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Fracturedpolitics.com - Critical theory about current events: Racism and the credit rating
Racism and the credit rating
Apparently, when America's credit rating falls, so does the sky. Never mind that Standard & Poor's, the agency that downgraded the nation's bond rating from AAA to AA+, blessed subprime securities and collateralized debt obligations with similarly golden marks, or that two other leading agencies, Moody's and Fitch, reaffirmed the country's top-tier status. What matters, according to most conservatives and even many so-called liberals, is that a Wall Street (backed) watchdog criticized the federal government's ability to pay its bills, owing to political posturing over the debt ceiling, and that crime has never been committed by a white president. Oh, those blacks and their bad credit.
Lest you think I'm being to tough on Bill-O and his ilk, consider the following thoughts on the conflation of racism and class by Marxist philosopher Etienne Balibar:
First, class racism is connected with a political problem that is crucial for the constitution of the nation-state. The 'bourgeois revolutions'...had raised the question of the political rights of the masses in an irreversible manner...The idea of a difference in nature between individuals had become juridically and morally contradictory, if not inconceivable. It was, however, politically indispensable, so long as the 'dangerous classes' (who posed a threat to the established social order, property, and power of the 'elites') had to be excluded by force and by legal means from political 'competence' and confined to the margins of the polity—as long, that is, as it was important to deny them citizenship by showing, and by being oneself persuaded, that they constitutionally 'lacked' the qualities of full fledged or normal humanity (Balibar, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, 1991).
In its deployment of class racism for the reification of capital authoritarianism, the state co-opts the semiotic regime through which racial discourses are forged. Racialization may be discursive, but the levers of discourse are representationally sanctioned. Accordingly, dehumanization through disenfranchisement is manifested materially, at the level of the real. In Michigan and Georgia, for example, judicial review recently upheld voting laws that require constituents to show photo identification or sign a sworn affidavit attesting to their identity before receiving a ballot—a modern poll tax designed to hinder turnout among these state's impoverished and left-leaning demographics, including the vast majority of nonwhite citizens. Danger averted, for corporate elites.
What is urgently needed, now, is a critical reevaluation of phenotypical difference along materialist, rather than purely discursive, lines. If the biocultural dimensions of race are hybridized through an insistence on the the fluidity of their microobjective composition, corporeality, itself, can be revealed as a site of continual contestation, whereby molecular racialities submerged within lactified corporeal hierarchies are revealed as always already immanent to the molar racialities undergirding resource centralization, whether the resources in question are dollar bills, judges, or electoral rights. Moreover, when the constitution of spaces inhabited by myriad racial populations is unmasked as a complex relational process, in which individuals interact with, translate, and withdraw from not only the metafictional race-object, but also themselves, politicization can become minoritarian, negating the predetermination of identity status by planting a multiplicity of micro-racialities within claustrophobic social spaces that, in their becoming-toward-difference, denaturalize the ethnic coding of economic antagonism. In a society where the institutional racialization of labor, to borrow Balibar's term, has shifted from manual to mechanized, the human body is fashioned into an assimilable machine destined for a single specialized task, paradoxically vanquished in its creative potentiality and valorized for its mechanical utility. Organically overexploited to the point of degeneracy, yet demanding—even desiring—a master to assemble its parts into a functional whole.
Historically, American masters were white, from the founding fathers onward, leading to a predominantly colorless aestheticization of American executive competence and intellectual superiority. Under the inversion of masterhood brought by Obama's presidency, however, governing whites—dare I say "white supremacists"—are confronted with a threat to corporeal exploitation and the fragmentation of their own organs, even if just at the level of separation between labor and cultural intelligence. Put simply, American capitalism's inherited governors are faced with the possibility that their own actions led to their displacement, an abject experience if ever there was one.