Directing Attention Away from Modes of Production

While, for Marxists, it is certainly the case that there has been a continuity of racism for hundreds of years, the concept of ‘white supremacy’ does not in itself explain this continuity, since it does not need to connect to modes of production and developments in capitalism. It is true that Mills (1997) provides a wide-ranging discussion of the history of economic exploitation, and that Preston (2007) argues that CRT needs to be considered alongside Marxism. However, unlike Marxism, there is no a priori need in CRT formulations to connect with capitalist modes of production. In Marxist parlance, the mode of production refers to the combination of forces (human labor power and the means of production) and the relations of production (primarily the relationship between the social classes). This combination means that the way people relate to the physical world and the way people relate to each other are bound together in historically specific, structural and necessary ways. As Marx (1859) put it:

The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life.

Critical Race Theorists do not analyse these crucial relationships. Thus Gillborn (e.g. 2005, 2006) is able to make the case for CRT and ‘white supremacy’ without providing a discussion of the relationship of racism to capitalism. The Marxist concept of racialization, however, does articulate with modes of production. Examples of the ways in which it does this are discussed later in this chapter.

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