|READING GUIDE TO:
CCCS (1982) The Empire Strikes Back: race and racism in 70s
Britain, London: Hutchinson
Chapter one. There is an organic crisis of British capitalism and of 'race'. There is both authoritarianism and racism, but these are really separate and specific strands, rather than a universal phenomenon, as is often the case in bourgeois Sociology. The crisis exists at economic, political and ideological levels. The history of nationalism and imperialism has produced a set of complex relations between capitalism and other endogenous political forces. There is an international dimension to the crisis too, with the end of the migrant labour boom: migrant labour supplies a general context for the specific effects of racism.
'Race' is still a problem in its own right, linking historical, specific and marxist analysis. Race, like class and nation, are defined by the State, and have a role in winning hegemony: this is the source of specific forms of racism. This can be traced through several phases: the response to black immigration (from the end of the War until 1962); assimilation problems (from 1962 to the early Seventies); and the management of the crisis (present day). These phases had a distinct shape and form, influenced by international and national factors, generating a whole politico-economic environment (easier to see in the current political environment of, for example, substantial cuts in public expenditure).
The emergence of State authoritarianism has been explained by Poulantzas and by Offe. Poulantzas argues that the new forms are neither fascist nor democratic, and arise as a particular bloc isolates itself from popular struggles and and deals with needs unevenly. The State is politicised too, via the escalation of crisis, but unable to intervene effectively because of the constraints faced by British capital (page 18). There is a shift to the moral or ideological dimension instead, designed to win consent, and to get people to agree there is a crisis. This dimension is an ideal one to introduce the problems of race.
The crisis in hegemony is not simply reducible to the economic level, but is an organic one, affecting the conception of the State itself. As a number of authors, including Jessop and Foucault, have said, such a crisis leads to the centralisation of power in the executive, the decline of a political public, the restriction of political freedoms, and then to substantial shifts in the State, including substantially increased surveillance: in this way the crisis shifts to the social level too, as the State spreads its control to the whole society.
Black people become constructed as a problem. Policing and control is now about offering definitions of the crisis, and this enables a link with popular concerns, as in the shift to a law-and-order society described in Policing The Crisis . The 1960s saw the end of consensus, and the development of the view that British society was 'diseased', especially given youth revolt, industrial militancy, and the problems of Northern Ireland. Race also became a threat to 'Englishness', a useful term in popular attempts to explain the crisis. Although the actual significations surrounding the term are complex, this complexity is still traceable to the economic, political and ideological levels.
A process of articulation has occurred that joins together the elements of the crisis and gives expression, at the political and ideological levels, to specific forms of control aimed at black people. This appeared especially in the 1970s -- the dangers to society were seen as posed by groups within black sectors, with all their deprivation and supposed pathology, and there were attempts to rework the notion of the citizen and the nation to exclude blacks and encourage repatriation. [Try out the debate on 'asylum seekers' these days]. Black people were not now immigrants, as the responses to the riots [unrest in British cities in the 1970s and early 1980s] showed, which led to a worst possible scenario by the police [a threat of permanent dissent?] The riots prioritised race and led to increased press coverage. Two responses were forthcoming -- 'social engineering', and 'law-and-order', and both were taken up by the race relations industry as well as leading to demands for repatriation.
Race became a hidden component, unspoken while the State appeared as beyond the control of conscious will. In fact, structural changes and complex determinations were producing novel forms of combinations of repressions and reform. Black resistance was apparent -- Hall saw black riots as a mere symptom of a deeper unravelling [in Policing the Crisis again] .
Finally, it is important to break with the bourgeois conceptions of race: 'race problems' are produced by endogenous political mechanisms rather than exogenous ones; are found at the economic, political and ideological levels; show a connection with a general crisis of hegemony, although appearing in specific forms; and indicate that social reformism will not work.
. Lawrence E 'Common-sense'.
Decolonisation led to new images of black people as savage, barbaric, incomprehensible, especially in Britain. Black settlement led to fears of unrest, rootlessness and even communism (page 69). The end of Empire made race appear as an external factor. Other factors included an interest in black sexuality, especially in the supposed desire of black males for [white] women and in Asian alien-ness and sexuality (and there is a reference to Hall on images of black people ). Black families were seen as different, sometimes as sources of traditionalism, a view shared by some black spokespersons.
