This paper addresses sexism and racism as stubborn and persistent structural dynamics within liberal-neoliberal political economy. Starting with a feminist analysis of unpaid care as an inegalitarian foundation for the economic system, we develop an explanation of the economic and political function of racism-sexism. Considering unpaid care as the foundation of gender inequality, we posit that gendered inequality stabilizes the structure of capitalism through the maintenance of inequality within the home. The antinomic character of ‘horizontal inequalities’ as internally differentiated categories (gender and race) performs this stabilizing role, by reconfiguring political demands for egalitarian redistribution, thereby transforming potentially counter-hegemonic alliances into differently defined redistributive demands - the ‘ideological zig-zag’ dynamic of stabilization (Wallerstein 1991).
We turn to a key example of categorical (‘existential’) equalization (Therborn 2018) – post Apartheid South Africa, where racial equalization and redress have not reversed vital and material inequalities (Mare 2016; Jablonski & Mare 2018; Therborn 2018), while existential and recognitional demands seem to be intensifying. Indeed, the evidence shows that inequalities are increasing (Liebbrandt 2010; 2018). We conclude that significant difficulties are involved in attempting intersectional categorical equalization – different definitions of ‘inequality’ function in a non-linear fashion, creating a dynamic that ultimately deflects the inequality challenge back onto persistent patriarchal and racist epistemic structures – their disequalizing antinomies remain at the heart of the self-reinforcing global dynamic of capitalism.