Cap Against Race Affs—UMich 2013



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AT: Essentialism Bad

  1. If we win the root cause debate we’re not ignoring race, just addressing it at a deeper level

  2. Race focus is just as essentializing—ignores class and gender oppression

  3. Class analysis doesn’t neglect race but explains it—class defines social interaction


San Juan 05 (Epifanio, Filipino American literary academic, mentor, cultural reviewer, civic intellectual, activist, writer, essayist “From Race to Class Struggle: Marxism and Critical Race Theory”, Nature, Society and Thought 18:3, 2005, http://homepages.spa.umn.edu/~marquit/nst183a.pdf#page=5)//AS

Our key heuristic axiom is this: the extraction of surplus labor always involves conflict and struggle. In this process of class conflict, identities are articulated with group formation, and race, gender, and ethnicity enter into the totality of contradictions that define a specific conjuncture, in particular the contradictions between the social relations dominated by private property and the productive forces. Reformulated, this proposition translates into a principle of causality: the organization of work influences the way in which race and gender are mediated within the hegemony of a social bloc. Class consciousness as a “state of social cohesion” (Braverman 1974, 29) involves layers that have varying duration and intensities expressed in popular and mass culture. A historical-materialist understanding of race relations and racism embedded in the process of class formation and class struggles, in the labor process and cultural expression, distinguishes the research projects of cultural studies scholars like Michael Denning, Peter McLaren, Paul Buhle, Gregory Meyerson, and Teresa Ebert. Given this emphasis on class struggle and class formation, on the totality of social relations that define the position of interacting collectivities in society, materialist critique locates the ground of institutional racism and racially based inequality in the capitalist division of labor—primarily between the seller of labor-power as prime commodity and the employer who maximizes surplus value (unpaid labor) from the workers. What will maximize accumulation of profi t and also maintain the condition for such stable and efficient maximization? The answer to this question would explain the ideology and practice of racial segregation, subordination, exclusion, and variegated tactics of violence. This is not to reduce race to class, but rather to assign import or intelligible meaning to the way in which racialization (the valorization of somatic or “natural” properties) operates. While social subjects indeed serve as sites of variegated differences—that is, individuals undergo multiple inscriptions and occupy shifting positionalities on the level of everyday experience—the patterns of their actions or “forms of life” are not permanently indeterminate or undecidable when analyzed from the perspective of the totality of production relations. The capitalist labor process and its conditions overdetermine the location of groups whose ethnic, racial, gender, and other characteristics acquire value within that context. I think this is the sense in which Barbara Jeanne Fields argues for a materialist reading of slavery in U.S. history: “A majority of historians think of slavery as primarily a system of race relations—as though the chief business of slavery were the production of white supremacy rather than the production of cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco” (1990, 99). This one-sided, indeed mechanistic, explanation needs to be corrected with the observation that the production of cotton, etc. reproduces in itself the whole complex of social and political relations of that fi eld—in fact, production of commodities for exchange and profi t would not be possible if the reproduction of class relations did not accompany it. Which came first, the actual exploitation or its rationalization, is a trick question posed by disingenuous ideologues whose vulgar materialism can easily consort with the hallucinatory narcotics of superstition and the fetishism of goods and spectacles (Guillaumin 1995). Culture, ideology, politics, and economics are all inextricably intertwined; but their “law of motion” can be clarifi ed through the mediation of a historical-materialist optic.

  1. “Post-Marxist” politics of identity enriches the bourgeois academics and hurts leftist politics as a whole—orthodox Marxism is essential to understanding modern oppression


Scatamburlo-D’Annibale and McLaren 04 (Valerie and Peter, associate professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Windsor and Professor in the Division of Urban Schooling, the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, “Class Dismissed? Historical materialism and the politics of ‘difference’”, Educational Philosophy and Theory 36:2, April 2004, Wiley)//AS

Perhaps one of the most taken-for-granted features of contemporary social theory is the ritual and increasingly generic critique of Marxism in terms of its alleged failure to address forms of oppression other than that of ‘class.’ Marxism is considered to be theoretically bankrupt and intellectually passé, and class analysis is often savagely lampooned as a rusty weapon wielded clumsily by those mind-locked in the jejune factories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When Marxist class analysis has not been distorted or equated with some crude version of ‘economic determinism,’ it has been attacked for diverting attention away from the categories of ‘difference’—including ‘race’ (Gimenez, 2001). To overcome the presumed inadequacies of Marxism, an entire discursive apparatus, sometimes called ‘post-Marxism’, has arisen to fill the void. Serving as academic pallbearers at the funeral of the old bearded devil, post-Marxists (who often go by other names such as postmodernists, radical multiculturalists, etc.) have tried to entomb Marx's legacy while simultaneously benefiting from it. Yet, the crypt designed for Marx, reverential in its grand austerity, has never quite been able to contain his impact on history. For someone presumably dead, Marx has a way of escaping from his final resting place and reappearing with an uncanny regularity in the world of ideas. His ghost, as Greider (1998) notes, ‘hovers over the global landscape’ as he continues to shape our understandings of the current crises of capitalism that haunt the living present. Regardless of Marx's enduring relevance and even though much of post-Marxism is actually an outlandish ‘caricature’ of Marx and the entire Marxist tradition, it has eaten through the Left ‘like a cancer’ and has ‘established itself as the new common sense’ (Johnson, 2002, p. 129). What has been produced is a discourse eminently more digestible to the academic ‘Left’ whose steady embourgeoisement appears to be altering the political palate of career social theorists. Eager to take a wide detour around political economy, post-Marxists tend to assume that the principal political points of departure in the current ‘postmodern’ world must necessarily be ‘cultural.’ As such, most, but not all post-Marxists have gravitated towards a politics of ‘difference’ which is largely premised on uncovering relations of power that reside in the arrangement and deployment of subjectivity in cultural and ideological practices (cf. Jordan & Weedon, 1995). Advocates of ‘difference’ politics therefore posit their ideas as bold steps forward in advancing the interests of those historically marginalized by ‘dominant’ social and cultural narratives. There is no doubt that post-Marxism has advanced our knowledge of the hidden trajectories of power within the processes of representation and that it remains useful in adumbrating the formation of subjectivity and its expressive dimensions as well as complementing our understandings of the relationships between ‘difference,’ language, and cultural configurations. However, post-Marxists have been woefully remiss in addressing the constitution of class formations and the machinations of capitalist social organization. In some instances, capitalism and class relations have been thoroughly ‘otherized;’ in others, class is summoned only as part of the triumvirate of ‘race, class, and gender’ in which class is reduced to merely another form of ‘difference.’ Enamored with the ‘cultural’ and seemingly blind to the ‘economic,’ the rhetorical excesses of post-Marxists have also prevented them from considering the stark reality of contemporary class conditions under global capitalism. As we hope to show, the radical displacement of class analysis in contemporary theoretical narratives and the concomitant decentering of capitalism, the anointing of ‘difference’ as a primary explanatory construct, and the ‘culturalization’ of politics, have had detrimental effects on ‘left’ theory and practice.
  1. Integrating class on the same level as race guts class analysis of its meaning and political power—prioritizing Marxian analysis is essential to dismantle capitalism and racism


