plore the precarious nature of 2elon.in. to the social
cate.ory 8African American&: Renderin. her re0 mar6a2le facility with social theory in ele.ant and affective
terms, 3artman as6s the <uestion that na.s all identities, 2ut especially those for.ed 2y the descendants
of slaves> Ahat identifications, ima.ined affinities, mythical narratives, and acts of re0 mem2erin. and
for.ettin. hold the cate.ory to.etherH onfrontin. her own alienation from any story that would yield a
6nowa2le .enealo.y or a comforta2le identity, 3artman wrestles with what it means to 2e a stran.er in
one"s putative motherland, to 2e denied country, 6in, and identity, and to for.et one"s past4to 2e an
orphan&-@ Ultimately, as the title su..ests, !ose Gour Mother is an in%unction to accept dis0 possession as
the 2asis of 2lac6 self0definition&
Such a %ud.ment is warranted, in 3artman"s account, 2y the implications of social death 2oth for the
e5perience of enslavement and for slavery"s afterlife in the present& As $atterson delineated in
sociolo.ical terms the death of social personhood and the reincorporation of individuals into slavery,
3artman sets out on a personal <uest to 8retrace the process 2y which lives were destroyed and slaves
2orn&:-M Ahen she contends with what it meant to 2e a slave, she fre<uently invo6es $atterson"s idiom>
8Sei9ed from home, sold in the mar6et, and severed from 6in, the slave was for all intents and purposes
dead, no less so than had he 2een 6illed in com2at& *o less so than had she never 2elon.ed to the
world&: 7y ma6in. men, women, and children into commodities, enslavement destroyed linea.es,
tetherin. people to own0 ers rather than families, and in this way it 8annulled lives, transformin. men and
women into dead matter, and then resuscitated them for servitude&: Admittedly, the enslaved 8lived and
2reathed, 2ut they were dead in the social world of men&:-E As it turns out, this 6ind of alienation is also
part of what it presently means to 2e African American& 8)he transience of the slave"s e5istence,: for
e5ample, still leaves its traces in how 2lac6 people ima.ine and spea6 of home>
Ae never tire of dreamin. of a place that we can call home, a place 2etter than here, wherever here
mi.ht 2e & & & Ae stay there, 2ut we don"t live there & & & Stayin. is livin. in a country without e5ercisin. any
claims on its resources& It is the perilous condition of e5istin. in a world in which you have no
investments& It is havin. never resided in a place that you can say is yours& It is 2ein. 8of the house: 2ut
not havin. a sta6e in it& Stayin. implies transient <uarters, a ma6eshift domicile, a temporary shelter, 2ut
no attachment or affiliation& )his sense of not 2elon.in. and of 2ein. an e5traneous element is at the
heart of slavery&+,
8Ae may have for.otten our country,: 3artman writes, 82ut we haven"t for.otten our dispossession&:+-
!i6e 7aucom, 3artman sees the history of slavery as a constituent part of a tra.ic present& Atlantic
slavery continues to 2e manifested in 2lac6 people"s s6ewed life chances, poor education and health, and
hi.h rates of incarceration, poverty, and premature death& 'isre.ardin. the commonplace temporalities of
professional historians, whose literary conventions are .enerally predicated o n a formal distinction
2etween past, present, and future , 3artman addresses slavery as a pro2lem that spans all three& )he
afterlife of slavery inha2its the nature of 2elon.in., which in turn .uides the 8freedom dreams: that shape
prospects for chan.e& 8If slavery persists as an issue in the political life of 2lac6 America,: she writes, 8it is
not 2ecause of an anti<uated o2session with 2y.one days or the 2urden of a too0lon. memory, 2ut
2ecause 2lac6 lives are still imperiled and devalued 2y a racial calculus and a political arithmetic that
were entrenched centuries a.o&:++
A professor of En.lish and comparative literature, 3artman is in many respects in a 2etter position than
most historians to understand events such as the funeral a2oard the 3udi2ras& )his is 2ecause for all of
her evident erudition, her scholarship is harnessed not so much to a performance of mastery over the
facts of what hap0 pened, which mi.ht su2stitute precision for understandin., as to an act of mournin.,
even yearnin.& She writes with a depth of introspection and personal an.uish that is trans.ressive of
professional 2oundaries 2ut a2solutely appropriate to the tas6& Readin. 3artman, one wonders how a
historian could ever write dispassionately a2out slavery without feelin. complicit and ashamed& Bor
dispassionate accountin.4e5emplified 2y the led.ers of slave traders4has 2een a .reat weapon of the
powerful, an episteme that made the .rossest violations of personhood accepta2le, even necessary& )his
is the 6ind of 2oo66eepin. that 2ore fruit upon the Uon.& 8It made it easier for a trader to countenance yet
another dead 2lac6 2ody or for a captain to dump a shipload of captives into the sea in order to collect the
insurance, since it wasn"t possi2le to 6ill car.o or to murder a thin. already denied life& 'eath was simply
part of the wor6in.s of the trade&: )he archive of slavery, then, is 8a mortuary&: *ot content to total up the
2ody count, 3artman offers ele.y, echoin. in her own way the lamentations of the women a2oard the
3udi2ras& !i6e them, she is concerned with the dead and what they mean to the livin.& 8I was desperate
to reclaim the dead,: she writes, 8to rec6on with the lives undone and o2literated in the ma6in. of human
commodities&:+/
It is this mournful <uality of !ose Gour Mother that elevates it a2ove so many histories of slavery, 2ut the
same sense of lament seems to re'uire that 4artman overloo) small but significant political
victories li6e the one descri2ed 2y 7utter0 worth& Even as 3artman seems to a.ree with $aul Iilroy on
the 8value of seein. the consciousness of the slave as involvin. an e5tended act of mournin.,: she
remains so focused on her own commemorations that her te5t ma6es little space for a consideration of
how the enslaved stru..led with alienation and the fra.ility of 2elon.in., or of the mournin. rites they
used to confront their condition&+N All of the <ues0 tions she raises a2out the meanin. of slavery in the
present42oth hi.hly personal and insistently political4mi.ht as well 2e as6ed a2out the meanin. of
slavery to slaves themselves, that is, if one 2e.ins 2y closely e5aminin. their social and political lives
rather than assumin. their lac6 of social 2ein.& 3ere 3artman is undone 2 y her reliance on Orlando
$atterson"s totali9in. definition of slavery& She asserts that 8no solace can 2e found in the death of the
slave, no hi.her .round can 2e located, no perspective can 2e found from which death serves a .reater
.ood or 2ecomes any0 thin. other than what it is&:+1 If she is correct, the events on the 3udi2ras were of
ne.li.i2le importance& And indeed, 3artman"s understanda2le emphasis on the personal dama.e wrou.ht
2y slavery encoura.es her to disavow two .enerations of social history that have demonstrated slaves"
remar6a2le capacity to for.e fra.ile com0 munities , preserve cultural inheritance, and resist the predations
of slaveholders& )his in turn precludes her from descri2in. the ways that violence, dislocation, and death
actually .enerate culture, politics, and conse<uential action 2y the enslaved&+?
)his limitation is particularly evident in a stunnin. chapter that 3artman calls 8)he 'ead 7oo6&: 3ere she
creatively reima.ines the events that occurred on the voya.e of the slave ship Recovery, 2ound, li6e the
3udi2ras, from the 7i.ht of 7iafra to Irenada, when aptain #ohn Kim2er hun. an enslaved .irl na6ed
from the mi99en stay and 2eat her, ultimately to her death, for 2ein. 8sul6y:> she was sic6 and could not
dance when so ordered& As 3artman notes, the event would have 2een unre0 mar6a2le had not aptain
Kim2er 2een tried for murder on the testimony of the ship"s sur.eon, a 2rief transcript of the trial 2een
pu2lished, and the woman"s death 2een offered up as alle.ory 2y the a2olitionist Ailliam Ail2erforce and
the .raphic satirist Isaac rui6shan6& 3artman re0creates the murder and the sur.e of words it inspired,
representin. the perspectives of the captain, the sur.eon, and the a2oli tionist, for each of whom the .irl
was a cipher 8outfitted in a different .uise,: and then she puts herself in the position of the victim,
su2stitutin. her own voice for the un6nowa2le thou.hts of the .irl& Ima.inin. the e5perience as her own
and wistfully representin. her demise as a suicide4a final act of a.ency43artman hopes, 2y this 2old
device, to save the .irl from o2livion& Or perhaps her hope is to prove the impossi2ility of ever doin. so,
2ecause 2y failin., she concedes that the .irl cannot 2e put to rest& It is a compellin. move, 2ut there is
somethin. missin.& 3artman discerns a convincin. su2%ect position for all of the participants in the events
sur0 roundin. the death of the .irl, e5cept for the other slaves who watched the woman die and carried
the memory with them to the Americas, presuma2ly to tell others, plausi2ly even survivors of the
3udi2ras, who must have drawn from such stories a 2asic perspective on the history of the Atlantic world&
Bor the enslaved spectators, 3artman ima.ines only a fatalistic detachment> 8)he women were
assem2led a few feet away, 2ut it mi.ht well have 2een a thousand& )hey held 2ac6 from the .irl, steerin.
clear of her 2ad luc6, pestilence, and rec6lessness& Some said she had lost her mind& Ahat could they
do, anywayH )he women danced and san. as she lay dyin.&:
3artman ends her odyssey amon. the Iwolu, descendants of peoples who fled the slave raids and who,
as communities of refu.ees, shared her sense of dispos0 session& 8*ewcomers were welcome& It didn"t
matter that they weren"t 6in 2ecause .enealo.y didn"t matter:; rather, 82uildin. community did&: !ose Gour
Mother con0 cludes with a movin. description of a particular one of their son.s, a lament for those who
were lost, which resonated deeply with her sense of slavery"s meanin. in the present& And yet 3artman
has more difficulty hearin. similar cries intoned in the past 2y slaves who mana.ed to find themselves&+@
Saltwater Slavery has much in common with !ose Gour Mother& Smallwood"s study of the slave trade from
the Iold oast to the 7ritish Americas in the late seventeenth and early ei.hteenth centuries li6ewise
redeems the e5perience of the people traded li6e so many 2olts of cloth, 8who were represented merely
as ciphers in the political arithmetic,: and therefore 8feature in the documentary record not as su2%ects of
a social history 2ut as o2%ects or <uantities&:+M Each te5t offers a penetratin. analysis of the mar6et lo.ic
that turned people into .oods& 7oth 2oo6s wor6 with the concept of social death& 3owever, Smallwood
e5amines the pro2lem of social death for the enslaved even more closely than 3artman does&+E
!i6e 3artman, Smallwood sees social death as a 2y0product of commodification& 8If in the re.ime of the
mar6et Africans" most socially relevant feature was their e5chan.ea2ility,: she ar.ues, 8for Africans as
immi.rants the most socially relevant feature was their isolation, their desperate need to restore some
measure of social life to counter2alance the alienation en.endered 2y their social death&: 7ut Small0
wood"s approach is different in a su2tle way& Ahereas for 3artman, as for others, social death is an
accomplished state of 2ein., Smallwood veers 2etween a notion of social death as an actual condition
produced 2y violent dislocation and social death as a compellin. threat& On the one hand, she ar.ues,
captivity on the Atlantic littoral was a social death& E5chan.ea2le persons 8inha2ited a new cate.ory of
mar0 .inali9ation, one not of e5treme alienation within the community, 2ut rather of a20 solute e5clusion
from any community&: She seems to accep t the idea of enslaved commodities as finished products for
whom there could 2e no socially relevant relationships> 8the slave car.o constituted the antithesis of
community&: Get elsewhere she contends that captives were only 8menaced: with social death& 8At every
point alon. the passa.e from African to *ew Aorld mar6ets,: she writes, 8we find a star6 contest 2etween
slave traders and slaves, 2etween the traders" will to commodify people and the captives" will to remain
fully reco.ni9a2le as human su2%ects&:/, 3ere, I thin6, Smallwood captures the truth of the idea> social
death was a recedin. ho0 ri9on4the farther slaveholders moved toward the .oal of complete mastery, the
more they found that stru..les with their human property would continue, even into the most elemental
realms> 2irth, hun.er, health, fellowship, se5, death, and time&
If social death did not define the slaves" condition, it did frame their vision of apocalypse& In a harrowin.
