"Intersectionality from a Marxist Perspective"
Intersectionality from a Marxist Perspective
In feminist theory ‘intersectionality’ has emerged as an analytic strategy
to address the interrelation of multiple, crosscutting institutionalized power relations defined by
race, class, gender, and sexuality (and other axes of domination).
[…] If feminism is to become a powerful movement again, working-class women will have
to organize across the divides of race/ethnicity and sexuality.
Therefore, it is of political importance to understand how class locations,
in intersection with race/ethnicity and sexuality, shape women’s survival projects [….]
Class Locations and Intersections
Intersectional analysis, developed primarily by feminist women-of-color scholars and writers,
demonstrates that race and gender oppressions do not build on each other in any simple additive way.
White feminists’ failure to understand this has contributed significantly
to missed opportunities for building an inclusive feminist movement. […]
Class locations are difficult to define
[….] Defining class locations becomes especially fraught for intersectional analysis,
because in most instances we are not comparing those who own capital with those who do not,
but are trying rather to understand relations of power
and relative privilege among those who do wage and salaried work. […]
Capitalist Class Power and the Politics of Resistance
The civil rights and feminist movements combined revolutionary and reformist aims,
their radical wings seeking to redistribute economic and political power.
Though falling far short of this goal, the movements did dismantle
the old gender and racial orders and opened the field for other movements against oppression
(for example, gay/lesbian rights, disability rights).
They have made it possible for a new left challenge, when it develops,
to be far more self-consciously and powerfully
anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-heterosexist than any that has gone before.
On the other hand, by almost any measure, neither racial oppression nor male domination
has disappeared from the scene.
They have, however, been fundamentally reorganized.
Both operate, now, not through an explicit, legally and culturally authorized system of exclusion,
but through a process of incorporation that systemically reproduces disadvantage. […]
To understand […] both the gains and impasses of the civil rights and women’s movements,
their ability to challenge so thoroughly and to change ways of thinking about race and gender
and their inability to sustain this challenge,
it is helpful to put them in the context of the periods of capitalist economic transformation.
The economic changes that were already reshaping
the political landscape in the 1970 and 1980 accelerated in the 1990s:
the expansion of markets and production, the increase in labor migration both within and
across national borders, the flexibility and mobility of investment/production,
the penetration of global firms into the U .S. economy not only in goods but in services,
the increasing freeing of global firms from control and regulation by national states.
The capitalist restructuring that first undermined the conditions of blue-collar workers
in core manufacturing industries now threatens security and stability of jobs
in many sectors - from middle managers and supervisors to production workers.
At the core of these changes are not simply globalization but capital’s increasing
flexibility, mobility, and concentrated power, as well as the intensity of capitalist competition
and the employers’ drive to squeeze ever more out of the workforce.
[…] As in the significant periods of capitalist restructuring that preceded this one,
the institutions of working-class political and economic defense that had been built up
under the old paradigm and that might have worked (although not all that well)
previously are now utterly unable to respond to new conditions.
Until some alternatives develop, the political hegemony of the modernizing right can be expected to remain in place.