Frank B. Wilderson III
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Frank B. Wilderson III (born April 11, 1956) is an American writer, dramatist, filmmaker and critic.
The Prison Slave as Hegemony's (Silent) Scandal
- in Warfare in the American Homeland: Policing and Prison in a Penal Democracy (Duke University Press: 2007)
- In The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon makes two moves with respect to civil society. First, he locates its genuine manifestation in Europe—the motherland. Then, with respect to the colony, he locates it only in the zone of the settler. This second move is vital for our understanding of black positionality in America and for understanding the, at best, limitations of radical social movements in America. For if we are to follow Fanon’s analysis and the gestures toward this understanding in some of the work of imprisoned intellectuals, then we have to come to grips with the fact that, for black people, civil society itself—rather than its abuses or shortcomings—is a state of emergency.
- p. 24
- Whiteness, then—and, by extension, civil society cannot be solely “represented” as some monumentalized coherence of phallic signifiers but must first be understood as a social formation of contemporaries who do not magnetize bullets. This is the essence of their construction through an asignifying absence; their signifying presence is manifested by the fact that they are, if only by default, deputized against those who do magnetize bullets. In short, white people are not simply “protected” by the police. They are—in their very corporeality—the police.
- p. 25
- The black subject reveals the inability of social movements grounded in Gramscian discourse to think of white supremacy (rather than capitalism) as the base and thereby calls into question their claim to elaborate a comprehensive and decisive antagonism. Stated another way, Gramscian discourse and coalition politics are indeed able to imagine the subject that transforms itself into a mass of antagonistic identity formations—formations that can precipitate a crisis in wage slavery, exploitation, and hegemony—but they are asleep at the wheel when asked to provide enabling antagonisms toward unwaged slavery, despotism, and terror.
- p. 27
- We begin to see how Marxism suffers from a kind of conceptual anxiety. There is a desire for socialism on the other side of crisis, a society that does away not with the category of worker but with the imposition that workers suffer under the approach of variable capital. In other words, the mark of its conceptual anxiety is in its desire to democratize work and thus help to keep in place and ensure the coherence of Reformation and Enlightenment foundational values of productivity and progress. This scenario crowds out other postrevolutionary possibilities—that is, idleness.
- p. 27
- Capital was kick-started by the rape of the African continent, a phenomenon that is central to neither Gramsci nor Marx. ... Capital was kick-started by approaching a particular body (a black body) with direct relations of force, not by approaching a white body with variable capital. Thus, one could say that slavery is closer to capital’s primal desire than is exploitation. It is a relation of terror as opposed to a relation of hegemony. Second, today, late capital is imposing a renaissance of this original desire, the direct relation of force, the despotism of the unwaged relation. This renaissance of slavery—that is, the reconfiguration of the prison-industrial complex—has once again as its structuring metaphor and primary target the black body.
- p. 27-28
- The worker calls into question the legitimacy of productive practices, while the slave calls into question the legitimacy of productivity itself.
- p. 28