Must capitalism be racist?

Sat Jan 1 08:19:06 PST 2000

In a message dated 99-12-31 16:39:54 EST, you write:

<< and where does the communist movement come from? another planet? it works

within the spaces between capitalism's contradictions and with those

contradictions, which is also why debates over various (most, all) things

within the communist movement seem so interminable, despite the valiant

efforts to wish them into a theoretical resolution.

Of course. But there is a big difference between a sort of antiracism that comes out of resistance to capitalism and that which comes out of capitsliam itself. The first kinds "comes out of capitalsm," "bearing upon it the birthmarks of the old society," etc., but also the spirit, at least of the new society. In particular, it does not restrict itself to the idea that all races are equally fit to be good workers or bosses and equally bourgeois citizens of a liberal democracy that dares not challenge the rule of property. On the contrary, an anatiracism that comes out of a movement has the potential of challenging the property relations of the existing society and its conception of citizenship. Aand of course oppositional movements in the real world come with the limitations of the origin, not least the CPUSA, which, as I said, was the chief source of "outside" American antiracism in 1917-50 or so.

you counterposed equality with freedom. where does our sense -- and

contradictory and conflicting senses -- of what freedom means come from?


I suppose this means that I overlooked that our senses of freedom come from capitalism. But of course I haven't. As above, some of our senses of freedom do so arise, and somea rise, we might say, within capitalism but against it, as the ideology of an oppositional struggle.

For example the freedom that animated the freedom movements of the 1950ss and 1960s was not only or even mainly the freedom to buy and sell, but the emancipatory impulse behind the antislavery movement, resistance to exploitation. Even where buying and selling was at issue, as in the lunch counter sit-ins, the point was embodied in the larger context of a struggle against the humiliation of Jim Crow and the gerneralized economic exploitation of Blacks under segregation.

To put the point in a general terms. Any system of exploitation will have a legitimating ideology, an official justice that licences but also limits the exploitation that system permits. If we are lucky, the harm caused by that exploitation will produce outrage that will translate into an radical justice, the ideology of an imagined alternative emancipatory order that postullates a different set of limits.

What you have done is to subsume radical justice into official justice merely because radical justice is a product of the system of exploitation. That is serious confusion.

For more on these concepts, see my paper Relativism, Reflective Equilibrium, and Justice, Legal Studies 17, p. 128, 1997.


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