ontology of class and race?

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Wed Jul 8 20:29:22 PDT 1998

My argument was that the universal properties, dispositions and depravities people attribute to various racial kinds only exist by way of self-reinforcing illusion and mystification. On the other hand, the mystical power of commodities to determine our social relations actually does inhere, independent of our consciousness and will, in those objects as a result of our social relations in and through which social labor time can only be distributed by the exchange value of commodities. Racial kinds have no properties outside of collective misrepresentation; commodities have fetishistic power outside of our representations. Ideology is not fetishism, one of Althusser's errors as Pilling argues.

Now I am not suggesting that the elimination of the ideology of race would eliminate persistent inequalities among similarly skilled workers, segmented labor markets, unemployment, or poverty. All these maladies would persist though perhaps more randomly distributed among the population (which I think would be a good thing). Moreover, deracialization would mean that such problems could no longer be contemptuously dismissed because they are disproportionately suffered by only certain racial kinds. If we no longer believed in races like we no longer believe in witches, then it would make no sense to think of poverty and unemployment as primarily black problems which is pretty much the point of the Thernstroms, D'Souza, etc. The racial composition of who suffered these problems would be an absurd datum.

The radicalization of the class struggle would meet considerable resistance however even among a more diversified bottom half of the working class and the consequent inability to race bait it. The limits to class struggle, especially those battles waged by the unskilled mass worker and the unemployed, are not the racial prejudices of capital but capital itself.

As I said, I am trying to work out some ideas here, so all and any objections are very much appreciated. Thanks for the reply.

best, rakesh

On Wed, 8 Jul 1998, Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:

> Hi Rakesh,
> I liked your reply to Wojtek. Nice to see you back. I also found your
> differentiation between fetishism of commodities and ideology of race
> interesting. I'm not sure if ideology of race is as amenable to rational
> criticism as you assert, in that ideology of race does have real effects
> (as you also argue) at the level of social practices (jobs, housing,
> education, public assistance, policing, etc.) which in turn reinforce
> ideology, and also because anti-racist attempts to universalize New
> Deal-type reforms have always met tremendous resistance and in many cases
> were either aborted from the beginning, compromised in the process, or
> rolled back in the recent decades.
> Yoshie

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