Reading List

Who's Afraid of Critical Race Theory? Verso Student Reading on Race, Class, and History


Every year, right wing politicians choose a new target for the culture war. While in the past they fulminated against “communists” and “Judeo-Bolshevism,” the position of the radical other as an agent of civilizational collapse has been filled by many subjects through the years. Recently we’ve been alerted to the scourge of “cultural Marxists,” antifa, and BLM terrorists. The latest embodiment of evil is “critical race theory,” which has been mentioned by Fox News alone more than 2000 times. The readings below all circle around the function of race within capitalism, with particular attention placed on how race works as an ideology of ascriptive difference. Race works to define people by what they are as opposed to what they do, and functions as a construct of direct social domination and a tool to dissolve solidarity and keep workers in competition.

What are the historical roots of race in capitalism? How should we combat racism from the left? Is there a radical anti-racist politics that is distinct from liberal perspectives that focus on identity, privilege, and personal responsibility, and which naturalize racism as an outlook people are simply born with? Should the goal be to ensure that positions of privilege, wealth, and power within capitalism are distributed more fairly, or to eradicate the very roots of inequality that give rise to racial oppression in the first place? 

All books are 40% off as part of our Student Reading Sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here.

A previously unpublished collection of Rodney’s essays on race, colonialism and Marxism.

For sixty years, Noel Ignatiev provided an unflinching account of “whiteness” — a social fiction and an unmitigated disaster for all working-class people. This new essay collection from the late firebrand covers the breadth of his life and insights as an autodidact steel worker, a groundbreaking theoretician, and a bitter enemy of racists everywhere.

An exemplary work of political, economic, and historical analysis, powerfully introduced by Angela Davis.

Reed illuminates the multifaceted structures of the segregationist order. Thanks to his personal history and political acumen, we see America’s apartheid system from the ground up, not just its legal framework or systems of power, but the way these systems structured the day-to-day interactions, lives, and ambitions of ordinary working people.

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 American life. 

The Invention of the White Race is a comprehensive, tour de force analysis of the cruel ingenuity that gave birth to racism and made our modern world. Long heralded as a classic study of the origin of white privilege from the activist who first coined the term, Theodore W. Allen’s work remains an indispensable resource for making sense of our conflicted present, a reference point for everyone from Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Nell Irvin Painter to Reni-Eddo Lodge and Aníbal Quijano.

Gathering together Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s work from over three decades, Abolition Geography presents her singular contribution to the politics of abolition as theorist, researcher, and organizer, offering scholars and activists ways of seeing and doing to help navigate our turbulent present.

A powerful challenge to the way we understand the politics of race and the history of anti-racist struggle.

Race reductionism is used as a tool to criticism "racism" without tying it to capitalism. Touré Reed in this rigorously constructed book criticises this view, arguing that the fate of poor and working-class African Americans is inextricably linked to that of other poor and working-class Americans. 

A remarkable book on the international operations of racism and the global meaning of Black Power.

A powerful document of theday-to-day realities of Black women in Britain.

The American Crucible furnishes a vivid and authoritative history of the rise and fall of slavery in the Americas.  

Robin Blackburn argues that the organization of slave plantations placed the West on a destructive path to modernity and that greatly preferable alternatives were both proposed and rejected. Finally, he shows that the surge of Atlantic trade, predicated on the murderous toil of the plantations, made a decisive contribution to both the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the West. 

With race and the police once more burning issues, this classic work from one of America’s giants of black radicalism has lost none of its prescience or power

Traces of History presents a new approach to race and to comparative colonial studies. Charting the different modes of domination that engender specific regimes of race and the strategies of anti-colonial resistance they entail, the book powerfully argues for cross-racial solidarities that respect these historical differences. 

The story of how enslaved women struggled for freedom in the West Indies.

Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital outlines a profound and rigorous critique of postcolonial theory. Focusing on the hugely popular Subaltern Studies project, Chibber shows that its foundational arguments are based on a series of analytical and historical misapprehensions. 

A classic work of Black feminism.

A classic history of the role of Black working-class struggles throughout the twentieth century.

Forty years after the defeat of Nazism, and twenty years after the great wave of decolonization, how is it that racism remains a growing phenomenon? What are the special characteristics of contemporary racism? How can it be related to class divisions and to the contradictions of the nation-state? And how far, in turn, does racism today compel us to rethink the relationship between class struggles and nationalism?

The distinguished American civil rights leader, W. E. B. Du Bois first published these fiery essays, sketches, and poems individually nearly 80 years ago in the Atlantic, the Journal of Race Development, and other periodicals. Part essay, part autobiography, Darkwater explicitly addresses significant issues, such as the oppression of women and Eurocentric standards of beauty, the historical rise of the idea of whiteness, and the abridgement of democracy along race, class, and gender lines. 

How two centuries of Indigenous resistance created the movement proclaiming “Water is life”.

Highly acclaimed dissection of the “new racism,” from one of the greatest radical black intellectuals of our time.

All books are 40% off as part of our Student Reading Sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here.