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+6 votes
I'm especially interested in investigations of: what race is, whether it is real, what its function is, and how it might be gotten rid of, that are non-Marxist or anti-Marxist.
by (8.0k points)
edited by
probably not exactly what you're looking for, but you could start here:

come back and tell us(me! ;) ) what you think. it's a topic i find very interesting.
I'm also very interested in people's answers to this question. I don't know why I didn't come up with this earlier…
Most of the anarchist analyses of race I've seen were distinctively Marxian, attributing the construction of race entirely to Capital. This was the orientation of one of Zabalaza's predecessor organizations. The assigning of social class based on (perceived) ethnic differences predates the era of European colonialism, however. IMO a good anarchist analysis must acknowledge this history.
dot: Thank you. I'd found the introduction to critical race theory. I think I'll look into that further; it seems generally interesting.  Aragorn's article is surprisingly practical-minded.  I like his writing style.

enkidu: Yes, that was my impression.  Not that I don't think there's any use in Marxist approaches, but I think a distinctively anarchist approach would look different, and could be very useful/interesting.  As you say, it ought to involve a much more sensitive understanding of the history of race.

I'm worried that something along those lines may not exist, but I will keep looking.
It strikes me that the North American anarchist movement might attract more people of color if anarchists had the most subtle and compelling analysis around.  As of now, it seems very under-theorized, which may partly explain why sympathetic people of color don't often associate with anarchists or get involved in explicitly anarchist projects.
re this:
"It strikes me that the North American anarchist movement might..."
i would strongly suggest that you don't go down that road. POC have their own thing going on. it's called APOC, and as far as i can tell from the outside, it's a true representation of the state of most anarchist thinking about race, which is to say, not that great. (i'm assuming that's because it's harder to theorize well about experience than it is to experience it, although i guess that's a false dichotomy too. sigh.)
My Point is that a) we all have a ton to get out of a more nuanced and good analysis of race (and identity of all sorts), and b) to start out with trying to make one's analysis fit into a model of recruiting is to cut off the feet of something that can't even walk yet.

there's plenty of critical race theory that is crap. but the most interesting theory on race that i've read in the past 5-6 years (not that i've entirely kept up, perhaps) has been some of the CRT thinkers. the ones that drive me crazy are just taking a more sophisticated perspective on essentialism. the ones i like (derrick bell, lisa ikemoto, anita allen's piece on being a role model) challenge essentialism and/or other presumptions that most take for granted in the race discussion.
oh yea, and another thing.
looking for other people's thoughts is totally appropriate/essential. but it's also appropriate to do your own theorizing. it's hard work (for some of us at least), but once you start to try to figure out things in a different direction than what exists already, you can be one of the exciting thinkers that you're looking for now.

yay, that.
Dear dot,

Of course you are right that we'd all get a lot out of a nuanced analysis of race.  I've never thought that anarchists should 'recruit' people at all, nor do I think that any analysis should worry about recruitment.

"looking for other people's thoughts is totally appropriate/essential. but it's also appropriate to do your own theorizing"

Mhm, I was actually seeking out other people's thoughts with the idea that they might help me write a paper.  I'm starting with CRT; I'll see if that leads anywhere good. Thanks for your help!
dont know if this is what you mean by "Accounts", but its something:

edited to make into comment
That's a conventional Marxist account: it argues that racism is caused entirely by capitalism.
a really good book is Blackness Visible, by Mills. "but what are you really?" lays out a series of points to attend to in theorizing/identifying race.
very interesting.
i lent the book to someone and never got it back :(
if racism is not caused by systems of exploitation, what causes it? Colonialism is a system of exploitation driven often by feelings of racial or cultural superiority, as is apartheid, etc. All of these are biproducts of capitalism itself.

I am no Marxist, but it makes sense to me that racism stems solely from belief in States and religions. Racism is a tool in the hands of statists and religious leader, used to divide the the people of the coercive community, to distract them. so that they unconsciously hand over their lives. Eventually this racism becomes a social and class division that becomes so ingrained and entrenched in society, it is as if it is a normal function of society, not a completely absurd belief driven by an ass-backward view of "Race". Racism has roots in the hands of Power, how is this not so?
Wow, that's crazy. I literally finished reading "But What Are You Really?" four hours ago-- it was assigned for class.  I agreed it was good although I'm more drawn to anti-realist/eliminativist accounts.
Well, I think the Marxist account is compelling as far as it goes: yes, racism has and still does support capitalism in various ways, but that doesn't seem like a sufficient explanation of why it exists.  

Saying that it was created on purpose by the bosses to divide the workers seems to verge on conspiracy theory.

