Post-al class theories focus on “how” class structure is experienced in daily life



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A focus on individual suffering is deployed to marginalize the forces of production that underlie class oppression

Zavarzadeh 1995 – professor at Syracuse (Mas’ud, Post-Ality: Marxism and Postmodernism)

Post-al class theories focus on “how” class structure is experienced in daily life and, in doing so, they quietly substitute the observable experiential everyday manifestations of class for its historical and material structures. This maneuver is then deployed to marginalize “exploitation” (the economic) and foreground “domination” (the cultural/political): the material is thus displaced by the cultural, and access to economic resources (capital) is made secondary to access to discourse (power). Post-al theories, in general, are a redeployment of Weberian class theories in which “’classes’ and ‘status groups’ are phenomena of distribution of power within a community” (From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology 181). The fact that the “manager” is more “powerful” or has a higher cultural and social status than the worker but is less powerful or has a less prestigious status than the capitalist is seen as the “difference” in the class system. But this is an illusion formed by quietly defining class as the result of “domination” and marginalizing the fundamental material fact of class structure: the position of the subject in the social relations of production and not her place in the social relations of signification (power/status/taste/accent/clothes/…). This illusory view of class is disseminated through (mostly) visual effects in the popular culture: from various TV shows to such monthly and weekly publications as Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, and by catalogues of goods and services, like Patagonia, Lands’ End, Also traditional moralist-humanists, such as Christopher Lasch, deploy a similar notion of class (as power) when they define class as an “elite” – that is as a politico-cultural group. Such a view of class not only does not explain the logic of capitalist social relations but, inf act, like all bourgeois knowledges, it obscures the lines of class antagonism. Lasch, for example, thinks that the “problem” with US society – the most class-divided advanced “democracy” – is that the “elite” has abandoned its moral and social obligation to the ordiary people. The problem, in other words, is “spiritual” and not “economic” (The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy). These representations disseminate the view that the post-al moment is the moment of individual (not collective) identities articulated by such intersecting factors as sexuality, race, nationality, gender, religion and such other practices as patterns of consumption and taste. These identities acquire their full display, it is the discourses that allows the lesbian, the African-American, the subcultural “grunge” to become what they are. They are, in other words, not determined by their class but overdetermined (and thus always reversible and open) by multiple factors of difference. Access to discourses, following Foucault and later Baudrillard, regarded to be access to “power.” Therefore, to the extent that class has any place in post-al theories, it is understood not as a matter of “exploitation” but of “domination”: emancipation is, thus, a “private” act – freeing oneself from power and thus empowering oneself.

Class is better starting point for challenging oppression—intersecting inequality is real, but Marxism is key to historicize it and address collective imperatives

