A Clash of Marginalization
Viewing Marginalization Through Capitalism
One of the major criticisms of a free-market, capitalist society is capitalism’s propensity to place monetary values on everything. From luxury goods to the basic necessities of life, capitalism causes people to view these items in terms of the monetary costs associated with them and soon, life becomes completely centralized around the amount of money one owns.
But what happens when we start to view race under the lens of money? Could we find the very root of race and gender marginalization by following the trail of money?
Described in Karl Marx’s political critique, Capital, this concept of viewing items in terms of monetary value is known as commodification. Marx describes commodities as being, an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another.
When Marx goes on to describe commodities as being external items represented by the value of “crystallized labor,” he prescribes the notion that the value of commodities are directly correlated to their use-values and the use value, is in turn a relationship to the labor required to produce the commodity. While a term used to originally discuss the marginalization of working class people against the bourgeois, it is a term that accurately reflects the growing intersectionality between race, gender and class in the United States.
In Althusser’s Reproduction of Labor Power, Althusser takes the discussion a step further by viewing the commodification of labor itself. Althusser argues about the existence of a ‘wage capital’, explaining that the promise of wages to enable the wage earner to present himself again at the factory gate the next day — and every further day God grants him.
Here, Althusser argues that wages become the driving motivation for people in a capitalist environment, giving each working the minimum required to keep them working. At the end of this tunnel, the promise of economic freedom and social mobility is dangled ahead of us, causing us to endlessly pursue such a goal.
In a society and economy predominantly dominated by a white elite, people find themselves working under a set of rules written exclusively for this elite. The distribution of wealth is based upon who can best play against these written rules, while economically oppressing those who cannot.
Marginalized groups such as African Americans ultimately find themselves repressed into accepting lower wages from their white counterparts, misguided under the belief that African Americans require less wages to keep them working. What this results into is a state of oppression controlled by the use of wages.
This inequity of wage labor is reinforced through what Althusser describes as the Ideological and Repressive State Apparatuses. Where the Repressive State Apparatus works to write and enforce laws that best serve the elite, the Ideological State Apparatus actively works itself between culture to reinforce the rule of the dominant class.
In the Repressive State Apparatus, we see a series of laws that work to protect the ruling class. A very clear example of the active, Repressive State Apparatus can be seen in the current state of American Politics, where the ruling Republican Party has openly proven to work for the interests of large corporations rather than people. While the Republican Party is not exclusively guilty of working for corporate interests, they have certainly shown a deep pride for it.
Through the Repressive State Apparatus, the rich continue to gain power and enforce laws that work in their favor, marginalizing other groups while doing so. Marginalized groups find themselves as victims of commodification, where the rich elite begin to see them as dollars rather than people.
Through the Ideological State Apparatus, however, we see how the American people struggle in confronting the issues outlined by the Repressive State. In American society, there exists a rhetoric where people are expected to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” telling those that face the full brunt of economic poverty to simply “work harder.” The Ideological State Apparatus serves to continue the wage power illusion, ingraining the idea that anybody can join the rich elite if they work hard enough. The Ideological State Apparatus ridicules those that face poverty, fully convinced that people are responsible for their own poverty.
It is through the domination of a white, rich elite that causes us to struggle with the marginalization of social classes. By understanding the wage power dynamic in correlation to the Ideological and Repressive State Apparatuses, we can better see how various groups of people are marginalized under this economic system.