Cover: The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, from Harvard University PressCover: The Anatomy of Racial Inequality in PAPERBACK

The Anatomy of Racial Inequality

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Product Details


$27.50 • £19.95 • €25.00

ISBN 9780674012424

Publication: September 2003


240 pages

5-1/2 x 8 inches

22 graphs, 8 tables

The W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures


Intellectually rigorous and deeply thoughtful… The Anatomy of Racial Inequality as much as anything, might be considered Loury’s declaration of independence, his fully articulated position as a neoliberal… Loury’s book deals with racial stigma quite directly, but in its political and philosophical aspects as a cause of black disadvantage… The Anatomy of Racial Inequality is an incisive, erudite book by a major thinker.—Gerald Early, The New York Times Book Review

Loury is both a renowned economist and the director of the Institute on Race and Social Division at Boston University. In this fascinating and original book, he combines those two qualifications to examine why, a century and a half after the abolition of slavery and 50 years past the beginning of the U.S. civil rights movement, there are still such inequalities between whites and African Americans. The result is a thoughtful, interdisciplinary book that argues that it isn’t racial discrimination but racial stigma (‘which is about who, at the deepest level, they are understood to be’) that sustains the inequality.The Globe and Mail

In [The Anatomy of Racial Inequality] Loury makes a striking departure from the self-help themes of his earlier work, defending affirmative action and denouncing ‘colorblindedness’ as a euphemism for indifference to the fate of black Americans. [The book] offers a bracing philosophical defense of his new views. Returning to an argument he first presented in his dissertation, Loury argues that blacks are no longer held back by ‘discrimination in contract’—discrimination in the job market—but rather by ‘discrimination in contact,’ informal and entirely legal patterns of socializing and networking that tend to exclude blacks and thereby perpetuate racial inequality. At the root of this unofficial discrimination, he says is ‘stigma,’ a subtle yet pervasive form of antiblack bias.—Adam Shatz, The New York Times Magazine

In The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, Loury assails ‘race-blindedness’ as often (if inadvertently) indifferent to the cause of racial justice. In his view, the degradation of slavery in America translated into an enduring ‘stigma’ that has marginalized the majority of Blacks and negatively affects their life chances. Evidence of this phenomena is to be seen in the vast numbers of African Americans languishing in the nation’s prisons… Loury has written a concise and, at times, provocative analysis of the American racial conundrum—one in which he exercises that most central of intellectual virtues: the capacity to change one’s mind.—William Jelani Cobb, The Crisis

The Anatomy of Racial Inequality by Glenn C. Loury is a theoretical treatise that attempts to reconfigure and refocus the conceptual perspective from which social scientists construct frameworks for studying and explaining African-American social and economic disadvantage… He presents a compelling look at issues of racial inequality, which ostensibly deals with economic issues by drawing upon other social science fields such as sociology and social psychology. His approach is well conceived and ‘novel’ in that it makes use of the insights of these other fields by applying them to broader aspects of the American social matrix than is traditionally allowed in analyzing economic inequality. He succeeds primarily because he does not restrict his analysis of economic inequality to those constricts and variables that can only be explained by quantitative analysis of economic data, phenomena, and trends… [W]hat is new in Loury’s treatise is his contention that their racial stigma should clearly displace racial discrimination as the key conceptual approach to studying and understanding racial inequality… [ The Anatomy of Racial Inequality] provide[s] important contributions to our understanding of the challenges that continue to confront African-Americans socially, educationally, and economically… Loury’s work provides ample theoretical fodder and a sound rationale for empirically testing and assessing the structural aspects of these same constructs.—Larry L. Rowley, Educational Researcher

Glenn Loury’s new book, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, paints in chilling detail the distance between Martin Luther King’s dream and the reality of present-day America… In page after page of statistics gathered over a period of decades, Loury reveals the true nature of subjugation by race in the United States… [A] scrupulous account.—Anthony Walton, Harper’s