Taylor 11 [Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review and a doctoral student in African American Studies at Northwestern University; “Race, class and Marxism,” SocialistWorker.org, http://socialistworker.org/2011/01/04/race-class-and-marxism]
Marxists believe that the potential for that kind of unity is dependant on battles and struggles against racism today. Without a commitment by revolutionary organizations in the here and now to the fight against racism, working-class unity will never be achieved and the revolutionary potential of the working class will never be realized. Yet despite all the evidence of this commitment to fighting racism over many decades, Marxism has been maligned as, at best, "blind" to combating racism and, at worst, "incapable" of it. For example, in an article published last summer, popular commentator and self-described "anti-racist" Tim Wise summarized the critique of "left activists" that he later defines as Marxists. He writes: [L]eft activists often marginalize people of color by operating from a framework of extreme class reductionism, which holds that the "real" issue is class, not race, that "the only color that matters is green," and that issues like racism are mere "identity politics," which should take a backseat to promoting class-based universalism and programs to help working people. This reductionism, by ignoring the way that even middle class and affluent people of color face racism and color-based discrimination (and by presuming that low-income folks of color and low-income whites are equally oppressed, despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary) reinforces white denial, privileges white perspectivism and dismisses the lived reality of people of color. Even more, as we'll see, it ignores perhaps the most important political lesson regarding the interplay of race and class: namely, that the biggest reason why there is so little working-class consciousness and unity in the Untied States (and thus, why class-based programs to uplift all in need are so much weaker here than in the rest of the industrialized world), is precisely because of racism and the way that white racism has been deliberately inculcated among white working folks. Only by confronting that directly (rather than sidestepping it as class reductionists seek to do) can we ever hope to build cross-racial, class based coalitions. In other words, for the policies favored by the class reductionist to work--be they social democrats or Marxists--or even to come into being, racism and white supremacy must be challenged directly. Here, Wise accuses Marxism of: "extreme class reductionism," meaning that Marxists allegedly think that class is more important than race; reducing struggles against racism to "mere identity politics"; and requiring that struggles against racism should "take a back seat" to struggles over economic issues. Wise also accuses so-called "left activists" of reinforcing "white denial" and "dismiss[ing] the lived reality of people of color"--which, of course, presumes Left activists and Marxists to all be white. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - What do Marxists actually say? Marxists argue that capitalism is a system that is based on the exploitation of the many by the few. Because it is a system based on gross inequality, it requires various tools to divide the majority--racism and all oppressions under capitalism serve this purpose. Moreover, oppression is used to justify and "explain" unequal relationships in society that enrich the minority that live off the majority's labor. Thus, racism developed initially to explain and justify the enslavement of Africans--because they were less than human and undeserving of liberty and freedom. Everyone accepts the idea that the oppression of slaves was rooted in the class relations of exploitation under that system. Fewer recognize that under capitalism, wage slavery is the pivot around which all other inequalities and oppressions turn. Capitalism used racism to justify plunder, conquest and slavery, but as Karl Marx pointed out, it also used racism to divide and rule--to pit one section of the working class against another and thereby blunt class consciousness. To claim, as Marxists do, that racism is a product of capitalism is not to deny or diminish its importance or impact in American society. It is simply to explain its origins and the reasons for its perpetuation. Many on the left today talk about class as if it is one of many oppressions, often describing it as "classism." What people are really referring to as "classism" is elitism or snobbery, and not the fundamental organization of society under capitalism. Moreover, it is popular today to talk about various oppressions, including class, as intersecting. While it is true that oppressions can reinforce and compound each other, they are born out of the material relations shaped by capitalism and the economic exploitation that is at the heart of capitalist society. In other words, it is the material and economic structure of society that gave rise to a range of ideas and ideologies to justify, explain and help perpetuate that order. In the United States, racism is the most important of those ideologies. Despite the widespread beliefs to the contrary of his critics, Karl Marx himself was well aware of the centrality of race under capitalism. While Marx did not write extensively on the question of slavery and its racial impact in societies specifically, he did write about the way in which European capitalism emerged because of its pilfering, rape and destruction, famously writing: The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of Black skins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. He also recognized the extent to which slavery was central to the world economy. He wrote: Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that has given the colonies their value; it is the colonies that have created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large-scale industry. Thus slavery is an economic category of the greatest importance. Without slavery North America, the most progressive of countries, would be transformed into a patriarchal country. Wipe out North America from the map of the world, and you will have anarchy--the complete decay of modern commerce and civilization. Cause slavery to disappear and you will have wiped America off the map of nations. Thus slavery, because it is an economic category, has always existed among the institutions of the peoples. Modern nations have been able only to disguise slavery in their own countries, but they have imposed it without disguise upon the New World. Thus, there is a fundamental understanding of the centrality of slave labor in the national and international economy. But what about race? Despite the dearth of Marx's own writing on race in particular, one might look at Marx's correspondence and deliberations on the American Civil War to draw conclusions as to whether Marx was as dogmatically focused on purely economic issues as his critics make him out be. One must raise the question: If Marx was reductionist, how is his unabashed support and involvement in abolitionist struggles in England explained? If Marx was truly an economic reductionist, he might have surmised that slavery and capitalism were incompatible, and simply waited for slavery to whither away. W.E.B. Du Bois in his Marxist tome Black Reconstruction, quotes at length a letter penned by Marx as the head of the International Workingmen's Association, written to Abraham Lincoln in 1864 in the midst of the Civil War: The contest for the territories which opened the epoch, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the immigrant or be prostituted by the tramp of the slaver driver? When an oligarchy of 300,000 slave holders dared to inscribe for the first time in the annals of the world "Slavery" on the banner of armed revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first declaration of the rights of man was issued...when on the very spots counter-revolution...maintained "slavery to be a beneficial institution"...and cynically proclaimed property in man 'the cornerstone of the new edifice'...then the working classes of Europe understood at once...that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy war of property against labor... They consider it an earnest sign of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggles for the rescue of the enchained race and the Reconstruction of a social order. Not only was Marx personally opposed to slavery and actively organized against it, but he theorized that slavery and the resultant race discrimination that flowed from it were not just problems for the slaves themselves, but for white workers who were constantly under the threat of losing work to slave labor. This did not mean white workers were necessarily sympathetic to the cause of the slaves--most of them were not. But Marx was not addressing the issue of consciousness, but objective factors when he wrote in Capital, "In the United States of America, every independent movement of the workers was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the Black it is branded." Moreover, Marx understood the dynamics of racism in a modern sense as well--as a means by which workers who had common, objective interests with each other could also become mortal enemies because of subjective, but nevertheless real, racist and nationalist ideas. Looking at the tensions between Irish and English workers, with a nod toward the American situation between Black and white workers, Marx wrote: Every industrial and commercial center in England possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he feels himself a member of the ruling nation and so turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats and capitalists of his country against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude is much the same as that of the "poor whites" to the "niggers" in the former slave states of the USA. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker at once the accomplice and stupid tool of the English rule in Ireland. This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist maintains its power. And that class is fully aware of it. Out of this quote, one can see a Marxist theory of how racism operated in contemporary society, after slavery was ended. Marx was highlighting three things: first, that capitalism promotes economic competition between workers; second, that the ruling class uses racist ideology to divide workers against each other; and finally, that when one group of workers suffer oppression, it negatively impacts the entire class.

