Writing Out Loud: Black Marxism

Robinson is making the case that racial differentiation is fundamental to capitalism because it justifies treating classes of people as less-than-human in facilitating productivity. Keep this central point in mind as you respond to the following:

Theme: Networks of Capital


  1. Robinson argues that Marxists have universalized European experience and history. What aspects of that history did Marxists universalize, and what did they make invisible? Why do you think that Marxists foregrounded and backgrounded these aspects of history?
  2. What historical evidence does Robinson draw on in arguing that racialism--the construction and use of supposed racial differences to legitimate an unequal material status quo--has always been integral to modern capitalism? Do you find Robinson’s argument compelling; is capitalism inherently racialized? Why or why not?
  3. Robinson argues that racialized capitalism continues today. What examples can you think of? Consider the exploitation of undocumented immigrants, as well as racial/ethnic discrimination in housing, employment, mass incarceration, education, policing, etc. The big takeaway from these analyses might be that capitalistic development ultimately depends on the definition of a group of people as disposable (e.g., enslaved people, undocumented immigrants, prison laborers, minimum-wage workers, etc.) to keep prices down for everyone else. What do you think about that conclusion? Is capitalism inherently dehumanizing? Can you imagine a “kinder, gentler,” non-racialized form of capitalism, and if so, what would it take to get there?
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