chapter on the meanin. of death (that is, physical death( durin. the Atlantic passa.e, Smallwood is clear
that the captives could have no frame of reference for the e5perience a2oard the slave ships, 2ut she also
shows how des0 perate they were to ma6e one& If they could not reassem2le some meanin.ful way to
map their social worlds, 8slaves could foresee only further descent into an endless pur.atory&: )he women
a2oard the 3udi2ras were not in fact the livin. dead; they were the mothers of .aspin. new societies &
)heir view of the dan.er that confronted them made their mournin. rites vitally important, puttin. these at
the center of the women"s emer.in. lives as slaves4and as a result at the heart of the stru..les that
would define them& As Smallwood ar.ues, this was first and foremost a 2attle over their presence in time,
to define their place amon. ancestors, 6in, friends, and future pro.eny& 8)he connection Africans needed
was a narrative continuity 2etween past and present4an epistemolo.ical means of connectin. the dots
2etween there and here, then and now, to craft a coherent story out of incoherent e5perience&: )hat is
precisely what the women on the 3udi2ras fou.ht to accomplish&/-
2NC
2nc psych
Asychoanalysis wrongta)es out Barley
)odd 5ufresne C, $rofessor of $hilosophy and foundin. 'irector of )he Advanced Institute for
Ilo2ali9ation X ulture at !a6ehead University, Killin. Breud, .oo.le2oo6s
)'> I tried to ma6e the hetero.eneity of opinion a2out Breuds death drive theory wor6 on a few levels, one
2ein. a pointed criticism of the ar2itrary nature of criticism in the history of psychoanalysis& In this respect
the apparent dissensus a2out the fundamentals of psychoanalysis is a scandal& Bor this dissensus implies
that for over one hundred years smart people havenRt 2een a2le to derive any conclusions a2out Breuds
so0called discoveries 4 that the verdict is still out& <ut that=s untrueY 7nformed critics )now very well
that Breud fabricated his findings and was motivated by factors other than science and ob(ectivity&
So why do so few people 6now, or care to 6now, a2out these sometimes stunnin. factsH In no small
measure, and as you were %ust hintin., the pundits and critics themselves are to 2lame& In )ales I tried to
e5pose the irreconcila2le a2surdity of Breud commentary over the last hundred years, from Reich and
Marcuse to !acan and 'errida& It"s o2viously not the case that these people are i.norant& It is rather the
case that these critics, li6e Breud 2efore them, are motivated 2y special interests; for e5ample, 2y Mar5ist,
structuralist, or posr0structuralist interests& And because their wor)s are dogmatically blind to
intractable problems in Breuds wor), including basic facts , they have the effect of blinding nearly
everyone who reads them& Ae love to 2e da99led, even 2y the spectacle of crushed .lass&
AI> 7ut what is a R2asic feetR, and who is in a position to 6now one when he or she sees oneH IsnRt this
where the post0modernist appreciation of Breud comes inH
)'> )hatRs a lot of <uestions to answer all at onceY Birst of all, yes, the postiesR 0 post0modernists and
post0structuralists 0 have .enerally em2raced the idea that history is %ust a 6ind of fiction& I am
sympathetic to this idea and am willin. to entertain it up to a point& I have written a2out fiction and history
in psychoanalysis precisely 2ecause, .iven the pre0eminent role of fantasy in the field, one has a tough
time distinguishing between fact and fiction , history and case study& I thin6 this is an interestin. and
amusin. state of affairs, and have even written a short story that is meant as a sendup of the 6ind of
historical wor6 that we all read& 7ut - attempt this wor6 in an ironical spirit, 2elievin. that there are
indeed facts even if psychoanalysis has made it seem near impossible for us to )now them&
This, then, is a problem for psychoanalysis 0 2ut not really for me&
*aturally, thou.h, I do worry a2out 2ein. too cavalier a2out facts in history& Is it really the case that the
opinion of, say, a 3olocaust denier is e<ual to another who 2elieves that three million #ews, rather than
si5 million, were 6illed in concentration campsH One says it didnRt happen at all, while another <uestions
the interpretation of facts& I re%ect the idea that truth is relative at the level of 2asic facts, and to this e5tent
echo somethin. 7orch0#aco2sen once saidN1N> namely, any relativist who ignores the facts ris)s
becoming a dogmatist& And heRs ri.ht& So when posties say, for e5ample, that the fabricated
foundations of psychoanalysis don=t matter 0 primarily, they claim, because psychoanalysis is only
interested in fantasy they are being absurd dogmatists&
7ut this response is still not very satisfactory, since it doesnRt address your first two <uestions> namely,
what is a 2asic fact, and how can we purport to 6now oneH I would su..est, loosely followin. the historian
R& I& ollin.wood, that there are two 6inds of history> one that 2arely deserves the name as it was once
practised lon. a.o; and modern history& )he first is what ollin.wood ri.htly calls Rscissor and pasteR
history, and is more or less concerned with recordin. dates, names and events> for e5ample, on the ides
of March aesar crossed the Ru2icon& )he second is interpretive history, and is concerned with the
interpretation of dates, names and events> for e5ample, on the ides of March aesar crossed the Ru2icon
2ecause he was a me.alomaniac, or 2ecause he wanted to defeat his enemies, or 2ecause he was a
compulsive 2ed0wetter, and so on&
3ow does this distinction 2etween 2asic and interpretive history help usH Aell, 2ecause the ma(ority of
Breud scholarship is so obviously an interpretive history& )he posties 6now this 2etter than anyone,
and are a2solutely ri.ht to conclude that such interpretation, li6e analysis, is intermina2le& -e can
engage in debate about motives forever& 3owever, there is a fundamental problem here in the case
of psychoanalysis& AhyH 7ecause all historical interpretation, even the freewheelin. interpretive history
of post0modernists, is 2ased on the scissor and pasteR history of mere dates, names and events& And this
is where the posties drop the 2all& Bor almost all of the 2est criti<ues of Breud made over the last thirty
years 4 the 6ind I associate with the creation of ritical Breud Studies 0 have 2e.un 2y e5aminin. 2asic
facts a2out dates, names and events& Ahat these critics have found is that the history of Breud
interpretation is the history of misinterpretation of a fundamental )ind& *amely, it is interpretation
of =facts= or =events that never happened& Bor e5ample, they have found that Breud, durin. the period
of RdiscoveryR and su2se<uent a2andonment of the Seduction )heory, exaggerated his results and ,
when necessary, simply made them up&
AI> 3e said he crossed the Ru2icon when he didnRtH
)'> -orse& Not only didn=t he cross the $ubicon, to e5tend the analo.y, but it turns out in this case
that the $ubicon itself doesn=t existY ItRs all a myth& And so, while the posties inevita2ly 2erate ioffi,
rews and others for their naive 2elief in facts, they have simply fallen into the rabbit hole that Breud
dug for them& Bor his part, 7orch0#aco2scn replies that it is really these nay0savers who are 2ein. naive&
I would only repeat my suspicion that our .ulli2le collea.ues have ris6ed their e.os on 2aseless
interpretations that they are now incapa2le of retractin.&
Of course, the sta6es are now very hi.h& Bor if the critics are ri.ht, then the ma(ority of Breud
interpretation is utterly worthless& And it is worthless in at least two ways> as history and as
interpretation& At 2est, these groundless interpretations are a )ind of literary garbage 4 wor6s of
unwittin. fiction alon. the lines of Medieval discussions of an.elsFS Sure these wor6s tell us a lot a2out
the 2eliefs of a certain period, in this case the twentieth century, 2ut they donRt wor6 the way the authors
intended them& Bor me, they are cautionary tales 4 what !acan would call Rpou2ellicationsR, or published
trash&
AI> If empiricism is %ust a theory, isnRt a R2asic factR %ust an interpretation amon. othersH
)'> )hat is true and a little 2it clever, 2ut a de.ree of certainty is all I am after& IRm not sayin. that we canRt
.et our 2asic facts wron., which we o2viously do& It is rather that we must be willing to revise our
interpretations on the basis of the basic facts we do have& I donRt 2lame Breud scholars for ma6in. a
mess of everythin. with their erroneous interpretations& Breud misled everyone, 2e.innin. with himself
and his closest followers& Asychoanalysis is a con/game, after all& That said, short of stic)ing our
heads in the sand, we must confront the basic facts and rewrite the history of psychoanalysis anew&
2nc social death
Now, even if social death is real, its conditions are material, so the alt solves
5onegan, MA Ieo.raphy C U 7ritish olum2ia, %1&
(onnor McElwee, 8Incarceration and State )error> Racial apitalism in the American South, -M?10-EN1,:
Master"s )hesis, Au.ust(
hapter One e5plores this history in 2road stro6es in order to appro5imate the social relations that constituted plantation slavery&
)his chapter cannot 2e.in to synthesi9e the enormous amount of scholarship on plantation slavery, 2ut it does see6 to address
recurrin. theoretical shortcomin.s found in Mar5ist scholarship& )oo often such studies have erred 2y holdin. out an
ideal0type definition of capitalism and comparin. it to the plantation in order to declare it to 2e capitalist or
not & I strive to avoid any such declaration for its own sa6e and, instead, attempt to construct an historical analysis that
may enrich our understandin. of the social relations of power that constituted plantation slavery while
esta2lishin. the necessary historical conte5t for my subse'uent analysis of post2ellum racial capitalism &
American plantation slavery was an amal.amation of mutually constitutin. forms of domination00 slavery, capitalist production,
patriarchy, and white supremacy in particular& If the Atlantic slave trade ena2led the slave0relation to flourish to its
fullest and most .ruesome e5pression this was in lar.e part 2ecause the trade rendered enslaved Africans fully
aliena2le commodities within a rapidly e5pandin. international mar6et & Ahile 2ein. held captive 2y traders and
merchants, the condition of enslavement meant a2ove all human commodification& *o other social ties, demands, or o2li.ations00
such as those of 6inship or community00were powerful enou.h to compete with the potential e5chan.e0value em2odied in the slave&
)he e5perience of enslavement was thus one of complete social death or, to distin.uish Atlantic slavery from less
e5treme variants, Ssocial annihilation&SN On the plantation , slavery and the terroristic violence that served as its .uarantor
proved ideal for creatin. a hi.hly re.imented, disciplined army of la2ourers & At the same time, enslavement
and the commodification of la2our ena2led planters to intervene in and even Scapitali#eS the most intimate
elements of life, in particular se5 and social reproduction& Invested capital fused with patriarchal power (not to 2e
confused with SpaternalismS( in order to e5press the planterRs full domination over slave life, to ensure the
reproduction of the labour force, and expand his capital ! Ahile slavery proved incredi2ly useful and fruitful for
capital in these ways, it also loc6ed the plantation system into la2our0intensive production methods (with the nota2le e5ception of
the capital0intensive, industrial su.ar estates(, a point that I return to in the second chapter& It was throu.h this e5tended
process of commodification and enslavement that the complete devaluation of 2lac6 life emer.ed as the
le.ally and sym2olically codified precondition for Sthe profit of the Master, his security, and the pu2lic safety&S1 Aith an eye
for the continuity amon.st historical chan.e, we can say in summary that plantation slaves were incarcerated
proletarians in a state of social death &
civil society
Civil society is built on privati#ation///the alt resolves the root cause
'orota I& Aietr#y), Associate $rofessor #a.iellonian University ] Institute of $olitical Science, +,01,
8ivil Society C onceptual 3istory from 3o22es to Mar5,: Marie urie Aor6in. $apers C *o - (+,,-(
onversely, Mar5 saw the solution of pro2lems posed 2y the ei.hteenth century theorists of civil society
not in the division 2etween civil society and the state 2ut in its eradication & )his a2olition was viewed 2y
Mar5 as a future desideratum to 2e achieved after the Revolution& A future unity of human e5istence and
thus true freedom mi.ht 2e achieved only throu.h the ne.ation of the distinction 2etween civil society and
the state and dissolution of the latter& Mar5 was very critical of a positive concept of civil society> JMar5
was very critical of a positive concept of civil society> Mar5 accepted 3e.el"s account of civil society,
especially its dar6er aspects> Jnone of the so0called ri.hts of man .oes 2eyond e.oistic man, man as he is
in civil society, namely an individual withdrawn behind his private interests and whims and separated
from the community and whims and separated from the community& Bar from the ri.hts of man conceivin.
of man as a species02ein., species0life itself, society appears as a framewor6 exterior to individuals, a
limitation of their ori.inal selfsufficiency& )he only bond that holds them to.ether is natural necessity,
need and private interest , the conservation of their property and e.oistic person&"E, Accordin. to Mar5,
political revolution, which followed the rise of commercial society, abolished the people from the
community and thus the political character of civil society & $olitical emancipation reduces man as an
independent individual to a mem2er of civil society or to a citi9en, a moral person&E- 7ut for Mar5, this is
not a true emancipation; Jman must recogni#e his own forces , or.ani9e them, and thus no lon.er
separate social forces from himself in the form of political forces& +nly when this has been achieved
will human emancipation be completed&"E+ -ith 0arx the theory of civil society reaches its end&
3e accepted 3e.els account of civil society 2ut re%ected his account of two other spheres of social life,
family and the state& Accordin. to Mar5, in society as a whole, viewed as 2our.eois society, people treat
each other primarily as means to their own ends and the class solidarity is e5ceptionally wea6& Ahereas
for 3e.el it was true a2out civil society 2ut not a2out the whole social world, for Mar5 the relationships of
2our.eois society were predominant and e5cluded any concern a2out the pu2lic .ood and any 6ind of
social 2onds& )hus humanity in modern world can recover itself only 2y dissolution of society and only as
a particular class the proletariat&E/ ontrary to 3e.el, Mar5"s doctrine assumes that the state, which is an
instrument of class rule, will disappear with the disappearance of classes& 0arx calls the bourgeois
state %an illusory form of life* and treats it as a symptom of alienation! If for 3e.el civil society should
Jresolved" into the ethical universal entity of the state, Mar5 resolves it into itself throu.h the future
ne.ation of the e5istent distinction 2etween civil society and the state and a future unity of human
existence & 3is theory aimed to provide an account of this unity and thus of true freedom 2ut not throu.h
the state which alienated individuals from themselves 2ut in another unity throu.h the future reunification
of civil and political society&
2nc history
-ilderson relies on Dltis, who is wrong
8chmidt/Nowara, professor of history C Bordham University, %2
(hristopher, 87i. Vuestions and Answers> )hree 3istories of Slavery, the Slave )rade and the Atlantic
Aorld,: Social "istory, =ol& +@, *o& +, p& +-,0+-@(
7old, 2ut not always convincin.& )his reader found the volumeRs most controversial thesis, that the use of African
slavery was an uneconomic decision .uided 2y European racial and .ender ideolo.ies, particularly wea6 in its
demonstration& Eltis wants to show that the social and institutional factors that would have permitted widespread European enslavement were in
place in the early modern period (1@0MN(& In doin. so, he marshals impressive evidence a2out the various forms of coercive la2our e5istin. in early
modern western Europe, such as indenture and convict la2our& Iiven the prevalence of overt coercion in Europe, he as6s, why did European elites not
ta6e the ne5t step and enslave and transport Europeans in vast num2ersH In doin. so, he also e5amines and finds wantin. e5planations for African
slavery 2ased on epidemiolo.ical and economic assumptions& Europeans adapted as well as Africans to *ew Aorld climates, while the shippin. costs
from Europe would have 2een cheaper than those from Africa& Bor Eltis, the e5planation for this uneconomic 2ehaviour lies in the realm of cultural
values that 2ound all Europeans re.ardless of their class position> Ahat seems incontesta2le is that in re.ard to slavery the sense of the appropriate
was shared across social divisions and cannot easily 2e e5plained 2y ideolo.ical differences or power relationships amon. classes& Outra.e at the
treatment of Africans was rarely e5pressed at any level of society 2efore the late ei.hteenth century& & & & Bor elite and non0elite ali6e enslavement
remained a fate for which only non0Europeans were <ualified& (M/0N( EltisRs conclusion re.ardin. a shared European racial identity and sense of racial
supremacy is evocative and cannot 2e dismissed easily, if at all& 7ut what this account lac6s is sustained consideration of
alternative types of sources and historical approaches that mi.ht reinforce or modify it& Eltis ma6es an inele.ant
leap from his counter0factual of mass European enslavement to his e5planation of why it did not ta6e
place; his claim of homo.eneity of racial values reads more li6e an assertion than a proof& Bor instance, there
is little effort to flesh out the values he attri2utes to Europeans of the period, lar.ely 2ecause his study is short
on the types of sources that historians employ to plum2 the 2eliefs of human cultures, such as pamphlets,
2roadsheets, auto2io.raphies and memoirs, philosophical tracts or records of political and reli.ious rituals& It would 2e foolish to demand of Eltis that he
use these sources himself after such meticulous research into economic history& 7ut it is <uite reasona2le to e5pect a more sophisticated en.a.ement
with historians who have reached alternative conclusions a2out early modern European culture throu.h different sources and methods& Readers of E&
$& )hompson, *atalie Uemon 'avis or arlo Iin92ur. will 2e surprised to learn that early modern European society was so cohesive and homo.enous
in its values& )hey will also 2e dismayed 2y the indifference Eltis displays towards <uestions of resistance and a.ency and his .li2 dismissal of class
conflict and consciousness as useful analytical cate.ories (MN(& 3istorians wor6in. in the 2roader field of Atlantic history have also tended to see
Europe as a contentious society, most nota2ly Seymour 'rescher, who sees class conflict in the industriali9ation process as
a ma%or factor in the rise of 7ritish anti0slavery& $eter !ine2au.h and Marcus Redi6er have e5panded the temporal and spatial
dimensions of that conflict in their recent account of popular anti0slavery sentiment and cross0racial alliances a.ainst slavery in the early modern
Atlantic&1 )his is not to say cate.orically that these scholars are correct and Eltis wron.& Rather, to ma6e his ar.ument more ro2ust and persuasive,
Eltis needs to en.a.e, not sidestep, the important scholarly literature that 2elies his conclusions& Any e5planation of the a2sence of European
enslavement and the apparent indifference towards African slavery must ta6e into account the 2alance of political and social forces that produced some
sem2lance of autonomy and li2erty amon. the European wor6in. classes as well as cultural assumptions a2out race and .ender& Eltis s instinct a2out
the cultural ori.ins of African slavery in the Americas is plausi2le 2ut, .iven the narrow perspective from which he addresses the issue, his conclusion
is not& Ro2in 7lac62urnRs )he Ma6in. of *ew Aorld Slavery is more varied in its approach and interpretation& Ahile insistin., unli6e Eltis, upon the
drivin. force of Rcivil societyR in the construction of the plantation comple5 (?0-+(, 7lac62urn none the less handles <uestions of ideolo.y and politics
with .reat care and insi.ht& )his multipron.ed e5planatory method was also evident in his earlier volume, )he Overthrow of olonial Slavery, -@@?0
-MNM, which today reads as perhaps the most co.ent narrative of the forces at wor6 in the Atlantic worldRs Ra.e of revolutionR& One of the <ualities that
ma6es )he Overthrow so attractive is the intermi5ture of a trenchant analysis of the political economy of war, empire, decoloni9ation, a2olitionism and
slave re2ellion with the invocation of a Rusa2le pastR with which 7lac62urn introduces the volume> 'espite the mi5ed results of anti0slavery in this period
the sacrifices of slave re2els, of radical a2olitionists and of revolutionary democrats were not in vain& )hey show how it was possi2le to challen.e, and
sometimes defeat, the oppression which .rew as the horri2le o2verse of the .rowth of human social capacities and powers in the Atlantic world of the
early modern period& More .enerally they are of interest in illuminatin. the ways in which, however incompletely or imperfectly, emancipatory interests
can prevail a.ainst ancient law and custom and the spirit of ruthless accumulation&? )he tas6 of the present volume is to e5plain the construction of the
powerful political and economic comple5 that was undone in the nineteenth century& !i6e Eltis, 7lac62urn emphasi9es European actions and decision0
ma6in. in the process& )he 2oo6Rs first section is tided R)he Selection of *ew Aorld SlaveryR and ran.es from medieval Europe to the ei.hteenth0
century ari22ean& It follows the trac6s of the I2erian con<uerors and their northern European imitators and inheritors, thus cuttin. effectively across
the different European empires (the same is true of the wor6s of Eltis and )hornton(, unli6e many Atlantic histories which e5clude I2eria and !atin
America&@ )he selection of African slavery in the Americas was a tortuous process which involved
e5periments with indentured European la2our and Indian slavery & *umerous factors made these
alternatives unsatisfactory for the various European coloni9ers& Spain found a via2le la2our source in Indian wa.ed
la2our and forms of coercion associated with the mita, encomienda and repartimiento in its imperial core, the minin. centres of $eru and Me5ico&
Iiven the emphasis on 2ullion, rather than su.ar, Spain found less use for African slave la2our than did the
other European coloni9ers (thou.h African slavery was important in virtually every 2ranch of the Spanish colonial economy(& *ot until the
u2an plantation economy too6 off in the later ei.hteenth century did the Spanish empire see the intensive use of
slave la2our for su.ar cultivation that was the ma.net for the Atlantic slave trade&M )he $ortu.uese, 'utch, En.lish and Brench American
colonies, in contrast, came to 2e 2ased on the su.ar plantation from north0eastern 7ra9il to the ari22ean& Brom the later si5teenth throu.h the later
seventeenth centuries these powers tested European and Indian la2our 2efore turnin. full0force to the African
slave trade& 7lac62urn coincides with Eltis in that he ac6nowled.es important ideolo.ical motives in the selection of African slavery, findin.