Capitalism necessitates environmental catastrophe and governmental violence – only revolution solves

KOVEL (Alger Hiss Prof. At Bard) 2002 [Joel, The Enemy of Nature, Zed Books, p. 22-24]

The scenario of ecological collapse holds, in essence, that the cumulative effects of growth eventually overwhelm the integrity of ecosystems on a world scale, leading to a cascading series of shocks. Just how the blows will fall is impossible to tell with any precision, although a number of useful computer models have been assembled. In general terms, we would anticipate interacting calamities that invade and rupture the core material substrata of civilization — food, water, air, habitat, bodily health. Already each of these physical substrata is under stress, and the logic of the crisis dictates that these stresses will increase. Other shocks and perturbations are likely to ensue as resource depletion supervenes for example, in the supply of petroleum, which is expected to begin levelling off and then decline after the next ten years.’2 Or some unforeseen economic shock will topple the balance: perhaps climatic catastrophes will trigger a collapse of the $2 trillion global insurance industry, with, as Jeremy Leggett has noted, ‘knock-on economic consequences which are completely ignored in most analyses of climate change’.’3 Perhaps famines will incite wars in which rogue nuclear powers will launch their reign of terror. Perhaps a similar fate will come through the eruption of as yet unforeseen global pandemics, such as the return of smallpox, currently considered to be within the range of possibilities open to terrorist groups. Or perhaps a sudden break-up of the Antarctic ice shelf will cause seas to suddenly rise by several metres, displacing hundreds of millions and precipitating yet more violent climatic changes. Or perhaps nothing so dramatic will take place, but only a slow and steady deterioration in ecosystems, associated with a rise in authoritarianism. The apocalyptic scenarios now so commonly making the rounds of films, best-selling novels, comic books, computer games and television are not so much harbingers of the future as inchoate renderings of the present ecological crisis. With terror in the air, these mass fantasies can become the logos of a new order of fascism — a fascism that, in the name of making the planet habitable, only aggravates the crisis as it further disintegrates human ecologies. Or maybe things will work out and we will all muddle through somehow. The notion of limits to growth may have been shelved, but the system has not been sleeping. A vast complex of recuperative measures has been installed in its place, remedies that seek to restore ecological balance without threatening the main economic engines. Given the skill and resources devoted to the project, there is bound to be some good news to report. What is at issue, however, is adequacy: whether all the pollution controls, efficiencies, trading of credits, resource substitutions, information-rich commodities, engineered biological products, ‘green business’ and the like can compensate for retaining a system whose very heartbeat is growth without boundaries. Remember, the point of all these counter-measures is not just to protect against ecological breakdown, but to bring on line new sources of growth. This raises the spectre of a world like a gigantic Potemkin village, where a green and orderly facade conceals and reassures, while accelerated breakdown takes place behind its walls.

The alt provides the fuel to a mass proletariat movement to combat capitalist domination – rising up as a unified force is the only way to solve oppression and must be informed by historical praxis.



Avakian 99 (Chairman of Revolutionary Communist Party)

[Bob, “We Have a New Millenium—What we Need is a New World”, Revolutionary Worker #1036, Dec. 26, p. online: http://rwor.org/a/v21/1030-039/1036/millenium.htm]



