Decolonising Class Analysis

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
John HOLMWOOD, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Class – whether from a Marxian or Weberian perspective – is central to political economy within most critical theories of modernity. Class analysis inscribes the idea of the commodity status of labour power as integral to the economic logic of capitalism. In this context, colonialism appears as a contingent aspect of capitalism and ‘race’ as a ‘social’ intrusion on a logic that is defined as independent of it. This paper will argue that the idea of labour power as a commodity derives from a moral economy of race, rather than a political economy of market capitalism. The paper will develop a Polanyian argument, albeit one that is not found in Polanyi owing to his neglect of colonialism as integral to the relations of dispossession and possession he otherwise examines. The paper will suggest that labour is not a ‘fictitious’ commodity, and, indeed, enslavement is its reality. On this understanding, the commodification of labour power which is presented as the grounding of class analysis is already a de-commodification of the labourer. Class analysis betrays an underlying racial formation which undermines the capacity for understanding contemporary events and leads to a false distinction between class analysis and the politics of identity.