precedents for European practices in Roman law and EuropeansR early association of Africans with slavery and servitude (/-0E/(& Also, li6e Eltis, he
notes the virtual a2sence of European criticism of African slavery, fi.ures li6e the Spanish clerics 7artolome de las asas and Alonso de Sandoval
2ein. few and far 2etween& 3owever, he places more e5planatory power in e5istin. economic and political forces& *ot
only was slavery entrenched in Aest Africa (as )hornton carefully discusses(, 2ut the development of class relations
in late medieval and early modern western Europe precluded the mass enslavement and especially the
hereditary enslavement 0 of Europeans, an e5planation that 7lac62urn synchroni9es with the ar.uments of Edmund Mor.an, Richard
'unn and K& I& 'avies&E 7lac62urn sees ideas re.ardin. race, or what Eltis calls Rcultural valuesR, in Ae2erian terms as RSswitchmenS, selectin.
different paths of historical developmentR (/1@(& Racism was a cause of the implantation of African slavery in the Americas and, therefore,
more than an epiphenomenon of the master0slave relationship& <ut it was not the primary one& Bor 7lac62urn, the e5planations
of the rise of slavery 2y historians li6e Mor.an, 'avies and 'unn, who emphasi9e economic, political and institutional
factors, are more convincin. than Eltis" s depiction of racism as the motive force 2ehind American slavery, a thesis
7lac62urn re2uts at len.th and counters with his own counter0factual construction of an Atlantic system 2uilt on free, instead of 2onded, la2our (/1,0
?/(&-, 7lac62urnRs discussion of the selection of African slavery is wide0ran.in. and comprehensive& It is surely the sin.le 2est place to read a2out the
early phase of African slavery in the Americas& Many of his conclusions in this section will 2e familiar to scholars of slavery and colonialism, somethin.
7lac62urn himself ac6nowled.es throu.h references to the wor6s of Mor.an and 'unn and his own rewor6in. of the Breyre4)annen2aum thesis
re.ardin. the differences 2etween I2erian and northern European, especially En.lish, slave societies& )he former 7lac62urn calls R2aro<ueR,Ran
alternative modernity to that associated with the $uritan ethicR (+,0-(& )his modernity was more inclusive (thou.h hierarchical and e5ploitative( than the
7ritish and Brench plantation colonies, where slaves were not treated as mem2ers of a stratified yet or.anic community 2eholden to rown and
hurch, 2ut as mere factors of production in a ruthlessly capitalistic vision of modernity&-- )he latter, however, won out, as 7lac62urn ar.ues in the
second half of the 2oo6, RSlavery and AccumulationR& 7ar2ados, #amaica and St 'omin.ue were the pinnacle of the early modern Atlantic plantation
comple5, importin. hundreds of thousands of slaves and e5portin. vast <uantities of su.ar in the seventeenth and ei.hteenth centuries& En.land, in
particular, emer.ed triumphant, in part 2ecause of the victorious slaves of St 'omin.ueF3aiti who overthrew their 2onda.e at the end of the ei.hteenth
century, 2ut also 2ecause En.land settled on a more successful colonial policy that encoura.ed investment and innovation 2oth in the metropolis and
the colonies& In 7lac62urnRs characteri9ation, En.lish colonialism was Rorchestrated 2y an inverted mercantilism 0 that is to say, not 2y financiers and
merchants servin. raison dRetat 2ut 2y the state servin. capitalist purposes& & & & )he colonial and Adantic re.ime of e5tended primitive accumulation
allowed metropolitan accumulation to 2rea6 out of its a.rarian and national limits and discover an industrial and .lo2al destinyR (1-1(& In the chapter
entided R*ew Aorld slavery, primitive accumulation and 7ritish industriali9ationR, 7lac62urn ta6es the e5act opposite position from Eltis, ar.uin. that
colonial slavery was the foundation of En.landRs industrial revolution, a la2yrinthine account that ta6es him throu.h the wor6s of Adam Smith, Karl
Mar5, Eric 3o2s2awm, harles Kindel2er.er, $aul 7airoch and Stanley En.erman, amon. others (1-,0M,(& )he len.th and care of that chapter
indicates one of the ma%or purposes of )he Ma6in. of *ew Aorld Slavery& )his wor6 is not %ust a2out the rise of African slavery in the Americas; it is
also a2out the rise of the RAestR& 3ow and why did Europe emer.e as the worldRs dominant powerH Bor 7lac62urn, EuropeRs ascendancy led directly
throu.h the early modern Atlantic world& Indeed, while his two volumes have come to occupy centre sta.e in the historio.raphy of the rise and fall of
Atlantic slavery, his wor6 must also 2e seen in relationship to the recent revisions in 7ritish sociolo.y of the ideas of Mar5 and Ae2er concernin. the
ori.ins and nature of capitalist modernity and the nation0state& Michael Mann, $erry Anderson, Ernest Iellner, #ohn 3all and Anthony Iiddens 0 as
much as & !& R& #ames and Bernando Orti9 0 are his peers&-+ )he most compara2le fi.ure is $aul Iilroy& !i6e IilroyRs )he 7lac6 Atlantic, )he Ma6in.
of *ew Aorld Slavery see6s to demonstrate that the Atlantic slave comple5 was the wheelhouse 4 and slau.hterhouse 0 of modernity& Ahereas Iilroy
focuses on the 7lac6 e5perience of modernity for.ed in the Atlantic world and 7lac6 reflections on that e5perience, 7lac62urn approaches the slave
comple5 as the pivot of European industriali9ation and state formation& )hou.h his wor6 2uilds up to an evaluation of European modernity, it would 2e a
.ross simplification to call the wor6 of 7lac62urn, or Eltis, Eurocentric& 3owever, it is correct to say that the two wor6s do focus on European actions,
interests and decisions and conclude with incisive ar.uments a2out the impact of slavery on European economic, political and social development&
#ust such a focus #ohn )hornton see6s to displace 2y emphasi9in. the actions, interests and decisions of Africans in the ma6in. of the Atlantic world&
3ow Africans influenced the ori.ins and mana.ement of the Atlantic slave trade and how Africans affected the culture of the *ew Aorld colonies are
his ma%or concerns& A reader li6e myself who wor6s on Europe and the Americas will find this wor6 indispensa2le 2oth as a conceptual tool and as an
introduction to various historio.raphies pertainin. to Africa and to Africans in the Americas& )he 2oo6Rs most provocative and counter0intuitive section,R
Africans in AfricaR, discusses the ori.ins and development of the slave trade and is most compara2le to the other wor6s discussed here& )hornton
ma6es a stron. case that the decisive players in the process were not Europeans 2ut Africans& 3e constructs
his ar.ument throu.h various considerations& Slavery was a fundamental institution in most Aest African societies, thou.h
it differed .reatly from the plantation slavery of the Americas& Slaves in Aest Africa, usually captured in the endemic wars
amon. the myriad polities of the re.ion, fulfilled a wide variety of roles, from menial la2our to administrative and military
leadership& Slavery was not necessarily associated with a societyRs most de2ased tas6s, as it was in the American plantation 9one& It was not
2ased on colour, nor was it hereditary, the most pernicious of chan.es in slavery as it crossed the Atlantic (@+0E@(& Moreover, )hornton
ta6es .reat pains to show that the European presence on the west coast of Africa, with the possi2le e5ception of the $ortu.uese in
An.ola, was wea6 and completely dependent on the interests and .oodwill of African states and merchants&
)hese latter were the true masters of the slave trade& In ma6in. this ar.ument, )hornton is consciously invertin. the terms of dependency theory
e5planations of the ori.ins and impact of the slave trade& $ointin. specifically to the wor6 of Aalter Rodney (N/(, )hornton disputes the view that the
ori.ins of the slave trade lay in European military and commercial superiority, that the immediate conse<uences of the European presence were an
escalation of African warfare, and that the lon.er term conse<uences were a drain on African human capital and the 2endin. of the African economy to
European interests (a description captured in the title of RodneyRs influential wor6 3ow Europe Underdeveloped Africa(&,/ )hornton, in contrast, ar.ues
that Africans held the upper hand& 'ifferent African states possessed sophisticated naval technolo.ies well
adapted to the coastal environment that made effective penetration impossi2le for the Europeans& European
efforts to su2due African 6in.doms throu.h force of arms met with repeated failure& onfronted with a military and naval foe of e<ual or .reater
stren.th, Europeans had no choice 2ut to esta2lish small tradin. forts on islands off the coast of Africa& Such a wea6 presence, )hornton holds, had
very little effect on the nature of African politics& )he same was true of EuropeRs economic impact on the re.ion& In the len.thy chapter R)he process of
enslavement and the slave tradeR, )hornton ar.ues that it was not the temptation of European commodities such as .uns that sto6ed the slave trade
and African warfare& Rather, war amon. African states responded more fre<uently to internal political pressures,
while African slave traders had various mar6ets open to them, so that sellin. to Europeans was only one
option amon. others& Economic decisions re.ardin. the pace and volume of the slave trade were made
2y Africans& Europeans, therefore, and not Africans, were in a dependent position> RAfrican participation in the slave trade was voluntary and under
the control of African decision ma6ers& )his was not %ust at the surface level of daily e5chan.e 2ut even at deeper levels& Europeans possessed no
means, either economic or military, to compel African leaders to sell slavesR (-+1(& )hornton 2ases his ar.uments on an e5tensive scholarly literature
and on close readin.s of primary sources& )hose sources were produced almost e5clusively 2y Europeans in European lan.ua.es& )his situation thus
opens an intri.uin. <uestion that )hornton does not directly address> what does it mean that an ar.ument a2out African primacy in military and
economic encounters with Europeans relies heavily on the European perspectiveH )horntonRs method of interpretin. documents relevant to the slave
trade and to African cultures in the Americas is familiar> fre<uently he chec6s them a.ainst contemporary anthropolo.ical studies of African cultures and
societies and reads those 2ac6 into the historical sources& Such a method is .enerally convincin., 2ut it also implies a historical hierarchy& In the written
record, Europeans are the active a.ents, Africans their o2%ects of description and contemplation& )he prevalence of the European perspective in the
writin. of the history of the slave trade thus led this reader to pu99le over )horntonRs virtual effacement of colonialism from his e5planation of Atlantic
slaveryRs rise (and of the le.acies of colonialism in the writin. of history(& 3is ar.ument a2out African autonomy and a.ency is forceful and persuasive,
and he demonstrates spectacularly that the history of Atlantic slavery is not only the history of the rise of the Aest& 7ut 2y invertin. the terms of the
dependency theory approach of Rodney and others, )hornton eclipses EuropeRs role in the ma6in. of 2oth the Atlantic slave trade and the American
plantation, without which the slave trade would never have e5isted& Should he have presented a more 2alanced accountH May2e not; 2alance is not
necessarily the only virtue of the Atlantic historian& )o ar.ue with ri.our, ima.ination and over a 2road canvas are the mar6s of the .reat histories of
Atlantic slavery& )hornton, 7lac62urn and Eltis are s<uarely in that tradition and, li6e & !& R& #ames, Bernando Orti9, 'avid 7rion 'avis, Seymour
'rescher and others 2efore them, they have produced wor6s that incite the reader to as6 2i. <uestions and reach for 2i. answers a2out a history
whose le.acies continue to shape the Atlantic world&
Dven if capitalism doesn*t explain slavery, 0arxism is still the best starting point
for redress and forward/loo)ing politics
Eohnson, Associate $rofessor of 3istory and American Studies C *GU, %2
(Aalter, 8)he $edestal and the =eil> Rethin6in. the apitalismFSlavery Vuestion,: #ournal of the Early
Repu2lic =ol& +N, *o& +, p& +EE0/,M(
In tryin. to reframe the capitalismFslavery discussion as a set of <uestions a2out ei.hteenth and nineteenth0
century Atlantic political economy, it mi.ht 2e worth %ust for a second (2ecause that is all it will ta6e( to see what Mar5
did say a2out the history of slavery in apital& Ri.ht 2efore the 2usiness a2out the veil and the pedestal he wrote this>
SAhilst the cotton industry introduced child0slavery in En.land, it .ave in the United States a stimulus to the
transformation of the earlier, more or less patriarchal slavery, into a system of commercial e5ploitation&S-N
Ahat is stri6in. a2out this sentence is the first word> Swhilst&S It frames the relation of what we have 2een callin.
