Marxism and Class, Gender and Race: Rethinking the Trilogy

Better Essays
Published (2001) in RACE, GENDER & CLASS, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 23-33, special issue on Marxism and Race, Gender & Class. It is posted here with permission of Jean Belkhir, Editor
A taken for granted feature of most social science publications today, especially those about inequality, is the ritual critique of Marx and Marxism in the process of introducing theoretical alternatives intended to remedy its alleged "failures." This practice became popular in early feminist literature: Marx and Marxists were criticized for not developing an in-depth analysis of the oppression of women, their "economism," "class reductionism," and "sex blind" categories of analysis.
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I intend critically to examine, from the standpoint of Marxist theory, the arguments for race, gender and class studies offered by some of their main proponents, assessing their strengths and limitations and demonstrating, in the process, that Marxism is theoretically and politically necessary if the study of class, gender and race is to achieve more than the endless documentation of variations in their relative salience and combined effects in very specific contexts and experiences.
Race, Gender & Class as a Social Science Perspective
Long before the popularization of the Race, Gender & Class (RGC) perspective, I suspect that most Marxist sociologists teaching social stratification were already adept practitioners. For many years, for example, the Section on Marxist sociology of the American Sociological Association included in its annual program a session on Class, Gender and Race. I certainly called my students ' attention, in twenty nine years of teaching social stratification and other subjects in which inequality matters, to the fact that everybody 's lives are affected by class, gender and race/ethnic structures (in addition to age and other sources of inequality). We are, in Marx 's terms, "an ensemble of social relations" (Marx, 1994: 100, emphasis added), and we live our lives at the core of the intersection of a number of unequal social
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