Toward a political economy of racial capitalism

Authors: Kenton Card*, University of California - Los Angeles
Topics: Ethnic Geography, Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: racial capitalism, political economy, race, social movements, Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Within and beyond urban and geographical studies, organizers and scholars are increasingly contextualizing their mobilizations and analyses within the broader context of racial capitalism. This paper draws connections between previous analyses of capitalism and emergent analyses of racial capitalism, primarily questioning how the intellectual traditions employ epistemological assumptions, methodological approaches, and interpretive frameworks. First, the paper begins with various traditions of economics and political economy, questioning how they interpret race and capitalism as a system. I survey key positions in neoclassical, institutional, and Marxist schools, and suggest that race is not conceptualized as constitutive to the capitalist system, but rather as either an endogenous or exogenous variable of the economy. Secondly, I explore a few dominant approaches by historians, political scientists, urban planners, and geographers who have argued for a shift from understanding the system of global capitalism to one of global racial capitalism, connecting capitalist dynamics to settler-colonialism and imperialism. The analysis of various political economies of race and approaches to racial capitalism reveal significant epistemological, methodological, and interpretive differences. Third, I conclude the paper by arguing that the intellectual paradigms on unraveling the role of race in capitalism have significant differences in the systematic and unsystematic approaches to analyzing phenomena within broader dynamics of racial capitalism. Some scholars (esp. Gilmore 2007) directly fuse traditions of Marxist political economy with historical and materialist analyses of racial capitalism, which I suggest provide insight into a more robust approach to an explicit political economy of racial capitalism.

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