IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The Material Roots of Western Racism

Listed author(s):
  • Freeman, Alan

This article assesses the US discussion on the material roots of racism in which writers such as Malcolm X have been heavily criticised by ‘marxists’ for substituting race for class in the analysis of society. The article argues that such criticism departs from the classical Marxist tradition in a manner characteristic of the dominant countries of the world in subordinating issues of political rights to the economic class struggle. This in turn arises from a failure to recognise the relation between racism and imperialism, itself arising from a division of the nations of the world which I define as ‘World Apartheid’. The US-UK variant of marxism, which I characterise as ‘Imperialist Marxism’, has uncritically absorbed the world-view of the early imperialist pioneers – who were also social progressives – such as Rhodes and Chamberlain (and on the German side, Bismarck). Empire financed social welfare and economic well-being using the value transferred to the heartlands from the colonies, which it justified with the concept of a ‘civilising mission’ to transplant a superior culture to the ‘backward’ conquered countries. This system of domination persists economically today despite formal political freedom. The ‘civilising mission’ is reproduced in traditional Marxism through the notion that the working class of the dominant countries is culturally and politically superior to the working class of the remaining four-fifths of the world. The characteristic core of this view is that political power is of secondary importance to economic equality. Racism can therefore be overcome by the simple dynamics of economic class struggle, and demands for political rights should be subordinated to higher wages and better welfare.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 2216.

in new window

Date of creation: 1998
Publication status: Published in Eszmelet 1998 (1998): pp. 28-36
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:2216
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Ludwigstraße 33, D-80539 Munich, Germany

Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2459
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-992459
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:2216. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.