An introduction to the analysis of ideology of race

There are clearly biological differences between races, though they are small and, as noted above, there is greater variation within races than between races. But the actual criteria used for racial classifications are artificial and socially constructed, as was shown in the cases of the U. By recognizing the overlap between the two, we are presented with a better understanding of race. However, distinctions between racial groups are declining due to intermarriage and have been for years.

An introduction to the analysis of ideology of race

Most traditional understandings, however, turn out to be theoretically inconsistent and lacking in terms of explanatory power when confronted with the historical realities of Italian, Irish, and African-American labor relations in the early 20th century.

Introduction to Sociology/Race and Ethnicity - Wikibooks, open books for an open world

I will argue that bringing Louis Althusser's theories of the state and ideology to bear on the problem of working-class racism can offer a better historical understanding than traditional explanations. This classical analysis emphasizes the economic above all other factors. The relations of production determine everything else, and the extraction of surplus value via wage labor is the primary form of exploitation.

Racism is seen as nothing more than an effective divide-and-conquer tactic of the capitalist class, and any focus on anti-racist work simply distracts from the class struggle that is the 'true' nature of history. This theory, however, has significant shortcomings. For one, if capitalism is understood only "according to the abstract economic logic described in Capital" it does not require any divisions in the working class Moufawad-Paul.

In fact, divisions could be detrimental to capital because a divisions within the working class along race, gender, or other lines may lead to struggles anti-racist, feminist, etc. Historically, divisions within there is no requirement in the structure of capitalism that the working class be kept divided.

Understanding racism as nothing more than a divide-and-conquer tactic ignores the fact that capital has no inherent need to divide the working class. A more sophisticated Marxist analysis "claims that racist practices from xenophobic attitudes that are not strictly reducible to class exploitation" West.

Seen this way, "racist attitudes have a life and logic of their own" simply a continuation of xenophobic attitudes that are always present in human groups, then "What prevents all cases of the affinity-disaffinity dialectic from being translated into racism?

What prevents all national formations, all caste formations, all ethnic formations, all class formations from becoming racial formations at the same time?

Racism, nationalism, caste systems, and ethnicity all operate by logics of inclusion and exclusion, but none of these social formations are identical in formation or operation.

The xenophobic explanation allows for an understanding of racism as more than a capitalist conspiracy while being overly reductionist by treating all exclusionary social formations as the same.

The most common Marxist answer for racism is the phenomenon of "false consciousness" Willhelm In this explanation, the working class suffers from an "illusory perception" and they "believe in both racism and the property rights of capitalists" Willhelm This contains elements of the previous two explanations considered.

Like xenophobia, but unlike 'divide-and-conquer,' it does not present racism as a conspiratorial invention by capitalists. It allows for the historical development of racist attitudes independently from or at least not directly invented by the ruling class.

Like both of the previous explanations, however, false consciousness still toes the orthodox Marxist line that proletarian identity is the 'truest' identity of members of the working class and that workers who act in racist ways simply do not understand their true nature as a member of the proletariat.

The false consciousness explanation of racism blames "the very victims of capitalist oppression and exploitation for their own fate" Willhelm False consciousness supposes that the working class does not understand their "real" conditions, and that they believe in the "false" conditions of racism.

The second problem is an analytic error: In order to "incorporate racism in what is, supposedly, a materialistic analysis, they [analysts who employ false consciousness] ultimately place less reliance upon the economics of a class struggle" Willhelm False consciousness is reductionist in the same manner as the xenophobic analysis: Marxism is a materialist framework, but all of these analyses explain racism by putting more emphasis on ideological factors than on material conditions.

As such, they offer no theoretically consistent answer for the question "If history is the story of class struggle, how engage in behavior that actively divides them against the bourgeoisie?

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This is the fundamental question that a Marxist theory of racism must address, and a question that "divideand-conquer," xenophobia, and false consciousness fail to answer satisfactorily.

Instead of interpreting racism as false consciousness, it should be viewed through the lens of Althusser's theory of ideology. To develop that theory, Althusser offers an interpretation of the State in which he distinguishes between state power and state apparatuses, and divides the state apparatuses into the Repressive State Apparatus and Ideological State Apparatuses.

While there is a single Repressive State Apparatus and a multitude of Ideological State Apparatuses, what unites them all is that "the ideology by which they contradictions, beneath the ruling ideology" Althusser For Althusser, the state apparatuses repressive and ideological exist to facilitate "the reproduction of the relations of productions" Althusser One more key point from Althusser is necessary before constructing a theory of working-class racism on his ideas: Althusser claims that ideology always exists in a "material ideological apparatus" which prescribes "material practices" Althusser Furthermore, "there is no practice except by and in an ideology" and therefore "ideology has a material existence" Althusser This is Althusser's attempt to reconcile the materialism of Marxism with the supposed immateriality of ideology.

If racism can be interpreted as an Althusserian ideology, it must have a material existence in the practices of the state apparatuses which will 1 show how racism serves to reproduce the relations of production; and 2 explain the persistence of working-class racism in a more compelling way than previous Marxist theories of racism.

An introduction to the analysis of ideology of race

It is easy to see that historically, racism has been present in the Repressive State Apparatus. Legally enforced chattel slavery was the expression of racism in 19th century legal and judicial structures.

In her book Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race, Laura Gomez argues that legislation and judicial decisions about citizenship were instrumental in creating "Mexican American" as a racial category.Some have described this kind of analysis as meta-ideology—the study of the structure, trade, the environment, minors, immigration, race, use of the military, patriotism, and established religion.


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The persistence of racism within the working class is a fundamental problem for any Marxist analysis of race, and there have been several attempts to solve this problem within the Marxist tradition. Introduction to Sociology/Race and Ethnicity. From Wikibooks, open books for an open world While these associations are important areas of analysis, these associations - between race and genetics Race, and Ideology in the United States of America.

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Introduction to Sociology/Race and Ethnicity - Wikibooks, open books for an open world