Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life” as Want to Read:
Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  160 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Verso (first published January 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Racecraft, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Racecraft

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,045)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 17, 2013 Inna rated it it was amazing
Brilliant work. The authors adopt Durkheimian approach to explain why, even though we all know that race is a cultural construct, it is still such a basic part of American culture. Their point is that since every society needs some basic principles which cannot be questioned to sustain its stability (they compare race in US to witchcraft in Africa) and since race was so basic to US culture, first as justification for slavery and later as a disguise for class, it will take much more than rational ...more
Dec 15, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
May 16, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing
During the Heyday of the cotton empire in the nineteenth century, slavery continued to perform the service it has pioneered in colonial times: that of limiting the need for free citizens(which is to say white people) to exploit each other directly and thereby identifying class exploitation with racial exploitation. 131

Racial ideology supplied the means of explaining slavery to people whose terrain was a republic founded on radical doctrines of liberty natural rights, and more important a republi
Aug 02, 2015 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Yet another book I wish everyone would read. How can "race" be real if it is a "social construct"? This book goes toward showing how. The authors astutely point out that racism doesn't result from race, but rather that race results from racism.

On a side note, I did not realize until I picked up the book that one of the authors is the translator of the excellent The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Emile Durkheim. Durkheim's ideas figure in Racecraft, to persuasive effect.
Apr 29, 2014 Onefinemess rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
by: Karen E. Fields & Barbara J. Fields

I know - with a title like that, the gamer in me is still confused. It has nothing to do with Warcraft, Starcraft or Minecraft. Just an FYI ;).

Overall, I found it a good read. The academic language and phrasing can be a bit offputting, but the subject matter is compelling.

I do wish the authors had just gone all the way and been clear about "race as religion" instead of hiding it one level out as "racecraft works like witchcraft". I could be wrong, but t
Sep 11, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthropology, race
I love some parts of this book, found others unintelligible, and was bored by others (esp. the parts where the authors indulge their penchant for their own family's oral history and ":tell stories"). But the good parts are really terrific. The Fields sisters present a dense and carefully written, creative and original critique of race that includes cutting-edge historical, sociological and anthropological arguments. The notion that racism creates race (an inversion of the usual construction that ...more
Philip Mckenzie
Dec 27, 2015 Philip Mckenzie rated it it was amazing
I read this at a perfect time, as the current political and economic environment has made the questions raised and tackled even more relevant. The authors attempt to connect "race/racism" to the traditions and customs of witchcraft hence the title of the book. It challenges the usual way in which we think of race both from a philosophical and biological construct and I found it compelling. It can be hard to wrestle with the ideas, not because they are not argued well but actually because they ar ...more
Mar 06, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Emily by: Doug Henwood, Jerry Monaco
Shelves: nonfiction, occupy
For all of Fields's grumbling about historians writing about "agency" and "voice," these terms are at the center of media criticism around identity issues. What her analysis brings to the discussion is how to step away from the Feeling Offended basis for complaining about Othering in media, in order to focus on how mainstream pop culture narratives are "ritual" repetitions of ideologies that serve (or used to serve) the ruling class's economic and political interests.

The essay on Witchcraft/Rac
Mike Goldstein
Apr 11, 2016 Mike Goldstein rated it liked it
Three stars not for the ideas, but for my personal reading experience. The basic ideas here, the way the authors are able to trace the establishment of American racial ideology, the way they explain the impetus for racist pseudo-science, are...well, just look at all the other reviews here. It's all really well done, and the book does a great job of getting at why concepts of "race" are so impervious to factual and logical rebuttals. The ideas will definitely stick with you.

