In this essay for the Boston Review, Professor Robin D.G. Kelly reviews Cedric Robinson’s formulation of “racial capitalism.” He points to racism as a standing socio-political order that was integral to and inextricable from the formulation of a capitalist world order.
So what did Robinson mean by “racial capitalism”? Building on the work of another forgotten black radical intellectual, sociologist Oliver Cox, Robinson challenged the Marxist idea that capitalism was a revolutionary negation of feudalism. Instead capitalism emerged within the feudal order and flowered in the cultural soil of a Western civilization already thoroughly infused with racialism. Capitalism and racism, in other words, did not break from the old order but rather evolved from it to produce a modern world system of “racial capitalism” dependent on slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide. Capitalism was “racial” not because of some conspiracy to divide workers or justify slavery and dispossession, but because racialism had already permeated Western feudal society.
Read the full essay at The Boston Review.
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