Rethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism (Hardback)
  • Rethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism (Hardback)

Rethinking Race: The Case for Deflationary Realism (Hardback)

Hardback 240 Pages
Published: 12/06/2017
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Many scholars and activists seek to eliminate “race”—the word and the concept—from our vocabulary. Their claim is clear: because science has shown that racial essentialism is false and because the idea of race has proved virulent, we should do away with the concept entirely. Michael O. Hardimon criticizes this line of thinking, arguing that we must recognize the real ways in which race exists in order to revise our understanding of its significance.

Rethinking Race provides a novel answer to the question “What is race?” Pernicious, traditional racialism maintains that people can be judged and ranked according to innate racial features. Hardimon points out that those who would eliminate race make the mistake of associating the word only with this view. He agrees that this concept should be jettisoned, but draws a distinction with three alternative ideas: first, a stripped-down version of the ordinary concept of race that recognizes minimal physical differences between races but does not consider them significant; second, a scientific understanding of populations with shared lines of descent; and third, an acknowledgment of “socialrace” as a separate construction.

Hardimon provides a language for understanding the ways in which races do and do not exist. His account is realistic in recognizing the physical features of races, as well as the existence of races in our social world. But it is deflationary in rejecting the concept of hierarchical or defining racial characteristics. Ultimately, Rethinking Race offers a philosophical basis for repudiating racism without blinding ourselves to reality.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674975668
Number of pages: 240
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


Rethinking Race is a valuable contribution to debates over race in philosophy. It defends a pluralism about the term ‘race’ and develops a detailed account of the minimalist concept of race. The discussion of various biological accounts of race synthesizes and explains a broad range of views, providing an insightful tour through the many options. A real virtue of the book is that it is ecumenical in the best sense: it is not dogmatically wedded to a strict constructionist or anti-constructionist position, but explores each view thoughtfully, identifying what is plausible and useful. Anyone working on the concept of race will benefit tremendously from reading Hardimon's book. - Sally Haslanger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hardimon makes the case for a deflationary concept of race and the existence of minimalist races. His arguments are precise and compelling. Rethinking Race will be required reading for anyone interested in the metaphysical questions of race. - Jonathan Kaplan, Oregon State University

For two decades, Michael Hardimon has been thinking hard about concepts of race, articulating parts of a new and illuminating approach to the vexed questions that surround them. This book provides a systematic account of his views. In philosophical work on race, it is unrivaled in the breadth of its vision and in the depth of its probing analyses. Anyone concerned to think clearly about race should read it. - Philip Kitcher, Columbia University

This study will be appreciated by those working in race theory, social theory, philosophical anthropology, cultural studies, and population studies. - M. W. Westmoreland, Choice

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