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Chapter 1 - Black Marxism and the Antinomies of Racial Capitalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2022

Colleen Lye
University of California, Berkeley
Christopher Nealon
Johns Hopkins University
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This essay offers a genealogy of the term “racial capitalism” as it has been used to reflect upon the promise and limitations of Marxism for understanding racism. The essay departs from Cedric Robinson’s important history and theory of black radicalism, Black Marxism and the Making of the Black Radical Tradition, which first established the provenance of the idea of racial capitalism for scholarly inquiry. It proceeds by outlining a longer intellectual history of Black engagements with coeval determination, and relative strategic importance of, racial domination and economic exploitation for understanding the movements of Black history from slavery to civil rights. Beginning in the New Deal era and extending through the neoliberal era, it traces a line of thinking that extends from W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James in the 1930s, through key writings on Marxism and race by Stuart Hall in the 1970s and 1980s, and culminating in contemporary analyses of the interplay of racism and capitalism in the rise of mass incarceration in the US in work of Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

After Marx
Literature, Theory, and Value in the Twenty-First Century
, pp. 23 - 39
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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