New Racism(s) for Old

  • Simon Clarke


Cultural forms of racism, or what has been termed the New Racism are not dependent on racial stereotypes or typologies but are rooted in notions of cultural and ethnic difference. These, it could be argued, are nothing new; rather, there is a shift in emphasis. Biological racism uses, as we have seen in the previous chapter, inferiority as a means not only of demonising the subject but also the culture of that subject. Publicly and certainly politically it is unacceptable to talk of people as biologically inferior; the emphasis has therefore switched to a discourse of cultural difference in which the Other becomes demonised, a referent in a late twentieth-century political project. Phil Cohen (1999) has noted that the concept of new racism has provided an intellectual resource for the anti-racist movement allowing an emphasis on subtle forms of stereotyping and discrimination (1999: 4). Within the context of the debate on immigration policy, Mason (1995) and Balibar (1991) draw attention to the political aspects of border retention and policy-making, in that there has been a marked shift in emphasis from biologism to talk of ethnic boundaries and the culture of difference. In answer to the earlier question ‘If the Holocaust did indeed put an end to “race” science, as is generally thought, why do we still have racism?’ we can retort:

current racism … fits into a framework of ‘racism without races’… It is a racism whose dominant theme is not biological heredity but the insurmountability of cultural differences, a racism which, at first sight, does not postulate the superiority of certain groups or peoples in relation to others but ‘only’ the harmfulness of abolishing frontiers, the incompatibility of life-styles and traditions.

(Balibar, 1991: 21; emphasis added)


Cultural Difference Social Theory Immigration Policy Psychological Maltreatment Shared Belief 
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© Simon Clarke 2003

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  • Simon Clarke

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