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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The dialectics of exploitation and discrimination in the labour market : toward a Marxist theory of racial conflict Whitney, Stuart B.


Since the conjoint development of capitalism and the nation-state in eighteenth century Europe, the practical and theoretical problems of socio-economic reproduction and socio-political order have confronted social scientists of all ilks as different sides of the same coin. In its infancy, sociology drew its formative inspiration from classical political economy, and long after the new discipline had carved out its own niche from the theoretical vacuum created by the rise of neoclassical economics, the dialogue between social and economic theory persisted, especially within the Marxist tradition. Nowhere is this symbiotic relationship more apparent than in the field of labour market studies. The labour market constitutes a microcosm of capitalist society where the related problems of economic reproduction and social order are manifest in their myriad, contradictory forms. One such form is the dyad of racial inequality and conflict. This thesis focuses on how racial conflict is conceived in the contemporary Marxist, neoclassical economic and Weberian literature, and examines the contribution of radical labour market theory to a Marxist theory of racial conflict. The purpose is to meet the challenge extended by a recent, neo-Weberian critique and reformulation of class theory as a unified, theoretico - methodological framework for articulating the relationship between racial groups and social classes, racial conflict and class struggle in the labour market, community, state and international system. It concludes that radical labour market theory represents an important departure from previous Marxist approaches to race and class. Theoretically, radical labour market theory breaks with Marxist tradition by distinguishing group forms of domination like discrimination, from class forms like exploitation, and by relating group and class, market and production relations to racial conflict and class struggle. Methodologically significant is the attempt to apply a non-reductionist class analysis that situates the race - class nexus in the historical context of collective struggles in a dynamic, open-ended class formation process. The implications of these theoretical and methodological directives for Marxist theories of race, class and the State are critically evaluated, and a non-reductionist model of racial conflict is proffered as a preliminary step toward a Marxist theory of inter-group conflict.

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