WILLLIAM JAMAL RICHARDSON

 

WP_20140206_15_21_24_ProIn In In my previous post the argument was presented that at their core the social sciences are Eurocentric projects and that project of decolonization need to be undertaken to challenge this eurocentricism. The proposal that I put forth was Africana Sociology that would upend the hegemony of European social thought and place a premium on the development and use of African epistemologies and methodologies. Sine those first postings my thoughts on the prospects for an Africana Sociology and its relationship to the mainstream have changed.

Julian Go in his work on Postcolonial Sociology has talked about the Eurocentric bias of sociology as the “imperial unconscious.” Most critical scholars who work on the subject of eurocentricism, androcentricism, and classism within sociology talk about the field often as a space of ideas. Their prescriptions for rectifying the situation is often centered on challenging privileged perspectives and putting forward marginalized ones as alternatives. This manifests itself ideas of cosmopolitanism and Global Sociology. At their core, these conceptions paint a picture of change that leads us to a sociology that is a collection of perspectives and approaches that scholars can chose from freely. In opposition to this view, Gurminder Bhambra (2010) argued Global Sociology and cosmopolitanism is not the solution to the problem of sociology’s “imperial unconscious”. In order to understand why these solution are inadequate, we must understand that the core problem of sociology is not theory and perspectives but power inequalities within academia.

It is a known fact that sociology is primarily concerned with understanding the processes and institutions that uphold and support our modern society aka modernity. What is modernity however? From the Western perspective modernity is whatever Western Europe and America is. All other societies are either “premodern” (the traditional realm of classical anthropology) or “developing” (the realm of political science, “developmental studies”, and area studies). This racist and imperialist view of modernity and what it means to be a modern society is embedded in how sociologists do their work worldwide. Its insertion into the unconscious of sociology was the decision of white men who used their economic, political, and social power to publish work, organize departments, and fund research that reified this idea. In other words the euro/amerocentricism problem in sociology is about institutional power and ideology.

Today sociology is an institution that has an ideology concerning who gets attention, funding, and support that goes beyond epistemological struggled. Even for scholars who do “traditional” sociological work, if they are not from the right universities, in the right country, and cite the right people their work will be ignored regardless of their scholar affinity to eurocentric methods and logics. Like in the rest of western society sociology privileges the voices of whites, men, cisgender, and able scholars regardless of the topic in question and more often than not their perspectives reflect the every present imperial unconscious. They are department chairs, editors of top journals, organizers of conferences, and heads of research grant foundations. In other words these people are the gatekeepers that decide who ad what is considered legitimate in sociology. In order to begin addressing eurocentricism we must acknowledge and challenge the sociopolitical power of privileged voices and actors within the academy.

When we look at our object of interest not as simply a collection of privileged ideas and perspectives but instead as an hierarchical institution that privileges euro and amerocentric ideas the task of decolonizing sociology becomes twofold:

  1. Developing new or utilizing already existing epistemologies and methodologies that can challenge eurocentric standards, approaches, assumptions, and methodologies currently in use in sociology.
  2. Developing the socioeconomic and institutional power to protect these nascent spaces of resistance and decolonization.

On one hand we have to upend the ideas that drive oppressive knowledge production while also challenging the institutions that allow those ideas to exist and be propagated within the discipline.

Speaking from my perspective as a scholar of African descent (African American in particular) decolonizing sociology has large implications for a continent and people who has largely been almost completely dependent on European perspectives and approaches to understand our own societies whether on the continent or in the diaspora. Because of imperialism we like most of the Global South and many parts of the North (Eastern Europe, Ireland, Southern Europe) were not allowed to develop our sciences much beyond what we achieved before colonization. The result of this is us using tools and assumptions developed in another society to try and understand our own which has a very different history. For Africans and other colonized people, attention ought to be given to whether we can conceptualize sociology from our own perspectives. By doing this we can both upend the intellectual and institutional power of western sociology and assert our agency as producers of theory, epistemology, and knowledge and not just objects to be studied by Americans and Europeans.

What would an Africana Sociology look like however? Answering this question for a continent as diverse as Africa is hard. Much of what I can offer is simply educated speculation, the bulk of the development of an Africana perspective will happen through collective work and debate among practitioners of Africana Sociology. A good place to start is thinking about the underlying assumptions we have about what society is and how it works. Mainstream sociology takes a number of (unscientific I might add) things as assumptions of society that serves as an undercurrent for ALL mainstream sociological work (although some of these concepts have been challenged in various ways). Some of these are:

  1. Modernity= America/Europe’s industrial/liberal/capitalist development trajectory or some derivative of the European style development of modernity
  2. The existence of an objective “Truth” in scientific research and emphasis on disinterested research that isn’t inherently attached to sociopolitical interests
  3. Materialism, the idea that all things of scientific relevance are largely material in nature

Each of these assumptions are born out of the culture and politics of European society not any scientific inquiry. All science in my opinion is basically a systematic way for a society and the people within it to understand themselves and the world around them. All sciences, even the physical sciences start or use some assumptions that aren’t scientific but socially constructed. Africana Sociology in the same way would utilize the assumptions about the world that are indigenous to Africans people in an effort to develop a science that can better make sense of African societies as well as provide fresh eyes for understanding the world outside of Africa. If I had to propose some key assumptions and perspectives of society that would likely be included in Africana Sociology it would be two major things, African conception of time and the dialectic nature of society.

In John Mbiti’s seminal work African Religions and Philosophy, he discusses major themes present in African systems of knowledge, both philosophical/social and religious. One of the first themes he tackles is time. In western society time is seen as something that moves forward and we as individuals also move forward with it. In contrast Africans tend (there are deviations of course) to think of time as moving backwards. The future that can’t be predicted with certainty is not considered real time and this the present and past take precedence in African social life. As time moves to the past, so do people. People are seen as windows into the time they were born into or grew up in. When people die they move onward into the infinite past where God and spirits lie. The importance here is that for African societies oral history and accounts of elders are important to understand past social orders and to understand the effects of the past on the present. An Africana Sociology approach would place large emphasis on oral history as a way to social dynamics of the past and also how age distribution of ideas and perspective affect how society functions currently.

