There is currently a tremendous need to understand a previously obscure branch of academic thought called Critical Race Theory. These ideas originated in the academic literature in the 1980s and 1990s and, until quite recently, seemed to have little impact. Now they’re everywhere. These (mostly bad) ideas have been mainstreaming over the last decade and especially over the last few months, as they are much of the theoretical underpinning of the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement. People have been asking us to help them understand, and one of the things they have been asking for most frequently is a reading list for these ideas.
In the course of researching to write our joint book, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody, and in the process of writing the materials on New Discourses, we have read much of the relevant literature and have thus gained an understanding of Critical Race Theory that is both faithful to it and critical of it. This can be read, for example, in the fifth chapter of Cynical Theories and in much of our other writing, including here on New Discourses.
Below is a list of sources that we have found valuable for understanding Critical Race Theory, mostly from within, though some sources that are critical of it are included as well. It is not meant to be exhaustive, of course, as that would require listing thousands and thousands of sources now, most of which we have obviously not read. This list, which is admittedly quite long nonetheless, can be thought of as something like a crash-course reading list that we’ve tried to organize into different levels of accessibility for people who are now interested in learning about Critical Race Theory on its own terms, especially so they can successfully identify and counter it and its influence wherever that arises. We have organized these recommendations according to our estimation of difficulty level and accessibility and lightly annotated this list to contextualize the various sources for the reader.
Of some note, print sources listed in the “beginner” section, particularly the books, are mostly popular-press books that are currently ascendant in the various bestseller lists and mandatory reading lists. We do not think they provide an adequate introduction to Critical Race Theory in and of itself, but they are all relatively easy reads (thus appearing near the beginning of the list) that present the ideas. They are also currently extremely popular and are being widely read. Aside from a few useful web resources in the “beginner” section, the first real source for Critical Race Theory proper is the introductory book by that name listed first in the “intermediate” section.
Of course, the resources on New Discourses itself are also meant to be more clear and accessible, and, noting house privilege, they are listed first. Readers who are familiar with these sources will find the beginner and intermediate recommendations immediately comprehensible.
New Discourses Resources
- Critical Race Theory (Translations from the Wokish encyclopedia entry)
- Whiteness Studies (Translations from the Wokish encyclopedia entry)
- A Principled Statement of Opposition to Critical Race Theory: An Excerpt from Cynical Theories (Link).
- Eight Big Reasons Critical Race Theory is Terrible for Dealing with Racism (Link)
- Do Better than Critical Race Theory (Link)
- The Influence of Anti-racist Scholarship-activism on Evergreen State College (Link)
- Teaching to Transgress: Rage and Entitlement at Evergreen College (Link)
- The Problem with White Fragility (Link)
- The Flaws in White Fragility Theory: A Primer (Link)
- The Intellectual Fraud of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” (Link)
- 5 Reasons the Book “White Fragility” Is Shallow and Destructive (Link)
- White Silence is NOT Violence (Link)
- Liberal Reflections from the National Archives: Hope, Pride, and Two American Tales (Link)
- James Lindsay: The Truth about Critical Methods (Link)
- Should Universities Teach Conspiracy Theories as Knowledge (Link)
- An Open Letter to Robin DiAngelo about “Anti-racism” (Link)
These resources are accessible to people with no background in the scholarship. They are written in common language and all concepts explained to people with little or no previous exposure. These resources are not meant to provide the reader with a full-dose exposure to Critical Race Theory, and the books listed here are largely ones that exist within the popular sphere.
