Saturday, 3 July 2021

Decolonising Social Theory

The last five or so years has seen a decolonial turn within academia. There is a movement from below, of scholars entering British universities committed to understanding and undoing the legacies of past and present imperialist endeavours. Their efforts have been buoyed by Black Lives Matter and, in the last year, the attention focused on slavery and colonialism here in the UK. This has been met in the middle with a push from senior management, including the regulator, the Office for Students to decolonise and rebuild curricula. The OfS has recognised its twin objectives of widening participation in higher education and tackling persistent attainment gaps between ethnic groups requires a rethinking of curricula across all programmes. This means not just tackling institutional racisms, but their very root in the oft-unexamined legacies of empire.

The reception to and depth of the decolonial push varies from university to university. Most commonly programmes are opening out to consider marginalised voices and refitting their reading lists accordingly. As you might expect and as the most reflexive academic disciplines, the social sciences and humanities are in the vanguard of rethinking their relationship, if not complicity with coloniality and imperialism. As part of this ongoing effort, I attended a talk a few weeks ago by Gurminder K Bhambra and John Holmwood about their soon-to-be-published book, Colonialism and Modern Social Theory. It marks a major intervention by going back to classical social theory and its firmly established triumvirate: Marx, Durkheim, and Weber, and performing a decolonial reading of them.

John opened the discussion by noting how practically all sociology programmes feature courses on their work and other contemporaneous thinkers. The questions and problems they raised and the explanations they proffered are everywhere key touchstones read up on, transmitted, and used to structure the undergraduate experience. The problem is the concepts they formulated and the tradition they bequethed treat colonialism as an afterthought and therefore downgrade its centrality to the formation of European and North American modernity. If imperialism and colonialism were afforded their full import, hallowed concepts like the nation state, class, and (Habermasian) ideas of modernity as an "unfinished project" are shown up as partial to the point of offering distorted narratives.

Gurminder agreed. If the canonical thinkers haven't taken colonialism seriously, even though it was embedded in the politics of their day, then what have they done? The result is something more than simple distortion. It has led to fictional theories, hence our received understanding of concepts like development, class, national state, sociological reasononing, and the subject require rethinking.

By way of illustrating the problem, Gurminder turns back to Hobbes and Locke. Their celebrated argument posits nature as harsh and unforgiving, but it's our capacity as human beings that help overcome it. Implicitly, modern society is a yardstick for measuring distance from our species' brutish beginnings. How did colonial ideas feed into this conception? For millions, the relation to nature was enclosed by dispossession, enslavement, and early colonialism. This is a concept that could only be thought through in an imperial heartland by its beneficiaries. Then there is subjectivity and how it is defined inseparably with property. Because many of the societies encountered by explorers and colonial missions were without or indifferent to private property, these people were not subjects in the same sense that the colonisers were. They were less than human, and therefore had no knowledge or experiences worth reflecting on. On class and formally free labour, Marx's argument is posited on formally free labour, but his account does not stress how unfree labour in the colonies and United States developed alongside and was intertwined with the emergence of wage labour in England. And on sociological reasoning, its task isn't so much explaining the "downsides" of modernity but how it reflected colonial realities, and naturalised it by excluding it. Therefore, decolonising theory is an argument for transforming our perspective, of returning to and rebuilding these concepts as if the colonial experience mattered.

Responding to the discussion, Su-ming Khoo said Colonialism and Modern Social Theory was a challenging book and an invitation to a big piece of work. Rethinking and renewing our canon means acknowledging sociology's complicity with and responsibilities for our absences, and think about what it means to adopt this work. Perhaps the way to approach decolonial theory is how it challenges us to address difference that makes a difference to the original canon. This is not a time-wasting exercise for boosting careers and REFability but has practical outomes. It can help reimagine solidarity and bed down reflexivity in our practice.

For her part, Michaela Benson thought the arguments offered a way of engaging with colonialism, and that makes the enterprise uncomfortable and unsettling. The book is a close reading of the canon, and looking at how colonialism is absented and addressed invites us to ask about how do we reproduce this absence in our own work. Beyond teaching, it throws down a gauntlet to sociology. We should read the book in the context of broader public sociology turns, initiatives on how to reshape and open up the sociological imagination and moving toward a broader, decolonised global social theory. The book also buries methodological nationalism and using 'the national' as the privileged frame of analysis by looking at how these commonplaces were constructed in the first place.

