Monday, November 17, 2014

Lost in Rawlsland -

Lost in Rawlsland -
George Yancy: You are a philosopher who thinks very deeply about issues of race. Can you provide a sense of your work?
Charles Mills: I think a simple way to sum it up would be as the transition from white Marxism to (what I have recently started calling) black radical liberalism.
G.Y.: So, how does “white” modify Marxism? And what is it about the modification that helps to account for the transition to what you’re now calling black radical liberalism?
C.M.: Mainstream Marxism has (with a few honorable exceptions) been “white” in the sense that it has not historically realized or acknowledged the extent to which European expansionism in the modern period (the late 15th century and onward) creates a racialized world, so that class categories have to share theoretical space with categories of personhood and subpersonhood. Modernity is supposed to usher in the epoch of individualism. The Marxist critique is then that the elimination of feudal estates still leaves intact material/economic differences (capitalist and worker) between nominally classless and normatively equal individuals. But the racial critique points out that people of color don’t even attain normative equality.
In the new language of the time of “men” or “persons” (displacing citizens and slaves, lords and serfs), they are not even full persons.
Social justice theory should be reconnected with its real-world roots, the correction of injustices.
So a theorization of the implications of a globally racially partitioned personhood becomes crucial, and liberalism — once informed by and revised in the light of the black experience — can be very valuable in working this out. In a forthcoming essay collection for Oxford University Press, “Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism,” I try to make a case for this retrieval — the deracialization of a liberalism historically racialized.

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