Online introductory guides (particularly useful to start with)
- Purdue Online Writing Lab’s Introduction to Critical Race Theory. (Link)
- Hiraldo, Payne. “The Role of Critical Race Theory in Higher Education.” The Vermont Connection 31, no. 7 (2010): Article 7. (Link)
- Rollock, Nicola and David Gillborn. “Critical Race Theory (CRT).” BERA, 2011. (Link)
- Sleeter, Christine, E. “Critical Race Theory and Education.” Encyclopedia of Diversity in Education. Ed. James A. Banks. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012. (Link)
- Sulé, V. Thandi. “Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, Social Justice and Human Rights, Social Work.” ProfessionOnline, Apr. 2020. (Link)
- DiAngelo, Robin, 2018. White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism. (London: Allen Lane, 2019). (Link)
Written very clearly and accessibly for the layperson, this book is highly influential and will give the reader a thorough grounding in the kind of “antiracist” activism they are likely to face in everyday situations and conversations. It should be noted that this book technically falls within the subdivision of Critical Race Theory called “critical whiteness studies,” or just “whiteness studies,” which is not always considered canon in Critical Race Theory circles (though we think it is). Further, even though DiAngelo is white and some of the older black Critical Race Theorists are highly critical of her, she does represent a particularly accessible form of critical whiteness studies that is deeply rooted in Critical Race Theory and presents a somewhat bastardized meme version of Critical Race Theory that has gone viral among activists.
- Kendi, Ibram X. 2019. How To Be an Antiracist. Random House. (Link)
Kendi does not quite represent a full Critical Race Theory perspective, though his thinking draws upon aspects of CRT. Rather than thinking so fully in terms of racial identity groups, which is a hallmark of Critical Race Theory, Kendi takes a more individualistic approach to racism that is colored by the group thinking. He also does not see racism as intrinsic to one’s race but instead in terms of outcomes produced. Specifically, in this book, Kendi portrays racism as something that people can do or not do regardless of their race, which differs from the more common CRT conception of racism as a system that everyone is socialized into. Still, in wanting to judge whether something is racist or not after the fact based upon disparities in impact, he has imported some of the systemic-type thinking. Kendi also argues, like many others in this field, that one cannot simply be “not racist”; one can only be racist or antiracist. This also applies to institutions, policies, etc., and leads Kendi to the ill-advised notion that we should create an antiracism Constitutional amendment and government agency to operate upon his ideas.
- Kendi, Ibram X. 2017. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Bold Type Books. (Link)
In this book, Kendi writes a critical historiography (story about history) to attempt to make a case that the United States was “stamped from the beginning” as a racist nation. To make this case, Kendi draws upon five notable thinkers from American history, last of all black feminist Angela Davis, to downplay the American liberal progression away from racism in favor of a more cynical narrative that implies that the United States has failed in its actually successful attempt to generate one of the freest and most egalitarian states with regard to race in the history of the world. His case is ultimately that Americans and American institutions inadvertently operate on “belief systems” that have been tinged with their racist heritage, which makes this book more clearly in the Critical Race Theory tradition than his later book, How To Be an Antiracist.
- McKenzie, Mia. 2014. Black Girl Dangerous on Race, Queerness, Class and Gender. BGD Press. (Link)
A collection of blog posts from a popular intersectional activist. She writes in an informal and personal way that is very easy to follow and gives a good insight into how these scholarly ideas manifest in activist form. It is not particularly deep. Showcases the narrative-based and storytelling approach that Critical Race Theory tends to favor over more rigorous methodologies.
- Sensoy, Özlem and Robin DiAngelo. 2012. Is Everyone Really Equal? An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. New York: Teachers’ College Press. (2017, second edition) (Link)
A highly recommended resource book that covers Critical Race Theory while fitting it into its broader context within “Critical Social Justice” (it is, in fact, from this book that the term “Critical Social Justice” derives). Its value lies in that it is written very accessibly, almost as though for children, but directly cites the relevant scholarly sources. It carries a dogmatic tone that is very certain of its own rightness.
- DiAngelo, Robin. 2016. What Does It Mean to Be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy. Peter Lang. (Link)
This is a highly accessible and nearly unadulterated look into “critical whiteness studies” in Robin DiAngelo’s overwhelmingly accessible and dogmatic style. This book seeks to fulfill the promise in the title and to teach white people that whiteness is a racial property that forms a racial identity into which they fit (and, frankly, should feel ashamed about because of its intrinsic connection to white supremacy and systemic racism). It’s something of a shocking read.