ScapitalismS and what we have 2een callin. SslaveryS in terms of dynamic simultaneity rather than simple
super0cession, thou.h it does so with careful attention to the historically different relations of production0
slavery and wa.e la2or0which characteri9ed the two poles of this sin.le Atlantic economy& In so doin., it frames
the pedestal metaphor that directly follows it as a structural (or spatial( metaphor rather than a temporal one& Rather than
focusin. on the specifics of capitalist development in Europe, this sentence treats the Atlantic economy as its
.round of analysis , a spatial unit over which economic practice had differential 2ut nevertheless related forms and effects& And
the name that Mar5 .ives this trans0Atlantic political economy at this moment very close to the end of apital is not ScapitalismS 2ut
SslaveryS0Schild0slavery,S Sveiled slavery,S Sslavery pure and simple&S It would strain credi2ility to ar.ue that the hundreds upon
hundreds of pa.es of apital in which Mar5 i.nored the <uestion of slavery should 2e re0read in the li.ht of the several moments at
the end where he seemed to su..est that SslaveryS was the essential form of e5ploitation in the nineteenth0century economy and
that the forms it too6 in Manchester or in Mississippi were simply variant manifestations of a shared essence& Safer to understand
the invocation of SslaveryS as a rhetorical effect, desi.ned to pierce the illusion that wa.e0wor6ers were in any sense Sfree&S
SSlaveryS was, after all, an often0invo6ed metaphor in the nineteenth0century& )he term served as a sort of universal comparison for
disparate in%ustices, and in the process it lost some of its meanin. and most of its liistorical specificity& 7ut the very metaphorical
promiscuity of the term SslaveryS as Mar5 used it, calls us to pay close attention to 2oth the pattern of its deployment and the
maneuvers 2y which its seemin.ly universal applica2ility was contested and controlled& )o pay attention, that is, to historical process
2y which the 2oundaries 2etween slavery and SfreedomS were drawn, and to the character of the SveilS that separated them& )he
SveilS to which Mar5 refers is most simply ima.ined as S contract freedom S> the idea that wa.e0la2or
contracts (2y which SfreeS wor6ers sold control over the capacities of their 2odies 2y the hour( reflected freely .iven
SconsentS to the 2ar.ain (and thus elided the deeper histories of e5propriation and coercion that, accordin. to Mar5, actually
structured the 2ar.ain(&-1 It refers, that is, to the historical process 2y which the commodification of la2orers and
the commodification of la2or power came to 2e understood as two entirely separate and, indeed, opposite thin.s 0
slavery and freedom, 2lac6 and white, household and mar6et, here and there0rather than as two concretely
intertwined and ideologically symbiotic elements of a lar.er unified thou.h internally diversified structure
of e5ploitation& )his formulation of functional unity veiled by ideological separation entails several interestin.
avenues of in<uiry ta6en up 2y these essays& )hey commend us, first, to try to thin6 a2out the economies of
Europe, America, Africa0so lon. divided 2y historio.raphies framed around national 2oundaries and hard0and0fast distinctions
2etween modes of production0in all of their concrete interconnection&-? )his emphasis on the concrete and
practical seems to me to have the virtue of allowin. for the use of some of the most powerful cate.ories
produced 2y western political economy0the idea of commodification, the la2or theory of value, the notion of varia2ility (across
space and race( of the socially necessary cost of the reproduction of the la2orin. class, and the calculation of
surplus value0 without having first to engage a long doctrinal dispute about the capitalism 'uestion !
Once the teleolo.y of the S slavery0to0capitalismS <uestion has 2een set aside, that is, we still have an
enormous amount to learn from what 0arx had to tell us a2out the wor6 of capitalists as we try to dia.ram the
historical interconnections and daily practices of the .lo2al economy of the ei.hteenth and nineteenth centuries&
)hese essays li6ewise su..est a second set of topics as we try to thin6 of the enormous wor6 involved in cate.ori9in. and
containin. all of those interconnections in notions of process and history structured 2y the oppositions of slavery and freedom, 2lac6
and white, and coercion and consent& As they ar.ued a2out where to draw the line 2etween proper and improper forms
of political economy0a2out whether wa.e wor6 was wa.e slavery, whether slaveholdin. was slave tradin.,
and whether marria.e was prostitution0capitalists and anti0capitalists, employers and employees, masters and slaves,
hus2ands and wives ar.ued over the character of freedom, ri.ht, and personhood, over where they 2e.an and where they
ended, where these thin.s could 2e said to 2e sala2le and where they must 2e held to 2e sacred& )hese violent ar.uments
were eventually settled on a frontier where we live today> S slaveryS was defined 2y the condition of 2lac6s in
the South 2efore -M?1 and SfreedomS was defined as the a2ility to choose to wor6 for a wa.e or a share of the
crop (thou.h not to choose not to wor6 for a wa.e or a share of the crop or, indeed, to choose not to 2e SfreeS(, and Sthe householdS
was defined as Sin 2ut not of the mar6et&S-@ SSo massive was the effortS wrote Mar5, Sto esta2lish Rthe eternal laws of
*atureR of the capitalist mode of production&S-M And so 2e.an the history of Sfreedom,S which is apparently
hurtling toward such a fearful conclusion all over the world today&
ivil ri.hts
$acial ine'uality isn*t ontologicalwe can study this empirically and historically
Clar), professor of law C atholic University, %>F
(!eroy '&, @/ 'env& U&!& Rev& +/(
Second Vualitative !eap Borward
)he 2lac60led, and white0supported, civil ri.hts movement .athered momentum in the late -E1,s and early -E?,s
throu.h marches, Ssit0insS00which 2reached racial se.re.ation in pu2lic esta2lishments00and the
development of legal strategies to provide cover and protection& Ahite Americans were shoc6ed 2y the
vicious resistance of small poc6ets of ra2id southern racists to the disciplined non0violent protests of 2lac6s, and pu2lic
opinion 2e.an to move toward support for racial e<uality& n?/ Key whites in the media, especially television, influenced
this shift in public opinion 2y portrayin. 2lac6 .rievances in a sympathetic and appealin. li.ht& n?N )he movement
culminated in -E?,s le.islation prohi2itin. racial se.re.ation and discrimination in pu2lic accommodations,
n?1 employment, n?? votin. ri.hts, n?@ and housin.& n?M )his was the ne5t <ualitative leap forward, and there has
been no massive bac)sliding into the ran) forms of segregation and discrimination that characteri9ed the
pre0-E?, period& $rofessor 7ell treats the post0-E?,s claims of pro.ress as an illusion > discrimination simply
2ecame more covert, 2ut e<ually efficient& n?E The facts, however, viewed with a holistic perspective, lar.ely refute
this claim& n@, The most thorough analysis of 2lac60American status since Iunnar MyrdalRs An American 'ilemma
in -ENN, is A ommon 'estiny007lac6s and American Society& n@- )he report covers the period from -EN, throu.h
-EM?, and is more comprehensive than the studies $rofessor 7ell relied on in recent law review articles& A ommon
'estiny answers $rofessor 7ellRs central <uestion in Baces> ontemporary views of the status of 2lac60white relations in America
vary widely& $erspectives ran.e from optimism that the main pro2lems have 2een solved, to the view that 2lac6 pro.ress is lar.ely
an illusion, to assessments that the nation is retro.ressin. and movin. toward increased racial disparities& )o some o2servers, the
present situation is only another episode in a lon. history of recurrin. cycles of apparent improvement that are followed 2y new
forms of dominance in chan.ed conte5ts> the level of 2lac6 status chan.es, it is said, 2ut the one constant is 2lac6sR continuin.
su2ordinate social position& )o other o2servers, the opposite is correct> lon.0run pro.ress is the dominant trend& n@+ A ommon
'estiny, however, concludes that the overwhelming ma(ority of 2lac60Americans made su2stantial pro.ress
since -EN,> Over the 1,0year span covered 2y this study, the social status of American 2lac6s has on avera.e improved
dramatically, 2oth in a2solute terms and relative to whites& )he .rowth of the economy and public policies promotin. racial
e<uality led to an erosion of se.re.ation and discrimination, ma6in. it possi2le for a su2stantial fraction of 2lac6s to
enter the mainstream of American life& n@/ #ust five decades a.o, most 2lac6 Americans could not wor6, live, shop, eat, see6
entertainment, travel where they chose& Even a <uarter century a.o00-,, years after the Emancipation $roclamation of -M?/00most
2lac6s were effectively denied the ri.ht to vote& & & & )oday the situation is very different& n@N )he ommittee ac6nowled.ed that Sthe
.reat .ulf that e5isted 2etween 2lac6 and white Americans in -E/E & & & has not closed,S 2ecause one0third of 2lac6s Sstill live in
households with incomes 2elow the poverty line&S n@1 Get the study reported that E+T of 2lac6s lived 2elow the poverty line in -E/E&
n@? A ?,T drop in poverty is an astoundin. improvement, 2y any measure, and is an even faster movement out of poverty than that
of the white pu2lic that was also sufferin. from the rava.es of the economic depression of the -E/,s& n@@ Some reduction of 2lac6
poverty occurred when 2lac6s secured hi.her payin. %o2s in defense industries durin. Aorld Aar II& 7ut the passa.e of the -E?N
ivil Ri.hts Act 2rou.ht a si.nificant reduction in racial employment discrimination& 7y -EMN, 2lac6s had ^ E 2illion more per year in
real income, ad%usted for inflation, than they would have had if they had remained arrayed throu.hout the occupational spectrum as
they were 2efore the Act& n@M A new 2lac6 economic elite developed throu.h movement into hi.her payin. employment in the
private sector and away from employment in .overnment, the cler.y, and civil ri.hts or.ani9ations; this new elite should sustain their
pro.ress and finance opportunities for their youn.& n@E )he num2er of 2lac6 elected officials increased from a few do9en in -EN, to
?,M,, 2y -EMM, and the num2er of 2lac6 pu2lic administrators went from -T in -EN, to MT in -EM,& nM, *o white elected official has
openly supported racial se.re.ation since Iovernor Aallace in the early -E?,s, a testament, in part, to the su2stantial increases in
2lac6 voter re.istration and votin., due to the =otin. Ri.hts Acts of -E1@, -E?,, and -E?1& nM- One could also show
decreases in racial se.re.ation in education, housin., and other aspects of American life, coupled with
the virtual disappearance of racial e5clusion in pu2lic accommodations00all due to enforcement of the new
le.islation& It is true, racial discrimination has not 2een totally eradicated& nM+ 7ut, $eter B& 'ruc6er summari9es> In the fifty years
since the Second Aorld Aar the economic position of African0Americans in America has improved faster than that of any other
.roup in American social history00or in the social history of any country& )hree0fifths of AmericaRs 2lac6s rose into middleclass
incomes; 2efore the Second Aorld Aar the fi.ure was onetwentieth& nM/
at6 nu)e war
$acism not the root case @ other factors outweigh
0ertus >> ($rofessor #ulie Mertus is the co0director of Ethics, $eace and Ilo2al Affairs& She has
written widely on human ri.hts and .ender, conflict, the 7al6ans, U&S& forei.n policy and U&*& institutions&
She is the author or editor of ten 2oo6s, includin. 7ait and Switch> 3uman Ri.hts and U&S& Borei.n $olicy,
named Shuman ri.hts 2oo6 of the yearS 2y the American $olitical Science Association( and, most recently
3uman Ri.hts Matters> !ocal $olitics and *ational 3uman Ri.hts Institutions and )he United *ations and
3uman Ri.hts& 7efore enterin. academia, she wor6ed as a researcher, writer and lawyer for several
human ri.hts and humanitarian or.ani9ations&, #&'&, Gale !aw School; 7&S& ornell University,
International ouncil on 3uman Ri.hts $olicy, 8)3E RO!E OB RAISM AS A AUSE OB OR BA)OR
I* AARS A*' I=I! O*B!I):, http>FFwww&ichrp&or.FfilesFpapersF-?@F--+O0
O)heORoleOofORacismOasOaOauseOofOorOBactorOinOAarsOandOivilOonflictOMertusOO#ulieOO-EEE&p
df(
)his paper e5amines the role of racism as a cause of or factor in wars and civil conflicts& 8Racism: as
understood here is defined 2roadly to encompass acts and processes of dehumanisation& )he conflicts in Rwanda and Kosovo
serve as case studies ; the former illustrates a case where the racist nature of the conflict has 2een clear
to most o2servers, and the latter represents a case where racism plays an important yet overloo6ed role&
$acism did not cause either conflict& Rather, the conflicts were the outcome of political manipulation
and enlar.ement of already e5istin. .roup classification schemes and social polarisation , a history of real
and ima.ined oppression and deprivation, the a2sence of the rule of law and democratic structures, and
state monopoly over the provision of information & Under such conditions, political Klites could use racist
ideolo.y as a method of .ainin. power and , when necessary, wa.in. war&
at6 'uare
Gueer studies are incommensurate with blac) struggles for liberation @ leads to
line drawing and absolutism
'arnell !& 0oore, +,-, =isitin. Scholar in the enter for the Study of Iender and Se5uality at *ew Gor6
University, +,11, 8An Interro.ation of the 7lac6 $resence in the Vueer $ro%ect,: )rans0Scripts =ol& -
)his paper intended to illustrate how the ethos of 'ueer studiesH theory violates the <lac) 8truggle for
liberation! In this re.ard, attempts were made to draw attention to the discontinuities that frustrate the
move towards inte.ration of the two pro%ects& Birst, <ueer studiesF theory is characteri9ed 2y a
universali9in. impulse that blurs boundaries and polices agency and the a2ility of the self to name
identities, while 7lac6 Stru..le see6s to open up space for a.ency, self0namin. of specific identities and
2oundaries, and witnessin.& Second, <ueer studiesFtheory appeals to anti0identitarian politics, while 7lac6
Stru..le specifically hi.hli.hts the centrality of identity, particularly of race& )hird, the 'ueer
studiesHtheory pro(ect fails to disavow white privilege, while the 2lac6 stru..le for li2eration is
insistent on the namin. and disavowal of white privile.e& !astly, <ueer studiesFtheory ostensi2ly focuses
on theoretical criti<ues that are .rounded in the discursive, while 7lac6 Stru..le focuses on materiality
and a liberative praxis that spurs action! 7ecause of this discontinuity, I contend that some African
American SI! women and men do not em2race C and cannot em2race C <ueer studiesFtheory&
Get, while I have attempted to critically interro.ate and re%ect certain aspects of the <ueer pro%ect
throu.hout this paper, I would also li6e to ac6nowled.e that some participants in 7lac6 Stru..le similarly
apply 2oundaried norms that ad%y the absoluti#ing, li2erative features of this crucial pro%ect& It is not
uncommon for the e5periences of SI! people, women, and the wor6in. class (or, alternately, the middle
and upper classes( to 2e i.nored or effaced 2y some contin.encies within 7lac6 Stru..le& )hus, present
in the <ueer pro%ect and 7lac6 Stru..le is the potential to contravene , 2y way of a s)ewed theoretical
grounding, the radical political aims of oblite rating state sanctioned norms and actuating the
agential emancipation of the ab(ectified other! *onetheless, 7lac6 Stru..le seems to ta6e into account
the need to survey the socialFracialF.enderFclass scenes of the su2%ect and attend to the needs of the self
to name his or her identities and 2ear witness from these varied su2%ective locations& )hese vital
preliminary steps, I ar.ue, must occur 2efore such 2oundaries are <ueerantined completely&
at6 ross
7n fact, $oss* entire premise is based off this hidden motive reasoninghe thin)s