Responding to points, John said the book could be read as breathing life into dead white men and making them interesting and significant again. It is a critique of a form of speaking not open to listening, which is traditionally the lot of Eurocentrism. We need a space of self-understanding to look outwards and remove asymmetries. Addressing Marx specifically, he suggests a key reason why Marx's revolutionary hopes for the workers did not come about was thanks to colonialism - though this was a mildly controversial point in subsequent discussion considering how Marx did acknowledge colonialism and imperialism, albeit often in ways inconsistent with his own method.

In all, there was plenty of food for thought here. As was noted in the discussion, recasting social theory by recovering its complicity with colonialism opens opportunities for new solidarities and new politics. Promoting a decolonial perspective means better scholarship, a critique of colonial and neocolonial policy, and can strengthen the push against these interests in academia and beyond. The context for this is important. UK universities are not institutionally innocent as they invest in and collaborate with latter day agents of coloniality. Israel's ongoing land seizures and ethnic cleansing, chummy relationships with US client regimes in the global south, its inputs into feeding Western-centric ideas of "international development", and the links and sponsorship deals with extractive industries and multi-nationals. The immediate task for decolonising theory isn't just a return to the classics but using the first tools unearthed by this project as an auto-critique of the academy.

Image Credit

29 comments:

Dipper said...

1. You realise this 'decolonial perspective' is rubbish don't you? Any look at the history of any region shows colonialism in practise. It is just what humans do. Why pick on one group?

2. 'Decolonising' ... does that include Jews? Just curious as to whether you would include Jews in the 'white' or 'non white' part of this discussion.

Blissex said...

«On class and formally free labour, Marx's argument is posited on formally free labour, but his account does not stress how unfree labour in the colonies and United States developed alongside and was intertwined with the emergence of wage labour in England.»

And so it begins! :-)

Note; the above claim is belly-laughing ridiculous, as Marx clearly explains that unfree labour has existed in antiquity and in medieval times etc., and why he decided to defined only the labor of free people as "value". But it is a sign that canceling that "f'cking racist and antisemite" is nigh.

David Parry said...

Dipper

The reason why the 'one group' to whom you refer (i.e. Europeans) is singled out in relation to colonialism is because it is the group whose colonial legacy is both recent enough and widespread enough to be a major impact on world affairs today.

Anonymous said...

To Dipper: You just made the case

Thanks for that simple explanation (@David Parry). I hope Dipper gets it!

Dialectician1 said...

Sociological theory is inevitably going to be influenced by the decolonial turn, much like the way, thirty years or so ago, it was heavily influenced by the 'language turn'. Then, it fell headlong into postmodernism/post structuralism and started the process of 'foregrounding' (a nice PoMo term) culture over economy or the particular or the general or even, epistemology over ontology. This language turn took sociology down a cul-de-sac, which led to it rejecting rationalism and even sociological theory itself. Sociology has for the past decade tried to reverse out of this cul-de-sac of infinite scepticism and belatedly accepted that maybe there is such a thing as capitalism after all. Our general obsession today with 'identity' rather than with evaluating the ontological consequences of social class, for example, is a by-product of that era.

Then, like now, there is a tendency to deconstruct Marx. Most postmodernists didn't read any Marx but they felt qualified to describe him as a determinist, historicist or as a crude positivist. He was the bad guy who didn't have anything to say about power & sexuality. He was a misogynist who devalued the role of women and worst of all, 'grand narratives' like his led us not to emancipation but to totalitarianism. Let's hope Decolonial Studies doesn't enter the same cul-de-sac and affords Marx his fair dues?

Anonymous said...

I can just imagine sociologists reframing the discussion in a way best likely to progress their careers, as they always have.

Colonisation is history. Britons were slaves of the Romans, then Briton colonised in its turn. The Aztec and Inca empires (the clue is in empire) were massive colonisers, and African empires (clue) also played their part. This bullshit about native Americans not owning things - maybe the plains Indians, but as for the rest... and never mind the Indian and the Chinese... empires.

