Materialism is roughly a view which places special emphasis on economic conditions- production, exchange, and consumption in the analysis of society. Materialism about power then is the view that social power has an absolutely central foundation in economic conditions. Through most of recorded human history, materialism about power would have been utterly humbug, a triviality not worth mentioning. Recently though, a strand of the left has developed which sees wealth, income, and class as just another facet of power. In theory, it argues that class is no more fundamental than say race or gender. In practice, it often goes so far as to treat class as less important than race and gender. This view is sometimes called intersectionality but that’s a misuse of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s terminology in my opinion(1). A better name would probably be kyriarchy theory.
Here’s the quickest way to see kyriarchy theory is wrong.
If you gathered the most powerful people in the world together, a disproportionate number would be white, a disproportionate number would be men, a disproportionate number would be straight, etc. But there’s only one thing 100% of them would be. Wealthy(2).
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Footnote 1: “Intersectionality” is the observation that when a person is oppressed in two ways, e.g., through race and gender, their experience of oppression cannot be reduced to a race and a gender component, but rather these interact in complex ways. This is completely true, and it’s a real shame that the term is often stripped of its specific meaning and made into a synecdoche for identity politics as a whole.
Footnote 2: For those readers who are Marxists: A better way to understand the relationship between sex, race, and class is that sex and race help structure and organize class, adding differentiations within classes to create a working-class which is both politically divided and stratified in terms of its economic role. C.f. Selma James’ Classic Sex, Race & Class.