that you can 7NBD$ 75DNT7TI through JKT C4DCL8
$oss 2)
PMarlon 7&, $rofessor, 'epartment of En.lish and arter I& Aoodson Institute for African0American and
African Studies, 8ommentary> $leasurin. Identity, or the 'elicious $olitics of 7elon.in.,: *ew !iterary
3istory, =ol& /-, *o& N, pa.es MN,0MN-Q
So, each of the contri2utors to this volume poses a future for or 2eyond identity riveted to her or his own identifications and
misidentifications as an author, scholar, teacher, activist, citi9en, family mem2er, lover, and so forth00as a person, in the most
identical and thus impersonal sense of that word& (Ae are all persons under the s6in means that we are all the same person after
all&( A few of the contri2utors I have met in person, as we li6e to say& IRm very much aware of how my physical PEnd $a.e M+@Q
encounter with them has some 2earin. on my sense of who they are as a facet (note the SfaceS in SfacetS( of what they write& Most
of the contri2utors, thou.h, I have never met in person & And yet I have a pretty vivid ima.e (a mental ima.e, not
a physical one, no dou2t an ima.inary one( of what identifies them with particular a.endas , ideas, feelin.s,
institutions, ideolo.ies, and cultural .roups& I donRt need an actual face, a curriculum vitae, a 2io.raphy , a
family chronicle, or a .enetic map to infer an identity for those 7 have never met in person& )he face is
only one aspect (a word that means that which we can loo6 at( of a human 2ody, 2ut it is ta6en as, if not the 6ey to the soul, at least
a loc6ed door throu.h whose 6eyhole we can peep to .limpse the messy inner life of an individual as a
specimen of the .roup identifications that she or he has internali9ed& )he face, as the front door of the head, has, not
surprisin.ly, 2een the most intensely scrutini9ed 2ody part00whether 2y .entle scientists cautiously manipulatin. calipers in the
ethnolo.ical la2oratory or 2y 2rutal 2i.ots 2randishin. .uns in the lynchin. mo2& Eyes, nose, ears, forehead, mouth, lips, eye2rows,
nostrils, teeth, ton.ue, all have 2een cali2rated and recali2rated with 2oth the most delicate instruments and the clumsiest weapons
of the cartoon, the camera, and the na6ed eye of the white supremacist& A sin.le s<ui..le of the pen00to narrow the eyes, 2roaden
the nose, 2ul.e the lips, lower the chin, loll the ton.ue00can s6etch a %ew, a %ap, a ni..er, a spic6, a native sava.e the way a simple
shortenin. of a hemline can turn a chaste lady into a whore who wants it&
7t is impossible to attribute symbolic racist motives to policy and individuals in
policy debates
8niderman and Tetloc) *MC P$aul M& Sniderman, Stanford University and U 7er6eley Survey
Research enter, and $hilip E& )etloc6, U 7er6eley, -EM?, 8Sym2olic Racism> $ro2lems of Motive
Attri2ution in $olitical Analysis,: accessed /F/-F-NQ
At what point is one %ustified in concludin. that racist motives determine a policy preferenceH *ot
surprisin.ly, different .roups set different thresholds of proof& Some civil ri.hts activists =iew opposition to
affirmative action <uotas as inspired in lar.e part 2y racism& Some conservatives see the same pro.rams
as threats to fundamental (nonracial( values such as e<uality of opportunity& 'is0 a.reements of this sort,
of course, are the stuff of politics& One person"s reason is fre<uently anotherJs rationali9ation (cf& Mills,
-EN,; )etloc6, -EM1(&
Sym2olic racism theory, in its fundamental sense, is an attempt to apply the methods of social science& to
the pro2lem of political motive attri2ution& It is therefore important to consider an especially 2asic
<uestion> to what e5tent are political de2ates over the 8true motivesS underlyin. racial policy preferences
resolva2le throu.h the techni<ues of causal analysis availa2le to the social sciencesH
)he answer to this <uestion is 2y no means o2vious& $ro2lems of political motive attri2ution may rou.hly
2e divided into 8easy: and 8hard: cases& An e5ample of the former is old0fashioned racism; of the latter,
sym2olic racism& onsider old0fashioned racism> what analytical tools mi.ht the investi.ator draw upon to
determine whether traditional racism underlies opposition to <uotasH )he classical strate.y is to locate
attitudes toward <uotas in a nomolo.ical networ6 of relevant constructs04constructs that should
theoretically relate to attitudes toward <uotas (cf& ron2ach X Meehl, -E11(& )hus, one would e5plore the
relations amon. affect toward 2lac6s, crude stereotypin. of 2lac6s, policy stands that contemporary
American political culture would la2el as unam2i.uously racist (er.&, support for se.re.ation(, and policy
stands whose mean0 in. is politically controversial (e&.&, minority %o2 <uotas(&
*ow a case such as this, thou.h easy in principle, may in practice 2e <uite hard& (Ahat 8third varia2lesS
moderate the relation 2etween traditional racism and opposition to <uotasH )o what e5tent does the
relationship hold when one controls for alternative e5planations such as traditional values or attitudes
toward the federal .overnmentH( Even so, a hard case, such as sym2olic racism, repre0 sents a <uite
different order of difficulty& )he difficulty is as follows> )here is no nomolo.ical net in the case of sym2olic
racism& Many of the motive attributions are contestable, not merely by the person to whom they are
attributed, but also by other analysts generally ! And they are inherently contesta2le 2ecause the sym0
2olic racism approach 2e.s the <uestion 4how, after all, is one to tell whether opposition to affirmative
action is racist or not when, in the case of sym2olic racism , racism is not related to an a.reed0on si.n of
racism , for e5ample, crude stereotypin.H
!ac6in. positive evidence of racist motivation, one mi.ht turn to ne.ative evidence& $erhaps one could
infer racist motivation 2y a process of elimina0 tion42y rulin. out other plausi2le motives for, say,
opposin. affirmative action& )hus, an investi.ator mi.ht propose that 2ecause the well02ein. of the
individual respondent is not directly threatened 2y <uotas, the individual is not driven 2y concern for his or
her self4interest&
*e.ative ar.uments , however, are inherently wea6 ways to resolve pro20 lems of motive attri2ution (cf&
)etloc6 X Manstead, iEM1(& )he variety of alternative motives for ta6in. a particular policy stand is
practically endless & 3ow e5actly should one .o a2out operationali9in. Sself0interestS0o2%ective life
circumstances (the presence or a2sence of a <uota system in oneJs place of wor6(, perceived life
circumstances (do the respondents 2elieve, in competin. for scarce societal resources, they are at a
comparative disadvanta.e 2y virtue of 2ein. whiteH(, or the perceived life circumstances of individuals or
.roups with whom the respondent identifies (e&.&, friends, family, nei.h2ors(H Moreover, self0interest is
only one class of motivational counterhypothesis& $erhaps the respondent o2%ects out of 2elief that color0
2lind decision0ma6in. procedures provide the fairest method of .uaranteein. e<uality of opportunity (or
social harmony( in the lon. run& Or perhaps the respondent perceives <uota systems as one more
manifestation of an increasin.ly intrusive and le.alistic federal 2ureau0 cracy that restricts individual
freedom and mar6et efficiency&
Sym2olic racism researchers have only s6immed the surface of such poten0 tial motivational counter0
hypotheses& 7ut, supposin. they went deeper> Is the attri2ution of sym2olic racism falsi_a2leH Ae 2elieve
not& )he list of counter0 hypotheses is , in principle, infinite& Burthermore, the flow of causality, even when
studied 2y the most sophisticated statistical modelin. procedures, will remain hi.hly am2i.uous as lon.
as sym2olic racism researchers reserve the ri.ht to la2el a wide ran.e of (nonracial( values and policy
preferences as racist& Suppose, for e5ample, that one were to _nd that all the variance in white opposition
to .overnment assistance for 2lac6s could 2e statistically e5plained as a function of commitment to
economic individualism, antipathy toward the federal .overnment, and the 2elief that mar6et mechanisms
are the most efficient method of alleviatin. the pli.ht of the poor& Assume, moreover, that affect toward
2lac6s did not even emer.e as a si.nificant predictor of opposition to .overnment assistance to 2lac6s&
Aould this C at first .lance, <uite devastatin. C evidence count a.ainst the sym2olic racism thesisH *ot
necessarily& Sym2olic racism researchers could respond that such data only 2uttress their case& After all,
the data reveal a connection 2etween traditional values (support for economic individualism and
capitalism( and opposition to assistance for 2lac6s, and these traditional values are the very essence of
sym2olic racism& In short, as currently formulated, symbolic racism theory fails the fundamental test
expected of any scientific theory @ falsifiability& It is unclear what evidence it would ta6e to convince
sym2olic racism researchers they are wron.&
2nc alt
They can win all of their pessimism arguments and we*ll still win///at a <A$D
07N70K0 successful politics re'uires correct 57AJN+878 of the problem
0c1aren, ritical Studies W hapman U, ur2an schoolin. prof W U!A, %1
($eter, 8Ra.e and 3ope> )he Revolutionary $eda.o.y of $eter Mc!aren C an Interview with $eter
Mc!aren,: Curr#culo sem $ronteiras, v&-, n& +, p& 5li50li5(
Mc!aren> Mit%a, I li6e the way that you framed that <uestion& )he o2viousness of conservative culture is precisely why
it is so hidden from view& Much li6e those who controlled the paradis articificels of everyday life in the film, )he )ruman Show& I
am struc6 each day 2y the manner in which predatory capitalism anticipates for.etfulness, nourishes social amnesia,
smoothes the pillows of finality, and paves the world with a sense of inevitability and sameness& I am
depressin.ly impressed 2y what a formida2le opponent it has proven to 2e, how it fatally denies the full development of
our human capacities, and inures us to the immuta2ility of social life& In other words, it naturali9es us to the
idea that capital is the 2est of all possi2le worlds, that it may not 2e perfect, 2ut it certainly is prefera2le to socialism and
communism& Many leftists have unwittin.ly become apologists for capitalist relations of domination 2ecause they are
over2urdened 2y the seemin. ina2ility of *orth Americans to ima.ine a world in which capital did not rei.n
supreme& )o address this situation, I have turned to critical peda.o.y& Mit%a> Gou are very much identified with the field of
critical peda.o.y& 3ow would you define critical peda.o.yH Ahat is your position within this field todayH Mc!aren> As you 6now,
Mit%a, critical peda.o.y has 2een a central liberatory current in education of the last two decades& ritical peda.o.y has
served as a form of stru..le within and a.ainst the social norms and forces that structure the schoolin. process& Most
approaches to critical peda.o.y are limited to distur2in. the foundations upon which 2our.eois 6nowled.e is 2uilt, placin. the term
Jschoolin." itself under scrutiny& Vuestions that arise in critical peda.o.y often have to do with the relationship
amon. schoolin. and the 2roader array of pu2lics constructed 2y the mar6etplace and 2rou.ht a2out 2y the
seculari9ation and the internationali9ation of the politics of consumption& In other words, critical peda.o.y most often deals
with cultural manifestations of capital, and the norms and formations that are en.endered 2y means of relations of e5chan.e& )his is
a .ood strate.y as far as it .oes& 3owever, the revolutionary peda.o.y that I advocate, that I have 2uilt from the roots of
Breire"s and Mar5"s wor6 and the wor6 of many others, such as the .reat revolutionary he Iuevara, involves the uprooting
of these seeds of naturali#ation C planted throu.h the reification of social relations and the su2sumption of
difference to identity 2y means of the law of value C and this means undressin. the e5ploitative, se5ist, racist, and
homopho2ic dimensions of contemporary capitalist society& 7ut it also means more than simply %uncovering* these
relations, or layin. them 2are in all of their ideolo.ical na6edness& It stipulates C and here it is important not to mince
words C the total uprooting of class society in all of its disa2lin. manifestations& Revolutionary peda.o.y refers to
ta6in. an active part in a total social revolution, one in which actin. and 6nowin. are indeli2ly fused such that the o2%ect
of 6nowled.e is irrevoca2ly shaped 2y the very act of its 2ein. contemplated& )hat is, the very act of contemplation (I need to
emphasi9e that this act of contemplation is collective and dialo.ical( shapes C and is shaped 2y C the o2%ect under
investi.ation & )he 6nowers are shaped C throu.h dialo.ue C 2y the 6nown& Revolutionary peda.o.y attempts to
produce an excess of consciousness over and a2ove our conditional or naturali9ed consciousness, to create, as it
were, an overflow that outruns the historical conditions that enframe it and that see6 to anchor it, so that we
mi.ht free our thou.ht and, 2y e5tension, our everyday social practices from its rootedness in the very material
conditions that ena2le thin6in. and social activity to occur in the first place& In other words, revolutionary peda.o.y
teaches us that we need not accommodate ourselves to the permanence of the capitalist law of value& In fact, it reveals to us how
we can 2e.in to thin6 of continuin. Mar5"s stru..le for a revolution in permanence& A num2er of thin6ers have helped to unchain the
revolutionary implications of Breire"s thou.ht in this re.ard C 'onaldo Macedo, 3enry Iirou5, Ira Shor, $eter Mayo, amon. others& I
have attempted to do this 2y iteratin. the protean potential of his wor6 for social revolution and not %ust the democrati9in. of
capitalist social relations& So much contemporary wor6 on Breire has inflated its coina.e for transformin. classroom practices 2ut
devalued its potential for revolutionary social chan.e outside of the classroom in the wider society& Revolutionary peda.o.y
re<uires a dialectical understandin. of .lo2al capitalist e5ploitation& Breire is often 2rou.ht in to illuminate de2ates
over school reform that are .enerally structured around the conceit of a dialo.ue over e<uality of opportunity, which rarely
.o 2eyond momentous renunciations of corporatism or teeth0rattlin. denunciations of privati9ation& 7ut such
de2ates studiously ignore the 6ey contradictions to which history has .iven rise C those 2etween la2or and capital&
Such de2ates are engineered in the United States to avoid addressin. these contradictions ! Mit%a> Ahat do you
see as the most important challen.e in the future for educational researchersH Mc!aren> )he 6ey to see 2eyond the choir of
invisi2ilities that envelope us, and to identify how current calls for esta2lishin. democracy are little more than
half0way house policies, a smo)escreen for neo/liberalism
and for ma6in. capitalism .overna2le and re.ulated C a 8sta6eholder: capitalism if you will& I do not 2elieve such a
capitalism will wor6, nor am I in favor of mar6et socialism& Ae need to chart out a type of positive humanism that can
.round a .enuine socialist democracy without mar6et relations, a Mar5ist humanism that can lead to a
transcendence of alienated la2or& Bollowin. Mar5, Ea.leton claims that we are free when, li6e artists, we produce
without the .oad of physical necessity; and it is this nature which for Mar5 is the essence of all individuals&
)ransformin. the rituals of schoolin. can only .o so far, since these rituals are em2edded in capitalist social relations and
the law of value& )here are si.ns that research in the social sciences mi.ht 2e .oin. throu.h a sea0shift of transformation& I thin6
we need to ta6e the focus away from how individual identities are commodified in postmodern consumer
spaces, and put more emphasis on creatin. possi2ilities for a radical reconstitution of society& I li6e the new
pu2lic role of $ierre 7ourdieu C a role that sees him ta6in. his politics into the streets and factories of Brance, fi.htin.
