Adolph Reed professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania Marx

Adolph reed professor of political science at

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Adolph Reed , professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania, “Marx, Race, and Neoliberalism,” New Labor Forum 22(1) ‘13 A Marxist perspective can be most helpful for understanding race and racism insofar as it perceives capitalism dialectically , as a social totality that includes modes of production, relations of production, and the pragmatically evolving ensemble of institutions and ideologies that lubricate and propel its reproduction . From this perspective, Marxism’s most important contribution to making sense of race and racism in the United States may be demystification. A historical materialist perspective should stress that “ race ”— which includes “ racism ,” as one is unthinkable without the other— is a historically specific ideology that emerged , took shape, and has evolved as a constitutive element within a definite set of social relations anchored to a particular system of production . Race is a taxonomy of ascriptive difference , that is, an ideology that constructs populations as groups and sorts them into hierarchies of capacity, civic worth, and desert based on “natural” or essential characteristics attributed to them. Ideologies of ascriptive difference help to stabilize a social order by legitimizing its hierarchies of wealth , power, and privilege , including its social division of labor, as the natural order of things.1 Ascriptive ideologies are just-so stories with the potential to become self-fulfilling prophecies . They emerge from self-interested common sense as folk knowledge: they are “ known to be true unreflectively because they seem to comport with the evidence of quotidian experience . They are likely to become generally assumed as self-evident truth, and imposed as such by law and custom, when they converge with and reinforce the interests of powerful strata in the society. Race and gender are the most familiar ascriptive hierarchies in the contemporary United States . Ironically, that is so in part because egalitarian forces have been successful in the last half-century in challenging them and their legal and material foundations. Inequalities based directly on claims of race and gender difference are now negatively sanctioned as discrimination by law and prevailing cultural norms. Of course, patterns of inequality persist in which disadvantage is distributed asymmetrically along racial and gender lines, but practically no one— even among apologists for those patterned inequalities—openly admits to espousing racism or sexism. It is telling in this regard that Glenn Beck stretches to appropriate Martin Luther King, Jr., and denounces Barack Obama as racist, and that Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Ann Coulter accuse Democrats of sexism. Indeed, just as race has been and continues to be unthinkable without racism, today it is also unthinkable without antiracism. Crucially, the significance of race and gender , and their content as ideologies of essential difference have changed markedly over time
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