The "New Millennium" is before us. But what awaits us and future generations, what will define the next thousand years? ¶ Will it be the same old, same old--where a small handful continues to control the wealth and knowledge humanity as a whole has created? Where this handful continues to rule over millions and billions, using the most brutal and destructive means to maintain a way of life in which the great majority of humanity is kept in conditions of poverty and wretchedness. Where the institutions of power...the machinery that enforces "law and order"...the customs, traditions, values and ideas with which people are indoctrinated...all serve to keep this kind of system going. Where 40 thousand children die every day in the Third World from starvation and disease that could be prevented or cured. Where the oppressed are treated like dogs and shot down in the streets, or even in their own homes, by the thugs in uniform who "protect and serve" this system. Where discrimination and racism are the rule. Where every day women are insulted and assaulted, and are constantly told it is their "natural role" to be under the domination of "male authority." Where whole peoples and nations are plundered by a few "great powers." Where those who rule over us can unleash massive destruction and war at their command, bringing great suffering to the people and threatening the future of humanity, and this is all justified and glorified as "duty, honor, and righteousness." For another thousand years, will people have to witness the sickening celebration of this as "the best of all possible worlds" and the most humanity can ever hope to achieve? NO. This new millennium will be a time unlike any before in human history. It will be an era in which all of human society will be changed in radically new ways. It will be a world-historical epoch in which there will be the chance, in a way there never has been before, to put an end to oppression, to slavery in every form, in every part of the world. ¶ Looking at the world as it is now, as it has been for thousands of years...seeing what the people are caught up in today...HOW CAN ANYONE CONFIDENTLY PROCLAIM THAT THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THAT THIS IS WHAT THE NEW MILLENNIUM WILL BRING? ¶ AM I DREAMING? YES--BUT THESE DREAMS ARE BASED ON REALITY. ¶ Check out history. No empire has lasted forever. Even the mightiest have fallen: the Roman Caesars and their descendants, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the empire of Alexander the Great, the ruling dynasties throughout thousands of years in China, and more recently the empires of the Spanish, Portuguese and others in the Americas. This will also happen to today's empire-rulers, the imperialists, whose system is rooted in the "modern" form of slavery known as capitalism. They may rule over large parts of the world today--and, like the empires of old, they challenge each other for the top-dog position--but they will be brought down. This will be true of the German, the British, the Japanese, the French, the Russian, and other imperialists. And, even though they like to declare that they are invincible and will forever be "all-powerful," this same fate awaits the mightiest of all world powers today, the U.S. imperialists. ¶ BUT the BIG QUESTION is: WHAT WILL REPLACE THE RULE OF THESE IMPERIALISTS WHEN THEY FALL? This has everything to do with how these imperialists are brought down--in what way this is achieved and by whom. If, as in the past, empires are overthrown by other empires--if exploiters are brought down to the dust only to have new exploiters arise in their place--then nothing fundamental will change and the masses of people, living under the rule of these imperialists, will not see a new day. BUT that is NOT the only way things can go--that is not the way imperialism will end. There is another road before us--the road of revolutionary struggle to overturn and uproot all imperialists, all systems of exploitation and oppression, to sweep away all their garbage. And that revolutionary struggle will give birth to a new society and a new world without exploitation and oppression. ¶ HOW CAN WE KNOW THIS IS POSSIBLE? ¶ The reason is that, as a result of thousands of years of historical development and creative activity and struggle by human beings in all parts of the world, a fantastic amount of technology and knowledge has been brought forth. BUT this has taken place through various forms of society in which the few have enslaved the many, in different ways, and have reaped for themselves the benefits of all this development. AND THE PROBLEM TODAY IS THAT, IN THE HANDS OF THE CAPITALIST CLASS THAT RULES OVER US AND STILL CONTROLS HUMANITY'S FATE, THE TREMENDOUS TECHNOLOGY AND KNOWLEDGE THAT IS CREATED CANNOT BE USED FOR THE BENEFIT OF HUMANITY AS A WHOLE AND INSTEAD CAN ONLY SUBJECT THE GREAT MAJORITY OF US TO AGONY AND OPPRESSION. That is a problem for us, yet it is also a problem for THEM, because it makes clear that THIS CLASS OF CAPITALIST EXPLOITERS CANNOT RUN SOCIETY IN THE INTERESTS OF THE PEOPLE. BUT THERE IS A CLASS THAT CAN DO THIS. This class is the proletariat. The proletariat is all of us--of all races and nationalities, in the U.S. and throughout the world--who, under this system, can live only so long as we work, and can work only so long as our work enriches someone else--the capitalist class. Our labor, collectively, is the foundation of society and produces tremendous wealth, but this wealth is stolen by a small number of capitalist exploiters who turn this wealth into their "private property," into a means of further exploiting us. We are trapped in this cycle, where we have to work in order to live but the more we work, the more wealth we create, the more it is stolen and turned into power over us. Acting as individuals, we cannot change this basic condition of enslavement, but as a class we do have a revolutionary way out. Once we have risen up together and thrown off the rule of capital, we can not only free ourselves, we can revolutionize all of society and the world. We can unleash the tremendous creative potential of the masses of people--creative potential that is now wasted, or distorted, or even destroyed under the capitalist-imperialist system. We can take hold of the means to produce and acquire wealth and knowledge, make them the common property of the people and use them to benefit the people and society as a whole. We can transform all of the institutions and relations in society and the culture and ideas so that the common good is promoted and served. This is our world-historic mission. In this, we represent the great majority of the people, and we can lead them to change the world. ¶ This can happen--there is a powerful basis for this to happen --because this is the only way the needs and interests of the vast majority of humanity can be met and that humanity can move forward together. And, until this revolution is brought about, the rule of capital will continue to create conditions that force people to rebel against it. As the great communist revolutionary Mao Tsetung put it: wherever there is oppression, there will be resistance. And resistance can and will be transformed into revolutionary struggle, and ultimately revolutionary war, to defeat the forces of oppression on the battlefield, to smash their machinery of oppression, and to create a new system that puts an end to this oppression. No matter how many times this revolutionary struggle may be defeated, or turned back after winning some beginning victories, it will arise again and again until, finally, it triumphs completely and carries out its mission worldwide. Mao Tsetung also powerfully expressed this great truth: Fight, fail; fight again, fail again; fight again...until final victory--that is the logic of the people. Make trouble, fail; make trouble again, fail again...until their doom--that is the logic of the imperialists and all reactionaries. ¶ But to make this a reality, the oppressed, and in particular the class of proletarians, must become conscious of this historic revolutionary mission. And those who come to see the need for revolution and are determined to fight for it must be organized as a powerful force at the core of this world-changing struggle. This means that the proletariat must have its own vanguard party. A party that is continually strengthened by sinking its roots and its organization ever more deeply among the proletariat and other oppressed people and by recruiting into the party those who come to the forefront in the revolutionary struggle. A party that is guided by communist ideology, by the scientific world outlook and method that today is called MLM (or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, after the three greatest leaders of the communist cause so far: Marx, Lenin, and Mao). This ideology of MLM, and only this ideology, represents the proletariat and its revolutionary mission. The MLM party must take up and concretely apply this ideology to solve the practical problems of the revolution. ¶ In an imperialist country like the U.S., this means leading the masses of people in fighting against the outrages and injustices of this system, and to do this in a way that prepares for the great revolutionary showdown ahead--the revolutionary war that will finally overthrow this system. The party must develop, through all its work, and all the struggles of today, the fighting capacity and organization of the proletariat and its allies. It must continually develop the class consciousness of the proletariat--an understanding of what is the problem and what is the solution, who is the enemy and who are friends and potential allies, how the struggle has to be waged and what the final aim of that struggle is. It must enable growing numbers of people to see the necessity and possibility of the historic mission of communism and train the revolutionary-minded people in the scientific world outlook and method of communism. ¶ In the U.S. today, there is such a party carrying out this revolutionary work--the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. And, in turn, our Party is part of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM), uniting MLM parties and organizations throughout the world. The purpose and goal of all these parties and organizations who are united in the RIM is to develop the worldwide proletarian revolution toward the final aim of communism--a world without exploitation, without inequality, without oppressive relations based on distinctions of class, or sex, or race or nationality. It is a tremendous achievement of the revolutionary struggle of masses of people in the U.S. and all over the world that our Party and the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement exist; and this Party and this Movement are tremendously important forces for the masses of people in fighting for their liberation. ¶ We call on our class, the proletarians, on all oppressed people, on everyone who would love to see a radically different world, where the great creative potential of the people is not beaten down and twisted into chains on the people themselves--where instead this potential is unlocked and unleashed to serve humanity. We call on you to support this Party and this internationalist Movement. We call on you to help build our Party, to work with the Party and to join the Party. Right now, our Party is carrying out a process of sharpening our plan for developing the revolutionary movement under today's conditions and preparing for the showdown with the rulers of this system and their forces of oppression and destruction. We are building on our work and the struggle of the people so far to bring forth a new revolutionary Programme of the RCP,USA. This new Programme will strengthen our ability to rally the people to the revolutionary cause as part of the worldwide proletarian revolution. Once again we issue the call: join with our Party in bringing forth this new Programme and in carrying out the strategy and plan for seizing power from the imperialist oppressors and establishing the power of the proletariat in order to revolutionize all of society and the world. ¶ This revolution means shattering and casting off the material shackles--the economic, social, and political relations of exploitation and oppression--that bind us. These chains are very real, even if they are not the literal slave chains of former times. And, together with that, this revolution means casting away the mental chains that reinforce these material shackles.

