European spectres

Charles W. Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


I argue that race - the "European Spectre" of the title - has received insufficient attention within Marxist theory. Liberal and Marxist accounts of modernity differ on various points, but agree in characterizing modern society/"capitalism" as marked by the collapse of ancient and medieval status distinctions and the corresponding emergence of moral and juridical egalitarianism. But this basically Eurocentric narrative ignores the new system of ascriptive hierarchy established by European expansionism: white supremacy. Particularly in the United States, I suggest, race has been the primary social division, in that racial identity has generally trumped other kinds of group identity. Ironically, then, the Marxist model works better for race than class, and if the concept of a "bourgeois revolution" is expanded to mean the overturning of ascriptive hierarchy of all kinds, it has yet to be fully carried out.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-155
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1999


  • Marxism
  • Modernity
  • Race
  • White supremacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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