Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Capitalism, Class, and the Matrix of Domination

Johnson’s thesis of this article is “capitalism played a major role in the development of white privilege and still plays a major role in its perpetuation” (p.41). Also, “we won’t get rid of racism, in other words, without doing something about sexism and classism, because the system that produces the one also produces the others and connects them” (p.53).

The argument in this article pertains to capitalism, and how it had a direct influence on the system in regards to privileges within the Americas, which are based on not only race, but social class and even sexual orientation. The economy is a major part of deciding how much wealth a person or company can bring in. Because economic systems “are the source of wealth, they are also the basis for every social institution, since the state and the church and universities and the like cannot survive without an economic base” (p.42). The purpose capitalism serves is to make a big profit on top of the cost of production of any goods and services. The ending result is acquiring more money than what the company started with. They way capitalism was run was that people work under their terms or the person has no job at all. Capitalism’s “direct connection to white racism has also operated in the acquisition of land and raw materials, which, like cheap labor, play a key role in the rapid growth of industry and wealth. To justify such direct forms of imperialism and oppression, whites developed the idea of whiteness to define a privileged social category elevated above everyone who wasn’t included in it” (p.46). Capitalist wanted to keep the wages they paid their workers low, and to keep the productivity high so they could receive a greater profit. In order to keep the whites from revolting in wanted a raise; they used those of other races who will work for the same rate, causing hostility and competition between the races. The result of this is that “white racism actually hurts white workers by strengthening the position of capitalists at white workers’ expense” (p.48). Another part of capitalist influence is the matrix of domination. The matrix shows that the different factors of privilege and unprivileged people directly correlate to one another. For example, a white male may have precedence over a black male, yet a white male who is homosexual would be less privileged than a heterosexual white male. So in one category being white has advantages, but having another characteristic that is oppressed would lower ones standing in society in regards to privilege.

I agree with Johnson’s argument that capitalism has a direct link to the causing racism in the Americas, but it is not the only source. Because of the constant need for workers willing to work low wages for capitalist companies to prosper and bring in a huge profit, using race to keep the lower class white workers from revolting against the low wages was a smart move for that time period. Also, the creation of the “matrix domination” showed how different people due to class, race, and sexual orientation were ranked in society. Those who were a white female and homosexual would probably be in the same ranking as a black male who was heterosexual. The living standards due to these different privileges and unprivileged classifications were influenced by capitalism, along with the race, class, and sexist standings.

I thought that this article proved an interesting connection between capitalism and the social standings within the Americas. Before this article I don’t think I would have been able to make the connection, given that history is not exactly my strong point. Johnson does a very thorough job at explaining his argument, and had many valid points about the tie between the two. I also found the explanation of the matrix of domination very interesting. Though overall, this article did not really hold my attention as well as the previous articles we have read.

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