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Ethnic Studies

Race has always been one of the most occurring sociological themes in present times. Since the early 19th century, there have always existed different sociological perspectives on race with the recurrent changes depicting the shifts in large scale political processes. The beginning of the 20th century was dominated by William Du Bois in a sociological context and was also responsible for the first notable challenges in terms of racists’ assumptions. The aftermath of the World War II was characterized by a rise of civil rights movements and the surge in migration which led to the sociology of race becoming a central issue. Although the political field tried so hard to overcome prejudice and discrimination in the aspect of race, racial injustice and inequality has never been completely overcome. To be able to effectively tackle the themes of race and racism, sociology is put to task to come up with an effective racial theory to introduce a different approach in tackling the same.

Howard Winant is one of the most influential American sociologists and race theorist. Howard is particularly famous for his development of the racial formation theory with the help of Michael Omi. “The approach used by Howard with respect to race and ethnic issues is comparative historical sociology, political sociology and social theory not forgetting the all important factor of human rights”(. Etienne, Race, nation, class: ambiguous identities, 1991) The racial formation theory is mainly drawn from Gramsci’s conception of homogeneity with an aim of describing the social construction of race. According to Howard and Omi, the emergence of race was as a result of the need for organizational factor in the society. However, the organizational factor was interfered politically which led to the race becoming an unstable social category that is constantly changing with time in modern world. With respect to this, it is evident that the political field is unable to complete the project of racial inequality.

According to Winant and Omi, the fundamental dynamics of race including institutional racism and continued inequality along racial lines remain in place today. In this context, both these two sociologists argue that racial formation is one of the key factors that have led to the sociological understanding of race. There has been the identification of reductionist theories by both sociologists that further identify race as epiphenomenal but competing theories of racial dynamics have been developed by subsequent sociological explanations. Winants is currently developing a project that aims at focusing on the dynamics of race and racism in the 20th century in terms of a multi disciplinary approach.

Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein on the other hand is an American sociologist and a historical scientist who is popularly known for his commentaries on world affairs. Wallerstein first became interested in world affairs when he was a teenager in New York and at the time, he was particularly interested in the Indian independence movement. In a sociological perspective, Wallerstein began as an expert specializing in post colonial African affairs which was mainly as a result of his participation in an international youth conference. Most of the publications by Wallerstein were particularly on post colonial African affairs until during the early 1970s when he established himself as being both a historian and a theorist.

This is with respect to the global capitalists’ economy through the approach of macroscopic level. “One of the main reasons why Wallerstein has become an éminence grise is due to his endless criticism of global capitalism and championship of anti systemic movements”. (Ettiinne & Immanuel, 1991). The most important work done by Wallerstein is the modern world system which mainly draws on three intellectual influences such as that of Karl Marx which greatly contributes to a larger part of this work by Wallerstein. Wallerstein follows Karl Marx in emphasizing the underlying factors in an economic approach and the dominance of the same in the global political context.

Wallerstein also tries to incorporate the arguments by French historian Fernand Braudel who analyzes the political implications of extensive networks of economic exchange particularly in Europe during the early 1400 and the late 1800s. According to the Democracy, Capitalism, and Transformation article, there is also the incorporation of the dependency theory and its concepts in the core periphery and practical experience. Wallerstein shares the same sentiments with Karl Marx that in the few coming years, capitalism will eventually be replaced by a socialist economy. However, some of Wallerstein’s theories in the sociological context have been termed to be historically incorrect not only in the neo-liberal approach but also the greater historical approach.

Wallerstein’s view with respect to race is that there should be no such notion like the commonly used ‘Third World’ notion. According to Wallerstein, the world is a complex network of economic based relationships. The capitalistic world system is one such project undertaken by Wallerstein in relation to the dependency theory to try and analyze the developments of the different societies since the early 16th century. Both Wallerstein and Winant seem to share the same sentiments and approach to race in that there are the existences of independent political units.

However, Wallerstein quite differs from the approach taken by Winant and other sociologists stating that there is no existence of racial differentiation in terms of country or region confinement. “According to Wallerstein, the world is a complex network of economic based relationships”. (Michael & Howard, 1994). This in the larger context implies that over the past few decades, interests in racial matters have increased significantly in the global context which calls for a different theoretical dimension to address the linkage between modernity and race.

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