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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Abstract

Since entering the field of education studies, Critical Race Theory (CRT) has had an uneasy relationship with Marxism. One particular point of disagreement between Marxists and CRT scholars centres on the CRT concept of ‘White supremacy’. Some Marxist scholars suggest that, because of its reliance on ‘White supremacy’, CRT 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 capitalism modes of production and has a historical, political, and economic basis. Drawing on arguments from CRT, Marxism, and Black radicalism, this paper argues that the CRT 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.
LanguageEnglish
JournalPower and Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Mar 2019

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radicalism
racism
Marxism
capitalist society
mode of production
working class
economics
worker
education

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title = "Why the Critical Race Theory Concept of ‘White Supremacy’ should not be dismissed by Neo-Marxists: Lessons from Contemporary Black Radicalism",
abstract = "Since entering the field of education studies, Critical Race Theory (CRT) has had an uneasy relationship with Marxism. One particular point of disagreement between Marxists and CRT scholars centres on the CRT concept of ‘White supremacy’. Some Marxist scholars suggest that, because of its reliance on ‘White supremacy’, CRT 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 capitalism modes of production and has a historical, political, and economic basis. Drawing on arguments from CRT, Marxism, and Black radicalism, this paper argues that the CRT 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.",
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