Scatamburlo-D’Annibale and McLaren 04 (Valerie and Peter, associate professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film at the University of Windsor and Professor in the Division of Urban Schooling, the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, “Class Dismissed? Historical materialism and the politics of ‘difference’”, Educational Philosophy and Theory 36:2, April 2004, Wiley)//AS

In stating this, we need to include an important caveat that differentiates our approach from those invoking the well-worn race/class/gender triplet which can sound, to the uninitiated, both radical and vaguely Marxian. It is not. Race, class and gender, while they invariably intersect and interact, are not co-primary. This ‘triplet’ approximates what the ‘philosophers might call a category mistake.’ On the surface the triplet may be convincing—some people are oppressed because of their race, others as a result of their gender, yet others because of their class—but this ‘is grossly misleading’ for it is not that ‘some individuals manifest certain characteristics known as “class” which then results in their oppression; on the contrary, to be a member of a social class just is to be oppressed’ and in this regard class is ‘a wholly social category’ (Eagleton, 1998, p. 289). Furthermore, even though ‘class’ is usually invoked as part of the aforementioned and much vaunted triptych, it is usually gutted of its practical, social dimension or treated solely as a cultural phenomenon—as just another form of ‘difference.’ In these instances, class is transformed from an economic and, indeed, social category to an exclusively cultural or discursive one or one in which class merely signifies a ‘subject position.’ Class is therefore cut off from the political economy of capitalism and class power severed from exploitation and a power structure ‘in which those who control collectively produced resources only do so because of the value generated by those who do not’ (Hennessy & Ingraham, 1997, p. 2). Such theorizing has had the effect of replacing an historical materialist class analysis with a cultural analysis of class. As a result, many post-Marxists have also stripped the idea of class of precisely that element which, for Marx, made it radical—namely its status as a universal form of exploitation whose abolition required (and was also central to) the abolition of all manifestations of oppression (Marx, 1978, p. 60). With regard to this issue, Kovel (2002) is particularly insightful, for he explicitly addresses an issue which continues to vex the Left—namely the priority given to different categories of what he calls ‘dominative splitting’—those categories of ‘gender, class, race, ethnic and national exclusion,’ etc. Kovel argues that we need to ask the question of priority with respect to what? He notes that if we mean priority with respect to time, then the category of gender would have priority since there are traces of gender oppression in all other forms of oppression. If we were to prioritize in terms of existential significance, Kovel suggests that we would have to depend upon the immediate historical forces that bear down on distinct groups of people—he offers examples of Jews in 1930s Germany who suffered from brutal forms of anti-Semitism and Palestinians today who experience anti-Arab racism under Israeli domination. The question of what has political priority, however, would depend upon which transformation of relations of oppression are practically more urgent and, while this would certainly depend upon the preceding categories, it would also depend upon the fashion in which all the forces acting in a concrete situation are deployed. As to the question of which split sets into motion all of the others, the priority would have to be given to class since class relations entail the state as an instrument of enforcement and control, and it is the state that shapes and organizes the splits that appear in human ecosystems. Thus class is both logically and historically distinct from other forms of exclusion (hence we should not talk of ‘classism’ to go along with ‘sexism’ and ‘racism,’ and ‘species-ism’). This is, first of all, because class is an essentially man-made category, without root in even a mystified biology. We cannot imagine a human world without gender distinctions—although we can imagine a world without domination by gender. But a world without class is eminently imaginable—indeed, such was the human world for the great majority of our species’ time on earth, during all of which considerable fuss was made over gender. Historically, the difference arises because ‘class’ signifies one side of a larger figure that includes a state apparatus whose conquests and regulations create races and shape gender relations. Thus there will be no true resolution of racism so long as class society stands, inasmuch as a racially oppressed society implies the activities of a class-defending state. Nor can gender inequality be enacted away so long as class society, with its state, demands the super-exploitation of women's labor. (Kovel, 2002, pp. 123–124)

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