Professor’s New Book Refers to Marxism for Achieving Racial, Gender Equality

Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Robert C. Smith standing in front of a gray background

How can women and African Americans achieve freedom and equality in America? A new book by Political Science Professor Emeritus Robert C. Smith suggests leaders read up on Karl Marx’s theory of egalitarianism, based on the moral belief that all humans deserve equal rights.

By contemporary standards, “The Communist Manifesto” author and 19th-century philosopher would be considered a radical Democrat, Smith says.

“Marx was a serious egalitarian for women, for workers and for people of color,” he said.

“Power, Philosophy and Egalitarianism: Women, the Family and African Americans” (Routledge Books) applies egalitarianism to nine power bases that white men manipulate to oppress Black people and women: money, knowledge (including technology and information), religion, morality, authority, size/solidarity, charisma, violence and status. To effect change, Black people and women must gain authority and influence within these power bases, Smith argues.

His conclusion: slavery reparations must become the No. 1 Civil Rights issue of the 21st century.

“African Americans should try to mobilize the bases of power that they can and form a coalition to move this society toward some kind of reparations for the past injustices,” he said. “For every wrong, there should be a remedy.”

For the U.S. to become egalitarian for women, Smith writes that universal health care and child care are one vital part of the solution. Men must also change their behavior at home.

“You can only have gender equality if you have equality in the family,” said Smith, who joined SF State in 1989. “Men generally dominate intimate family politics. When women make more money than their husbands and have higher status in their occupations, that does not tend to lead to egalitarianism. It tends to lead to [marital] separation.”

While Smith has studied politics and race for half a century, he traces his interest in feminist thought to the female-dominated households in his life. He was raised by a single mother with four older sisters. He and his wife of 48 years have three daughters and one granddaughter.

Smith retired from teaching two years ago but keeps on writing. His 12th and 13th books are scheduled for 2021: “From the Bayou to the Bay: The Autobiography of a Black Liberation Scholar” (State University of New York Press) and a study of Donald Trump titled “When Character Is Absent” (Lynne Rienner Publishing).

— Matt Itelson

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