Volume 1, Issue 2 (2022) Race and Capitalism

Race and Capitalism

Capitalism came with the promise of emancipation – from entrenched social hierarchies and personal dependencies – opening a world in which anyone could succeed with enough ambition, ingenuity and, truth be told, luck. If capitalism refers to an economic system in which formally free and equal individuals enter the marketplace to exchange goods and services, then the category of race as a hierarchical social relation ought to have no place within it. From this vantage point, race appears to be an anachronism, a distortion of the putatively modern capitalist social form, an anomaly that either holds back capitalist development or will eventually be swept aside by it. This view of capitalism is, however, unjustifiably narrow: not only does it focus solely on the ideological self-presentation of capitalism (freedom and equality for all), but it brackets the manifold “non-economic” factors that aid and abet the accumulation of capital, from colonial plunder and slavery, through rapacious resource extraction, to the corralling of peoples within national borders. While capitalism as an economic system pledges inclusive prosperity, capitalism as a social system has proven replete with inequalities and exclusions, of which racial oppression is probably the most evident form. Such a broader view of capitalism permits a more sustained interrogation of the relationship between capitalism and race: are race and racialization accidental or constitutive features of capitalism? Are they peculiarities of specific historical forms of capitalism, enabling logistics for launching the pursuit of profit or, rather, systemic features of the very logic of competitive profit-production? The pieces we have collected for this special issue of Emancipations on race and capitalism canvas some of this vast territory of inquiry. To read on, click here: https://scholarsjunction.msstate.edu/emancipations/vol1/iss2/1/


Introduction to Special Issue on Race and Capitalism
James Chamberlain and Albena Azmanova