- Saad, Layla F. 2020. Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. Sourcebooks. (Link)
Another popular-level title that would convict our societies of being hopelessly and profoundly white supremacist and systemically racist and actively seeks to convince the reader of this conviction through direct emotional manipulation. It has the goal of leading the reader not just to understand the critical view of “white supremacy” but also to believe in the necessity of social activism against it. The book is organized specifically to encourage “self-reflection” and “self-critique” in order to get the reader to feel guilt and shame about various incidents in their lives, beliefs, etc., that the author tries to fit within a framework of systemic “white supremacy” that most people actually have no part in.
- Olou, Ijeoma. 2019. So You Want to Talk About Race? (Link)
This book is rooted upon the assumptions of Critical Race Theory and thus will give the reader some sense of them, but it’s objective is, as the title indicates, to teach people in a very simplistic and straightforward way how to talk about race and racism. What this means in practice, given the Critical Race Theory underpinnings, is that it seeks to teach people how to read racism into their personal relationships and interactions and then confront it there, which tends to have the effect of making cross-racial relationships uncomfortable. The author’s thesis is that white supremacy is “the nation’s oldest pyramid scheme” and seeks to end that by making personal relationships politically confrontational sites of transformational change (which, we suppose, appeals to some types of people). This behavior is a core recommendation of the Critical Race Theory mentality.
- Eddo-Lodge, Reni. 2019. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Bloomsbury. (Link)
Eddo-Lodge analyses absolutely everything in the UK for racism and, unsurprisingly, finds it. Much of the book is historical (or, historiographical) and implies that this racial history continues today. This sort of implication is bread-and-butter to Critical Race Theory: that which was cannot get better and thus always is.
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. One World. (Link)
Ta-Nehisi Coates is arguably the poet laureate of Critical Race Theory themes, and this book presents them quite eloquently. Coates, in keeping with Critical Race Theory’s approach, writes in an emotional narrative style with the objective of convincing the reader that racism is an unsolvable problem that pervades every aspect of American life. It is a shockingly evocative, pessimistic, and cynical read that puts Critical Race Theory into action. Like many of the books on this section of the list, it may not be immediately recognized as Critical Race Theory unless the reader has some familiarity with the topic already.
These resources are all accessible to lay readers with the help of a dictionary and an occasional trip to the Web to look something up. They can be a bit more difficult to read, however, as some of them are more deeply philosophical and academic in tone and style. Beginners to the ideas may struggle with some of these and are recommended to use lighter introductions first or to consult the New Discourses references and articles to get a working base upon which to proceed.
Books and papers
- Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. 2017. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, third edition. New York University Press. (Link)
This is a fairly accessible overview of the reach and range of Critical Race Theory that also presents its history in law, its divisions, and the emergence of Critical Social Justice from its lines of thought. It seeks to lay out the fundamental premises of Critical Race Theory in a clear, organized way and thus is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the subject. Though it is academic in tone and style, it is also relatively short, easily read, and indispensable for understanding what Critical Race Theory is and how it thinks. For those looking for a general introduction to the topic, this is the source to turn to.
- Applebaum, Barbara. 2010. Being White, Being Good: White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy. Lexington Books. (Link)
This is a truly alarming book that argues that all white people are complicit in racism by merit of existing. Applebaum also claims that disagreement with her ideas is inherently illegitimate and simply represents a failure to engage. Through a long argument that will leave readers scratching their heads at each new development, Applebaum makes the case that complicity and thus moral responsibility cannot be defined narrowly in the sense of actually having had something to do with a problem but must be expanded to the point where everyone who is not actively fighting the problem is necessarily complicit in it, especially if they can be positioned as “benefiting” from it. This is technically another book within the “critical whiteness studies” subdivision of Critical Race Theory.
- Bell, Derrick. 1987. And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice. Basic Books. (Link)
For context, Derrick Bell is considered to be the progenitor of Critical Race Theory, arguably with his doctoral student, Kimberlé Crenshaw. Thus, his writings give the context of thought from which Critical Race Theory emerged. In this book, Bell argues that racism is not really improving at all—a core belief of Critical Race Theory even today—and that the Civil Rights Movement was really mostly beneficial for white people. He attempts to demonstrate this using story-telling techniques.