A notion of power as discursive domination masks class oppression - no freedom from exploitation is possible without overthrowing capitalism

  • All power is a function of economics

Zavarzadeh 1995 – professor at Syracuse (Mas’ud, Post-Ality: Marxism and Postmodernism)

What makes the power/domination theory of class so attractive to post-al theorists is that since power in these theories is seen as diffuse and non-localized practice open to all, everyone has access to discourse/power. Thus one can, accordingly, empower oneself within the existing social relations of production. (A similar strategy, as I will discuss later, is used in theorizing post-al capital itself as an instance of the diffusion of ownership.) There is, according to these theories, no need for revolution to bring about a different social relations of production; one can be free within existing society by simply acquiring access to discourses that will allow one to speak for oneself (Deluze in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice 206). Domination, unlike exploitation, is seen, in other words, as a matter of “negotiation,” a “conversation,” finding one’s own “voice,” which is another way of saying it is the ability to use discourse to “persuade.” (This is, by the way, the main reason for the boom in “rhetoric” in the bourgeois knowledge industry.) The assumption is, of course, that to persuade one does not need “capital” one needs “discourse.” If power is available to all, then acquiring it does not depend on acquiring material access: one can be poor but acquire one’s identity and voice for example, as a lesbian or a person of color within the existing social relations of production. This notion of domination/power occults the fact that power, itself, is always produced by material forces (not discourses), that is, in the relations of production. To the extent that power is powerful, it is because it is supported by the ownership of the means of production. Persuasion itself depends on economic access. The persuaded is always persuaded not because of the power of the trope and discourse (although that is how persuasion is represented in ludic rhetoric), but because “the silent compulsion of economic relations sets the seal on the domination of the capitalist over the worker” (Marx, Capital, 1, 899). Theories that see class in terms of domination, however, represent power as autonomous – as separated from the material forces that historically produce power – the ownership of the means of production. The idea of class as domination finds its everyday manifestations in the practical and commonsensical views of class that see class as a social ordering frame (Lasch’s elite/non-elite hierarchy for example): who has more (of prestige or money) or better (job). All versions of class as domination, ultimately are versions of a theory of class as a form of hierarchy of power (even though post-al theory, formally, rejects the notion of power as hierarchy). Traditionally, these non-materialist theories of class have posited class in terms of occupation; status, income, and function and the like. The post-al theories of class are not “explanations” of the objective logic of capital – the historical materialist knowledge of the organization of a society, its division of labor, distribution of wealth and administration of social justice – but rather are “descriptions” of the specific circumstances of individuals: what Weber calls chances in the market, that is, the power to consume. In the name of inclusiveness, post-al theories introduce into their analysis a range of contingencies that occult any sense of social totality. Consequently, the representation off class as occupation, for example,, makes it “natural” in post-al theories to raise the issue of women’s work (occupational inequality) as an autonomous question: as a matter of gender and not a world-historical problem of the social relation of production. The same is true about the occupational inequalities of persons of color, physically-challenged persons, children’s work and the like. Specific, localist descriptions suppress the objective conditions of production that divide people.

