The Rule of Racialization

Class, Identity, Governance

Steve Martinot
Book Cover

PB: $33.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-982-1
Publication: Nov 02

HC: $90.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-981-4
Publication: Nov 02

256 pages
7 x 10

A significant re-writing of the history of class formation in the US


An important history of the way class formed in the US, The Rule of Racialization offers a rich new look at the invention of whiteness and how the inextricable links between race and class were formed in the seventeenth century and consolidated by custom, social relations, and eventually naturalized by the structures that organize our lives and our work.

Arguing that, unlike in Europe, where class formed around the nation-state, race deeply informed how class is defined in this country and, conversely, our unique relationship to class in this country helped in some ways to invent race as a distinction in social relations. Martinot begins tracing this development in the slave plantations in 1600s colonial life. He examines how the social structures encoded there lead to a concrete development of racialization. He then takes us up to the present day, where forms of those structures still inhabit our public and economic institutions. Throughout, he engages historical and contemporary thinkers on the nature of race in the US, creating a book that at once synthesizes significant critiques of race while at the same time offers a completely original conception of how race and class have operated in American life throughout the centuries.

A uniquely compelling book, The Rule of Racialization offers a rich contribution to the study of class, labor, and American social relations.


"In fine accounts of the 17th-century Virginia colony, post-Revolutionary class and racial formation, Civil-Rights-era affirmative action debates, and the languages of whiteness, Steve Martinot offers a clear and ultimately clarifying work of scholarly synthesis. The Rule of Racialization tracks the structures of feeling and thinking—illogical, unconscious, baffling, and vestigial though they may be—that remain the driving forces of racialization and racism today."
Eric Lott, University of Virginia, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

"This book deserves to be consulted not just by students of race and ethnicity, but also by those interested in the failures of American socialism and ore concrete issues of affirmative action."
Ethnic and Racial Studies

"(This book) makes an indispensable contribution to understanding the origins of racism in the United States, and (it) offers a useful framework to clarify the interconnection between economic and racial domination."
Contemporary Sociology

"This writer steps boldly forward with a comprehensive exploration of race and class in American history.... The prose is dense but lucid, theoretically rigorous but oriented to the problems of achieving equality. More than a work of historical analysis, it suggests a positive, large plan of action."
American Historical Review

"This is a sweeping historical survey of racial construction in the United States since early European colonial settlement."
Journal of Social History

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. The History And Construction Of Slavery And Race
2. Racialization And Class Structure
3. The Contemporary Control Stratum
4. The Meanings Of White Racialized Identity

About the Author(s)

Steve Martinot is Instructor at the Center for Interdisciplinary Programs at San Francisco State University. He has edited two previous books, and translated Racism by Albert Memmi.


In the Series

  • Labor in Crisis edited by Stanley Aronowitz

    The hope for a revived progressive movement in American politics and culture depends to a large extent on the possibility of a revived labor movement. The Labor in Crisis series, edited by Stanley Aronowitz, will stimulate debate and discussion about the state of the American labor movement and its relation to the future of America by publishing short, provocative books that offer varying analyses and prescriptions for labor's revival as well as diverse assessments of its prospects. Books in the series will be relevant to a vision of the labor movement that presupposes movements and people who care about the chances of more equality, more democratic participation in the institutions of political and social life, and more power for those traditionally excluded from economic and political decision making.