- Bell, Derrick. 1992. Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism. Basic Books. (Link)
Derrick Bell continues to argue that racism is not improving and now suggests that it never will—but it’s worthwhile to keep fighting anyway. He illustrates this with a story about aliens asking America for all its black people and white people handing them over. The central thesis of this book, captured both in the title and in the opening salvo, is that no matter what developments take place in American society, even the poorest white (trash) people will still be able to look down upon black people, who they see as below them and at the “bottom of the well.” He wrote this in 1992 when, for example, almost every white kid in America was looking up to (not down at) Michael Jordan as a hero and buying all of his expensive merchandise while Michael Jackson was still recognized as the King of Pop and Will Smith’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was one of the most popular television shows for the American youth.
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” Feminist Legal Theory.
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1991.“Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6.
These two essays together provide the foundational work on intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw, student of Derrick Bell and co-founder of Critical Race Theory. They should give the reader a good understanding of the purpose of intersectionality and its origins in legal theory. A key observation from the second of these papers is that the purpose of intersectionality is to link radical black liberationist and radical feminist (i.e., Neo-Marxist) thought to postmodern theory in order to do radical identity politics that centers what is known as “black feminism.” Phrased otherwise, those two veins of radical thought are, in these developments, set upon one another to increase how critical they are while making verifiable truth claims less relevant to their application. These papers are genuine academic articles, so some readers may find it useful to read this summary first. The other seminal work on this subject is “Black Feminist Thought in the Matrix of Domination” which is to be found in the book Black Feminist Thought in the next section or as a PDF here (more on this source, which is more advanced, below).
- Howard, T. C., & Navarro, O. 2016. “Critical Race Theory 20 Years Later: Where Do We Go From Here?” Urban Education, 51(3), 253–273. (Link) (DOI)
This paper provides an important look at how Critical Race Theory has been used in education in the United States already and how it could be taken further. In that sense, it gives a clear window into the aspect of Critical Race Theory that is deeply embedded within our current educational system.
- Moradi, B., & Grzanka, P. R. 2017. “Using intersectionality responsibly: Toward critical epistemology, structural analysis, and social justice activism.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, 64(5), 500–513. (Link) (DOI)
This paper provides a practical guide to employing intersectional ideas in a number of real life settings.
- Sullivan, Shannon. 2014. Good White People: The Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-racism. SUNY Press. (Link)
This book is rather staggering in its unbridled anger at white people who try to be progressive and anti-racist. It, like much in contemporary critical whiteness studies attempts to lay most of the blame for white supremacy at the feet of white progressives, especially white progressive women. This book is a genuine eye-opener into how intensely white progressives (especially women) hate themselves.
These sources will very likely be incomprehensible to a lay reader. They require familiarity with the language and central concepts of Critical Race Theory before they will be accessible.
Books and papers
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé (ed). 1996. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement. (Link)
This very comprehensive and rather difficult book contains many foundational essays on Critical Race Theory that are still highly influential today. Of particular importance is “Whiteness as Property” by Cheryl Harris. This is an important concept to the movement that is quite difficult to absorb.
- Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic (eds.). 2013. Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, third edition. Temple University Press. (Link)
This book is a very long collection of essays (mostly very academic, totaling some 900 pages) collecting the “cutting edge” thoughts in Critical Race Theory in a single place. It is often considered a more advanced companion book to Delgado and Stefancic’s other more famous and standard text, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. Some of these essays are very insightful into the core thoughts of Critical Race Theory. Others are a bit more extreme and thus, shall we say, enlightening.
- Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge. 1990. Intersectionality. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018. (Link)
Quite a complex book which is not terribly well structured or clearly argued but does accurately represent the current state of scholarship and understanding of intersectionality. It is best to read this after the two Crenshaw essays in this section and Collins’ other book, Black Feminist Thought (just below), first.
- Collins, Patricia Hill.  2008. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge. (Link)
This, along with bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman? and Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider is probably the best source to get a sense of the black feminism that merged with critical race (legal) theory to produce the intersectional approach that is so influential today.