1NC Agency K

There is no utility of sexual power as resistance to black social death – Black sexual agency upholds itself under a façade of liberation, when it only breaks down the softest and innermost prison bars of slavery – the choice to refuse the binaries of the law doesn’t mean the law stops acting – the law is not a wall, but a parasite – their reclamation of agency only reinvigorates the fallacious notion of freedom while doing nothing to change broader power structures

Sexton 8 (Jared Sexton, Director of African American Studies at UC Irvine, 2008, “Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism”, pages 111-114)

FYI: Randall Kennedy is “one of the first black scholars in this generation to pen a sustained argument advocating what he terms ‘a cosmopolitan ethos that welcomes the prospect of genuine, loving interracial intimacy’ ” (page 107-108)



In response to the last question, we examine several comments from Kennedy’s opening chapter, “In the Age of Slavery.” As noted, Kennedy is at pains to counter the claims of a certain black feminist history regarding the “extremity of power” exercised by the slaveholder and “the absolute submission required of the slave” (Hartman, quoted in Kennedy 2003, 532fn11). He is, in other words, attempting to demonstrate, or at least to speculate upon, the limits of the slave system’s power of domination. Beyond this limit—whose locus proves frustratingly obscure—the agency of the slave herself was, we are told, able to affect significantly the conditions of captivity to alternate ends. Kennedy, in other words, proffers a narrative in which evidence of agency (evidence, that is, confirming an assumption of agency), however circumscribed or practically ineffective, is taken as a sign of resistance. More properly, this is a narrative of resistant affection, an insistence that the dehumanizing social order of racial slavery was unable to achieve its ultimate goal—“the absolute submission of the slave”—because it could not overcome the irresistible force of affection between men and women, “regardless of color.” When all is said and done, a human is still a human, as it were, and the family romance of normative heterosexuality persists “even within” hierarchies that preclude for the captive all of the recognizable (social, political, economic, cultural, legal) trappings of “human being” in the modern sense. Here is Kennedy: The slave system failed, however, to perfect the domination that [ Judge Thomas] Ruffin envisioned. It failed to bind the slaves so tightly as to deprive them of all room to maneuver. It failed to wring from them all prohibited yearnings. Slavery was, to be sure, a horribly oppressive system that severely restricted the ambit within which its victims could make decisions. But slavery did not extinguish altogether the possibility of choice. (43) We might ask, what is the minimum ambit of decision making? What sort of system, if not slavery, would bind one so tightly as to deprive one of all “room to maneuver”? Need a system of domination be “perfect” in order for it to be legally binding or socially effective or politically determinant? Need the captive body be deprived of all room to maneuver for the situation to be considered one of extremity? Need the yearnings of slaves be wrung entirely from them for their prohibition to be considered a constitutive element of life? At what point does the quantitative measure of the slave’s bondage become difference of a qualitative sort? What precisely is the “choice” available under slavery, and is it one worthy of belaboring, one whose sphere of influence is to be considered newsworthy? To put a finer point on it, why is the categorical discrepancy refused between the free and the enslaved, or more specifically, between the slave and the slaveholder? Is such refusal not tantamount to denying the very existence of slavery as a system that produced slaves rather than free people whose freedom was simply “severely restricted” or whose power was simply “severely limited” or who simply faced “difficult situations”? Kennedy continues: Bondage severely limited the power—including the sexual power—of slaves. But it did not wholly erase their capacity to attract and shape affectionate, erotic attachments of all sorts, including interracial ones. In a hard-to-quantify but substantial number of cases, feelings of affection and attachment between white male masters and their black female slaves somehow survived slavery’s deadening influence. The great difficulty, in any particular instance, lies in determining whether sex between a male master and a female slave was an expression of sexual autonomy or an act of unwanted sex. The truth is that most often we cannot know for sure, since there exists little direct testimony from those involved, especially the enslaved women. (44) The inability to quantify the “number of cases” or, indeed, to “know for sure” anything about them does not prevent the author from considering them nonetheless “substantial,” and the paucity of direct testimony,6 “especially [from] the enslaved women,” does not stop the author from extrapolating wildly about said “feelings of affection and attachment” between them and their “white male masters.” In fact, it is the void in its place—the great historic silence—that enables both the reiteration of longstanding alibis for white male sexual violence—what Hartman (1997) discusses skillfully as the “ruses of seduction”—and the projection of this newfangled, though no less menacing, story about a maverick interracial intimacy that, almost undetectably, undermines the injunctions of white supremacy, serving not only as a sign of agency for enslaved women but a moment of their resistance as well. Their “sexual power” is expressed as the “capacity to attract”—and “somehow” to manipulate—the erotic attachments of white male slaveholders. There is here an unsubtle shift in terms: agency is not in itself subversive; indeed, the entire slave system derives, in large part, from the agency of the enslaved (its capture, manipulation, redeployment, etc.) (Chandler 2000). Agency may be resistant or complicit or both, and it may or may not have practical effects in the world; all of this can only be determined contextually. Much more troubling than Kennedy’s imprecision here, however, is his entirely uncritical suggestion about the “sexual power” of slaves. Is not one of the principal conceits of power to suggest that though the dominant may monopolize power political, economic, and social, the dominated nonetheless enjoy a wily aptitude for “getting their way” by other means, namely, the ars erotica of seduction? Is not one of the most pernicious elements of the proslavery discourse that the “attractiveness” of enslaved black women presents a threat of corruption to civilized white manhood and/or an internal guarantee against the excesses of state-sanctioned violence reserved for white slaveholders? The same quality that served as temptation was also, or alternately, taken to be that which would forestall the descent of slaveholding into unrestrained brutality, an essential rationalization for the upholding of white (male) impunity toward blacks, whether enslaved or nominally “free” (Hartman 1997).7 Finally, was not the suggestion that enslaved black men might have the power to seduce white women (whether free or, in earlier periods, indentured) one of the prime alibis for the construction of regulatory or prohibitory statutes around interracial marriage and sexual relations from the seventeenth century onward (Bardaglio 1999)? In each case, the focus on the “sexual power” of slaves was undoubtedly a displacement of the organized violence consistently required of captivity and, further, a dissimulation of the institutionalized sexual power of slaveholders in particular (whose authority not only foreclosed the possibility of prosecution and militated against the extralegal reprisals but also contributed immeasurably to their “capacity to attract and shape affectionate, erotic attachments of all kinds.” The asymmetry here approaches the incommensurable—how, after all, would a slave go on to “court” a master? How would such an exercise in self-objectification, supplementing structural availability with an affirmation of “willingness,” rightly be called power?). This is no less the case simply because for Kennedy the “sexual power” of slaves is something to honor or celebrate rather than to fear.