These dead white men created the discipline of sociology in their times - and it is useful to think about the context of these times - but to delegitimise historic sociology simply on the basis that it was born, partly, out of the wealth generated by colonisation is like rejecting the classic canon because it was written by wealthy Romans and Greeks who owned slaves.

Has someone put something in the water - why on the left, and right, does cretinism appear to be so dominant? Now that, I think, is a subject worthy of sociological enquiry.

Dipper said...

@ David Parry. - so? Much of the criticism of British Colonialism seems to rest on the notion that before the UK turned up there were just indigenous groups occupying 'their land' and getting on happily with their neighbours. Obviously this is nonsense. To take one issue - the Benin bronzes. These were looted, so we should return them to their original owners. Well, good luck with that. The people we looted them from had themselves looted them. Prior to Europeans turning up Africa experienced lots of inter-tribal conflict, wars, looting, enslavement. And now Europe has departed ...

Once we have dispensed with Black American thinkers like Thomas Sewell (too right wing), or Martin Luther King, who are we left with? Who do BLM take their philosophy from? Malcolm X?

I know why I think Slavery is wrong, its because I've been brought up in a Christian/Enlightenment world where individuals are born equal and have innate rights. But BLM have rejected this particular strand, so why do they think slavery is wrong? On what philosophical or moral basis?

chris e said...

That Christianity existed for more than a millennia prior to the Enlightenment demonstrates that the latter owed its existence to historical contingency rather than anything that was particularly native to Christianity itself.

The universalising ideas of both exist in other philosophical system and have in any case been observed more in the breach than the observance.

They continue to exist in law more as statements of fundamental rights than anything anchored in the notion of a supreme being and/or some idea of an imago dei.

And I don't think you've read much MLK.

David Parry said...

Dipper,

To pretend that it doesn't matter that European colonialism encompassed most of the globe and is within the living memory of many people alive today, and thus impacts world affairs today in a way that other colonialisms simply don't, whether because they never reached very far or because they happened too deep in the past, and that this is an illegitimate basis for singling out European colonialism for criticism, is absurd on its face.

Also, your claim about what critics of European colonialism believe regarding the behaviour prior to British rule of the native populations whom the British colonialists brought under their dominion is nothing more than a strawman, and your bloviating about inter-tribal conflicts and looting among African peoples pre colonialism is pathetically transparent whataboutery designed to deflect criticism of British colonialism. It simply will not wash.

Your attempt to draw an equivalence between demanding the return of the Benin bronze statues to Benin and demanding the return of the statues to whatever tribe from whom they were stolen prior to the British turning up also falls flat. The theft of the Benin statues from Benin by the British symbolises an enormous colonial enterprise whose baleful legacy constitutes a major part of the reason for ongoing economic injustices in the present, while the theft of said statues by people A from people B prior to colonialism symbolises nothing beyond a petty squabble between tribes in a very specific part of the world in the dim and distant past.

This is why critics of European colonialism don't waffle on at length about tribal conflicts in Africa (or, for that matter, the Americas) prior to European colonialism. It isn't because we imagine the territories in question to have been a peaceful nirvana prior to the European colonial settlers coming along and ruining everything. It is because, from the standpoint of recent world affairs, such conflicts are utterly inconsequential, except for where they were amplified by the divide-and-rule policies of the European colonial settlers (e.g. Rwanda and Burundi, Kashmir). European colonialism, on the other hand, is far from inconsequential from the standpoint of the modern world, for reasons I've already explained.

Post European colonialism, the continent of Africa was not left alone, but rather was subjected to imperial dominion of a different sort - imperial rule by proxy. The dictators you allude to have, for the most part, been propped up (and indeed, installed in some cases) either by the US, the UK and so on or by the USSR, in the furtherance of the geopolitical and commercial interests of the imperial powers in question. What has happened on the continent since European colonialism ended is a testament not to what Africans do when left to themselves (because they haven't been left to themselves) but to how imperialism by proxy can be just as ruinous as old-fashioned settler colonialism.

I very much doubt that BLM have repudiated Martin Luther King. On the contrary, I'm pretty certain that most BLM members continue to hold him up in high esteem as a source of inspiration. I imagine a lot of them do take issue with how MLK's legacy has been co-opted by certain people who whitewash his radicalism and portray him as this milquetoast reformist who saw racism as an individual (rather than systemic) problem, and who viewed colour-blindness as its antidote (as opposed to being a natural outgrowth of the long-term aims of the civil rights movement being achieved), but that's not quite the same thing.

