Concrete and abstract racial domination

Preston, J (2010) 'Concrete and abstract racial domination.' Power and Education, 2 (2). pp. 115-125. ISSN 1757-7438


The debate between Mike Cole and David Gillborn which has raged in Power and Education and elsewhere is indicative of a widening schism between Marxism and critical race theory. To describe this debate as orientated around the status of ‘race’ or ‘class' as the central object of social theory, such as in the current debate about the ‘white working class' in education, is unhelpful. Rather than see race and class as interdependent systems of concrete domination (where one group, or class, oppress another), this article examines how capitalism brings about an abstract system of domination by race (abstract racial domination). Using the work of Marx, Postone and Du Bois, the article considers that race as capital rather than humanity as racialised labour, is specific to capitalist modes of production. Racialised bodies are already capitalised as ‘tertium quid’ – a Du Boisian ‘third thing’ rather than solely as labour or capital. Whites are the ‘small masters' of ‘sham capital’ (whiteness) but are dominated by their own (perceived and socially constructed) phenotype. In terms of praxis, the article argues that critical pedagogies from both critical race and Marxist strands should work towards the abolition of whiteness as a manifestation of capital.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Institute for Education
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2017 17:37
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2017 17:37
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