the structural in%ustices and economic insta2ilities 2rou.ht a2out 2y capitalism and neo0li2eralism C fi.htin. what, in effect,
are nothin. short of totalitarian practices that are facilitatin. the e5ploitation of the world"s wor6ers& 7ourdieu reali9es
that we haven"t e5hausted all the alternatives to capitalism& If that is the case, we need , as researchers , to
2rin. our wor6 to 2ear on the see6in. out of new social relations around which everyday life can 2e
productively and creatively or.ani9ed & In my view, this is social science C and politics C the way it should 2e
practiced&
8olves
The alternative solvesa politics of class does not prevent fights against racism,
but it ac)nowledges that materialism forms the basis for all oppression, which
then is subdivided by individual and collective structures
0c1aren, 'istin.uished Bellow C ritical Studies W hapman U and U!A ur2an schoolin. prof, and
Scatam2urlo0'"Anni2ale, associate professor of ommunication C U Aindsor, %2
($eter and =alerie, 8lass 'ismissedH 3istorical materialism and the politics of Jdifference",: Educational
$hilosophy and )heory =ol& /?, Issue +, p& -M/0-EE(
Ae have ar.ued that it is virtually impossi2le to conceptuali9e class without attendin. to the forms and contents of difference, 2ut we
insist that this does not imply that class stru..le is now outdated 2y the politics of difference& As #ameson (-EEM, p& -/?( notes, we
are now in the midst of returnin. to the Jmost fundamental form of class stru..le" in li.ht of current .lo2al
conditions& )odayRs climate su..ests that class stru..le is Jnot yet a thin. of the past" and that those who see6 to
undermine its centrality are not only Jmorally callous" and Jseriously out of touch with reality" 2ut also lar.ely 2lind to the
Jneeds of the lar.e mass of people who are 2arely survivin. capitalRs newly0honed mechanisms of
.lo2ali9ed .reed" (3arvey, -EEM, pp& @CE(& In our view, a more comprehensive and politically useful
understandin. of the contemporary historical %uncture necessitates foregrounding class analysis and
the primacy of the wor6in. class as the fundamental a.ent of chan.e&M This does not render as % secondary* the
concerns of those mar.inali9ed 2y race , ethnicity, etc& as is routinely char.ed 2y post0Mar5ists& It is often assumed
that fore.roundin. capitalist social relations necessarily undermines the importance of attendin. to
Jdifference" andF or triviali9es stru..les a.ainst racism, etc&, in favor of an a2stractly defined class02ased
politics typically identified as %white!* Get, such formulations rest on a 2i9arre 2ut .enerally unspo6en
lo.ic that assumes that racial and ethnic Jminorities" are only con%uncturally related to the wor6in. class & )his
stance is patently a2surd since the concept of the Jwor6in. class" is undou2tedly comprised of men and women of different races,
ethnicities, etc& (Mitter, -EE@(& A .ood deal of post0Mar5ist criti<ue is su2tly racist (not to mention essentialist( insofar as
it implies that J people of color" could not possi2ly 2e concerned with issues 2eyond those related to their
Jracial" or Jethnic" Jdifference&" )his posits Jpeople of color" as sin.le0minded, one0dimensional caricatures and
assumes that their wor6in. lives are less crucial to their self0understandin. (and survival( than is the case
with their Jwhite male" counterparts&E It also i.nores Jthe fact that class is an ineradica2le dimension of every2odyRs lives"
(Iimene9, +,,-, p& +( and that social oppression is much more than tan.entially lin6ed to class 2ac6.round and the e5ploitative
relations of production& On this topic, Meyerson (+,,,( is worth <uotin. at len.th> Mar5ism properly interpreted
emphasi9es the primacy of class in a num2er of senses& One of course is the primacy of the wor6in. class as
a revolutionary a.ent4a primacy which does not render women and people of color Jsecondary&" )his view assumes that
Jwor6in. class" means white4this division 2etween a white wor6in. class and all the others, whose identity (alon. with a
correspondin. social theory to e5plain that identity( is there2y viewed as either primarily one of .ender and race or hy2rid LP)Qhe
primacy of class means L that 2uildin. a multiracial, multi0.endered international wor6in.0class
or.ani9ation or or.ani9ations should 2e the .oal of any revolutionary movement so that the primacy of
class puts the fi.ht a.ainst racism and se5ism at the center & )he intelli.i2ility of this position is rooted in the
e5planatory primacy of class analysis for understandin. the structural determinants of race, .ender, and class oppression&
+ppression is multiple and intersecting but its causes are not ! )he cohesiveness of this position su..ests that
forms of e5ploitation and oppression are related internally to the e5tent that they are located in the same totality4
one which is currently defined 2y capitalist class rule & apitalism is an overarchin. totality that i s, unfortunately,
2ecomin. increasin.ly invisi2le in post0Mar5ist Jdiscursive" narratives that valori9e Jdifference" as a
primary e5planatory construct& Bor e5ample, E& San #uan (+,,/( ar.ues that race relations and race conflict are necessarily
structured 2y the lar.er totality of the political economy of a .iven society, as well as 2y modifications in the structure of the world
economy& 3e further notes that the capitalist mode of production has articulated Jrace" with class in a peculiar way& 3e too is worth a
su2stantial <uotation> Ahile the sta.nation of rural life imposed a racial or casteli6e ri.idity to the peasantry, the rapid accumulation
of wealth throu.h the ever more intensifyin. e5ploitation of la2or 2y capital could not so easily Jraciali9e" the wa.e0wor6ers of a
particular nation, .iven the aliena2ility of la2or0power4unless certain physical or cultural characteristics can 2e utili9ed to divide the
wor6ers or render one .roup an outcast or pariah removed from the domain of Jfree la2or&" In the capitalist development of
U&S& society, African, Me5ican, and Asian 2odies 4more precisely, their la2or power and its reproductive
efficacy4 were coloni9ed and raciali9ed; hence the idea of Jinternal colonialism" retains e5planatory validity&
JRace" is thus constructed out of raw materials furnished by class relations, the history of class conflicts,
and the vicissitudes of colonialFcapitalist e5pansion and the 2uildin. of imperial he.emony& It is dialectically accented and
operationali9ed not %ust to differentiate the price of wa.e la2or within and outside the territory of the metropolitan power, 2ut also to
reproduce relations of dominationCsu2ordination invested with an aura of naturality and fatality& )he refunctionin. of physical
or cultural traits as ideolo.ical and political si.nifiers of class identity reifies social relations & Such Jracial"
mar6ers enter the field of the alienated la2or process, concealin. the artificial nature of meanin.s and norms, and
essentiali9in. or naturali9in. historical traditions and values which are contin.ent on muta2le circumstances& Bor
San #uan, racism and nationalism are modalities in which class stru..les articulate themselves at strate.ic
points
in history& 3e ar.ues that racism arose with the creation and e5pansion of the capitalist world economy& 3e maintains, ri.htly in
our view, that racial or ethnic .roup solidarity is .iven Jmeanin. and value in terms of their place within the
social or.ani9ation of production and reproduction of the ideolo.ical0political order; ideolo.ies of racism as
collective social evaluation of solidarities arise to reinforce structural constraints which preserve the e5ploited and oppressed
position of these 8racial: solidarities"& It is remar6a2le, in our opinion, that so much of contemporary social theory has lar.ely
a2andoned the pro2lems of la2or, capitalist e5ploitation, and class analysis at a time when capitalism is 2ecomin. more universal,
more ruthless and more deadly& )he metaphor of a contemporary Jtower of 7a2el" seems appropriate here4academics stri6in.
radical poses in the seminar rooms while remainin. o2livious to the possi2ility that their seemin.ly radical discursive maneuvers do
nothin. to further the stru..les Ja.ainst oppression and e5ploitation which continue to 2e real, material, and not merely 8discursive:
pro2lems of the contemporary world" ('irli6, -EE@, p& -@?(& 3arvey (-EEM, pp& +EC/-( indicts the new academic entrepreneurs, the
Jmasters of theory0in0and0for0itself" whose Jdiscourse radicalism" has deftly side0stepped Jthe endurin. conundrums of class stru..le"
and who have, a.ainst a Jso2erin. 2ac6.round of cheapened discourse and opportunistic politics," 2een Jstripped of their self0
advertised radicalism&" Bor years, they Jcontested socialism," ridiculed Mar5ists, and promoted Jtheir own alternative theories of
li2eratory politics" 2ut now they have lar.ely 2een Jreduced to the role of supplicants in the most de.raded form of pluralist politics
ima.ina2le&" As they pursue the politics of difference, the Jclass war ra.es una2ated" and they seem Jeither unwillin. or una2le to
focus on the unprecedented economic carna.e occurrin. around the .lo2e&" 3arveyRs searin. criticism su..ests that post0
Mar5ists have 2een 2usy fiddlin. while Rome 2urns and his comments echo those made 2y Mar5 (-E@M, p& -NE( in
his criti<ue of the Goun. 3e.elians who were, Jin spite of their alle.edly 8world0shatterin.: statements, the
staunchest conservatives!* Mar5 lamented that the Goun. 3e.elians were simply fi.htin. Jphrases" and that they
failed to ac6nowled.e that in offerin. only counter0phrases, they were in no way Jcom2atin. the real e5istin. world" 2ut merely
com2atin. the phrases of the world& )a6in. a cue from Mar5 and su2stitutin. Jphrases" with Jdiscourses" or Jresi.nifications" we would
contend that the practitioners of difference politics who operate within e5a..erated culturalist framewor6s that privile.e the realm of
representation as the primary arena of political stru..le <uestion some discourses of power while le.itimatin. others& Moreover,
2ecause they lac6 a class perspective, their .estures of radicalism are 2elied 2y their own class positions&-, As Ahmad (-EE@a, p&
-,N( notes> One may spea6 of any num2er of disorientations and even oppressions , 2ut one cultivates all
6inds of politeness and indirection a2out the structure of capitalist class relations in which those
oppressions are embedded& )o spea6 of any of that directly and simply is to 2e Jvul.ar&" In this climate of Aesopian
lan.ua.es it is a2solutely essential to reiterate that most thin.s are a matter of class& )hat 6ind of statement is L surprisin. only in a
culture li6e that of the *orth American university L 7ut it is precisely in that 6ind of culture that people need to hear such o2vious
truths& AhmadRs provocative o2servations imply that su2stantive analyses of the carna.e wrou.ht 2y J.lo2ali9ed" class e5ploitation
have, for the most part, 2een mar.inali9ed 2y the 6ind of radicalism that has 2een instituted amon. the academic !eft in *orth
America& 3e further su..ests that while various post0Mar5ists have invited us to %oin their euphoric cele2rations
honorin. the decenterin. of capitalism, the a2andonment of class politics, and the decline of
metanarratives (particularly those of Mar5ism and socialism(, they have failed to see that the most Jmeta of all
metanarratives of the past three centuries , the 0 creepin. anne5ation of the .lo2e for the dominance of
capital over la2orin. humanity has met, durin. those same decades, with stunnin. success" (Ahmad, -EE@2, p& /?N(& As
such, Ahmad invites us to as6 anew, the prover2ial <uestion> Ahat, then, must 2e doneH )o this <uestion we offer no simple
theoretical, peda.o.ical or political prescriptions& Get we would ar.ue that if social change is the aim, pro.ressive
educators and theorists must cease displacin. class analysis with the politics of difference&
at6 interest/convergence
This is a lin)///the idea that people act on predetermined interests is rational
choice theory, which lies at the heart of neoliberalism
5river, Assistant $rofessor C U )e5as School of !aw, %11
(#ustin, 8Rethin6in. the Interest0onver.ence )hesis,: Northwestern %ni&ersity 'aw (e&iew =ol& -,1, *o&
-(
Settin. aside the racial component of the interest0conver.ence theory, it is worth o2servin. that even the term 8 interest: can
2e understood to contain a .ood deal more comple5ity than $rofessor 7ell .enerally allows & )he interest0
conver.ence theory tends to view the idea of 8interest: as a sin.ular and seemin.ly entirely self0interested
concept& )o 2e sure, people often usually, perhaps ma6e decisions 2ased upon a narrow idea of what will 2e .ood for them& 7ut
human 2ein.s4comple5 creatures that they are4sometimes have multiple motivations for reachin. their decisions & In
addition to raw material self0interest, there may 2e more ideali9ed interests involvin. concepts li6e honor,
altruism, %ustice, and morality&--+ )o state this somewhat a2stract point more concretely, contemplate competin. notions of
how to understand the ourt"s decision in 7rown v& 7oard of Education& $rofessor 7ell, alon. with many other scholars of
constitutional law, emphasi9es that the ourt invalidated #im row in elementary pu2lic school education
durin. the -E1,s 2ecause the system 2ecame an em2arrassment to the United States durin. the old Aar &--/
)hat e5planation may well account for some of the ourt"s motivation 2ehind 7rown4althou.h the historical evidence on that
front is a good deal more complicated than many scholars .enerally allow&--N 7ut this e5planation for the outcome in
7rown may also 2e re.arded as incomplete& Bor 2etter or worse, widespread international disapproval has not
historically 2een a sufficient condition to result in an alteration of American practices &--1 It also seems
distinctly possi2le that the ourt found #im row to 2e an international em2arrassment 2ecause the practice
clashed with its more a2stract interests in %ustice and e<uality& Se.re.ation may have em2arrassed some
whites (includin. those on the ourt( durin. the -E1,s, that is, 2ecause they came to re.ard the system as un%ust& Attemptin.
to assi.n relative value to discrete motivations, especially when dealin. with a multimem2er 2ody, is necessarily a
speculative enterprise& )he interestconver.ence thesis, however, often e5presses certainty where it should admit
dou2t, confidently identifyin. a lone interest where several motivations may 2e at wor6&--? In its crudest form, the interest0
conver.ence theory can 2e understood as sharin. some affinities with early articulations of law and
economics & In the world of law and economics, people are regarded as rational utility maximi#ers; --@ in the
world of interest conver.ence, people attempt to ma5imi9e the utility of racial advanta.e& It also seems worth notin. that
the lo.ic of this s6eptical worldview does not necessarily limit itself to whites& Indeed, the interest0conver.ence ideolo.y"s steadfast
denial of a .enuine white interest in promotin. e<uality and %ustice for its own sa6e may 2e understood as applyin. to 2lac6s, too&
Under this way of thin6in., the reason that 2lac6 people have sou.ht racial e<uality is not 2ecause they
2elieve that racial e<uality is inherently a %ust cause 2ut 2ecause they 2elieve that achievin. racial e<uality will
redound to their 2enefit& )hus, under the interest conver.ence theory, claims of in%ustice 4even when
articulated 2y racial minorities4 can 2e dismissed as unprincipled and prete5tual, merely a hi.hminded manner of
complainin. that their own o5 has 2een .ored& After all, why should mem2ers of oppressed .roups 2e the only individuals who are
capa2le of ma6in. claims to %ustice and e<uality that do not ree6 of selfinterestH )he interest0conver.ence ideolo.y so
understood can 2e interpreted as underminin. the le.itimacy of claims 2y 2lac6s to racial e<uality& --M
The interest convergence theory is terrible
5river, Assistant $rofessor C U )e5as School of !aw, %11
(#ustin, 8Rethin6in. the Interest0onver.ence )hesis,: Northwestern %ni&ersity 'aw (e&iew =ol& -,1, *o&
-(
A central component of the interest0conver.ence thesis stresses the manner in which 8 2lac6 interests: are
su2ordinated to 8white interests &:E, Iiven that these two terms lie at the theory"s core, it is stri6in. that $rofessor 7ell
never endeavors to define what, precisely, these terms mean & Althou.h the terms may initially appear so
o2vious as to re<uire no definition, the oversi.ht is si.nificant 2ecause .rapplin. with those terms reveals some
of the theory"s analytical limitations& Even if one accepts the notion that interests can 2e divvied up 2y race, the interest0
conver.ence theory offers an overly simplistic view of 2oth the a2ility to identify and to e5press what
constitutes 8 2lac6 interests: and 8white interests &:E- )he thesis accords insufficient attention to the
intraracial cleava.es that divide the interests of 2lac6 people and white people& )hus, althou.h $rofessor 7ell uses
the terms 82lac6 interests: and 8white interests,:E+ the interest0conver.ence thesis too often views those entities as sin.ular (82lac6
interest: and 8white interest:( rather than plural& )his view ar.ua2ly contained at least some analytical coherence as
applied to race relations in the United States prior to the end of #im row& It would 2e difficult to contend that
the ourt"s decision in, say, 'red ScottE/ or $lessyEN did anythin. other than hurt the interest that 2lac6 people
collectively had in achievin. racial e<uality& Over the course of the last half century, however, the racial situation in America
has 2ecome increasingly complex , and the interest 0conver.ence thesis fails to appreciate that comple5ity&
Iiven the numerous areas in the modern world where there is .enuine disa.reement re.ardin. which policy decisions
` Mar6ed -N>,? ` advance the interests of 2lac6 citi9ens, the interest0conver.ence theory"s elision
of that comple5ity mis.uidedly puts forth an undifferentiated and un<ualified conception of what constitutes 82lac6 interests&:
ontrary to the notion advanced 2y the interest0conver.ence ideolo.y, however, there is no sin.ular 2lac6 a.enda &E1 In the
democratic arena, for e5ample, nearly everyone can a.ree that endin. e5pressly racial restrictions on access to the 2allot 2o5
advanced the interest of 2lac6s in racial e<uality& 7ut the creation of ma%ority0minority districts, pursuant to %udicial
interpretations of the =otin. Ri.hts Act of -E?1, has spawned a fierce de2ate a2out whether such districts advance
2lac6 interests&E? After all, while 2lac6 politicians appear to 2e more li6ely to 2e elected from ma%ority0minority
districts, the electoral districts that surround the ma%ority0minority districts are more white and more li6ely to elect Repu2licans&E@
Ahile such a result may well 2e in the interest of 2lac6 politicians, reasona2le minds can, and have, disa.reed whether
that result advances the interests of 2lac6 voters, the overwhelmin. ma%ority of whom tend to vote for 'emocrats&EM On
a micro level, moreover, if the particular 2lac6 person in <uestion happens to 2e a Repu2lican, increasin. the num2er of Repu2lican
elected officials mi.ht well advance that individual"s conception of racial interests& Similarly, serious disa.reements a2out what
precisely advances the interests of 2lac6 citi9ens also appear in the realms of inte.ration in .rade schools, affirmative
action in hi.her education, and the administration of criminal %ustice& Aith respect to the virtue of pursuin. racial
inte.ration in .rade schools, many commentators have su..ested that this method remains a via2le strate.y for alleviatin. racial
hierarchy&EE Many other commentators, however, contend that, in li.ht of the pu2lic school demo.raphics in
ur2an areas, meanin.ful racial inte.ration may no lon.er 2e a realistic .oal&-,, Even apart from the practical
difficulties of achievin. racial inte.ration, $rofessor 7ell himself has lon. offered incisive and provocative ar.uments
a.ainst the wisdom of a headlon. pursuit of racial inte.ration& -,- In the conte5t of hi.her education and affirmative action,
$rofessor Richard Sander has advanced an empirical ar.ument contendin. that affirmative action in law school
admissions serves to hinder 2lac6 advancement in the le.al profession&-,+ )hat claim, however, has .enerated
many re2uttals su..estin. that 2lac6 interests are in fact served 2y raceconscious admissions practices&-,/ Aith respect to the
administration of criminal %ustice, many commentators su..est that 2lac6 interests would 2e served 2y a2andonin. the a..ressive
policin. of 2lac6 communities that has 2een partially responsi2le for a hi.hly disproportionate num2er of 2lac6 people 2ein.