BLM are a political organisation, not a philosophical think tank, so I rather doubt that they're too pre-occupied with the abstract, philosophical whys and wherefores regarding the moral undesirability of slavery. I daresay that BLM members would give quite wildly differing opinions if you asked them about such abstract ethical subjects.

Anonymous said...

"Responding to points, John said the book could be read as breathing life into dead white men and making them interesting and significant again"

Can John provide a more solid criticism of Marx than the above ? In what way does Marx's racial identity invalidate his philosophy ?

Will the book be affordable ? Some of these lofty academic decolonial books are lots of money, so not something us working class people can easily obtain, not to mention that these debates seem to take place in elite settings.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all the above, but where did you get "BLM are a political organisation" from ?

From reading people like Adolph Reed, my understanding was that its primarily a hashtag.

Anonymous said...

Dipper,

Firstly, everything David Parry said.

But also, I'd guess that most people today probably don't feel the need to rigorously work out WHY slavery is morally wrong, because the vast majority of us assume that it self-evidently is. Do you require most people to philosophically justify their opposition to rape and murder? Granted that the past is very much a foreign country, but that's not entirely relevant.

Don't try to invoke MLK in defence of your own conservative views. The man was clearly quite radical and left-wing (albeit explicitly not a Marxist, and I'd disagree with his expressed opinion of Marx and Marxism). MLK identified (at least towards the end of his life) as a "democratic socialist", and evidently meant that. He was critical of inequality, not only in terms of race, but also class. He called the US state "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" and asked how he could possibly preach non-violence to black Americans without condemning the violence of the US state in Vietnam. Can you imagine any 'centrist' saying something like that today? Obviosuly not; it would be the 'far-left' that would be saying that.

Dipper said...

Apologies for my rudness in not replying earlier.

@ David Parry.

I flatly disagree.

It is not ‘Whataboutery’ to look at pre-colonial societies. Criticism of the British Empire requires comparison to a standard, and I’m just pointing out that pretty much most of human history performs poorly against that standard, so why pick out the British Empire in particular? Your observation on the Benin Bronzes is strange. It is okay from Black Africans to steal from each other, but not for a white man to steal it? Again, double standards.

“What has happened on the continent since European colonialism ended is a testament not to what Africans do when left to themselves (because they haven't been left to themselves) but to how imperialism by proxy can be just as ruinous as old-fashioned settler colonialism.“ Seriously? There was no time ever in human history when people were just ‘left to themselves’ It is all one tribe against another. And it is infantilising to African people and African nations to suggest that they are incapable of acting independently without external influence.

“BLM are a political organisation, not a philosophical think tank, so I rather doubt that they're too pre-occupied with the abstract, philosophical whys and wherefores regarding the moral undesirability of slavery.“ This is ridiculous. Political organisations, by their definition, are concerned with abstract political thoughts. Otherwise they’d just be quasi-criminal organisations shaking people down.

@ Anonymous

“I'd guess that most people today probably don't feel the need to rigorously work out WHY slavery is morally wrong, because the vast majority of us assume that it self-evidently is.”

This statement seems self-evidently true, but I don’t think stands up to scrutiny. For centuries many societies had a caste-type system eg in Africa there were kings, artisans and craftsmen, and slaves. The general rationale for this was that an interventionist god had put people in these categories. If you were a slave, that was because God had ordained it.

The notion that people are born equal, that birth should not determine your status in society, that people should not own other people, was a revolutionary idea. I believe it came from Western Europe, based on Christianity and developments in politics and philosophy. If you have another source for the origin of this view I’d be keen to hear it.

David Parry said...

Dipper,

The point regarding European colonialism, which you obdurately refuse to understand, is that, unlike tribal conflicts in very specific parts of the world in the dim and distant past, it is both recent enough and reached far enough around the world to have an impact on contemporary global geopolitics and economics, and to constitute a major part of the root of ongoing and systemic economic injustices in the world today. It isn't about Europeans stealing from Africans somehow being worse than Africans stealing from Africans when judged from an abstract moral standpoint. It's about legacy.