- Ange-Marie Hancock. 2016. Intersectionality: An Intellectual History. Oxford University Press. (Link)
This is a particularly dense and meandering read, but it’s worthwhile if you want an overview of the current academic debates in Critical Race Theory and intersectionality. Hancock looks at the differences between academic intersectionality and the activist meme version as well as arguing for relying less on its roots in postmodernism and more on the radical side in black feminism.
- hooks, bell. 1999. Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism. South End Press. (Link)
hooks, arguably the most influential black feminist, takes issue in this book with American feminism for being too focused on white women’s issues and looks at this historically. Another text that is comparable for those interested is her Feminism is for Everybody (Link). Neither of these books is particularly hard to read on the surface, but the conceptual depth hooks relies upon requires familiarity with these lines of thought to be fully comprehensible.
- hooks, bell. 1994 Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge. (Link)
This is an indispensable read in the same vein as hooks’ other books, though this one drives very vigorously toward putting black feminist radicalism and Critical Race Theory thought into education. This book was therefore very significant in terms of getting our educational systems to adopt Critical Race Theory.
- Lorde, Audre. 2007. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press. (Link)
Arguably the most intersectional collection of Lorde’s work, which brings together many of her essays and speeches about a variety of marginalized identities. Lorde’s writing style is literary and imaginative, rather than argumentative, as she was a poet. Again, the reading is not particularly difficult here, but the concepts require background.
- Harris, Angela P. 1990 “Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory.” Stanford Law Review 42, no. 3.
A rather difficult law review article that was quite influential at “interrogating” the limits of both legal theory and the feminist aspect thereof. In this sense, it was instrumental in incorporating intersectional-style thought into feminist legal theory, which up until that point had largely been radical in orientation.
- Heather Bruce, Robin DiAngelo, Gyda Swaney (Salish), Amie Thurber, Between Principles and Practice: Tensions in Anti-Racist Education – 2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference. Directed by Collins Memorial Library, 2014. https://vimeo.com/116986053.
Bruce and her colleagues usefully list central tenets of anti-racist activism and explain them accessibly. They are eye-opening, to say the least.
- “Intersectionality.” A resource for children. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6dnj2IyYjE&feature=youtu.be
This is useful because intersectionality is often explained in highly vague and complex terms.
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “The Urgency of Intersectionality” – A Ted Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akOe5-UsQ2o
Crenshaw explains how intersectionality works and argues for its importance as a framework in accessible terms for the layperson.
- DiAngelo, Robin “Coming Together” A lecture series at Evergreen College. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVddM1hzmvI
Robin DiAngelo explains her theory of “whiteness” and “white fragility” in practical and accessible terms. These ideas have great popularity among intersectional and anti-racist activists.
These books provide context and concepts that will aid your understanding of Critical Race Theory. They are largely background material, however.
- Anderson, Walter Truett. 1996. The Fontana Postmodernism Reader. Fontana Press. (Link)
This book is very useful for understanding core concepts of postmodernism as they were condensed and simplified in the late 80s and early 90s and were then, from there, incorporated into the Theories we know today: Postcolonial Theory, Critical Race Theory, Queer Theory, etc. A very useful background guide for understanding the postmodern context of these Theories.
- Feluga, Dino Franco. 2015. Critical Theory: The Key Concepts. Routledge. (Link)
Provides accessible explanations of all kinds of critical theories.
- Thompson, Sherwood. 2015. Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice. Rowman and Littlefield. (Link)
Accessible explanations of key concepts in Critical Social Justice more broadly. Not affordable.
These books, academic papers, and popular essays critique Critical Race Theory in particular, Critical Social Justice scholarship and activism, and postmodernism, in more generality. They are useful for understanding, contextualizing, and knowing how these ideas go badly wrong. Some of these resources also provide crucial alternatives to combating the influences of a cynical theory like Critical Race Theory.
