A Marquette University professor believes that liberal notions of individual liberties and free markets are problematic because capitalism “requires inequality” while racism “enshrines the inequality that capitalism requires.”
Jodi Melamed recently argued that individual liberties, including free speech and property rights, are forces “that reproduce capitalist violence.”
Professor Melamed made the remarks during a lecture titled “Understanding Racial Capitalism and the Open Secret of Racial Capitalist Violence,” which she delivered at St. Olaf college on April 20.
Melamed stated that the purpose of her address was to “share some new work on the open secret of racial capitalist violence.” The scholar went on to define racial capitalism as a “way of thinking about how racial procedures that differentially value and devalue, and devalued human being are inseparable from capitalist relations of accumulation.” According to the professor, capitalism “requires inequality” while racism “enshrines the inequality that capitalism requires.”
“In my book [Represent and Destroy] I focus on three domains of administration that reproduce capitalist violence as an open secret but all work together in practice,” she continued. “The first is police procedures, the second is the exercise of rights, especially individual rights, property rights, states rights [and] free speech as well.”
The professor argued that Americans are currently experiencing “a partial remaking of rights under the combined pressure of the ultra-capitalist radical right, a block that leads today for extractive financial and corporate capitalism and the political resurgence of a libertarian-leaning ethno-nationalism, which we can think of as a highly individualistic, lightly veiled version of white supremacy.”
According to Melamed, the “libertarian appropriations of liberal rights abstractions are radically individualistic and property supremacist” because libertarians take advantage of “free speech” to argue in favor of “the unbridled right of entrepreneurs to accumulate capital,” as well as “impunity for money to influence the state apparatus and the free speech of the radical right’s propagandists who speak on college campuses.”
During the Q&A portion of the lecture, Melamed dismissed the notion that she supports eliminating or curtailing free speech in the United States, but did explain that the right is an “abstraction” that is not being used to promote debate, asserting that public spaces on college campuses are being leveraged by figures like Richard Spencer to “promote white supremacy.”
In addition to her critiques of individual rights and liberties, Melamed also detailed her observation that police as another force of white supremacy.
“The police are what I call the visible hand of the market,” she said, arguing that Philando Castile was “killed by white middle class reliance upon property values for economic security.”
“His death sent current and potential homeowners a clear message: the state via the police will protect the long term value of your home against the stain of blackness,” she added.
Using Europe as an example, the professor also shared her belief that the “dirty secret” of socialism is that it “has worked well” when practiced by people who see themselves as part of the same group, but that as societies become more “racialized,” members of the dominant group tend to restrict welfare benefits for people of other groups.