Pointing out the reality of imperial powers involving themselves intimately in Africa even after European colonialism ended, and that a huge proportion of the travails that have blighted so much of the continent during this time period are attributable to that, is not to suggest that African peoples are, in principle, incapable of acting independently of external influence. It's to point out that their ability to do so has, in practice, been severely curtailed. To pretend otherwise - to pretend that the economic disparities stemming from the legacy of European colonialism, and the disparities in technological, and thus military, capability, which go with them, don't matter, and that imperial powers haven't exploited those disparities ruthlessly and to maximum effect since the end of European colonialism - is simply ahistorical. Ask Patrice Lumumba. Oh sorry, I forgot, the CIA did him in - the same CIA who went on to install Joseph Mobutu as the head of the US' client regime in Congo-Leopoldville (now known as Congo-Kinshasa or, alternatively, the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Those who know a thing or two about post-colonial African history will know how that story panned out!

It is not in the least infantilising to Africans to recognise the foregoing. It's simply pointing out reality.

It's ridiculous to expect either those who associate with the Black Live Matter movement or members of any of the organisations associated therewith, such as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, to have a shared position on the abstract philosophical whys and wherefores regarding the undesirability of slavery. Neither those associated with the broader political and social movement nor members of any of the organisations associated with it, as far as I'm aware, even have a single shared political ideology. Even if they did, people who hold to the same political ideology can subscribe to wildly different meta-ethical systems, and thus will arrive at very different answers to questions such as 'why is slavery wrong?'.

Dipper said...

@ David Parry

thanks for the reply

Again I disagree. Finding the nearest white person to blame for African political and civil unrest may fit in with some people's inclinations, but it isn't necessarily an objective or helpful view. Not every bad thing in the world can be traced back to a white Englishman, and It infantilises Africans to assume they are incapable of organising themselves without some western country disrupting things. There is lots of history of tribal conflict before White folk ever appeared.

"Even if they did, people who hold to the same political ideology can subscribe to wildly different meta-ethical systems, and thus will arrive at very different answers to questions such as 'why is slavery wrong?'."

Fine. Folks like me are often told to educate ourselves, to read a book. So can you point me to a writer who has given an intellectual foundation for organisations such as Nation of Islam or BLM who you think worthy of consideration? Because the last time I educated myself and read a book (Pre-Colonial Black Africa, by Cheikh Anta Diop,) It didn't go quite as I expected, and certainly didn't support the narrative of Empire the left like to relate.

Kamo said...

@ David Parry
I could be wrong, but you appear to be pushing an exceptionalist and ahistorical approach to colonialism/imperialism centred on British or European empires that requires these complex, globally interlinked concepts to be boxed off into a convenient bubble. Vast swathes of global historical context is written off as 'whataboutery', because its 'legacy' is 'problematic' when trying to reach the kind of pre-determined conclusion 'decolonisers' will be comfortable with. This isn't really decolonisation, it's just filtering the evidence for a different gloss. Empires, and all the unpleasant behaviour that has always come with them, have been a significant political unit across the whole world for the entirety of human existance, and even during the lifespan of the British Empire non-white empires (and related client polities) existed that left huge legacies that continue to shape the modern world; the Ottomans, the Mughals, the Japanese, and the Chinese to name some obvious ones. Much of the 'imperialist' history now apparently being rethought only truly makes sense in the context of what has to be excluded to protect the sensitivities of charlatans. However, it is deliciously ironic that such 'rethinking' requires 'non-white' history to be cancelled because it falls short of standards retrospectively applied to 'white' history.

Anonymous said...

@David - can you explain how #BLM are a political organization ? Adolph Reed describes them as a hashtag only. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on his comments regarding them.

@Dipper - "Finding the nearest white person to blame for African political and civil unrest may fit in with some people's inclinations, but it isn't necessarily an objective or helpful view". Maybe some have that agenda, but its elite Europeans, not regular individuals being criticized.

Anonymous said...

One criticism of the 'decolonial left' is that they valorize the geopolitical power balance between bourgeois regimes in lieu of the class conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, and have displaced the class struggle with crude geopolitics and shifted allegiances from the proletariat to bourgeois states.

David Parry said...

