The Class-to-Race Cascade Interrogating Racial Neoliberalism in Romani Studies and Urban Policy in Budapest’s Eighth District



Published Dec 28, 2018
Jonathan McCombs


This paper explores neoliberal discourse as a racial discourse in relation to how Roma are conceived by academics and policymakers. I develop the concept of the class-to-race cascade as a way to describe the phenomenon, whereby the marginalization of racialized minorities is attributed entirely to their classposition. The cascade flows as follows: neoliberal policies slash benefits to low-income people, low-income people are disproportionately racially marginalized, thus neoliberal policies affect different racialized minorities, perpetuating racism. I trace the lineage of the class-to-race cascade to the concept of the“underclass” as it was developed in the U.S. particularly through the work of William Julius Wilson after the neoliberal turn. I then critique the work of Iván Szelényi and János Ladányi who adapted the “underclass” thesis to Roma, using the class-to-race cascade. Finally, I apply the concept to urban policy discourse inBudapest’s Eighth District, where a large Roma community has lived for nearly a century. I show in this paper that the class-torace cascade is a prominent discursive feature of both policy and academic concepts of Roma.

How to Cite

McCombs, J. (2018). The Class-to-Race Cascade. Critical Romani Studies, 1(2), 24-39.



Racial neoliberalism, Urban studies, Hungary