We are at a critical moment in the history of race and capitalism in the United States. The country is emerging from one of the most devastating recessions in history at the same time that anti-immigration rhetoric is ratcheting up and unarmed blacks are being killed in the streets. However, few within the scholarly and public spheres have connected these processes and examined the mutually constitutive structures of capitalism and race. The near silence around this intersection in academic discourse is especially troubling considering the #BlackLivesMatter protests that have rocked the nation throughout the last three years and heightened the need to expose the economic as well as the political and legal foundations of persisting racial inequality. To address this need, we launched a project to study the intersection of race and capitalism within the U.S. and to start a national debate on the topic.
The Race and Capitalism project initiated by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture (CSRPC) at the University of Chicago is a multi-institution collaboration that seeks to reinvigorate, strengthen and deepen scholarship on how processes of racialization within the U.S. shaped capitalist society and economy and how capitalism has simultaneously shaped processes of racialization. This project was initiated and conceived at the CSRPC and the Washington Institute for the Study of Inequality and Race (WISIR) at the University of Washington. Central questions include: 1) What is the relationship between racial and economic inequality; 2) How has the relationship between various racial and ethnic groups, the economy and civil society changed over time; and 3) What theoretical approaches to the studies of capitalism and race best explain the empirical reality of 21st century capitalism. Four working groups are being formed to investigate respectively the theoretical, historical, global aspects and contemporary empirical contours of this project. Key goals include: increasing collaboration between scholars across disciplines; advancing the state of scholarship on race and capitalism; and where appropriate, highlighting key findings from the project for use in public discourse.
The Race and Capitalism project is currently in the formation stage. Yet, the project has received great enthusiasm and interest in setting up connected working groups at different institutions. The Social Science Research Council has agreed to partner with the Race and Capitalism project in forming a joint working group on the history of race and capitalism within the U.S. between the end of Reconstruction and the advent of World War II. We have also developed this website with the hope that it will become a key site for researchers, activists, and others interested in the intersection of race and capitalism. An agreement to launch a book series on race and capitalism with an independent press has also been secured. As of now, scholars have agreed to join the project from the University of Washington, University of California-Berkeley, Occidental University, MIT, The New School, Princeton University, Marquette University, Harvard University, New York University, CUNY, University of Chicago, UCLA and John Hopkins University.