There’s a difference between rendering the law inapplicable and rendering the law inoperable – the 1AC is the former while the 1NC is the latter – they only look to singular instances while casually glossing over the fact that these isolated breaks of resistance are merely a green light for the broader system to mechanically reinstate the slave laws in their ever-violent manifestations – this is an independent framework question – if they can’t prove that they render the law inoperable, then that’s an immediate negative ballot

Sexton 10 (Jared Sexton, Director of African American Studies at UC Irvine, 2010, “People-of-Color-Blindness: Notes on the Afterlife of Slavery”, pages 34-37)

In pursuit of her thesis, Hartman challenges the prevailing modes of historical writing about slavery, including the sort of folkloric ethnography for which Abrahams gained an international scholarly reputation. Hartman extends the work of Hayden White (in his Metahistory and Tropics of Discourse) in reading the text of Abrahams’s 1992 Singing the Master as typical of the pastoral genre that emplots history as comic romance. “When history is emplotted in the comic mode,” she suggests, “its mode of historical explanation tends to be organicist and its ideological implications conservative.”18 Abrahams celebrates the capacities of the slave to subvert the regime through her signifying beyond the master’s awareness and comprehension, but Hartman demonstrates how this celebration relies upon an erasure of the structural violence, the hardly discernible terror, of compelled performance. Mbembe thus defends Abrahams’s American pastoral against Hartman’s criticism when he mobilizes the former as support for the idea that in spite of the terror and the symbolic sealing off of the slave, he or she maintains alternative perspectives toward time, work, and self. This is the second paradoxical element of the plantation world as a manifestation of the state of exception. Treated as if he or she no longer existed except as a mere tool and instrument of production, the slave nevertheless is able to draw almost any object, instrument, language, or gesture into a performance and then stylize it. Breaking with uprootedness and the pure world of things of which he or she is but a fragment, the slave is able to demonstrate the protean capabilities of the human bond through music and the very body that was supposedly possessed by another.19 Mbembe’s conjectural phrasing—asserting a supposed possession of the body rather than a political-juridical order that enforces its actualityhas the effect of diminishing the violence of slave law in the very scenes of subjection that Hartman shows to be central to “the construction of racial difference and the absolute distinctions of status between free white persons and black captives.”20 It also seeks to discredit the scholarship that operates according to such assumptions. Put slightly differently, it seeks to resurrect the same problematic attributions of “humanity,” “agency,” and “personhood” that Hartman identifies as key components of the racial domination of blacks in “the tragic continuities between slavery and freedom.” Uncritical, and ultimately romantic, ethnographic claims, like those Mbembe draws upon, about the slave’s capacity and capability for “stylization” are theoretically untenable since the publication of Scenes of Subjection over a decade ago. I am talking broadly here about the sort of claims about slavery that rely on phrases like “In spite of the terror” and “ . . . nevertheless. . . .”21 This is not likely evidence of oversight or lack of rigor, but rather misrecognition of the theoretical level at which Hartman’s critique is posed. Hortense Spillers limns something like this critical distinction in her landmark 1996 essay on psychoanalysis and race, “ ‘All the Things You Could Be by Now, If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother.’ ”22 Midway through that study, Spillers quotes Jürgen Habermas from his 1968 Knowledge and Human Interests: “A critically mediated knowledge of laws cannot through reflection alone render the law itself inoperative, but it can render it inapplicable.” Her point will not be to endorse straightaway “Habermas’s self-reflection, in which case the laws are operative but do not apply,” both because it “appears to be predicated on the agency of self-knowing” that the Du Boisian figure of double consciousness significantly complicates and because, pace Marx (and, in his own social-democratic way, Habermas too), it is not enough simply “to see with greater clarity what the problem is.”23 Yet Spillers finds useful the conceptual discrimination between the domain of the operation of the law (in which it is historically determinate of social, political, and economic existence) and the domain of the application of the law (in which it solicits the consent of the governed or, in another parlance, the identification of the dominated position). A law may be or may become inapplicable, enabling an array of subversion and resistance at the level of infrapolitics or, better, providing preconditions for effective opposition, but that does not thereby make it inoperative—maybe not even a little bit. Ultimately, it is a question of evaluative criteria: are we judging the significance of a practice based on whether or to what extent it renders a law inapplicable or inoperative? One would think that the inevitably political dimension of analysis holds the latter firmly in place as its horizon.24 But even the inapplicability of the law cannot be safely assumed, given not only the complications of double consciousness for the slave but also the obscure versatility of slave law’s functioning. Again, Hartman is instructive: what appears in the first instance to be evidence of an agency that indexes the law’s inapplicability for the slave may upon closer scrutiny reveal a convoluted form of consent. There are questions of the operation and application of slave law for the free as well. Regarding the former, we note the fact that “the absolute submission mandated by law was not simply that of slave to his or her owner, but the submission of the enslaved before all whites.25 The latter group is better termed all nonblacks (or, less economically, the unequally arrayed category of nonblackness), because it is racial blackness as a necessary condition for enslavement that matters most, rather than whiteness as a sufficient condition for freedom. The structural position of the Indian slaveholder—or, for that matter, the smattering of free black slaveholders in the United States or the slaveholding mulatto elite in the Caribbean—is a case in point.26 Freedom from the rule of slave law requires only that one be considered nonblack, whether that nonblack racial designation be “white” or “Indian” or, in the rare case, “Oriental”—this despite the fact that each of these groups has at one point or another labored in conditions similar to or contiguous with enslaved African-derived groups. In other words, it is not labor relations, but property relations that are constitutive of slavery.

