Why the Critical Race Theory Concept of ‘White Supremacy’ should not be dismissed by Neo-Marxists: Lessons from Contemporary Black Radicalism

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Since entering the field of education studies, critical race theory has had an uneasy relationship with Marxism. One particular point of disagreement between Marxists and critical race theory scholars centres on the critical race theory concept of ‘White supremacy’. Some Marxist scholars suggest that, because of its reliance on ‘White supremacy’, critical race theory is unable to explain the prevalence of racism in Western, capitalist societies. These Marxists also argue that ‘White supremacy’ as understood within CRT is actively damaging to radical, emancipatory movements because the concept misrepresents the position of the White working class as the beneficiaries of racism, and in doing so, it alienates White workers from their Black counterparts. Some neo-Marxist thinkers have sought to replace the concept of ‘White supremacy’ with ‘racialisation’, a concept which is grounded in capitalist modes of production and has a historical, political and economic basis. Drawing on arguments from critical race theory, Marxism and Black radicalism, this paper argues that the critical race theory concept of ‘White supremacy’ is itself grounded in historical, political and economic reality and should not be dismissed by neo-Marxists. Incorporating ‘White supremacy’ into a neo-Marxist account of racism makes it more appealing to a broader (Black) radical audience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-94
Number of pages17
JournalPower and Education
Issue number1
Early online date27 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


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