- Church, Jonathan. 2019. “Whiteness Studies and the Theory of White Fragility Are Based on a Logical Fallacy.” Areo Magazine, April 25, 2019. (Link)
Church considers the logical problems with considering “whiteness”—a vaguely defined concept—as a real concrete entity that has consistent and pervasive effects on black people. Many other essays by Church that take a deep and detailed dive into epistemological problems in various theories of whiteness, but particularly Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” can be accessed from this essay.
- Doyle, Andrew. 2019 “The Religion of Intersectionality.” Sp!ked. (Link)
Doyle offers a charitable interpretation of the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw and the strongest case for being aware of potentially compounding elements of identity before criticizing the way intersectionality is practiced by its adherents.
- Jilani, Zaid. 2019. “What Does Teaching ‘White Privilege’ Actually Accomplish? Not What You Might Think (Or Hope).” Quillette. (Link)
Jilani questions the concept of “white privilege” arguing that it flattens analysis of race and disadvantage.
- Lindsay, James, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose. 2018. “Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship.” Areo Magazine. October 2, 2018. (Link)
Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose revealed the Grievance Studies Affair to the world in this article. In that “project,” the trio spent approximately 15 months writing and publishing deliberately bogus academic papers in Critical Social Justice scholarship, some relying upon Critical Race Theory, to expose the problems with this scholarship to the wider world.
- London, Eric, and David North. 2019. “Nikole Hannah-Jones, race theory and the Holocaust.” World Socialist Web Site. (Link)
London and North, writing from a socialist perspective critical of identity politics, criticize the 1619 project and its use of Critical Race Theory in its attempts at historical revisionism.
- McWhorter, John. 2015. “Antiracism: Our Flawed New Religion.” The Daily Beast. (Link)
McWhorter eloquently argues that antiracism is, in fact, a nascent and flawed new religious way of thinking. This “faith” is ultimately rooted in quasi-spiritual beliefs about the systemic nature of racism as presented in Critical Race Theory.
- Pluckrose, Helen, and James Lindsay (Forthcoming, 2020). Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity–And Why This Harms Everybody. Pitchstone Publishing. (Link)
Pluckrose and Lindsay trace the evolution of postmodern thought from its origins in 1960s France through a second of wave of “Theory” and into the Critical Social Justice scholarship and activism of today. They break down the ideas into two principles and four themes of postmodernism and show how these manifest in predictable ways in all branches of the Critical Social Justice scholarship. It includes a chapter specifically on Critical Race Theory. Excerpts: Intersectionality, from that chapter (Link), and a principled statement about dealing with racism apart from Critical Race Theory (Link).
- Pluckrose, Helen, and James Lindsay. “Identity Politics Does Not Continue the Work of the Civil Rights Movements.” Areo Magazine, September 26, 2018. (Link)
Pluckrose and Lindsay compare the methods of liberalism with those of identity politics underlain by various kinds of critical theories.
- Pluckrose, Helen, James Lindsay, and Peter Boghossian. February 19, 2018. “Is Intersectionality a Religion?” [Video] (Link)
Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian sit down for a public talk at Portland State University to discuss the proposal that Intersectionality—thus including Critical Race Theory—constitutes a new religious movement.
- Pluckrose, Helen. 2017. “The Problem With Intersectional Feminism.” Areo Magazine. (Link)
Pluckrose argues that while intersectionality could have been a useful concept, in practice it stereotypes and constrains individuals into identity categories, losing sight of our individuality and shared humanity.
- Pyle, Jeffrey J., 1999. “Race, Equality and the Rule of Law: Critical Race Theory’s Attack on the Promises of Liberalism.” Boston College Law Review. 40(3): 787–827. (Link)
Pyle takes issue with Critical Race Theory’s positioning within law, arguing that it, in fact, undermines all the liberal and democratic and empirical principles than enabled the legal system. This is, in fact, a devastating critique, though it is academic and somewhat difficult to read.