In modern racism there is another shift of emphasis: black people are seen as problems rather than as inferior, as alien and unassimilable. These differences were coded as racial inferiority, and this was connected to the new Conservatism and return to traditional values, stressing a mythical unified Britain to which people felt deep national loyalties. There was also a strong anti-intellectual trend, as Policing The Crisis illustrates [and this section refers frequently to Barker's The New Racism ].
Sociology and black pathology.
Conventional sociological work also sees Asian culture as static, or as eternal, and ignores the destructive influences of imperialism. The concept of 'ethnicity' also has a political role in masking relations of power.
Finally, pathological black families were seen as either promiscuous/unstable or traditional, and thus responsible for deviance, maladjustment, or stress. Again there are alternative accounts which contradict these conceptions: black families can be seen as different rather than inferior, while the militancy of Asian women can be stressed against the usual stereotype of passivity (page 122). Nevertheless, a notion of cultural deprivation persists, especially directed against black youths, even in bodies such as the Commission for Racial Equality. Rastafarianism is still seen as extremism [even by such bodies], and [cultural, domesticated] 'ethnicity' often appears as a solution to problems (page 126). In this, sociologists and sympathisers seem to accord with police views. Again the reality is more complex: the split between respectable and criminal sectors of the black population is interwoven with their general struggles and with Rastafarianism; Rastafarianism itself is split, with a criminal sector of its own.
Overall, the attempts to grasp the position of black people in Britain shows a history of arbitrary divisions and phoney theories. This is partly because some researchers are themselves black petit-bourgeois (page 133), with an exploitative stance towards the people they are researching, and with a tendency to select male youth [could this be even some CCCS researchers?]. This sort of research is easily incorporated into the dominant order, and can even provide theories for the police and the education system!
This chapter begins by looking at police versions of the connections between race, crime and society. It raises the methodological problems in dealing with specificity, which even leads to difficulties the Left have with black crime (page 147). Gilroy wants to remind us of the evidence for crimes against black people, including police persecution. He goes on to criticise Young and Hirst [see the debate here ] and their views on street crime, and suggests that even the authors of Policing The Crisis are in danger of conceding ground to their critics (page 151). They ignore police practices in defining crime for example, and focus on ethnic crime rather than on analysing the police, and the emergence of police views on black crime, including the adoption of an environmentalism approach and community policing. It is these views that converged and escalated, and began to link in aspects like Rastafarianism.
Gilroy goes on to offer some interesting criticisms of community policing, page 166f, as involving for example lots of surveillance, and deep connections with counter-insurgency. For him, community policing belongs with the drift towards 'authoritarian consent', or with 'popular statism'.
In this way, policies of multiculturalism can be seen as State control. They attracted messianic followers (page 199) [including many white liberals]. Its real background lay in policies of centralisation by the Department of Education and Science and in anxieties about work refusal (page 200). The new quango, the Manpower Services Commission [given responsibility for vocational education in the UK] also displays racism, with its focus on the 'attitudes' of black people, and is intent to train them for the reserve army of the unemployed (page 204).
I have no notes on chapter six or seven, which is unfortunate. As I recall, these two chapters were written by two black women and described their day-to-day experiences of racism. These accounts are, of course, very worthwhile and worth reading, but are also very hard to summarise in note form (and are not intended to be summarised in note form!) -- so read them for yourselves.
(also written by Paul Gilroy).
Race must be the basis for an emancipatory politics, even where there is overlap with class. Using Volosinov, Gilroy argues that the construction of particular classes is the real issue, and he argues that black people occupy 'racially demarcated class fractions' (page 284). The specifics must not be neglected: only race has a biological dimension, for example, while the community is an important dimension of black working-class politics. Black people in Britain are in a necessarily cultural struggle (page 289). This is the significance of Rastafarianism [which has been much misunderstood by other commentators ] -- it offers a sophisticated cultural criticism, not really a religious one, and it links into other aspects of youth culture, as Hebdige explains [see file ].
Overall, the class struggle itself is an 'instance of the process by which the working class is constructed politically' (page 302). Gilroy acknowledges the need for a war of position, but rejects the broad front policy and the centrality of the Party: these approaches might emerge only finally, and earlier in the the 'rarest moments of revolutionary rupture' (page 307). [In other words, black people are quite right to focus on specific issues that concern them, and do not require any leadership from the white working class].
[At this point, it might be interesting to read the work by Sivanandan , especially his own reservations about 'discourse' approaches and 'theoretical practitioners'].