how does racial power work in the global economy?

The Raced Markets project draws together research which broadly addresses this core question and also variously seeks to answer the following:

Can the global financial crisis be seen as a raced event? How is Black power enacted through the economy? How does race function in processes of dispossession, accumulation, and appropriation? How is poverty politically produced along racial lines? How does deprived space give meaning to racialised bodies? How does race work through emerging bioeconomies of genes and cells? How is race foundationally implicated in the discipline of Political Economy? How are race, gender, and class produced in relation to one another? How much is whiteness worth? How does racial power operate through economies of migration? What is the relationship between race and enclosure?


Raced Markets: An Introduction. Lisa Tilley & Robbie Shilliam

The central consensus among the scholars and activists who came together for the first Raced Markets Workshop in December 2015 was that ‘race’ may have begun as fiction, an invention of Europeans in the service of colonisation, however, the fiction of race became material over time, reproduced in relation to the manifold raced markets of the global political economy. Since that original workshop, and against a consolidated neoliberal capitalist context, the political rise of fascistic movements has intensified across the globe. Our collective provocation here is that this current conjuncture cannot be explained with reference to the exceptional intrusion of racism, nor the epiphenomenal status of race in relation to political economy. Instead we attend to how race functions in structural and agential ways, integrally reproducing raced markets and social conditions. Our Introduction opens this conversation for New Political Economy readers, positioning neoliberalism and the current conjuncture as the present political economic moment to be understood through a raced market frame of analysis. Our hope is that this special issue will be read as a timely intervention, referencing a long tradition of (often marginalised) thought which attends to race as productive and material, rather than confined to the ideological realm.

Raced Markets: Prefatory Note. David Roediger

[T]he Crusoe article, like others in the special issue, illustrates the usefulness of the term ‘raced’ in describing the ways in which markets and meaning come together. ‘Raced’ underlines the fact that the markets that have emerged and are emerging are not instruments of capitalist rationality then distorted by the entry of competing dynamics and irrationalities. The markets take their modern forms as raced, not as subsequently ‘racialized’, on this view. A new market arrives with all else that Friday brings to and provokes in Crusoe.

Crusoe, Friday and the Raced Market Frame of Orthodox Economics Textbooks. Matthew Watson

Crusoe’ and ‘Friday’ signifiers necessarily evoke a world of racialised hierarchies. Economics textbooks are perhaps the sole remaining medium to simply wish away their resulting relations of power. These are the teaching aids that inspire students analytically to think of markets as pristine economic institutions and persuade them politically that they should want to will such institutions into being. Yet they all-too-often rely on the pedagogical device of the so-called Robinson Crusoe Economy, where the main characters from Defoe’s most famous novel are required to instinctively recognise their equality within voluntary contracting agreements so that each can act as the neoclassical homo economicus. In other words, economists’ Crusoe and Friday figures must behave antithetically to what has historically been implied by the ‘Crusoe’ and ‘Friday’ signifiers. But how can this be so, given how commonplace it was when Defoe’s characters were first introduced into economic theory in the 1850s to justify white settler colonialism on the grounds that ‘savage’ societies lacked the capacity to be self-governing? The raced market frame that emerged in practice from this assumption continues to be reproduced uncritically today by Crusoe’s and Friday’s presence in the textbook explanation of the most basic model of market exchange.

‘We All Have a Responsibility to Each Other’: Valuing Racialised Bodies in the Neoliberal Bioeconomy. Sibille Merz & Ros Williams

In neoliberalism, human tissue has been targeted as a source for extracting surplus value. Commercial attention on ethnic and racial minorities has resulted in products and services specifically developed for them. Here, we focus on this by exploring two empirical examples: US pharmaceutical clinical trials and UK stem cell transplantation. Both use racial taxonomies to discern biological difference and draw conclusions about the economic potential of people’s genetic constitutions. They do so by appealing to racialised minorities’ sense of responsibility towards ‘their’ communities, both buttressing the conflation of social and biological registers of human variation and demonstrating neoliberalism’s mobilisation of discourses of community. However, while the inclusion of racialised minorities is hoped to bring economic benefits, it also aims to address healthcare inequalities. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies, we argue that in our examples, economic, social and cultural values cannot be disentangled. This compels us to complement narratives of the commodification of racialised difference in neoliberal (consumer) culture, and focus on the intersections between different economic and ethical values. Ultimately we find that whilst work is being done to ameliorate racial inequities, broader socio-economic and political inequalities minority communities face go unaddressed, likely precluding the realisation of health equality.

Colonialism, Postcolonialism and the Liberal Welfare State. Gurminder K. Bhambra & John Holmwood

This article addresses the colonial and racial origins of the welfare state with a particular emphasis on the liberal welfare state of the USA and UK. Both are understood in terms of the centrality of the commodified status of labour power expressing a logic of market relations. In contrast, we argue that with a proper understanding of the relations of capitalism and colonialism, the sale of labour power as a commodity already represents a movement away from the commodified form of labour represented by enslavement. European colonialism is integral to the development of welfare states and their forms of inclusion and exclusion which remain racialised through into the twenty-first century.

Racism and Far Right Imaginaries Within Neo-liberal Political Economy. Richard Saull

This article focuses on the connections between neo-liberalism and the politics of the far right through the prism of race. Contesting the claims of neo-liberal theorists and politicians as to its ‘post-racial’ character, it seeks to both historise the significance of racism within neo-liberalism through its connections to liberal political thought and practice over the longue durée and examine the relationship between neo-liberalism and far right politics. It does this through (1) highlighting the political significance of the far right in securing the electoral–political hegemony of neo-liberalism within Britain and the United States since the early 1980s; and (2) the way in which the socio-economic insecurities produced by neo-liberalism have helped to provoke far right responses as an alternative form of racialised moral economy. Consequently, while the relationship between the far right and neo-liberalism is contradictory, racial signifiers and racism have provided an important means through which such contradictions have been eased.

Detroit’s Municipal Bankruptcy: Racialised Geographies of Austerity. Sarah Phinney

This project seeks to investigate the role of race in the context of austerity urbanism in Detroit following the subprime mortgage crisis in 2008. What is clear is that subprime lending in Detroitwas explicitly a raced event. Analysis of austerity politics in Detroit demonstrates that the city is clearly spatially divided along racialised lines. Black city pensioners, former public sector employees, and ‘deliquent taxpayers’ were blamed for Detroit’smunicipal bankruptcy in narratives centering on their bloated and generous benefits during the city’s financial decline. The policy outcomes of austerity programmes during the city’s financial crisis impacted racialised, poor communities, specifically the outcomes of privatising the city’s water services that led to state-sanctioned water shut-offs. This paper explores the ways in which race figures in the causes (race-based credit redlining/subprime super-inclusion lending practices) in the way the crisis was narrated to wrongly apportion blame to the racialised poor and city pensioners, and in the effects of the crisis, where water shut-offs wrought punishment on the racialised poor.