Related to African conceptions of time is the idea of society being fundamentally dialectic in nature. Many civilizations in African developed an dialectic conception of the universe and society. In Egypt for instance all of creation is linked and understandings of their social order were not divorced from understandings of the natural order. Similarly many African civilizations acknowledge both the material and immaterial reality as crucial to understand their social world. As an example of this duality personhood doesn’t end at death for many African communities. When one dies, their spirit, ideas, and influence are still treated as being present in the world as if they were still alive. Many communities have statuses, ceremonies, and procedures that start from the assumption that as long as an ancestor can be remembered by name they are still alive even if their body is gone. The implication here is that for an Africana sociological approach is that any study of a community must regard the remembered deceased and their status, ideas, identity, and influence just as we do the living within that community. Without doing that we can completely misunderstand many social processes and the transmission of power and ideas through a community.

An Africana Sociology along with other indigenous/nascent sociologies has the ability to develop an unique perspective that can contribute much to the decolonization struggle in sociology. My suggestion however is that these spaces of indigenous sociology production need to concentrate on developing themselves as rigorous and expansive systems of knowledge before engaging fully with the global community lest they fall into a position of being marginalized perspectives within a “Global Sociology.” The work of deconstruction the problematic structures and perspectives of mainstream sociology ought to be left to the more meta-analyses of postcolonial sociology and its practitioners. The reason for this is that new intellectual formations need not to be obligated to develop new ways of thinking anchored as critiques of the mainstream. Doing so could limit the scope that these space can cover and bring them into direct conflict with the mainstream, inviting repression and cooptation.

In conclusion, the prospects for a truly Global Sociology can not be hinged in a cosmopolitan ideology that allows western sociology to legitimize itself using southern/colonized epistemological contributions while also continuing to hold institution power over who voices can be heard. It instead must be build from the base of postcolonial sociology and other decolonized perspectives which can then link through mutual interest in understand global society sociologies that are independent of the colonial influence. The intellectual and political work needed to achieve this is quite heavy but is necessary for the continued relevance of sociology now and into the future. My recommendation for both decolonization scholars and indigenous scholars is to organize institutional support independent of the mainstream for their work. Only by organizing scholars, journals, conferences, and policy tailored to these perspectives can we hope to develop the academic and organizational rigor to challenge eurocentricism in our departments, graduate programs, within journals, and at conferences.

Please feel free to give me any constructive feedback that you may have on this topic. I am especially interested in any work from colonized/”southern” peoples or scholars who are developing new sociologies and approaches to social research.

Source: https://rebelresearchers.com/2014/02/06/africana-sociology-and-the-postcolonial-challenge-to-global-sociology/

Building an Africana Sociology

WILLLIAM JAMAL RICHARDSON

As a sociologist-in-training and a grad student it is my job to eat, breath, and live sociology, the study of human interaction and social institutions. I spend most of my week either reading sociological pieces, listening to lectures and talks, or participating in class discussions with faculty and fellow students. Through all this we are supposed to be thoroughly indoctrinated in the sociological imagination which is the ability to see the connections between the macro and the micro, the individual and society. We assume that this imagination is universal and abiding and that terms such as society, institutions, the state, and others are also universal. What I have come to realize over time is that what I am really learning in graduate school is a European sociology and an European sociological imagination. As a person of African descent this sociology is stifling and at time hostile to my mind and humanity.

There are some authors who have highlighted how sociology and other social sciences are rooted in the experiences of European people. This rootedness is problematic on its own but becomes deadly when we add in the experience of Europeans included eradicating Native Americans, enslaving Africans, dominating and colonizing Africa, Asia, and South America. These experiences of oppression have defined how we today understand the social world around us, which sadly is still dominated by white privilege and supremacy. Examples of work that shows us this picture of an oppressive European sociology isThicker Than Blood by Tukufu Zuberi which highlights how social statistics are based on racist ideologies and White Logic, White Methods joining Zuberi with Eduardo Bonilla- Silva which takes a broader view of racist sociological methods. An old favorite written right when African-Americans were being first let into the university, The Death of White Sociology edited by Joyce Lander, shows how white supremacy entrenched itself not only in the structure of discipline but also the research and teaching of sociology. Through these works and a number of others we see how sociology is not neutral and privileges the perspectives of European people.

Above is the type of speech that you may hear from anyone that calls themselves a “critical” scholar of any kind. They fully understand that the social sciences are very much a colonized space and they all have racism aplenty. Their prescription is for scholars to undertake the process of decolonizing sociology and other social sciences. Anthropology, being in the past one of the worse perpetrators of Eurocentric science, is today at the forefront of decolonization through journals such as the Association of Black Anthropologists’ Transforming Anthropology andDecolonizing Anthropology: An Anthropology for Liberation edited by Faye Harrison. This decolonization is supposed to rid the social sciences of ideologies, practices, and biases that hinder an honest and objective understanding of any and all things that involve people of color and at the same time open up the work of the social sciences more fully to people of color. Although these goals are good, they are also only a partial solution to the problems of Eurocentric sociology.

In order to see how much deeper the problems created by Eurocentric sociology go we have to think back to the roots of social sciences. Most of the social sciences we know of today were born out of the European Enlightenment with the goal of understand human social behavior to quell social conflict. Later with the rising importance of the scientific method as a basis of doing all science the idea of doing science for social change was repressed and positivist perspectives on understanding social science took over. Because many of these disciplines were founded with this goal in mind there are themes and assumptions about human behavior that have become embedded in how we study the social world that are wholly alien to anyone that is not European. A list of these ideas could include:

  • Positivism
  • Materialism
  • A concept of “society” as a distinct entity from nature
  • Humans are inherently hedonistic or self-interested
  • The social contract

All of the above sociological/ social science concepts are concepts that are of European origin and are embedded in the European worldview. As an African who is seeking to understand the social world I have been born into as well as make it more hospitable for my people knowing that how I do my science is rooted in an exclusively European experience is very disturbing. It reminds me that all the perspectives and imaginations created by countless other societies, including my people’s, are systematically ignored and/or destroyed by the hegemony of European science. This is where decolonization often fails. It rids us of the racism of the European perspective but not of its basic worldview which is hidden in a cloud of objectivity. We need to move beyond a decolonization focused on grafting oppressed stories, ideas, and authors onto the dominate form of science and towards a decolonization that constructs alternate forms of science and inquiry, all coexisting, that draw on the worldviews of other peoples. In other words for my people we need an Africana Sociology.

What would an Africana Sociology look like? I have not had the time to do a ton of groundwork on this particular question but I give you an example of how valid sociological inquiry can be done without being anchored to the terms and worldview of European sociology. Let’s say we are doing a study where we would like to understand why race riots or race rebellions happen in general. For most of the mainstream sociological community any theory of race riots will be rooted in conflict theory or Marxist sociological thought. The theory will likely organize a narrative of white capitalist oppression through the police of poor black and brown neighborhoods which eventually reached a breaking point resulting in riots/ rebellions. Inherent in this narrative are ideas such as society and history being the story of conflict for resources and power among classes and that society then is always unbalanced with the dominate class trying to create a balance that secures their supremacy over society.

Maat- The Egyptian Goddess/Concept of Balance and Harmony

How would Africana Sociology approach this same question differently? If we draw on the philosophical and what can be understood as social theories of ancient Africans we will see a very different picture of race riots from what we see in the European context. African philosophies such as those of Egypt understood society as inseparable from nature and spiritual world/ world of ideas. The concept of Maat represented the connectedness of everything to everything (this idea is referenced in Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything” a saying that sums up the Egyptian conception of creation) and how the natural state of the universe is balance. Isfet is the counterpart of Maat, which is imbalance, chaos, and evil. Racial domination in urban cities in the United States represents an immense destruction of Maat, creating inequality and Isfet. When this oppression and inequality reaches a tipping point where there is a severe lack of Maat people revolt and social change happens to restore Maat. Human history is here seen as the balancing and unbalancing of the world with balance being the natural state. Racial stratification which citing Douglass Massey’s Categorically Unequal entails the extraction of resources of an oppressed people and the hording of opportunities from those same people inevitably leads to contradictions and a rise in Isfet.

What we see here is that one can still collect data on social phenomenon, analyze it, and come to conclusions that are valid and useful to us as observers/participants of human society without being anchored to Eurocentric worldviews. If you think about it, sociology if it were born out of an ancient Egyptian/ African worldview would likely be called Maat/Isfet Studies versus Sociology which has its roots in Latin and Greek linguistics. It begs the question of how other social problems or processes would look though this African lens.

To conclude there are many more discussion to be had on this topic. We are seeing today coming out of Feminist, Black Feminist, Native American/First Nations, and other spaces forms of science not anchored to the Eurocentric, Patriarchal, Capitalist social sciences most of us have rooted ourselves in. Know this means that there can be a dialogue about how to create an more pluralistic scientific community free from both oppression and full of diversity of human imagination. For African social scientists in particular, one of the few peoples of the Earth almost completely stripped of all agency, history, and sense of self, we must do our part to contribute to this pluralistic social science world by reaching back into our legacy and reconnect to our African worldviews and bring them with us as we build a new understanding of our social world rooted in our rich perspectives and realities.

Is there space for non-European theories/practices of science? What can we do concretely to create spaces for these to emerge? What concepts would be included in an Africana Sociological Methodology or Imagination?

Source: https://rebelresearchers.com/2013/09/06/building-an-africana-sociology/

Finding My Africaness Through Afro Beats

Posted: 9th July 2013 by admin in Uncategorized

Willliam Jamal Richardson

That was a short video of a song played this past Saturday when I went to a music show put on by an African music collective. It was actually the first real show I’ve ever been to that frontlined African artists playing African music. Now as many of my friends, allies, and readers know I’m a Pan-Africanist who holds my African values very close to me. That is all the more reason why I was floored by what I felt when I was at that concert. What I felt was not just happiness or enjoyment but a yearning.

Let me explain this more. I grew up on RnB and Hip Hop music and now have a fascination with various kinds of house music, underground hip hop and what I call the “new old school” trend from the UK (The Noisettes, VV Brown, and Shea Soul). Zooming in on house music, what I really love about it is the beats. When I say beats I mean the very visceral emotions and pictures that are painted thought simple beats…no words, no hooks, just the beats. Even when you add in vocals the beat sets the tone, not the words which is in stark contrast to hip hop where the beat’s meaning is molded to the words.

Turn the base up and get a nice pair of speakers or headphones and you can literally get lost in the beats and words of a good house song. For example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKJfJMMsqX4

 

Standpoint Theory

Posted: 15th June 2013 by admin in Articles

by swlancas

Standpoint theorists such as Dorothy Smith would state that the bodily experience of genders-that differ from the dominant white male one-need to be explored more from sociologists as these gender’s perspectives and interests still remain marginal (Smith 1987). Smith would argue that the concrete activities these various genders are taking part in on a day to day basis are the meat and potatoes so to speak of the construction of social life which are continually ignored and disregarded. Standpoint theorists would also suggest that the lived experiences of a multitude of gender groups, from a variety of racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds which include poor urban black female educators, working class male Asian-American shop owners, and elite Latina maids and cleaners are crucial to sociologists understanding of the complexity of gender especially in terms of its interactions with the other significant variables as mentioned as well as understanding the marginalized in a way that is both objective and that adequately captures the various nuances within the lived experiences of these various gendered groups. For instance, understanding the members of these gendered groups work schedules, modes of transportation, interaction with coworkers, friends and family members, as well their rate of pay, style and levels of recreation, and overall attitudes towards their occupations and ways of living would be beneficial in understanding how these groups are significant yet overlooked members of society.

In order to best explain inequality among these gendered groups, these processes must be observed in greater detail by stand point theory sociologists over to capture how particular processes of inequity, such as unequal pay, less than adequate motivation within systems of education, employment opportunities, and benefits continue to affect these gendered groups in ways they have in the past as well as how they are perpetuated in new forms in present times. For instance, how are female African-Americans continuing to face inequalities in terms of less than equitable access to quality forms of education and thus quality professions in ways that are both similar to what past generations have experienced (the impacts of Plessy vs. Ferguson, Brown vs. Board of Education, affirmative action) as well as contemporary issues in education that may affect minority genders disproportionately (charter programs, marketization of academia, student as consumer mentality).

Collins would argue that the interpretation of Black women’s oppression is based on an interpretation of Black feminists-and sociologist’s- thought based on: 1) common knowledge 2) and expert knowledge. African-American academics who attempt to reshape Black women’s perspectives, “just as the material realities of the dominant produce separate standpoints each group may also have distinctive epistemologies or theories of knowledge” (Collins 1989: 753). Collin’s also argues that evaluating someone’s claims to knowledge also assesses an individual’s ethics, value, and character traits. It could be stated that it is the responsibility of sociologists who use standpoint theory to seriously assess the unique knowledge claims various genders are able to possess and explicate, and to fit their explanations into a framework that objectively considers how their knowledge is framed and whether or not their knowledge is valued by experts or the very least by members of the general populous.

The implications of the standpoint theory approach are that it would create a higher methodological standard for research procedures to follow, as proper examination of these groups may require longitudinal research that made use of rigorous and dynamic approaches such as grounded theory method that have the potential to capture rich descriptive qualitative data regarding the micro-level interactions as well as the macro and meso level processes that shaped these various gendered groups lives over pure statistical/demographic data from surveys or latitudinal studies that are only able to capture a glimpse at the lived experiences. As Smith might argue, sociologists would have to move beyond the use of past written documents, images, journals, books, and recorded speech and instead become increasingly engaged in long term person to person interaction (Smith 1987). This rigorous standpoint theory approach would re-shape the way in which sociologists present their questions as they would have to involve rich description of the various processes as well as potential spurious variable in a format that illustrated the underlying social phenomena behind the face to face interactions and the lived experiences of such group members.

Generally speaking a paradigmatic shift to a standpoint theory approach would require an acceptance of research methods that would capture the lived experiences and knowledge claims of various gendered groups in order. These methods may be very similar to grounded theory method and would most likely require more longitudinal level analysis either via long term face to face interviews or ethnographic data. The type of questions asked would have to consider rich details of these various gendered groups lived experiences and knowledge, perhaps even specific questions regarding minutiae in their lives including the types of items they purchase in a week, the amount of time they speak on the phone daily, the amount of calories they, similar to Bourdieu’s description of habitus in Forms of Capital. This would be incredibly rigorous, detailed research that encompassed a wide variety of information that would also require a large amount of time and resources. However, this type of research would have potential to capture the various specific elements of these gender groups’ lived experiences which at the very least could provide information regarding the micro-level interactions of these groups. Macro level processes that affected these groups could be inferred from this type of data as well even if not explicitly expressed.

 

Works Cited:

Smith, Dorothy. 1974 [1987]. “Women’s Perspective as a Radical Critique of Sociology.” Feminism & Methodology: 84-96.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 1989. “The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought.” Signs 14(4):745-773.

Modern Concepts of Masculinity

Posted: 8th June 2013 by admin in Articles
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by swlancas

The phrase ‘hegemonic masculinity’ tends to capture a realistic portrayal of social life; put bluntly men continue to hold more economic, political, and social power more than women. As according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, globally men continue to earn 17.6 percent more on average of what women do. Men also continue to compromise the majority (96 percent) of CEOs (Catalyst 2013) and only 48.3% of medical school applicants within the United States were women. American masculinity continues to be defined by such features such as toughness, disregard for authority, and viewing the degradation of women as both humorous and necessary. However, it could be argued that masculinity is a more complex notion that could arguably be defined based on one’s individual definition of self. One could be defined as flamboyant, eccentric, and physically weak yet by one’s own self-definition could be defined as masculine. It should be considered whether the concept of masculinity should be viewed as something that can be objectively determined based on a global consensus, or whether it really can be defined from individual to individual. Perhaps as long as one is putting in a suitable amount of mental and physical effort into defining one’s own masculinity, perhaps they should be granted this title. However, measures for this would also have to be agreed upon and determined. Put tersely, masculinity is an elusive term that can be defined and framed in many ways.

Kimmel discusses the development of the marketplace men, or the evolution of men who existed to perform physical labor to men who evolved after the industrial revolution and the advent of machine labor to perform more sedentary yet arguably more mentally challenging jobs. Connell would state there are no pressures to negate femininity. I disagree with this statement as it seems as if femininity as well as masculinity can be defined in a multitude of ways, only if one is viewing masculinity and femininity through a lens of a hegemonic power structure. As Kimmel would argue “…a constantly changing collection of meanings that we construct through our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with our world” (Kimmel 1994).

Brannon also discusses homosexual men’s placement in the realm of masculinity specifically in terms of four phrases 1) no sissy stuff 2) be a big wheel 3) be a sturdy oak 4) give ‘em hell, that are crucial tests that determine one’s status as masculine. McGuffey conducts a study where he found that the majority of fathers of CSA boys were concerned that their sons had expressed an excessive amount of emotions, and therefore did not match their standards of masculinity (McGuffey 2008).

Perhaps one could be defined as masculine if they live by the standards of a long, healthy and altruistic. Whereas one could be described as feminine if they follow a more hedonistic and selfish life. Of course these definitions can always be twisted and turned, parodied, and played upon by humans to match their own self definitions of gender. As Pascoe illustrates, one’s masculinity, as well as femininity, will be defined differently depending on one’s racial, ethnic, and SES status. One’s modes of living, verbal and bodily language, as well as other aspects of their culture including food, clothing, work, and type of recreation would determine their role as either masculine or feminine and would vary depending on one’s history as well as one’s economic and geographical constraints. It should be considered how various homosexual men either define themselves as masculine or feminine, as sexual orientation seems less and less to define oneself as masculine.

Silence is another key factor discussed by Kimmel which describes how masculinity is currently perceived. Silence can be thought of as a trait that protects secrets maintained by men who hold power in economic, political, as well as knowledge domains. Secret societies such as the Free Masons who are thought to hold secrets relevant to the creation and preservation of various significant political agendas (via the appropriate social connections) could be perceived as masculine, as they are responsible for the preservation of these aforementioned groups necessary for the perpetuation of important political structures (Kimmel 1994).

Masculinity could also be defined in purely sexual terms, or one’s ability to procreate by disseminating semen into female reproductive organs, or narrowly defined purely by one’s physical health, meaning their likelihood of living a long life as well as their athletic ability or other measures of their physical prowess (amount of weight one can deadlift, how far one can shot-put, how quickly one can run, etc.). These fairly simple, antiquated, stereotyped, and somewhat limited measures could be used as the new standards in determining whether or not one qualifies as masculine. The usefulness of these narrowly defined measures could be that they provide measures of masculinity that can actually be determined objectively rather than on one’s subjective perspective which is highly individualized and potentially skewed from a global consensus. Although physical or objective measures of masculinity would have the potential to determine an objective global status. Masculinity could also be measured by one’s ability to make use of multiple forms of etiquette in a variety of different social situations. Although etiquette is not quite an objectively measurable standard as one’s ability to lift weights, one can still observe and take notes on elements of etiquette including body posture, dress, use of proper language, voice intonation, and use of various types of utensils.

Generally speaking masculinity is a complex topic that can defined from multiple standpoints, both objective and subjective in nature as well as physically and mentally speaking. Defining masculinity in alternative ways that account for certain personality traits would have to take into account the basic components and patterns of masculinity which tend to be defined by one’s ability to hold power over another.

LOVE Speak: Language of Liberation

Posted: 7th June 2013 by admin in Articles

by Shenita Ann McLean

source https://decolonizeallthethings.com/2014/03/16/love-speak-language-of-liberation/

After some interesting reflections on some conversations I have had with my brother William Richardson and in concert with the information and knowledge that I have learned from a myriad of literary works on R{EVOL}utionary struggle I have come to realize something that I have recently attempted to enact in my own life: we need a language of liberation, a language of love, we need to speak R{EVOL}ution. So let me take a moment to explain myself. We consistently speak of systemic oppression and domination, the struggles that POCs, the underclass, and the LGBTQI* communities suffer from everyday. But we usually speak of them alone, we speak of the oppression, the domination, the hurt, the suffering. But are we mentioning that there are solutions to these systemic pathologies? When you discuss the inequalities do you mention that politics of liberation are a means of hope, a means of empowering, a means of acting out r{EVOL}ution? Another problem is that fact a lot of people make the mistake of forgetting that they also have the capacity to oppress others. So when you speak, do you oppress the individual you are speaking to? Do you selfishly consider yourself and your interests and not the communal interests? When I say communal interests I mean the well being of all people, the interest of their liberation and NOT some status quo (that many people assume is some selfish belief they have that usually goes so far beyond them). So many times the personal fear and paranoia of an individual will cause them to make blanket oppressive statements against entire populations of people and that consideration is never outside of their supposed “feelings” or “opinions”. When you speak are you speaking with the intent to liberate, show love, critically evaluate, and empower?

When I first began to become politically conscious I was consistently battered by all of the problems and issues that I did see. They bothered me. I lost sleep. I was pained by not just what I had, am, and will experience but also the fact that so many others are suffering as well and in most cases are in worst circumstances. I cringe at the sight and thought of injustice. Most of the time upon being bombarded with the many new stories about Africans in America being murdered left and right and then the other pains that we experience everyday that kill us slowly drove me to a place of cynicism. I had no hope. My language reflected it. I swore so frequently it was ridiculous. I didn’t know how else to express myself. I couldn’t find the words outside of cursing all of the time and in many cases I still believe that it was called for. Through my personal journey of reading, discourse, and educating myself about politics of liberation, hope, true R{EVOL}utionary ideals, freedom, African history, and my activist work as a member of Fight the Power, I came to find a peace, a calm, a hope, and an un-dying love for my people. What I had come to find was that while oppression, domination, and injustice was quite painful their was hope in justice, there was hope in my coming to understand that the human existence can be better and more than what we have seen over the past 500 years or so.

I am a six foot tall, broad shouldered African woman in America. My identity, the visual essence of my body is a challenge to systemic norms in America. I know this. Even the sound of my voice, I have a bit of a southern drawl, I speak clearly, and I have a slight deep bluesy tinge to my voice. I have been told by a myriad of people (mostly those who don’t KNOW me) that they find me terrifying, intimidating, scary (which is their problem, not mine). I find it hilarious because I am practically a teddy bear for the most part. But none the less, the stereotypes of the African Amazonian woman, the Sapphire, the Jezebel, all bombard my identity through the white supremist racist patriarchal capitalist eyes of the majority of society. One of the most R{EVOL}utionary things I have found that I can do as a Pan-Africanist Black Feminist woman is: SPEAK WITH LOVE, LIBERATION, TELL THEM THE TRUTH. I told myself that my main goal would be simple: NO FORM OF OPPRESSION OR DOMINATION WOULD BE ALLOWED TO STAND IN MY PRESENCE. This also meant that I needed to make sure I kept my privilege in check and didn’t oppress or dominate others. My best friend’s father, who has been like a father to me consistently repeats a Bob Marley quote, “Tell the children the truth.” What I began to do is drop small bombs of truths and allow myself to express the knowledge that I had come to learn and speak to people with the intent of liberating them from whatever biased or oppressive ideal they embraced. I started to decide that every word that came out of my mouth would be the truth, the unadulterated, eye opening truth. What this did for me was enable me to change how I engaged in discourse with people about different topics. I began discussing the many possible solutions, helping people understand that while highlighting and illuminating the horrible conditions out there, many people are working abroad and around the clock restlessly to change the conditions of the oppressed in a R{EVOL}utionary manner. I began to come to be able to speak with people and deliver whatever message I had with a love ethic. When you speak to people with the intent to liberate them, when you chose words that aren’t oppressive, you can point people in the direction of hope and healing. And while we can not save or reach everyone, the ones we do reach will know that someone who cares and was open and accepting spoke with them. They will not feel like you silenced them, they will know that your words were difficult to argue with or vehemently combat because they were simply TRUE. Through my readings of the work of bell hooks, Dr. Patricia Hill-Collins, Paulo Freire, Kwame Nkrumah, Assata Shakur, Toni Morrison, Kwame Ture, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Che Guevara, I came to understand that words can be dangerously oppressive. If I am not careful about what I say to people, a well intended message will oppress instead of liberate. This bell hooks quote has stuck with me ever since I originally read it:

“It is necessary to remember, as we think critically about domination, that we all have the capacity to act in ways that oppress, dominate, wound (whether or not that power is institutionalized). It is necessary to remember that it is first the potential oppressor within that we must resist – the potential victim within that we must rescue – otherwise we cannot hope for an end to domination, for liberation.” – bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black>That means that we must be aware, conscious of, and respect the humanity of others. I am not saying that everyone needs to run around sweetening their words, beating around the bush, and lying. What I am saying is consider what you say before you speak. I am saying speak with LOVE, speak to LIBERATE, speak to EMPOWER. I have come to find that nothing is more R{EVOL}utionary than me challenging the many white supremist racist patriarchal capitalist stereotypes of the current society with a language that liberates. People are shocked, they’re mind boggled because I challenged their assumptions. Every time I speak with liberation, love, and empowerment at the root of every word I take a swing at the status quo, I challenge the oppressive assumptions that surround me everyday. This is something that I have chosen to make sure I try to consciously do every single day and engage in all relationships in my life. It is crucial for us to start using language that progressively changes, constructively builds, empowers, and liberates.

When I approach people with the truth, when I speak with words that are aimed to constructed especially for their liberation, I can know that I did my best, I know that I did not make the mistake of oppressing them. My main point here is be aware that we are all capable of oppressing one another with the ways in which we speak. There have been a number of occasions where someone has used possessive and oppressive language with me which emphasizes the “I” mentality. I have had conversations with close friends where they speak with their privilege and dismiss my experiences, I have had instances where friends have unfortunately taken my words, work, or ideas & washed me out of them. We can all oppress and dominate in many ways. When we speak and engage with people we need to make sure that we are not making the mistake of throwing around what bit of privilege we may have. It can be harmful and lead to people stepping on one another’s toes and if you are claiming to be a politically conscious individual you are only weakening your own credibility when you use words and support ideals that oppress and dominate any group of people. Liberation, love, R{EVOL}ution provide people with a voice, it allows expression and all in the interest of progressive change. In our struggle for liberation for all, we must make sure we are not making the same mistakes that our oppressors are making. Therefore, any form of language or speech that marginalizes POCs, the poor, the LGBTQI* is all counter-revolutionary. If you are supporting a heirachal ideal and believe and express the ideal of someone submitting to you, you are being counter-revolutionary. We can NOT fight capitalism without fighting patriarchy & racism & vice versa. All of these systems require destruction & a struggle without anti-capitalist, anti-classist, anti-racist, & anti-sexism imperatives will ALWAYS fail. Intersectionally accepting, loving, and empowering people is where so much of the R{EVOL}ution is. It has to start within each one of us and imagine the amazing work we can do when we share our beautiful vision of equity through a language of liberation. Everyday I try to make it my business to speak with words of liberation and love and those same words and truths are what I combat domination and oppression with. I have come to find that lies and fallacies are very easily shattered with language of liberation & love. I am sure that you will come to find the same thing in your own journey.

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“We need to be weapons of mass construction. Weapons of mass love.” – Assata Shakur

 

In a capitalist, patriarchal society, women are seen first and foremost as child-bearers and as objects of beauty. In American society, full to the brim with capitalism and sexism, women have been split apart for advertising, entertainment, “traditional family values,” and the rape culture, amongst a myriad of other things. In this society, women are valued for and completely identified by their physical appearance. Beauty is the main thing a girl can have, because beautiful girls find rich men to love them and take care of them. As a kid, it always infuriated me that all the girl role models were just pretty. Maybe they sang, maybe they acted, but in the end, they were all just pretty. Boys got to identify with superheroes and astronauts and great world leaders. I got to identify with women who had big tits and sparkly eyes. That being said, women’s identity is their looks. If a woman is beautiful and successful, they say it’s only because of her appearance, or because she “sleeps around.” If a woman is not seen as attractive and successful, it’s just because she wasn’t “pretty” enough to do other things, like get married and pop out babies.
Within the last fifty or so years, women who are thin with large breasts have been idealized as beautiful. The idea of beauty varies a bit from decade to decade in American society, but it rarely has anything to do with the woman looking like she’s a healthy or physically empowered person. Nowadays, anorexia runs rampant with models being so thin that they disappear when they turn to the side. Girls (and boys) are developing eating disorders and nearly or completely destroying themselves. Society idealizes women that are unhealthy and unable to defend themselves, and because that’s all society let’s young girls look up to, that’s what they try to become. There has been a long response to this in recent years with anti-anorexia campaigns and most prominently, the “real women have curves” movement. The movement started out well, it made the point that full-figured women are just as beautiful as thin women, and we should all love our bodies no matter what. Truer words were never spoken, in that case, but the movement has turned into something much, much different. Now there are things all over the internet and TV proclaiming, “real women have curves!”
First off, let me explain what’s wrong with that statement as a whole. “Real women” are people who identify as a woman. That’s it. I don’t care if you’re the size of a hippo or the size of a toothpick, if you call yourself a woman, then you’re a woman. To say only real women have curves reminds me a lot of a bill known as the “Small Breast Ban” in Australia. Basically, the ban said if your bra is an “A” cup or less, you can’t act in pornography because it “encourages pedophilia.” So if you have small breasts, that makes you a child. Thankfully, that bill got torn down, but the society we have around fat-positivity is teaching us the same thing, just without a legal action for it. This idea that large women are more beautiful than thin women, and that thin women are all anorexic, inherently demonizes and demeans thin women.
It also shames women with eating disorders. Women who have eating disorders are generally suffering from terrible self-esteem and are either trying to look like the models or are on a mission to self-destruct, be it conscious or unconscious. The movement shames women with legitimate struggles, and that shame only adds to what they’re already feeling thanks to this sexist society. Why people go around on this movement to make themselves and others feel better while disrespecting and demonizing others is beyond me.
Finally, the movement still continues the same problem we have with patriarchy and sexism. It identifies and values women on their physical appearance.  It says “if you look this way, you’re better, if you look that way, you’re worse.” I’d really like to know how it helps women at all to shift a movement in a slightly different direction that still hangs onto the same old principles that are destroying women’s bodies. Sure, larger women and girls can feel better about their bodies, and I’m all for that, but to hate thin women and continue to only identify by appearance perpetuates the same cycle. I don’t care if the trend is being as thin as can be or  as heavy as can be, as long as society and these movements keep allowing women to only be valued by their body, the problem will never be solved.
In the end, I’m tired of seeing this movement take things too far. I’m tired of thin women and fat women hating themselves. I’m tired of eating disorders and constant pressure to look a certain way. I’m tired of the sexism that values women only on their bodies and harms women’s psyche. But most importantly, I’m tired of women and men being too blind to see that this movement will not affect real change. What  will affect real change is rising up. It’s loving yourself no matter what you look like. It’s not giving a damn about what you look like. It’s making yourself braver, more knowledgable, more independent, more caring, more loving and more free. It’s understanding that anyone who will think you’re worth something who is also worth something won’t value you only on your appearance. They’ll value you for all those other things. It’s taking a stand for yourself and everybody else so that the world can understand that no one is allowed to make you an object, and no one will stop you from being who you are and loving who you are. That is feminism, and that is real change.

-KaylaJo O’Lone-Hahn

Source: http://m.thegrio.com/politics/race-and-beyond-are-americans-in-denial-about-inequality.php

Sam Fulwood III of the http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2012/02/rab_020712.html”>Center for American Progress explains why Mitt Romney’s overestimation of the middle class could very well be an indication of how unaware Americans are of the class divisions in this country.

In an odd, roundabout way, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has given Americans an opportunity to witness what so many of us have steadfastly refused to acknowledge: Yes, America, we are a class-stratified society.

Of course, the former Massachusetts governor didn’t mean to do this. He probably laments having told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien last week that he wasn’t worried about the poor because they have a safety net to support them. Nor is he losing sleep over the plight of the wealthy. If, as I suspect, he meant exactly what he said, he leaves little doubt with his attempt to clarify. “I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling,” he explained.

So he believes that the overwhelming majority of Americans are in that great, nebulous economic cloud called the middle class (or “middle income,” in his words). It’s an easy mistake—most Americans would agree with him, believing the middle class is larger than it really is.

These days Americans seem more class-confused than class-conscious. A Gallup poll released last December suggests that Americans consider an annual household income of $150,000 to be rich — even though in the more expensive parts of our nation, this income is decidedly middle class. Figuring out who is poor is even more difficult.

According to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last month, nearly 20 percent of households earning at the poverty level ($15,000 or less annually) believe they’re solidly middle class.

Clearly belief in the American Dream is alive and well, but in fact the middle class is shrinking. As the income of the top 1 percent skyrocketed to 24 percent of all income in 2007 from 9 percent in 1974, the share of income going to the middle 60 percent of Americans fell to 47 percent from 52 percent. From 2001 to 2007 incomes of the top 1 percent increased by 60 percent after adjusting for inflation, while the median income fell. More than one-third of our nation’s population is living on a low income and teetering on the edge of poverty. To top it off the United States now lags behind other developed countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden when it comes to economic mobility.

What’s more, most Americans seem less concerned about the poor or the disparity of incomes in our nation than they were earlier in the decade. The Gallup poll found that respondents were more dubious that economic disparity is real than they were eight years ago. Fifty-eight percent of those polled rejected the view that the United States is a nation of “haves” and “have-nots,” compared to it being nearly 50-50 in 2004, when former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards drew headlines for pointing out “two Americas.”

None of this should be surprising. In the face of historic protestations to the contrary, Americans don’t want to believe that our nation is rutted by rigid lanes of class stratification—seeing instead celebrated rags-to-riches tales throughout our history as the norm. But our society always has been defined by class all the way back to its founding days. In the beginning of the Republic, all citizens weren’t equal; franchise responsibilities rested only among the upper class—white, male property owners.

Denial that class truly existed separated the Founding Fathers’ lofty ideals from the Everyman’s (and Everywoman’s) place in society. For the New World’s experiment in representative democracy to take root, let alone succeed, every citizen had to believe that his or her opportunity in life was equal to a neighbor’s, not granted by a monarch or ordained by clergy.

That is the theory. In practice something else is true. The class divide continues to yawn across America. And despite legal attack and changed social norms, education inequality— fueled by economic inequality — continues to assist in the maintenance of a class-based status quo. Noting that many Americans prefer to imagine that class distinctions in the land “have blurred” or “some say they have disappeared,” The New York Times pointed to the contrary in a voluminous 2005 examination of class in America:

But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more.

Today grassroots activists occupy public spaces in major cities and on college campuses with the cry,“We are the 99 percent.” As the veil of denial rises, it reveals an awkward public discussion on the unfairness of America’s enduring, if hidden, class stratification.

“Tricking the poor to believe they’re in [the middle class], and allowing the rich to hide in it,” writes New York Times columnist Charles Blow, “is one of the great modern political deceptions and how we’ve arrived at our current predicament.”

Our political discussions—or lack thereof—surrounding class in America get politicians in hot water when they say something closer to the truth than we care to admit. Unwittingly, perhaps, this was the funhouse mirror Romney cracked—and possibly allowed Americans to catch a glimpse of ourselves as we are, not as we wish to be seen.

Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAPLeadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.

(Originally posted on People of Color Organize)

Due to the dangerous intersections of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and other positionalities, it is important to stress on being conscious of these interlocking oppressions. The term “intersectionality” is invoked a lot, but there is a huge difference between writing about it and understanding it.

Recently, someone who self-identifies as an “activist” exercised his misogyny by taking a paparazzi-style photo of a woman’s body part and shared it with his friends on Facebook. Over a hundred perverted and horribly sexist comments were made under the image. All of this happened without the woman knowing that a zoomed-in photo of her body was publicly on display for a bunch of perverts to gawk at and sexually objectify.

Confrontations with the police does not excuse a male activist of being held accountable for his misogyny and violation of a woman’s privacy. Those who commented in favor of the photo are also complicit in sexist oppression and objectification. You cannot fight state violence while participating in another form of oppression and not acknowledging how the two are interconnected. It undermines everything you claim to stand for.

I know there are a lot of men, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who are outraged by sexism and misogyny. However, many of us make the mistake in seeing ourselves as being “outside of patriarchy.” That is, because we have feminist politics and speak out against sexual violence, sexist exploitation, and patriarchal domination, there is no way we can be sexist. On the contrary, I am not outside of it and neither are you. None of us are. I have read several posts written by men (some of which were recently pointed out to me) who tell this narrative: “I used to be sexist, but after reading feminist literature and making feminist friends, I am cured and better now!” I have made this mistake as well and I accept that I will make more mistakes in the future. Being called out on your sexism is not always easy, but that is how you learn to unlearn.

Instead of congratulating ourselves or rushing to claim that “we are good men” and “not like those misogynists out there,” we need to understand our responsibility in constantly unlearning the sexist socialization we have internalized. We live in societies where sexist and racist oppression is so deeply engrained and even foundational to the established order, so saying “I’m not sexist” is not enough (likewise, saying “I’m not racist” is not enough for white people). Asserting this claim only puts us on the defensive and overlooks how we benefit from oppressive power structures. We cannot dismantle patriarchy externally if we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our complicities and actively confront sexism within ourselves, not just once, but every day, for the rest of our lives.

When a woman is addressing the awful reality of sexual assaults against women that occur in anti-racist spaces, we should not center our attention on thinking that she is only talking about “those men,” i.e. the assailants, the misogynists, the rapists, etc. Such an outlook only makes us perceive ourselves as “innocent” and “not sexist.” We have to be conscious of the sexism we have internalized and how we exercise sexism in our everyday lives. We have to take action to ensure we will not maintain and reproduce those power dynamics. This is not about demonizing men or saying that all of us are monstrous at the core. This is not about implying that all men will assault women in social justice spaces either. This is about understanding our responsibility in challenging and eliminating sexism externally and internally. In movements that are anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-sexist, anti-racist, etc., if there are people being abused, assaulted, discriminated against, beaten, or excluded, we must work to eliminate that violence. When you are called out on your sexism, apologize, listen, and hold yourself accountable. Take responsibility for it and accept the consequences, even if that means you cannot be part of the group anymore or that some people will never be able to trust you again. Do not get defensive and say that what you did “wasn’t sexist” or “wasn’t patriarchal.” Don’t make this about you “being a good man” or that “you had good intentions” or that you have women friends who “don’t see you as sexist.” Don’t attack the “tone” of the people calling you out on it either. Denying your complicity only exposes the sexist masculine power you exercise.

Furthermore, we have to move beyond “accepting” sexist and racist socialization. Accepting that white supremacist, capitalist heteropatriarchy has programmed us to uphold these interlocking structures of oppression is important, but it does not at all give us an excuse to normalize our sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism, etc. I have come across individuals who say, “Yes, I admit I’m racist, I accept it.” There’s a huge difference between understanding your responsibility in unlearning racism and simply asserting that “everyone is racist,” as if that makes everything “ok.” No, it is not “ok.” We live in a racist society and all us are impacted by it differently (and if you are white, you benefit a great deal from white supremacy). Instead of just sitting back and saying, “I admit I’m racist,” you should be challenging yourself on a daily basis and actively doing something about your racism. Don’t use racist socialization as an excuse to normalize your racism.

Some people, to my own astonishment, have told me to my face that they hate Indians and Pakistanis. They have told me things like, “I hate Pakistanis. I hope you don’t take offense to that.” Of course I take offense to it; it is racist and against me, in particular. Others have told me they “hate Indians” and then say, “I admit I’m prejudice against them, but everyone is racist, right?” What makes them think this is acceptable to say to me or to anyone else is the real indicator of how deeply entrenched racism is. Accepting that we are socialized to be racist and sexist does not make things “ok” because these oppressions have serious effects in the real world. “I am racist” or “I am sexist” is not something to boast about or repeat shamelessly. Move beyond accepting the status quo and be responsible. Apologize for the damage you have caused and do something about it. Don’t expect your South Asian friend to continue talking to you when you’ve demonized his/her culture and never held yourself accountable for it. Don’t expect your Arab friends to return your calls when you “jokingly” referred to them as “terrorists” and thought that was cool. You may have “accepted” your racism or sexism, but your friend may not accept how your racism or sexism targeted him/her, so if you care about preserving that friendship, do something about it.

Challenge yourself in your daily interactions with people. Challenge yourself when you use racist, sexist, colonial, and/or ableist language. Challenge the stereotypes you have of certain groups of people when you see/meet them. Critique yourself and analyze every aspect of your life. We all make mistakes and we are going to continue making them. It’s how we respond to those mistakes and actively work to correct them that matters. Listen to the people you have offended, hurt, discriminated against, marginalized, etc. Don’t accuse them of being “too angry” or “too mean” when they condemn what you said or did. Deconstructing and unlearning racism, sexism, and other oppressions is not something you can accomplish overnight; it is something all of us have to do for our entire lives. Read the anti-racist and anti-sexist work that has already been done, if you have access to the books and discourses. Write about your resisting oppressive socialization, speak about it, teach about it, educate others about it, call yourself out on it, implement it into your life and work on it everyday. Never excuse yourself of your complicity, never be “ok” with it, but always assume the responsibility to struggle against it.

– Jehanzeb, Muslim Reverie

by Rick Gunderman

Marxism, as an ideology, has served various currents of thought and action. Academics, trade unionists, guerrilla fighters and journalists across the world have been touched by the ideology of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Virtually all left-wing movements pay some degree of homage to Marxism.

Marxism has stood the test of time, influencing thinkers and activists for over one and a half centuries, because it effectively answers the most basic question, that question which all those seeking to understand our contemporary world must ask: “what is capitalism?”

To answer this question in the most basic way, Marx and Engels produced The Communist Manifesto, first published in February 1848. The Manifesto answers other questions, still very much pertinent today.

The “sociopathic society” is a natural outgrowth of capitalist development. Marx and Engels were able to see this in their own time:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.

It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”.

Prior to the industrial revolution, various forms of social relations existed, almost entirely corresponding to the way in which they produced to meet their needs. In feudal societies, the peasants were bound by one linkage or another to their lords, their “natural superiors”. Such was also the case in slave societies.

In these stages of development, the lower classes were raised to revere the upper classes, to unconditionally accept their leadership and power. The rise of capitalist economic relations dramatically altered this.

The transition from feudalism to capitalism was, to put it simply, change in class relations. Under feudalism, the continued development of economically productive capabilities, the expansion of the European powers’ colonial and trade links with the rest of the world, and new achievements in science and technology combined to create the merchant class.

By their nature, merchants buy and sell for profit. Naturally, they would wish to have as few constraints as possible on their ability to do so, constraints which, if given up by the feudal classes, would render the latter’s economic power obsolete.

This gave rise of liberal ideas of individual pursuit of power and profit – the rise of individualist ideology, which gave intellectual legitimacy to the goals of the merchant class. Thus we have the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the emergence of constitutional monarchy in Britain, the unifications of Germany and Italy, all designed to bring the merchant class up to the level of ruling class.

A change in the ruling class is necessarily preceded by, and followed by, a change in the dominant ideology of society. What was the dominant ideology under feudalism? What is it under capitalism? Again, the Manifesto:

It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.

It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade.

Few people in the modern, Western world, and indeed across the world, are unfamiliar with the term “free trade,” even if its meaning is not always consistently understood by all. It is the single phrase that best encapsulates the beliefs, goals and ideology of capitalism.

Under feudal discourse, one’s relation to the rest of the world, to other human beings, revolved around religion, chivalry, and sentimentalism. Feudal conceptions of “freedom” were incredibly subjective.

Under capitalism, all of these are rejected in favour of “egotistical calculation”, i.e. thought strictly for one’s own benefit. Freedom has now one single, paramount definition – the freedom to trade, and by means of this trade, secure a greater profit for oneself.

The ideology of the capitalist class, classical liberalism, of which modern liberalism and conservative are common descendants, holds egotistical calculation as its essence. As an extension, the narrative goes that all people should be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, under certain restrictions. What those restrictions are is a highly subjective matter, hence constant contradiction in the ruling class’s declared love for freedom but active repression of other classes.

What, then, has the transition from feudalism to capitalism accomplished ideologically?

In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.

In other words, every man for himself. Dog-eat-dog. Cutthroat competition. Individualism.

History is full of examples of the pre-capitalist masses, the lower classes, being bound to each other in strong communities, upheld by religious and patriarchal concepts. Whether peasants or tribesmen, or somewhere in between, the lower classes were always bound together, and in a way that served the interests of the ruling classes.

Capitalism has no need for such things. It has ingrained, to various extents, its ideology into the working and oppressed masses. What better way to keep down the masses in a society dominated by individualist concerns than by infusing individualism into the masses? Turning every person against everybody else? All under the pretence that our society is so structured as to allow anybody to climb to the top, a claim unsupportable by any complete investigation.

A sociopath is a person who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. Is this not identical to classical liberal individualism, a belief in the primary importance of the individual above others?

Is it possible that our society creates sociopaths and, to borrow from Emma Goldman, gets the criminals that it deserves?

redsociology.com