Vote negative not to eroticize the law, but to tear it apart – there is no place for Blacks within the law and its touch is fatal to them – a radical deconstruction of the legal system is necessary

Tibbs and Woods 8 (Tibbs Associate Professor of Law, Drexel University College of Law & Woods Assistant Professor of Criminology, Sonoma State University 2008 Donald F. & Tryon P. Seattle Journal for Social Justice 7 Seattle J. Soc. Just. 235 lexis)

The Jena Six case emerges from a legal regime with a particular history of perversion regarding the lives of African Americans. Dating back to the slave codes of the South n28 and progressing through the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793 and 1850 (which often exacted harsher punishment than plantation [*240] justice itself) n29 to several landmark legal decisions such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) n30 and Pace v. Alabama (1883), n31 the law has continuously guaranteed black suffering in terms of black people's status as negated subjects. In the well-known words of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, the Negro was so far inferior that his reduction to slavery was not only "to his benefit" but also that he had "no rights that the white man was bound to respect." n32 This article proffers an analysis of the Jena Six grounded in this historical context, going beyond mere acknowledgment of the debts that our present-day criminal justice system owes to the institution of slavery to approach an assessment of the violence blacks regularly face in the law, an encounter almost so mundane it escapes representation. A wide range of scholars have well documented that the U.S. ruling class crafted the contemporary U.S. prison regime as a replacement for the system of chattel slavery. n33 This legacy can be seen in our nation's jails and prisons. n34 As significant scholarship suggests, the Jena Six assumes its place within slavery's modern legacy. How can we move beyond the limits of analogy? The Jena Six is much more complex than a metaphor can convey: What does it mean to be, in the words of Frantz Fanon, "an object in the midst of other objects," n35 to live in "the domain of non-existence?" n36 Born and raised in the French Caribbean colony of Martinique and later educated as a psychiatrist in Lyon, Fanon became an authority on how white supremacy renders the humanity of the colonized subject invisible. When he served as the head clinician at a psychiatric hospital in French-occupied Algeria during the mid-1950s, Fanon came to the realization that the Western discourse on man and civilization--whether in philosophy or medicine--literally expunged the black from existence. For Fanon, therefore, what it means to be "an object in the midst of other objects," to not be seen as a human being but instead objectified as if he were a chair or a log, is a question that is unapproachable: it exceeds the limits of representation. n37 [*241] What Fanon means by this formulation, and why his insight matters for our purposes here, is that proper recognition of the problem before us is always and already circumscribed by the language we have available to us with which to identify our injuries. Insofar as the law establishes how we name and remedy injustice, it sets out the language in which we must locate our selves. The problem of race, however, cannot be adequately understood through the language of law. In this way, analyzing the Jena case--and other mundane operations of white supremacy--necessitates deconstructing law itself as a racial project in which black existence has been systematically occluded. A major reason for the difficulty in getting close enough to the problem of racial injustice in the law to offer a just response to it is what we have referred to as the entanglements of raw life. The task before us, therefore, is to lay out the ways in which the age of raw life retains the depths of earlier eras: a contingent existence that reveals itself through the guise of legal life and the stark horror of premature death. n38
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