But... I'm sure I'm at
Jan 07, 2016 Ron rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Ron by: It was mentioned in "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Barbara and Karen Fields try to make people understand the difference between race, racism and racecraft in this book and they have written an excellent description of the differences in these words including the definition of racecraft as a completely new word. First we must understand that the word race has no meaning- that is there is no such thing as race which is commonly used in this context to mean a class of people different from other classes of people. Have you ever heard the word whit ...more
May 11, 2013 Whittyfh rated it really liked it
"Racecraft does not refer to groups or ideas about groups or traits, however odd both may appear close up. It refers instead to a mental terrain and a pervasive belief"

The above is the best descriptor of what the authors mean by the term racecraft but to really understand how it affects science, politics, economic justice, prison systems, etc., you have to read the book. The author's premise is race is not natural it is an ideology constructed and perpetuated by humans but there is no biological
Tony Richardson
Aug 04, 2013 Tony Richardson rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, spot-on book. A precise, detailed, carefully articulated analysis of race that presents the necessary, radical intervention upon America's ruling/founding narrative of racism.

" And the first principle of racism is belief in race, even if the believer does not deduce from that belief that the member of a race should be enslaved or disfranchised or shot on sight by trigger-happy police officers or asked for identification when crossing the campus of the university where he teaches, just
Nov 29, 2013 Anita rated it liked it
Talks about and around the absurdity of racism and inequality in America. That race is not natural, rather is an ideology constructed and perpetuated by humans. I like the concept of seeing racism and racist remarks through the eyes of a Martian visiting America.

"To say that race is entirely a social construction provokes a surprising level of resistance, even amongst the socially liberal. Though it is no longer socially acceptable to presume inferiority based on descent, so-called racial “diffe
James Payne
I tagged this book "race" which is enough of a reason to reread it. Totally brilliant, points to the paradoxical position of those progressives who emphasize race - an out and out racist construction - when attempting to combat racism. One can not use capitalism's racist tools and terminology to extricate oneself from oppression; Racecraft's line of argument is what is needed to transcend the faulty premises of capitalism that capitalism's critics still find themselves employing. You can read an ...more
Jon Morgan
Dec 13, 2015 Jon Morgan rated it really liked it
A powerful denunciation of the magical thinking ('racecraft' as an analogy with 'witchcraft') that undergirds the illusion of race as something distinct from racism. While initially I was put off by the introduction's polemical style, as I continued I found this approach refreshing and well-suited to the purpose of disabusing the reader of the terminological and conceptual slipperiness with which we discuss race. I found it particularly heartening how the text pinned down and dissected the liber ...more
Sep 07, 2015 Katrina rated it liked it
I agree with these authors' overall philosophy but was frustrated by their writing style, the insufficient attention they pay to the role of language in racecraft, and their lack of discussion of how we might undo racecraft in ordinary life.
Aug 16, 2015 Abby rated it liked it
Kind of cobbles together many previously-published essays, so there's a lot of repetition of the central argument -- the idea that racism created and continues to create race, and not the reverse. A very important argument, but you really only need to read one or two essays to grasp probably 85% of the substance of this collection.
Nov 19, 2015 Josh rated it it was amazing
A life-changing, consciousness-altering read. Brilliant and insightful. Should be required reading.
Mills College Library
305.80097 F462 2012
Oct 12, 2015 Steve marked it as abandoned
quit reading after about 50 pages. seemed like a mixture of her personal reality and experiences (well-written and valuable) mixed up with pseudo-history and pseudo-scientific anthropology (not so valuable).
May 30, 2015 Redpoet rated it liked it
Made a few very good points, in fact these were the central points of the entire book. However, one chapter would have been enough....
Trinity School Summer Reading
A complex and intriguing look at race and inequality in America. Schock and Berko went to hear Fields speak, and she blew our minds!
Apr 24, 2013 Rodney rated it really liked it
Interesting read regarding the absurdity of racism and inequality in America.
Mohamad Junaid
Mohamad Junaid marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
Lauren Hegarty
Lauren Hegarty marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
Ingrid marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
Sarah Kate
Sarah Kate marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
Khawer Khan
Khawer Khan marked it as to-read
May 04, 2016
Cameron Walter
Cameron Walter rated it it was amazing
May 03, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 34 35 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy, and Society (Updated Edition)
  • The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control (Volume 1) (Haymarket Series)
  • The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America
  • Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
  • The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class
  • Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960
  • The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South
  • The Racial Contract
  • The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin
  • Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination
  • Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
  • We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement
  • Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America
  • More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States
  • Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880
  • Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race
  • Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars
  • When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America

Share This Book