Táíwò and Kendi share a commitment to careful investigation of the dynamics and interrelations of race and class, but in other ways they have sharply contrasting and even opposing politics. Not for the sake of labeling theorists as good and bad nor for trying to draw sharp lines around who belongs in contested political spaces, but for the sake of clearly defining political positions that shape efforts towards liberation, the contours of these contrasting and opposing politics are worth inquiring into.
The hotly debated tradition of racial capitalism theory and the renewed attention to race and class in contemporary social movements provide ample impetus for undertaking an investigative journey through the class politics of Táíwò and Kendi. Táíwò provides analytical tools for discerning the kind of class divides that Kendi tries to harmonize. Táíwò also happens to discuss many of the same historical figures that Kendi does, which enables an ideal opportunity to clearly compare and contrast their diverging class analyses. After briefly reviewing Táíwò’s book and then situating Táíwò’s class politics within the current political landscape, I use his work to pivot towards Kendi and then launch into a textual analysis of Kendi’s class politics.
(See Part I here. While closely related, Part II is readable as a stand alone piece.)
Economics. We know the economy mostly through the dollars we keep (or lack) in our pockets and the jobs we work (or suffer through) during a major portion of our waking lives. Outside of these more tangible ways we experience the economy, talk of the stocks, bonds, and securities, the federal reserve, supply-demand curves, etc… mostly seems arcane and safely ignored. And yet upon reflection, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that this topic doesn’t deeply determine our lives and social relationships.
How can we imagine a better world and then make one if we refuse to look economics in the eye? Avoiding the principles of economics shackles us to our more immediate impressions of the world and fogs our capacity for critically relating to ourselves and society as a whole. Economics isn’t just for bootlicking academics and the self-aggrandizing rich; it’s also for restless workers and the scheming masses. It may be an abyss, but it’s one that with a little encouragement and self-assurance we can get to the bottom of and weaponize in service of our own ideas of liberation.
This piece is Part II of a series on liberalism. As a refresher, liberalism as a political philosophy does not refer to the first part of the liberal/conservative dichotomy in US politics but is the more encompassing mainstream worldview “that holds that free market capitalism and limited representative government are the best way to organize society, protect human rights, and promote the freedom of people to choose how to live.” Part I focuses more abstractly on defining liberalism and showing how it ignores inequalities of power which then corrupt everything liberalism claims to stand for. Part II is a look at how this plays out more concretely through capitalism.
It is of the utmost importance that we know our enemy. In the context of radical grassroots organizing, this means we must know liberalism.
Liberalism is the water we all swim in. It’s the institutional and ideological political-economic-social apparatus of the contemporary US and Western Europe and has spread to countries on every continent. It’s all too easy to forget it’s there at all because it’s what we all grew up in and is all most of us have ever known.
Naming and defining liberalism can be a small revelation to those who are starting to question the status quo but don’t have the vocabulary to understand what they find unsettling about it and what the alternatives are. To show what liberalism looks like today and to give it a past makes it appear less written in stone and more part of an ever-changing and thus contingent historical process. What can be built can be taken apart.