Aside from that, I was really trying to ask about race, not racism.  I think a really satisfying anarchist account would reject both.
personally, it is hard to speak about racism, because "Race" to me, does not really exist. it is skin tone in relevance to the position on the equator, in my opinion.
There is still yet to be sound scientific proof of race.
There's a strong consensus among biologists and anthropologists that 'race' doesn't refer to anything real.  I personally think it ought to be abolished.  But to say that that implies racism doesn't exist is, I think, a very bizarre position.  Basically everyone acts as if race does exist.  To ignore that and pretend our society is already "post-racial" is a little ridiculous.
i agree. it is problematic, simply because the manifestations of racist ideas are very real, but the basis of "race" usually has nothing to back it up. idk.
to address your explanation a little (and the above exchange) race is both real and not real (like many things we live with all the time).
while the race traitor line is simple-minded, the idea of combating racism by refusing its benefits is at least not marxist, and encourages a not-guilty reaction that i have to appreciate. there are also useful concepts in some of the writing having to do with how racism has been used against people who are now considered white (how the irish became white by noel ignatiev, and white by law by haney-lopez). gives a good sense of the historicity of racism's development (if no particularly good ideas on how to fight it).

edit: oops, i mean the exchange below
I am puzzled why does anarchy have any accounts in regards to race.  Seems more of a matter for science than to get clouded up by philosophies and useless speculations based on any biased view.
Well so far there have been some interesting texts brought up, but I haven't been able to find even a single book on the philosophy of race that was written by an anarchist. (Not that that would be the only type of writing that could be interesting, but I asked the question because I was getting bored and frustrated with the Marxist writing I had been finding).

To answer your question, though, the reason why it might be useful to have something like this is because science (e.g. physical anthropology) can tell us that there's no biological reality to the idea that there are different races of humans, but it obviously can't tell us what to do about it. If you're interested in analyses of why people think there are races and act like there are races, social theory and political theory seem like good places to look.  Questions like 'what would it mean/entail to do away with race?' obviously force people to engage in 'speculation' because that isn't something that's happened before (well, at least as far as I know).
Go to this compilation by individualist anarchist Wolfi Landstreicher ( and read the nice article called "I dream in color" where he deals with the issue of race from an anarchist perspective while critizing liberal and leftist approaches to it.

edited to make into comment
sorry iconoclast! this was totally an answer to the question! argh.

@dot: could you clarify what you mean by "...the idea of combating racism by refusing its benefits"? Are those benefits the self-rightous indignation, or is this a wholesale rejection of privledge and money, or do you mean that philosophically you refuse  that it benefits anyone? Thanks, confused....

Race does not exist as far as racists mean it: race implies a sub-species within a general class of species. Few racists would deny that all white, asian, black ect. people share commonalities, but they are convinced that there are inter-species differences, for example, as i just used in the bigotry question, donkeys and horses are a different type of animal, and when they fuck they create mules. Black + white fuck = a mixture of skin color, but no significant racial/genetic differences. Some of what I'm saying may be technically wrong, but race is ultimately an illusion. I don't look like any of the white people I know (except my family slightly), and my skin tone is dramatically different than most other white people I know.

My stance on the gender/sex is somewhat similar: of course there are differences, but those differences are clearly not as marked as our society believes them to be.

the race traitor line is that white people should reject whatever privilege they can reject. so whenever they perceive someone treating them better, they should act against that (i don't have examples from the journal, but i would guess things like--no one shadowing you in a store to make sure you don't steal anything? then steal something. cops relying on your support in some kind of scenario? don't give it to them... etc).

1 Answer

–1 vote

Go to this compilation by individualist anarchist Wolfi Landstreicher ( and read the nice article called "I dream in color" where he deals with the issue of race from an anarchist perspective while critizing liberal and leftist approaches to it.

by iconoclast

by (53.1k points)

the link given by iconoclast was out of date. the correct link is but i have also uploaded the article to

another relevant reading is aragorn's article, the prison house of color...

i find this question always timely, and never more so, unfortunately.

dot, I'm glad you revived this question because it's one I kind of still have.

When I asked it, I was completely ignorant of afro-pessimism (Wilderson, Jared Sexton et al) and only vaguely familiar with the concept of biopower (Foucault, Esposito, Agamben). At present those two avenues seem like the closest thing to a viable answer.

This thread -- whatever else one might want to say about it -- could really go a long way as a reading list, for someone interested in the question:

I'm not sure I quite agree with the spirit of the question any longer. I've become a lot more sympathetic to (certain kinds of) Marxist thought in general, so that for me it would now have to be posed a little differently.

Anyway, I hope this will prompt someone to chime in with something new.
re-pose re-pose pose differently!

that's so tantalizing. meanie.

dot, I thought links were supposed to be comments instead of answers especially links that are "lengthy articles that have to be carefully parsed to find the relative material?"

It doesn't address the question like what is race and/or is it real, it's function and so on. It crticizes of anti-racists in 'Murica and of some zine called race traitor and how the author supposedly treat individuals based on individuality as "the way" instead of "racial or ethnic" makeup. It doesn't outright define what race is, but kinda blindly beats around the bush implying race is based on different phenotypes and to a lesser extent geographical origin, imo. I giggled.