Monday, July 1, 2013

Race and capitalism

I have blogged a bit about caste and globalization in the Indian context a bit here and here.

Found an interesting (and rather heavy) piece on "racial capitalism" in the Harvard Law Review titled "Racial Capitalism" by Nancy Leong.
"Racial capitalism — the process of deriving social and economic value from the racial identity of another person — is a longstanding, common, and deeply problematic practice. This Article is the first to identify racial capitalism as a systemic phenomenon and to undertake a close examination of its causes and consequences. 
The Article focuses on instances of racial capitalism in which white individuals and predominantly white institutions use nonwhite people to acquire social and economic value. Affirmative action doctrines and policies provide much of the impetus for this form of racial capitalism. These doctrines and policies have fueled an intense legal and social preoccupation with the notion of diversity, which encourages white individuals and predominantly white institutions to engage in racial capitalism by deriving value from nonwhite racial identity." 

Though not really related to international trade law and policy, the article did catch my attention due to the complex inter-relationship between race and capitalism. For those interested in a response to the article you can find it in Richard Thomson Ford's piece here.
"But by and large, the occasional inversion of our nation’s long-lived racial value system that results in minority race being seen as an asset instead of a liability is, on the whole, something to celebrate and (ahem) capitalize on, not something to complain about. Many of the problems Leong ably points out are the inevitable toxic by-product of our nation’s long, ugly history of racism and of our more recent halting but on the whole commendable attempts to correct it. I am not so sure that “racial capitalism” is distinct from the much more familiar problems of racial hierarchy and unforgiving market capitalism. And I doubt that there is any viable — even any conceivable — alternative to the kinds of self-interested calculations, strategic self presentations, subtle and overt pressures for conformity, and resulting psychological tensions that Leong describes as instances of identity commodification and racial capitalism. Just as the symptoms of a cold are caused by the body’s immune response, so the inconveniences and annoyances Leong catalogues are probably part of the necessary process of social change. On the whole, better to suffer through them than to stay infected."
Interesting debate...

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