Kamos

None of the empires you mention had sufficient geographic scope recently enough to have had an impact on contemporary global economics and geopolitics in the way that European colonialism has had. Any surviving legacy they have today is largely cultural. That's the long and short of it.

What I'm dismissing as whataboutery is talk of conflicts, looting and whatnot between African peoples prior to European colonialism in response to critiques of European colonialism and its legacy. I don't see how one can reasonably describe such retorts as anything other than whataboutery, as their purpose is quite plainly and transparently to deflect criticisms of European colonialism by pointing to the completely irrelevant behaviour of other peoples.

David Parry said...

Dipper,

Pointing out the impact of the legacy of imperialism on the continent of Africa has nothing to do with blaming the nearest white person for all the travails that blight much of the continent, and everything to do with recognising that you cannot have some parts of the globe used as a means of wealth extraction by other parts of the globe through colonialism, and ruthlessly exploited and subjugated for century upon century, without that leaving a huge, baleful legacy for the colonised parts of the world - a legacy which cannot be overcome in a few short decades, especially when even after European colonialism ended, you had imperial powers exploiting the tremendous economic disparities stemming from European colonialism, and the resulting disparities in technological, and thus military, capability, to the hilt by exercising imperial dominion over erstwhile European colonies through the proxies of client regimes serviceable to the imperial powers' geopolitical and commercial interests.

Also, it isn't just 'Englishmen' whom I blame. It might have escaped your notice, but I quite deliberately use the phrase 'European colonialism' rather than 'British colonialism', European colonialism including not just British colonialism but also, for example, Belgian and French colonialism.

It isn't just 'the West' either. You might not recall this but earlier, I quite clearly noted that the USSR also had a hand in creating the present mess in which so much of Africa finds itself, having had a few client regimes of its own on the continent.

Regarding Black Lives Matter, I think it's unreasonable to expect either the broader social movement or any of the organisations associated therewith to have much of a coherent intellectual foundation (beyond, perhaps, an understanding of racism as an institutional problem) when neither those who align themselves with the movement in some way nor members of any of said adjacent organisations have a single shared political ideology.

I'm genuinely at a loss as to why you bring up Nation of Islam. I doubt that that organisation has much purchase among those who align themselves in some way with BLM in the US, much less elsewhere. In fact, I don't think it'd be too unsafe a bet to venture that a huge proportion of Americans, BLM-aligned or otherwise, still less people outside of the US, don't know who the fuck NoI are or what they stand for.

David Parry said...

Kamos,

Another thing: imperialism hasn't been a constant of human history. It's been a constant of class-based modes of production, sure, but not every human society has been divided by class.

David Parry said...

Anonymous,

I should probably hold my hands up and say that, earlier, I made a mistake in assuming that there is a single organisation called 'Black Lives Matter'. There is no such organisation. What there is is a broader social movement, and a loose network of organisations across the world associated therewith.

Kamo said...

@ David Parry
It is incredibly ignorant to suggest these other empires didn't have the same impact on contemporay economics and geopolitics. These empires have profound modern legacies; such as the Ottomans in Asia Minor, the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans. Whilst China and Japan are hugely important in the modern positioning of Asia as a global engine of growth. I appreciate that there is sensitivity around analysing the extent to which modern African power relations are influenced by the balance of coercion and cooperation between empires (European and non-European) and native tribes and kingdoms, the pre-colonial mechanisms of slavery being perhaps the most taboo subject, but that doesn't mean it should be out of scope.

The only reason to dismiss 'non-white' histories is to avoid having to judge them by the exceptionalist standards being applied to European empires. This approach doesn't come from any serious attempt to decolonise academia, it's a pseudoscientitic/pseudohistorical postmodern 'grievance studies' approach.

Empire is a competitive business. What European empires did only makes sense in the context of who and what they were in competition and coopearation with. It's easier for grievance narratives if they dismiss the context and treat European empires as exceptional; far more comfortable than having to apply those standards consistently. I'm all for expanding enquiry beyond the narrative of the victors, but it should be a warts and all process that avoids double standards. Protecting some actors from critique infantalises them.

Dipper said...

@ David Parry.

Still no books for me to read. No list of thinkers inspiring BLM. Your failure to give some intellectual backbone to your position is noted.

