Challenging the empire

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Virdee, Satnam (2014)

This paper considers how Paul Gilroy transformed hitherto dominant understandings of the relationship between race and class by developing an innovative account that foregrounded questions of racist oppression and collective resistance amid the organic crisis of British capitalism. The returns from this rethinking were profound in that he was able to make transparent both the structuring power of racism within the working class, and the necessity for autonomous black resistance. At the same time, significant lacunae in his account are identified, including the neglect of the episodic emergence of working-class anti-racism and the part played by socialists, particularly those of racialized minority descent in fashioning a major anti-racist social movement. The paper concludes with a lament for the disappearance of such work informed by a ‘Marxism without guarantees’ in the contemporary field of racism studies, and asks readers to consider the gains to be derived from such a re-engagement.
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