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14 J.L. & Soc'y 119 (1987)
Racism and the Innocence of Law

handle is hein.journals/jlsocty14 and id is 129 raw text is: JOURNAL OF LAW AND SOCIETY
0263-323X $3.00
Racism and the Innocence of Law
... with us there is nothing more consistent than a:racist humanism since the European
has only been able to become a man through creating slaves and monsters.'
In liberal views of the world, law is manifestly incompatible with racism.
Where racist practice infects law that can only be something aberrant and
remediable. Exploring the British situation as a case, I will argue that on the
contrary racism is compatible with and even integral to law. I try to show that
the very foundational principles of law as liberal legality import racism into
law, those principles of equality and universality which stand in their terms
opposed to racism. The aim is not to dismiss law, nor to expose liberal legality
as a sham. But nor is it to retrieve law and add to the list of obviously desirable
variants on how to combat racism through law, such as recent left
strategies.2 The point is, rather, to make such acts, gestures, discourses
which ... had seemed to go without saying become problematic, difficult,
dangerous.3 A note on the term racism: I will use it in an extended way to
cover both belief and practice.
Initially, I will set the argument in contrary Marxist views of racism. One,
usually attributed to Marx, sees a fundamental incompatibility between
racism and capitalism of a developed, liberal variety. With its integral
assertions of equality and universalist morality, such a capitalism stands
opposed to racist divisions and this for good economic reasons.4 Far from
seeing such capitalism and racism as opposed, the alternative Marxist
tradition finds them compatiable, even symbiotic. In economic terms racism
operates to provide cheap labour and to constitute a sector of 'the reserve
army of labour'. Politically, racism divides the working class and counters the
transformative potential of that class. There are numerous dimensions to this.
*Darwin College, The University, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NY, England.
Thanks to Fiona Kinsman, Lydia Pepple, Guy Smith and staff of the Central Office of the
Industrial Tribunals for a lot of help with the cases. Thanks to Dave Reason for much else.

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