- Shackel, Nicholas. 2005. “The Vacuity of Postmodern Methodology.” Metaphilosophy 36: 295–320. (Link)
Shackel provides an engaging and devastating takedown of the entire postmodernist approach to reason and argumentation, showing it not only to be nearly empty of substantive content but also almost wholly reliant upon sophistry and cheap rhetorical tricks that pose as scholarship. This paper is the origin of the concept of the “motte and bailey” rhetorical strategy (here called a “doctrine”) upon which Critical Race Theory and the other aspects of Theory today are so reliant. It is also the origin of the concept of “Troll’s Truisms,” which the philosopher Daniel Dennett has also recognized and named “deepities.”
- Subotnik, Daniel. 1998. “What’s Wrong with Critical Race Theory?: Reopening the Case for Middle Class Values.” Cornell J. L and Pub. Pol’y 683. Touro Law Center Legal Studies Research Paper. (Link)
A lengthy but accessible multi-part essay that argues that critical race theory is further entrenching disparities with its methods and argues that change needs to come from within black communities. A controversial and somewhat conservative argument that has been accused of promoting “respectability politics,” it nevertheless provides a useful example of early criticisms of critical race theory which are still argued today.
- Sullivan, Andrew. 2017. “Is Intersectionality a Religion?” Intelligencer, New York Magazine. (Link)
Andrew Sullivan considers the fervor with which intersectional activists protest any speech they do not like drowning out the speakers with chants and compares this to the practices and culture of the Puritans.
Broader reading and alternatives
- Campbell, Bradley, and Jason Manning. 2018. The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars. Palgrave Macmillan. (Link)
Campbell and Manning take a detailed and rigorous sociological look at the rise of a culture in which victimhood on the grounds of race, gender, or other marginalized identity factors is valorized as a status deserving of support and the effects of this on society and our ability to discuss ideas.
- Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt. 2019. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation For Failure. Penguin Books. (Link)
Lukianoff and Haidt consider the psychological effects of the new culture of “safety” and protection from difficult or uncomfortable ideas. They argue that this works as a kind of reverse cognitive behavioral therapy causing people, often adolescents and young adults to read interactions in the most negative way possible, experience society as hazardous to them and be less resilient and able to cope with the public sphere.
- Murray, Douglas. 2019. The Madness of Crowds: Race, Gender and Identity. Bloomsbury Continuum. (Link)
Murray looks at the effects of various kinds of activism on behalf of marginalized identity groups and the entrenchment of the concept of identity as political. He argues this to be making it very difficult to express any opinion considered not the authentic and morally acceptable one for one’s identity and to be causing particular problems for those considered to have a privileged identity to speak at all.
- Rauch, Jonathan, and George F. Will (foreword). 2014. Kindly Inquisitors The New Attacks on Free Thought. University of Chicago Press. (Link)
Possibly the most important book on this list, Jonathan Rauch defends “liberal science”—the knowledge production and conflict management system based upon freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas—as a way to determine what is true and what is morally right. He compares this with other systems with particular attention to the rising censorship on campuses. This book is essential for any liberal wanting a clear and cogent explanation of liberalism that can be defended against Social Justice scholarship.
- Sokal, Alan, and Jean Bricmont. 1999. Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals Abuse of Science. St. Martin’s Press. (Link)
Sokal and Bricmont look very specifically at the abuses of science by the original postmodernists and some of their post-structuralist descendants, breaking down its nonsense and arguing for the value of a scientific approach to truth.
- Detmer, David. 2003. Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth. Humanity Books. (Link)
Philosopher, David Detmer, looks at the concept of truth in postmodern thought and argues against its epistemological relativism—believing that different people can have different and contradictory truths—drawing on much philosophical thought
- Lindsay, James, and Helen Pluckrose. “A Manifesto against the Enemies of Modernity.” Areo Magazine, August 22, 2017. (Link)
Lindsay and Pluckrose compare the problems of the postmodern left and the premodern right and argue for those who reject the illiberalism and irrationalism of both to defend the fruits of modernity.
- Lindsay, James. 2018. “Postmodern Religion and the Faith of Social Justice.” Areo Magazine. December 2019. (Link)
Lindsay looks at the ways in which postmodern ideas incorporated into Social Justice scholarship and activism fulfill many of the same psychological and social needs as religion and establishes a similar form of doctrine.