In academia, it’s commonly said that race isn’t real. Blacks aren’t a different group from whites, Asians aren’t a different group from indigenous Australians. But out in “the real world” race is still as real as can be. There are too many blacks in prisons, too many being shot by police, too few black political candidates, too many jokes about Asian nerds, too many white philosophers. How to square these two perspectives?
Our reviewers look at two new books about what race is and how it makes a difference in daily life. Ásta’s book Categories We Live By carefully delineates just what it means to say that race (and gender, and other categories) are socially constructed, not built into the real world. On her view, it doesn’t mean social categories are grounded in nothing at all. So she is not the most radical social constructionist. On the other hand, Michael Hardimon’s book Rethinking Race makes something out of these “grounding properties”, supporting a realist position, but one he calls “minimal realism”. Both books are praised by our reviewers, Katharine Jenkins and Michael Root.
We also feature a review of an uplifting new book on finding meaning in life, by Iddo Landau — a book that makes meaning extremely accessible. Maybe too accessible, if our reviewer, Kirsten Egerstrom, is right. Less uplifting but timely and important, Linda Martín Alcoff’s Book Rape and Resistance is reviewed by Jonathan Jenkins Ishikawa.