ensnared 2y the le.al system&-,N At least one commentator has ar.ued, however, that such analyses elevate the interests of 2lac6
criminals over the interests of 2lac6 victims&-,1
1N$
reparations
$eparative transfers buy off resistance @ it*s a new lin) that*s tied to giving them
the ballot
#ohn )orpey /, sociolo.y prof at U*G, Reparation $olitics in the +-st entury, )hird Aorld !e.al
Studies> =ol& -?, Article /
7eyond these difficulties, reparations politics also has a curiously apolitical <uality a2out it& )he notion of
.ainin. compensation for those who have suffered in%ustice in the past seems at first .lance inherently
uncontroversial 0 of course, why notH )he decline of the nation0state as a le.itimate force promotin.
social and political inte.ration and the more or less simultaneous decline of the socialist pro%ect have
wea6ened the appeal of a transformative politics that spea6s to the vast ma%ority, as socialism once
attempted to do& Reparations politics presents itself in this climate as an appealin. alternative to the
tri2ulations of coalition02uildin.& Ahatever the potential 2enefits of reparations campaigns , they should
not be mista)en for a broadly based politics capable of challenging the fundamental distribution
of wealth and power in society&N?
)he recent flowerin. of Sri.hts tal6S and the pursuit of dama.es for historical in%ustices 2oth reflect and
promote the S%uridificationS of politics& In the a2sence of a pro.ressive political pro%ect with 2road cross0
racial appeal, a politics of le.al disputation rather than of mass mo2ili9ation comes to the fore&
Reparations politics is typically a politics of courtrooms and le.al 2riefs, not street demonstrations& It is
consistent with an era of Sindividuali9ation,S in which the e5pansive solidarities of the Bordist a.e
increasin.ly seem a thin. of the past, and even mildly ameliorative responses to racial ine<uality
encounter stron. political headwinds& )hus le.al scholar Ro2ert Aestley 2e.ins his recent analysis of
reparations for 2lac6 Americans 2y notin. that affirmative action is Salmost dead,S and that therefore
Smappin. a le.al path to enforcement of 7lac6 reparations &&& remains a challen.e for le.al theorists and
policyma6ers attemptin. to pursue alternative routes to social %ustice&S N@ It remains to 2e seen whether
reparations politics will .ain much traction 2eyond the ran6s of lawyers and intellectuals, who so far
clearly dominate the discussion of reparations for 2lac6 Americans&
Binally, in many conte5ts reparations politics seem destined to generate their own bac)lash, as with
any politics that promises 2enefits for specific .roups rather than for SeveryoneS (thou.h admittedly the
latter is a rare 2ird(& )he li6elihood of a 2ac6lash is not necessarily a reason to for.o this avenue& Much
politics provo6es 2ac6lash of one sort or another, and in the rei.nin. a2sence of a convincin. universalist
pro%ect, the forward0loo6in. aspects of reparations politics may have much to offer in contemporary
stru..les to enhance e<uality 2oth within countries and on a .lo2al scale& )he fact that there are many
who have suffered un%ustly 2y no means insures, however, that everyone will re.ard compensation to
specific .roups as appropriate, no matter how demonstra2le the in%ustices done to them& Indeed, some
fear that the hei.htened attention to reparations payments for former slave la2orers may 2e addin. fuel to
a resur.ence of anti0Semitism in contemporary Iermany , despite the fact that many of them were not
#ews at all 2ut Slavic .roups slated 2y the *a9is for a perpetual su2altern status&NM 7t ma)es sense to
ta)e seriously the possible bac)lash against those pursuing reparations&
'uare
<ut, focus on inherent features of the body as political in and of themselves
ma)es broader struggle impossibleit individuali#es resistance and can*t create
a blueprint for moving beyond racism
Tiet#e, Australian socialist, writes for Overland, )he Iuardian, X )he 'rum Opinion, %12
()ad, 8Ahat privile.e theory doesnRt e5plain,: http>FFsocialistwor6er&or.F+,-NF,-F-NFwhat0privile.e0theory0
doesnt0e5plain(
In my view, Kwo2aRs position represents somethin. more than %ust a particularly uncomradely approach to de2ate& Rather, it reveals
one of the central pro2lems with ideas around privile.e 00that they also entail a particular theory of
6nowled.e (and consciousness( that sees competin. e5planations of oppression as 2oth products of, and
perpetuatin. , oppressive hierarchies & )he response to this tends to 2e little more than a process of
restatin. its claims and Scallin. outS other theories as 2ein. part of the pro2lem& I thin6 it is a deeply flawed
approach that Mar5ists should re%ect outri.ht& Get many socialists have 2een attracted to privile.e ar.uments 2ecause they
involve familiar0soundin. tal6 a2out consciousness as determined 2y social 2ein.& )his theory of consciousness00that oneRs
location in a hierarchy of privile.e determines oneRs ideas00is used to ar.ue that people from oppressed .roups have
a 2etter a2ility to understand oppression and how to fi.ht it than those Shi.her up the food chain&S In
superficial ways, the structure of the ar.ument seems similar to the Mar5ist idea of Sclass consciousnessS00
consciousness of the totality of capitalist social relations00as only capa2le of 2ein. .rasped from Sthe standpoint of
the proletariat,S in !u6acs (in(famous words& 7ut in fact, the consciousness of privile.e in this theoretical conception is
an anti0totali9in. view of society, where relationships to a sin.le hierarchy of oppression must first 2e
analy9ed separately from the social totality, 2efore (at 2est( later 2ein. reinte.rated into a more complete view& In
many cases, it is not even the hierarchy as a whole that is considered, but simply a comparison of
privileges held by one individual and another to decide whether or not the more privile.ed one has the
authority to even hold a particular view& 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 A SEO*' confusion is that for some socialists, Sclass
consciousnessS has come to mean its vul.ar, reductionist variant> consciousness only of the e5ploitative (SeconomicS( relationship
2etween the capitalists and wor6ers, and so Mar5ism appears deficient in challen.in. oppression, a .ap that privile.e theory seems
to fill& )his 6ind of economism was certainly a feature of Second, )hird and Bourth International Mar5ism at various times& 7ut a view
that runs closer to Mar5Rs own method is that class consciousness is consciousness of the total (and simultaneously( economic,
political and ideolo.ical aspects of the social relations of production, and how e5ploitations and oppressions operate as a product of
that differentiated, contradictory totality& Mar5 didnRt start from the totality 2ecause he was o2livious to S2ottom0upS
e5periences of e5ploitation and oppression, 2ut 2ecause he reco.ni9ed how these are produced depends
on how whole societies are structured & )his is the 6ind of theori9in. that !ise =o.el did in her recently repu2lished 2oo6
on womenRs oppression, and which Sue Ber.uson has tried to e5tend to other forms of oppression in a very interestin. and
su..estive tal6 at 3istorical Materialism in !ondon last *ovem2er& I 6now that UK02ased socialist olin 7ar6er has wor6ed on this
issue a lot also& On the other hand, the approach Kwo2a ar.ues for actually ta6es people further away from understandin. how their
place in a system of e5ploitation and oppression is formed, how it chan.es, or how it affects consciousness& I thin6 it is entirely fair
to say that Mar5ists have not yet produced a foolproof S.rand unified theoryS of how the capitalist mode of production produces
various oppressions alon.side and intertwined with the capital relation& 7ecause capitalism is a constantly mutatin.
system, such a tas6 anyway involves new theoretical challen.es in response to chan.es in the material
world& 7ut that is different to thin6in. that what we need to do is simply add aspects of privile.e theory to
our e5istin. theories to fill in .aps and resolve pro2lems& )hat would mean a2andonin. a Mar5ist approach at the
outset, rather than seein. if we can use Mar5Rs method to wor6 throu.h these comple5 mediations& In particular, it would mean
ditchin. one of the most important insi.hts that runs throu.h all of Mar5Rs wor600that at the center of the social relations of any .iven
society (mode of production( is how production itself is or.ani9ed (not %ust technically, 2ut socially(& 3e writes in the third volume of
apital> )he specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus0la2or is pumped out of direct producers, determines the
relationship of rulers and ruled, as it .rows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a
determinin. element& Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which .rows up out of the
production relations themselves, there2y simultaneously its specific political form& It is always the direct relationship of the owners of
the conditions of production to the direct producers00a relation always naturally correspondin. to a definite sta.e in the development
of the methods of la2our and there2y its social productivity00which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden 2asis of the entire social
structure and with it the political form of the relation of soverei.nty and dependence, in short, the correspondin. specific form of the
state& )his does not prevent the same economic 2asis00the same from the standpoint of its main conditions00due to
innumera2le different empirical circumstances, natural environment, racial relations, e5ternal historical influences, etc&
from showin. infinite variations and .radations in appearance, which can 2e ascertained only 2y analysis of the
empirically .iven circumstances& Even the more Santi 0capitalist S variants of privile.e ar.uments tend to re(ect this
method00of tryin. to find the concrete mediations 2etween the ScoreS social relations of production and
systematic oppressions & E5ploitation and oppression tend to 2e seen to have an e5ternal relationship rather than an inner
connection& )his also tends to strip any sense of capitalism as a profoundly contradictory and unsta2le social
system out of discussions of various oppressions, which are instead seen as sta2le and functional systems in which
people find themselves trapped (or trapped into perpetuatin. 2ecause of advanta.es conferred(& 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 )3IS 3AS
ma%or ramifications for any privile.e0centric theory of consciousness, 2ecause a pretty crude correspondence is posited
2etween oneRs position in the hierarchy and oneRs ideas, to the point that it 2ecomes hard to see how ideas
can chan.e at all& Gou can see $e..y McIntosh stru..le despairin.ly with e5actly this conundrum in her famous article, which
7ill <uoted from& In the a2sence of a materialist e5planation of how people can have ideas at odds with their privile.ed social
location, callin. out, consciousness0raisin. and moral e5hortation then 2ecome how ideas can 2e shifted, if at all& )his is <uite
different to Mar5Rs approach to ideas& 3e ar.ued that consciousness is never simply the passive product of social circumstances 2ut
is shaped 2y practical activity; that it is always a practical consciousness as real people ma6e and rema6e their world& 3e famously
addressed this in the third of his critical theses on Beuer2ach, who was a radical left0win. materialist philosopher from Mar5Rs circle
and whose theory of the relationship 2etween material reality and ideas was stri6in. similar to modern privile.e ar.uments& Mar5
wrote, S)he materialist doctrine concernin. the chan.in. of circumstances and up2rin.in. for.ets that circumstances are chan.ed
2y men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself& )his doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of
which is superior to society&S )hat is, 2y seein. the correspondence 2etween the material world and ideas as passive, Beuer2ach
could not account for how he was a2le to 2rea6 from the conceptions his social position would predict& Similarly, 7rian Kwo2a see6s
to SeducateS 7ill Mullen that his Mar5ist criti<ue of privile.e theory is part of a defence of white privile.e itself without as6in. how
Sprivile.edS whites who a.ree with Kwo2aRs position could possi2ly mana.e to overcome their reactionary ideas (e5cept may2e on a
purely moral 2asis, after .ettin. educated 2y people of color(& )hat is why 7illRs list of instances of 7lac6 and white unity
a.ainst racism is so important002ecause it hi.hli.hts how practical activity can desta2ili9e structurally
shaped racist ideas , whether or not the prota.onists are initially conscious that is what theyRre doin.& It is precisely
2ecause capitalism (includin. the oppressive hierarchies it promul.ates and relies on( is not in fact a set of impersonal structures,
2ut of livin. human 2ein.s actin. in the world in determinate relationship to each other, that it is inherently contradictory and
therefore also produces contradictory consciousness& )his e5plains why most people accept a mi5 of racist and anti0
racist ideas, se5ist and anti0se5ist ideas, etc& 7ecause their practical activities 2oth fit within and strain
a.ainst the limits of the social system, those limits are always unsta2le and open to challen.e& As Mar5
continues in the third )hesis, S)he coincidence of the chan.in. of circumstances and of human activity or self0chan.in. can 2e
conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice&S Mar5 calls the wor6in. class a Suniversal classS not 2ecause it
its most oppressed or e5ploited 2ut 2ecause its location at the heart of capitalist production means it is in a position to transcend the
capitalist system throu.h its own self0activity in a way that no other social .roup can& )hat implies an understandin. of
Sclass consciousnessS as consciousness of the contradictions of the system as a whole, includin. how and
why various .roups are oppressed, and not %ust of narrow SeconomicS class relations & Bor him it is not a moral
%ud.ement, 2ut a conse<uence how he sees society wor6in.& 3is approach crucially includes a theory of consciousness
that e5plains ideolo.ical contradictions as the product of a contradictory world, and which demonstrates how society (and
ideas( can 2e chan.ed throu.h practical activity&
libido
Their invocation of the %libidinal economy* is 1>
th
century physics based on economistic notions of
energy discharge
Nictoroff F, department of neurolo.y and psychiatry, University of Southern alifornia School of
Medicine
(#eff, http>FFsrlie2el&files&wordpress&comF+,--F,@Fvictoroff0%ocr0+,,1&pdf(
$sychoanalysis is 2ased on the proposition that much of mental life is unconscious, that psycholo.ical
development proceeds in sta.es 2ased on infantile se5ual fantasies, and that psycholo.ical distress derives from
unresolved intrapsychic conflict re.ardin. those fantasies (Ia22ard +,,,(& The 8dynamics: of this theory
was literally derived from nineteenth/century concepts of physics, in which the flow of mental and
libidinal energy is deterministically e5pressed, repressed, or dischar.ed& )he theory has variants, 2ut they share the
notions that (-( parentin. (as opposed to intrinsic temperament( determines psycholo.ical temperament and health; (+( active,
unconscious forces e5clude unpleasant thou.hts from the consciousness; and (/( relationships with others, 8o2%ect relations,: are
controlled 2y unconscious forces such as pro%ection4 the theory that one irrationally attri2utes one"s own attitude to others
(Aallerstein -EE1; Ia22ard +,,,(& Multiple nonscientific assumptions underlie the 8discoveries: claimed 2y
psychoanalysts, principally that the early analysts" impressionistic interpretations of classic cases
accordin. to their own dynamic theory constitute evidence supportin. that theory& $sychoanalytic approaches to
terrorist 2ehavior may 2e rou.hly divided accordin. to their emphasis on identity theory, narcissism theory, paranoia theory, and
a2solutist thin6in.&
disads
Bootnoting///locating class alongside identity strips class of its concrete,
socioeconomic nature
0c1aren, 'istin.uished Bellow C ritical Studies W hapman U and U!A ur2an schoolin. prof, and
Scatam2urlo0'"Anni2ale, associate professor of ommunication C U Aindsor, %2
($eter and =alerie, 8lass 'ismissedH 3istorical materialism and the politics of Jdifference",: Educational
$hilosophy and )heory =ol& /?, Issue +, p& -M/0-EE(
In statin. this, we need to include an important caveat that differentiates our approach from those invo6in. the well0worn
raceFclassF.ender triplet which can sound , to the uninitiated, 2oth radical and va.uely Mar5ian& 7t is not !
