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The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures) Hardcover – February 15, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this highly persuasive analysis of race stigma in U.S. society, Loury, a political commentator and director of the Institute of Race and Social Division at Boston University, argues that it is not simply racial discrimination (which is "about how people are treated") that keeps African-Americans from achieving their goals, but rather the more complex reality of "racial stigma" "which is about who, at the deepest cognitive level, they are understood to be." Loury argues that the image white Americans have of black Americans as less than full citizens influences policy far more than who African-Americans actually are. Although much of Loury's argument is theoretical (his training as an economist is evident in his proposing and then testing various axioms), he grapples eloquently and vigorously with such concrete examples as affirmative action, arguments about racial IQ differences and racial profiling. He concludes that the employment of color-blind policies will not address widespread racial inequalities since they do not take into account either the external or internal harm done to African-Americans from "a protracted, ignoble history during which rewarding bias against blacks was the norm." Originally given as the W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard, Loury's arguments are provocative and productive. (Feb. 8) Forecast: The controversies generated by books as diverse as Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve and Lani Guinier's The Tyranny of the Majority could be replicated by this short, cogently argued book if the public bandwidth is available for it at the time of its release. If not, expect the ideas to bubble up over the years via campus and lobbyist discussion.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Loury, the founding Director of the Institute on Race and Social Division at Boston University and author of the 1996 American Book Award winner One by One from the Inside Out, draws on decision theory to explain how racial stigma is constructed and maintained. He also demonstrates how social bias exerts a feedback effect that actually reinforces the stigma associated with being African American. Centering on "thought problems" that are clever but at times convoluted, Loury argues persuasively that "race blindness" in liberal policy is not only cognitively impossible but also counterproductive in eliminating racial inequality. Particularly important is his powerful challenge to the indifference with which American society regards the incarceration of 1.2 million young African Americans. Loury lays this horrific consequence at the feet of racially influenced social policy and patterns of social interaction. Recommended for academic and public collections. Paula R. Dempsey, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674006259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674006256
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #814,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeremy Michalek on January 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Glen is an accomplished economist, and you can tell in the style of his writing: He is organized and sets up axioms and bullet points to clarify his arguments. I had the opportunity to hear him speak in 2002, and he is quite persuasive. In this book, Loury makes a case against liberal individualism, the popular assumption that liberalized, free market, "race-blind" policies will naturally dissolve unjust inequalities over time. In this discussion, Loury avoids the topic of overt "racial discrimination", which is easier to spot and has more obvious effects, and focuses instead on the strong, persistent, and self-replicating patterns caused by more subtle forces, which he terms "racial stigma". Stigma refers to bodily markings that are automatically cognitively perceived in all social interaction and which have strong social associations that affect perception and behavior of observers. This stigma, and the associations and stereotypes that are cognitively linked with it, acts to rationalize and sustain systematic racial inequality, perpetuating factors that drive formation of stigma. I believe that these arguments appear more compelling if the reader has previous knowledge of theories in cognitive psychology suggesting that mental associational categorization based on observed statistical tendencies applied to readily observable stimuli may form the basis of all thought and learning Glen's arguments are not airtight, and he relies primarily on philosophical thought experiments for illustration; however, his explorations are useful, and a perspective of racial inequality that did not consider and respond to these perspectives would be naive and incomplete.
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Format: Paperback
I had the chance to take a class called the "Economics and Politics of Race and Inequality" with Professor Loury at Boston University. He had recently released this book, and of course, it was required reading. Loury presents many interesting ideas in this book, including the difference between racial discrimination (treating people differently because of their race) and racial stigma (the image that a person gives off because of their race). Loury argues that racial discrimination, which today is mostly 'discrimination in contact' (between two private people) and not 'discrimination in contract' (in a legal matter), is not what should be viewed as the end game. Of course, he thinks that ending racial discrimination would be great, but the more important thing to do, he says, is to work to end the stigma that black Americans have.
Loury, when he used to be a conservative, was considered as a "conservative intellectual", a term that many would find contradictory. Even though his politics may have changed (he now considers himself more liberal, even supporting the 20 point plan in the recent Univ. of Michigan affirmative action case), his status as an intellectual hasn't changed. I had difficulty understanding this book and I had him there to explain it to me! Of course, I got it after a while, but Loury often talks on a level much higher than those not entrenched with the subject will understand. This book, which is a recap of a series of lectures and speeches he gave, is for an intellectual by an intellectual. It's not a casual read on a summer afternoon. But if you're really interested in race relations and racial equality, pick it up. He lays out his arguments well, and even though I don't agree with him on most of his ideas, he's a fascinating guy.
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Format: Hardcover
I found in this book a refreshingly different take on the current issue of racial inequality in the US. I had heard Loury say on the radio something to the effect of that if you accept the premise that there is no fundamental difference between the races, then how can you not be outraged by the percentage of blacks in jail versus the number of whites (or outraged about many other very telling statistics included in the book). The reason we are not outraged, is that somehow it has become 'reasonable' for this outcome to occur, and we don't see it as out of the ordinary. He describes the mechanism for this as a racial stigma associated with blacks. The book describes how this is different that the more commonly discussed discrimination, and how it is a systematic / cultural mindset bias more than just a behavioral one.
He develops this thesis of a racial stigma well, in a readable and convincing fashion.
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Format: Hardcover
The current issue of the Journal of Economic Literature (December 2002) has a review of Loury's book by Steven Raphael (Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkely) on pages 1202 - 1214. The JEL is a peer reviewed journal; the article is very thoughtful and well written. Raphael's article ends with the following sentences:
"While many may take issue with Loury's analysis of racial inequality in the United States, a careful study of this book is sure to challenge one's assumptions and to force the reader to think more deeply about the stubbornly and profoundly persistent and profound social disadvantage of African-American. On this basis alone, the book is a must-read." (page 1213)
The JEL arrived this morning and I ordered a copy today.
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