I think BLM is an organisation, it has a supporting basis of Critical Race Theory, and regards me first and foremost as someone whose rights and position in society is determined but the colour of my skin. Taking the knee is the symbol chosen by this organisation to indicate support.

I don't believe anyone on the left should be supporting an organisation that looks to embed race as a critical part of determining people's place in society.

Anonymous said...

@Dipper - "I don't believe anyone on the left should be supporting an organisation that looks to embed race as a critical part of determining people's place in society."

There are plenty on the left who are critical about #blm/crt - check out Adolph Reed, Pascal Robert, Karen and Barbara Fields, and Cedric Johnson.

@David - thanks for clarification. I remember hearing things online from activists from Ferguson that were critical of some of the #BlackLivesMatter people, such as Deray McKesson. Cant remember exactly what was said, but I got the impression that some of the #blm people were just opportunists.

Dipper said...

@ David Parry

'I made a mistake in assuming that there is a single organisation called 'Black Lives Matter'. There is no such organisation'

well, here's a tweet claiming to be from an organisation calling itself Black Lives Matter
https://twitter.com/sabrod123/status/1415496641658896391 and it has a political programme involving supporting Cuba, and it has a political symbol of taking one knee.

"What there is is a broader social movement, and a loose network of organisations across the world associated therewith."

1930's version:

'there is co single organisation called Fascism. It is a broader social movement, and a loose network of organisations ...'

'England Footballers giving the straight right arm flat hand salute in Germany weren't identifying with a political party. They were showing solidarity with other Europeans. It shouldn't be taken to mean they were supporting anti-jewish policies' etc etc.

David Parry said...

Dipper,

Apologies for the delayed response.

Fascism has at least something of an ideological foundation to it, even if that foundation is notoriously incoherent and slippery. The BLM movement does not have an ideological foundation to it. Those who align with BLM range from anarchists to liberals to Marxist-Leninists, with about the only thing uniting them in terms of a shared intellectual foundation is an understanding of racism as an institutional problem.

The tweet you linked to was from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which I already mentioned as one of the organisations aligned with BLM. Also, there's nothing in the tweet that indicates that the organisation is endorsing the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the Castro regime.

David Parry said...

Kamos,

Again, apologies for the delayed reply.

Not the Ottoman empire nor imperial Japan nor imperial China ever had anything like the reach that the European colonialisms between them had within the lifetimes of many people alive today. Moreover, both imperial Japan and imperial China ceased to benefit directly and tangibly from their colonial legacies (i.e. from the wealth extracted from the populations whom they colonised), or at least ceased to so benefit to anything like the same extent as hitherto, when their empires were destroyed as a result of defeat in total war (in the case of China, at the hands of the Eight-Nation alliance in 1912, and in the case of Japan, at the hands of predominantly the US in WWII).
The Ottoman empire, for its part, had already ceased to have much reach by the time of its demise in the aftermath of WWI.

The most that can be said about modern China, Japan and Turkey regarding whether they're benefitting from their colonial legacies is that they're so benefitting in a very indirect and roundabout way (from the technological know-how and whatnot developed in part through the exploitation of resources (including human labour power) from the parts of the world that they colonised). That said, there is an argument to be made that these countries have been benefitting from other people's imperialism.

Anonymous said...

"There is a movement from below, of scholars entering British universities committed to understanding and undoing the legacies of past and present imperialist endeavours"

Sorry, but these academics arent "from below" as if part of the working class, but are petty-bourgeois, not that that alone invalidates their points.
According to Blake Stimson, "in the heyday of the anticolonial movement it was the colonies and the colonized that needed decolonizing, not the colonizers". He goes on to say "of course we understand that the “decolonize” in the slogan “decolonize your syllabus” is metaphorical, that it means diversify or “decenter” (as we also like to say), but that does little to allay the fact that, formally, rhetorically, it collapses the distinction between colonizer and colonized".

Social history and the history of slavery and empire are important, but often these debates seem out of touch with the actually existing working class, and sometimes the people leading them are more concerned in a diversity as justice agenda, where academia is deemed equal, as long as some of the professors are 'insert identity', rather than fighting for universal higher education. Theres also sometimes a tendency of said people to fetishize the 'thirld world' (sometimes referred to as First World Third Worldism).