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White Racism: A Psychohistory Paperback – May 6, 1984

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Kovel's book is a mind-blower, a serious attempt to grapple with racism simultaneously on historical and psychological levels, incorporating a concise and readable history of the specific human relation called 'white racism' by a perceptive culling of many different sources.

(Telos)

A brilliant book, admirably and provocatively written....Books on 'race' are legion, but they are seldom as original and interesting as Joel Kovel's book....very much worth reading for the many insights it provides into the depths of a profound human tragedy.

(Ashley Montagu)

A singularly impressive and well written book.

(The New York Times)
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 301 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (April 15, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231057970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231057974
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is a profound and disturbing book, relying on Freud's theory to describe and explain a civilization built on a fixation that expresses itself in racism as much as in the tendency to build skyscrapers and limitless finance markets, while devaluing all that is human, spontaneous, sensual, or emotional. Kovel takes us through the beginnings of racism as it has underlain European history, through antisemitism and up through the Old South with its straightforward bigotry, and then on to our present world of a rationalized society that, seemingly without human intention, systematically discards and marginalizes people of color. Kovel shows that Puritanism is alive and well in many forms taken for granted in Western society today, whether credit card numbers, skyscrapers, bleach, or nuclear weapons.

This book requires guts and heart to read in its entirety, and might leave one either depressed or determined to nurture all that is sensual, humane, and alive in our world. White Racism: A Psychohistory is indispensible to anyone truly interested in understanding the psychological underpinnings of Western culture, and appears to have been the beginning of Kovel's courageous and lifelong mission to understand other Western - and in one case, uniquely American - cultural phenomena that are rooted in twin commitments to the eradication of life and the acquisition of property.
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Joel Kovel's WHITE RACISM is a less than impressive examination of the psychological origins behind white racist ideology. I say less than impressive because you can really tell this book is written by a white person. Buckets and buckets of words without much meaning. Numerous chapters are a wash of jargon that is almost indecipherable and I think utterly useless to those trying to get at the truth about racism. Kovel's approach to racism is very Freudian with examinations of maladaptive child development regarding relations with mothers and fathers. Lots of talk about dirt and fecal matter and how it corresponds historically with how whites see Blacks. Kovel breaks racism down into various stages like the oral stage and the anal stage. He also separates racism into various categories like dominative (conservative, South), aversive (liberal, North), metaracism, etc. My favorite part of the book is his breakdown of the racism in the novel, MOBY DICK in chapter 9. Apart from that chapter 8 was the only other one that really held my attention. Kovel treats racism as an "unconscious" cultural tradition and doesn't really give as a clear a window into the white mind as Michael Bradley does in THE ICEMAN INHERITANCE. I much prefer that or just read YURUGU if you want to truly understand how the white mind works. This book wasn't a total waste of time, but I can't say I recommend it.
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Kovel provides an excellent account of the psychoanalytic basis of racism. He predicted the "racism without racists" of the supposedly post-racial Obama era.
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