Social Scientist. v 12, no. 138 (Nov 1984) p. 65.


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BOOK REVIEW

ANGELA Y DAVIS, WOMEN, RACE AND CLASS, New York, 1981,

^ 17.50.

ANGELA DAVIS9 book is a lare effort—a case study of the interaction of issues of race and class within the women's movement in America. She carries out her analysis through a chronological unfolding of the position of black women, the majority of whom are also part of the labour force, within the American society. She studies their transition from slavery to freedom against the background of a number of particular issues raised at different times by the women's movement, namely, the issues of female suffrage, of resistance against rapists, of the right to birth control and abortion, and finally of housework. The picture that emerges from her analysis reveals uniformly non-participation of black women on these issues in the feminist movement. And her explanation of this lies in an incisive critique of American feminism, which according to her, has failed to tackle adequately the issues of race and class.

To use a slightly inappropriate image, Davis catches the bull by the horns in her statement of the problematic, although in working out the details, a clearer statement of historical priorities should have been forthcoming. In a specific historical situation, racial and sexual discrimination operates within certain specific relations of production. In the life of the black woman, the transition from slavery to proletarianis-tion vis-a-vis the capitalist labour market made a qualitative break. Racial oppression continued so that a link with the past remained, but the manner of economic exploitation changed and with it the forms of racial discrimination as well The scope for upward social mobility increased; economic opportunities closed to the black slave were slowly opened up at least to a minority of the emancipated negroes. This, oi course, did not mean the eradication of inequality; it rather served to swell the ranks of a reserve army of labour and enhanced tension among the different groups within the working clas^. Bat the chronic unmitigated discrimination against blacks which continued in the post-slavery



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