A fresh, challenging analysis of the racial inequality endured by African-Americans. Loury first presented these arguments as the W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard in April 2000. One of his principal observations is that those who consider racial issues should replace the concept of racial discrimination with that of ‘racial stigma.’ People are stigmatized, he says, when they are viewed by others not as individuals but as members of a race. He believes that American blacks have patently suffered the most from stigmatization and identifies slavery as the chief cause… There’s no question that this is a significant, even crucial text gravid with vital ideas.Kirkus Reviews

In this highly persuasive analysis of race stigma in U.S. society, Loury…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] grapples eloquently and vigorously with such concrete examples as affirmative action, arguments about racial IQ differences and racial profiling… Loury’s arguments are provocative and productive.Publishers Weekly

Books that make readers truly uncomfortable, that hold up a mirror to our hearts and minds and reflect something horrible and true, are rare. The Anatomy of Racial Inequality by Glenn C. Loury is such a work. A provocative dissection of contemporary white/black relations, it belies the notion that mainstream Americans no longer harbor ugly racial beliefs… His book is a wake-up call for everyone who frames the modern history of race as a happy tale of progress.—J. Peder Zane, The Raleigh News and Observer

[Glenn Loury] explores and explains the continuing struggle to achieve racial parity and social progress. His examination of racial stereotypes are particularly arresting, especially when one considers how many blacks—much to their detriment—not only accept negative images of themselves but seem to be living out and rationalizing them as well… Mr. Loury is a balanced interpreter of American society, so he predictably criticizes both liberals and conservatives for their ‘simplistic’ approaches to resolving racial misunderstandings that all too often contribute to the creation of unnecessary conflicts between the races… [This book is] thought-provoking and insightful and the author’s musings on a variety of sensitive subjects certainly merits our attention.—Edward C. Smith, The Washington Times

In these lectures, the distinguished economist Glenn Loury has reoriented the public discussion on black-white inequality. He has drawn on economic and sociological analyses to emphasize the historical roots essential to understanding the social stigma which underlies the more overt forms of discrimination and inhibits the development of black capabilities. His analysis implies a critique of liberal individually-based political philosophy, while at the same time recognizing its virtues.—Kenneth J. Arrow, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Stanford University

This strikingly original book will likely emerge as one of the most important analyses in recent times of America’s unyielding problem of ‘race.’ In four tight, intensely argued chapters, Loury compellingly elucidates the often tragic ‘rationality’ of discriminatory behavior that results, less from raw racist antipathy than from the logic of self-confirming stereotypes, as well as the role of social stigma, collective dishonor and exclusion, in explaining persisting racial inequalities. In a clear, crisp style, he dissects the simplicities of conservative cultural determinism, the moral and logical limitations of ‘color-blind’ liberal individualism, and the intellectual complacency of the conventional left who would explain all with the dated cry of attitudinal racism. Loury demonstrates once again how the best insights of economics can be integrated with those of sociology and policy studies to untangle the tortuous ‘cycles of cumulative causation’ beneath the nation’s most vexing social problem. Powerfully argued, relentlessly honest, and morally engaged, it lifts and transforms the discourse on ‘race’ and racial justice to an entirely new level and may just be the breakthrough text we have long been waiting for.—Orlando Patterson

According to Glenn Loury, the problem of racial inequality should no longer be seen as one of racial discrimination. The fundamental problem is one of racial stigma, which contributes to the second-class citizenship of African-Americans. This fact-filled, impossible-to-pigeonhole, impressively interdisciplinary book should inaugurate a new and better discussion of racial equality in America—and with any luck, new and better policies as well.—Cass Sunstein, Professor of Law, University of Chicago

Coolly, clearly, and relentlessly, Glenn Loury traces the devastating effects of racial stigmatization on relations between blacks and whites in America. He uses the analytic tools of economics deftly without for a moment falling into pomp or mystification. No one has better stated the case against presuming that liberal states and free markets will of themselves dissolve unjust inequalities.—Charles Tilly, