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Abstract

The postcolonial has ceased to be an academic category (if it ever was such), and has become a stake in the ‘culture war’ in Western liberal democracies over their relationship to their past and present histories of oppression. One increasingly widely used concept in the critical interrogation of these histories of that of racial capitalism. It seems to have been coined during the 1970s by South African Marxists seeking to understand the relationship between apartheid and capitalism. Now the concept of racial capitalism is being increasingly universalized, with the inevitable risk that it is also essentialized. I shall probe the issues involved, partly by returning to the concept’s origins, partly by seeing how much setting them in the context of the Marxist theory of imperialism helps to clarify the relationship between global capitalism and racial oppression.

Speaker biography

Alex Callinicos

Alex Callinicos is Emeritus Professor of European Studies at King’s College London. He taught previously at Oxford and York universities. He was editor of International Socialism 2009-2020. He has published extensively on the black liberation struggle in southern Africa. His most recent books are Imperialism and Global Political Economy (2009), Bonfire of Illusions (2010), Deciphering Capital (2014), and (co-edited with Stathis Kouvelakis and Lucia Pradella) The Routledge Handbook of Marxism and Post-Marxism (2021). He is working on a book on Hegel and Marx.