Can we connect philosophy with racism?
In Antebellum South the white man would not work for anyone because he considered laboring for hire made him no better than the black slave and his superiority to the black man was essential to his self-esteem. There was no labor class in the Antebellum South. The slaves did the labor but the slave was a capital investment just like a horse or oxen. Here was a total society without a laboring class.
What were some of the effects of no free labor in the South? The most important factor I suspect was that the ordinary white man felt any labor was beneath his dignity. This lack of ‘free labor’ led to many of the characteristics of the Southern man and woman that probably is a factor today in the still distinctive character of the Southerner.
I think that the wheel might be a useful analogy for understanding the mind of the South. The spokes of the wheel represent the essential components of all societies--economy, law and culture. The hub to which all spokes focus is labor. The Antebellum South revolved around slave labor.
Classical Athenians “believed that to render any form of service, especially the physical, to another man in return for money, even if only for a short time, was a form of slavery, and unacceptable to a free man”.
Ideology universalizes, absolutises, and reifies (makes an object of) abstract concepts. The ideological group converts its concrete experiences and its abstract concepts into universal standards (a form of philosophy?) for the whole society.
A society like our own, in which there exists free labor that “sells” its skills, capacities, and activities to another, must find a means of defining humans in such a way that such individuals can still feel like complete and free individuals even though they sell part of them self to another.
How does a society define the human essence in such a way that the individual “sells” only that which is alienable to him or her while maintaining the essence of a free individual?
“In order to say that his freedom is not compromised when his abilities, skills, and activities are placed at another man’s disposal, he had to be defined in the barest possible manner.”
If a person’s skills, capacities, and activities are alienable to her what is his essence that may be considered to be unalienable? Capitalism, wherein labor is commodified and thus faces this problem, has located the human essence as being the capacity for freedom of choice and will.
“The individual was, above all, an agent. As long as he was not physically overpowered, hypnotized, or otherwise deprived of his powers of choice and will, his actions were uniquely his, and therefore his sole responsibility. It did not matter how painful his alternatives were, how much his character had been distorted by his background and upbringing and how much his capacities of choice and will were debilitated by his circumstances.”
This description seems much like what we Americans now use to assuage our guilt when consciously considering the death and dismemberment, physical and mental (PTSD), of our soldiers serving, dying, and being fragmented in our war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Quotes from Marx’s Theory of Ideology by Bhikhu Parekh