Alabama and Tibet (?)

Mathew Forstater forstate at
Tue Jul 7 19:40:13 PDT 1998

On Tue, 7 Jul 1998, Doyle Saylor wrote:

> Doyle
> Isn't racism an arbitrary human construct with
> nothing about it that in and of itself determines anything?

Do you mean racism has no effects or impacts? If so, I disagree.

If the first part of the above is intended to mean that "race" is a social construction then I agree with that, but just because something is a social construct doesn't mean it isn't real. People suffer and die because of, and in the name of, social constructions all the time.

> Mathew Forstater writes:
> "The most dangerous kind of nationalism is the nationalism that
> disguises itself as universalism."
> Doyle
> More dangerous than Hitler's Germany? How do you figure that one?

Yes, generally I would say that fascists who are openly nationalistic are not as dangerous as fascists who hide their nationalism behind the cloak of "universalism."

> Sounds to me like you have a hard time with the concept of
> "universalism".

Well, I do in the sense that it is a complicated concept. But my complaint was about when the particular or specific are presented as universal.

>Is there something called a universal in your opinion?

Tough and complicated question. But again, to outline what I think is truly universal is a separate conversation. I don't think the particular is universal. Or, no particular is any more universal than any other. European conceptual categories, epistemologies, frameworks, languages, worldviews, philosophies, etc. are just that--European. Yet they are often considered the "norm" and everything else is a "deviation," to be understood only in relation to the norm.

> Could you be a little more specific about good universalism, and bad
> universalism?

It is not about good and bad, it is about misrepresentation. Don't claim something is universal if it's not.

>Is Marxism Eurocentric?

Yes. But cross-cultural communication permits sharing what's of value. But it doesn't have to be "one size fits all." But also doesn't Marx take history and historical specificity very seriously. I don't think Marx believed different societies across time and space to share all that much. I think his list of "universals" would be quite brief.

> Mathew Forstater
> 2. Theoretically, while the exact historical racism that was inseparable
> from capitalism may not have been required (although that is a maybe, we
> cannot know that capitalism would have thrived without it) *hierarchy*
> certainly is necessary to capitalism, hierarchy between and among
> classes. Arbitrary physiognomical traits assigned social significance
> have played an absolutely crucial (from the standpoint of capitalist
> reproduction) role in mediating intra-class competition. Capitalism
> requires that the abstract hierarchy in actual practice be mediated
> somehow--race, gender, nationality, etc.
> Doyle
> What is the difference between class and racism? That is where I sense
> some ambiguous thoughts here. Class is necessary to capitalism. A race
> is just an historical accident, or fact (as Wojtek likes to say).

I don't get this. I guess I just haven't "seen the light" yet.

> Wojtek says (or something more civil anyway), we get our underwear in a
> knot over our feelings of injustice toward someone, but Capitalism
> doesn't care about how we feel. It just wants the profits to keep on
> rolling. At any rate in the above you say 'historical racism which is
> inseparable from capitalism may not be required'. I believe that is an
> odd phrasing indeed. I see in your statement either racism is required,
> or racism is not required. Which is it?

I said the "*exact* historical racism..." I was conceding that, in theory, some other way of mediating the structurally necessary (from the p.o.v. of capitalist reproduction) hierarchies *may* have been possible--may. Historically, we have never known any capitalism in which racism did not play an integral structural role.

After I mulled that point over
> in my mind in my remarks to Wojtek, I finally got what Wojtek was saying
> as in AHA!
> regards
> Doyle Saylor

regards Mat

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