Race, class and .ender, while they invaria2ly intersect and interact, are not co0primary & )his Jtriplet"
appro5imates what the Jphilosophers mi.ht call a cate.ory mista6e&" On the surface the triplet may 2e convincin.4some
people are oppressed 2ecause of their race, others as a result of their .ender, yet others 2ecause of their class42ut this Jis
.rossly misleadin." for it is not that Jsome individuals manifest certain characteristics 6nown as 8class:
which then results in their oppression; on the contrary, to 2e a mem2er of a social class (ust is to be
oppressed* and in this re.ard class is Ja wholly social cate.ory" (Ea.leton, -EEM, p& +ME(& Burthermore, even thou.h
Jclass" is usually invo6ed as part of the aforementioned and much vaunted triptych, it is usually gutted of its
practical , social dimension or treated solely as a cultural phenomenon4as %ust another form of
Jdifference&" In these instances, class is transformed from an economic and, indeed, social cate.ory to an
e5clusively cultural or discursive one or one in which class merely si.nifies a Jsu2%ect position& " lass is
therefore cut off from the political economy of capitalism and class power severed from e5ploitation and a
power structure Jin which those who control collectively produced resources only do so 2ecause of the value .enerated 2y those
who do not" (3ennessy X In.raham, -EE@, p& +(& Such theori9in. has had the effect of replacing an historical
materialist class analysis with a cultural analysis of class& As a result, many post0Mar5ists have also stripped
the idea of class of precisely that element which, for Mar5, made it radical4namely its status as a universal
form of e5ploitation whose a2olition re<uired (and was also central to( the a2olition of all manifestations of
oppression (Mar5, -E@M, p& ?,(& Aith re.ard to this issue, Kovel (+,,+( is particularly insi.htful, for he e5plicitly addresses an issue which continues to ve5 the !eft4namely the priority .iven to different cate.ories of what he calls
Jdominative splittin."4those cate.ories of J.ender, class, race, ethnic and national e5clusion," etc& Kovel ar.ues that we need to as6 the <uestion of priority with respect to whatH 3e notes that if we mean priority with respect to time, then the cate.ory of .ender
would have priority since there are traces of .ender oppression in all other forms of oppression& If we were to prioriti9e in terms of e5istential si.nificance, Kovel su..ests that we would have to depend upon the immediate historical forces that 2ear down on distinct
.roups of people4he offers e5amples of #ews in -E/,s Iermany who suffered from 2rutal forms of anti0Semitism and $alestinians today who e5perience anti0Ara2 racism under Israeli domination& )he <uestion of what has political priority, however, would depend
upon which transformation of relations of oppression are practically more ur.ent and, while this would certainly depend upon the precedin. cate.ories, it would also depend upon the fashion in which all the forces actin. in a concrete situation are deployed& As to the
<uestion of which split sets into motion all of the others, the priority would have to 2e .iven to class since class relations entail the state as an
instrument of enforcement and control, and it is the state that shapes and or.ani9es the splits that appear
in human ecosystems& )hus class is 2oth lo.ically and historically distinct from other forms of e5clusion
(hence we should not tal6 of Jclassism" to .o alon. with Jse5ism" and Jracism," and Jspecies0ism"(& )his is, first of all, 2ecause class
is an essentially man0made cate.ory, without root in even a mystified 2iolo.y& Ae cannot ima.ine a human
world without .ender distinctions4althou.h we can ima.ine a world without domination 2y .ender& 7ut a
world without class is eminently imaginable4indeed, such was the human world for the .reat ma%ority of our species"
time on earth, durin. all of which considera2le fuss was made over .ender& 3istorically, the difference arises 2ecause Jclass"
si.nifies one side of a lar.er fi.ure that includes a state apparatus whose con<uests and re.ulations create
races and shape .ender relations& )hus there will 2e no true resolution of racism so lon. as class society
stands, inasmuch as a racially oppressed society implies the activities of a class0defendin. state& *or can
.ender ine<uality 2e enacted away so lon. as class society, with its state, demands the super0e5ploitation of
womenRs la2or& (Kovel, +,,+, pp& -+/C-+N( ontrary to what many have claimed, Mar5ist theory does not rele.ate
cate.ories of Jdifference" to the conceptual mausoleum; rather, it has sou.ht to reanimate these cate.ories 2y
interro.atin. how they are refracted throu.h material relations of power and privile.e and lin6ed to relations of
production& Moreover, it has emphasi9ed and insisted that the wider political and economic system in which they are em2edded
needs to 2e thorou.hly understood in all its comple5ity& Indeed, Mar5 made clear how constructions of race and ethnicity Jare
implicated in the circulation process of varia2le capital&" )o the e5tent that J.ender, race, and ethnicity are all understood as social
constructions rather than as essentialist cate.ories" the effect of e5plorin. their insertion into the Jcirculation of varia2le capital
(includin. positionin. within the internal hetero.eneity of collective la2or and hence, within the division of la2or and the class
system(" must 2e interpreted as a Jpowerful force reconstructin. them in distinctly capitalist ways" (3arvey, +,,,, p& -,?(& Unli6e
contemporary narratives which tend to focus on one or another form of oppression, the irrefra.a2le power of
historical materialism resides in its a2ility to reveal (-( how forms of oppression 2ased on cate.ories of difference do
not possess relative autonomy from class relations 2ut rather constitute the ways in which oppression is
livedF e5perienced within a class02ased system; and (+( how all forms of social oppression function within an overarchin.
capitalist system& )his framewor6 must 2e further distin.uished from those that invo6e the terms Jclassism" andFor
Jclass elitism" to (ostensi2ly( fore.round the idea that J class matters" (cf& hoo6s, +,,,( since we a.ree with Iimene9
(+,,-, p& +N( that Jclass is not simply another ideology le.itimatin. oppression&" Rather, class denotes Je5ploitative
relations 2etween people mediated 2y their relations to the means of production&" )o mar.inali9e such a conceptuali9ation of
class is to conflate an individualRs o2%ective location in the intersection of structures of ine<uality with peopleRs
su2%ective understandin.s of who they really are 2ased on their Je5periences&"
pain in debate
They say they are excluded from debate itself @ we shouldn*t and can*t refute that
because it*d be sociopathic, but we have args for why your ballot in this debate
should not be a referendum on pain
8K<+TN7L >M
$rofessor of !aw, )ouro olle.e, #aco2 '& Buchs2er. !aw enter&
@ ornell #& !& X $u2& $olRy ?M-
3avin. traced a ma%or strand in the development of R), we turn now to the strandsR effect on the
relationships of RA)s with each other and with outsiders& As the fore.oin. material su..ests, the
central R) message is not simply that minorities are being treated unfairly, or even that individuals
out there are in pain 0 assertions for which there are data to serve as .rist for the academic mill 0 but that
the minority scholar himself or herself hurts and hurts badly&
An important pro2lem that concerns the very definition of the scholarly enterprise now comes into focus&
-hat can an academic trained to Pb?ENQ <uestion and to dou2t n@+ possibly say to Aatricia -illiams
when effectively she announces, .7 hurt bad .; n@/ . No, you don=t hurt.; .Iou shouldn=t hurt.;
SOther people hurt tooSH Or, most dan.erously 0 and perhaps most tellin.ly 0 SAhat do you e5pect when
you 6eep shootin. yourself in the footHS If the ma%ority were perceived as havin. the well0 2ein. of
minority .roups in mind, these responses mi.ht 2e accepta2le, even welcomed& And they mi.ht lead to
real conversation& 7ut, writes -illiams, the failure by those .cushioned within the invisible
privileges of race and power&&& to incorporate a sense of precarious connection as a part of our lives
is!!! ultimately obliterating&S n@N
S$recarious&S SO2literatin.&S These words will clearly invite responses only from fools and
sociopaths 3 they will, by effectively precluding ob(ection , disconcert and disunite others& . 7 hurt,.
in academic discourse , has three broad though interrelated effects& Birst, it demands priority from
the reader=s conscience ! 7t is for this reason that law review editors, waiving usual standards,
have privileged a long trail of undisciplined / even silly n@1 / destructive and, above all, self/
destructive arti Pb?E1Q cles! n@? 8econd, by emphasi#ing the emotional bond between those who
hurt in a similar way, . 7 hurt. discourages fellow sufferers from abstracting themselves from their
pain in order to gain perspective on their condition& n@@
Pb?E?Q 1ast, as we have seen, it precludes the possibility of open and structured conversation
with others& n@M
Pb?E@Q 7t is because of this conversation/stopping effect of what they insensitively call Sfirst0person
a.ony storiesS that Barber and 8herry deplore their use! S)he norms of academic civility hamper
readers from challen.in. the accuracy of the researcherRs account; it would 2e rather difficult, for
e5ample, to critici9e a law review article 2y <uestionin. the authorRs emotional sta2ility or veracity&S n@E
$erhaps, a 2etter practice would 2e to put the scholarRs e5perience on the ta2le, alon. with other relevant
material, 2ut to su2%ect that e5perience to the same level of scrutiny&
If through the foregoing rhetorical strategies C$ATs succeeded in limiting academic debate, why
do they not have .reater influence on pu2lic policyH 5iscouraging white legal scholars from entering
the national conversation about race, nM, I su..est, has generated a )ind of cynicism in white
audiences which, in turn, has had precisely the reverse effect of that ostensi2ly desired 2y RA)s& 7t
drives the American public to the right and ensures that anything C$T offers is reflexively
re(ected!
In the a2sence of scholarly wor6 2y white males in the area of race, of course, it is difficult to 2e sure what
reasons they would .ive for not havin. rallied 2ehind R)& )wo thin.s, however, are certain& Birst, the
)inds of issues raised 2y Ailliams are too important in their implications Pb?EMQ for American life to be
confined to communities of color! If the lives of minorities are heavily constrained, if not fully defined,
2y the thou.hts and actions of the ma%ority elements in society, it would seem to be of great
importance that white thin)ers and doers participate in open discourse to 2rin. a2out chan.e&
Second, .iven the lac6 of en.a.ement of R) 2y the community of le.al scholars as a whole, the
discourse that should 2e ta6in. place at the hi.hest scholarly levels has, 2y default, 2een displaced to
faculty offices and, more .enerally, the streets and the airwaves&
presumption
7f their view of blac) ontology is true it means debate can never advance their
cause! 5ebate deradicali#es blac) theory and results in white assimilation of
blac) theory, rather than radicality!
Curry, )e5as AXM University $hilosophy $rofessor, 201&
P)ommy, 8'r& )ommy urry on the importance of de2ate for 2lac6s: Uploaded Oct /, +,-/, +>-1 0 N>/E
https>FFwww&youtu2e&comFwatchHv\UMm6$hv'K+EDt\-@N Accessed /F/,F+N #$Q
3owever, with the lure of progress, more blac) people are participating in debate, more blac)
(udges, more conceptual debates about blac)ness! There comes a deradicali#ation of what blac)
theory and what blac) people are supposed to do and represent& 'espite our pretense, debate is
still a very privileged world! 7t*s a pretend world where blac) people can have their 'ueerness,
their feebleness, their faux radicality recogni#ed& Bor actual oppressed people, people who can*t
afford debate, who have no )nowledge of debate, who fight against actual mechanisms of state ,
who are not recogni#ed, these very same 'ualities mean death ! So in de2ate rounds we .et to act,
we"re the conduits of this 2lac6 sufferin.& The demographic increase in the blac) population in
debate, however, it *s )ind of brought about a new morality that*s committed to fighting for inclusion,
intellectual space, our e5panded ideas of home& <ut in this 7 thin) we miss the extent of our
dependency on white recognition! That white (udge in the bac) of the room that*s comprehending
and assimilating our goals with their own liberal and progressive existence& In other words, it*s
through our appeal to white men and women , our need for their recognition, for their ballot, that
frames the ultimate message of our pessimism, our .ender criti<ues, our colonial analysis& -e*re
fundamentally dependent on how the white mind situates itself conceptually to the pro(ect of
diversification& -e appeal to their sympathy, or worse yet, to the intersectional empathies
of whites as the gauge of the transformative potentialities of blac) theory and historic blac)
thought! 8o in these spaces real radicality does not come from an appeal to white recognition, but
the re(ection of it& In the declaration that 2lac6 6nowled.e or 2lac6 theory or 2lac6 accounts of e5istence
in all of the economic and se5ual plurality of our thou.ht is the radicality comes from the idea that we thin6
that those <uestions can 2e answered in the annals of how 2lac6 people have historically thou.ht a2out
themselves& It need not depend on our alliances or alle.iances with white li2erals rationali9in. their own
e5istence as %ustifia2le throu.h their endorsement or alliances with what we thin6 a2out ourselves or
2lac6 people"s situation in the world& 7lac6 de2ate should ultimately move to the re%ection of white
education C ad%udication if 2lac6 theory is a2out the li2eration of 2lac6 people and a move to definitions of
6nowled.e or cells or concepts that don"t currently e5ist then how can we expect the dilapidated ideas
of white sentimentality pro(ected from an archaic and raciali#ed whiteness to understand or even
comprehend the interrelatedness of propositions that are beyond their present being! 3ow they
understand somethin. that is 2eyond their very own e5istence the true rad icality of blac) people
debating points to the negation of white comprehension of blac) ideas of liberation not their
assimilation or recognition of them! 8o these ideas of us saying we have progressed
fundamentally rooted in how white people see us is a problem&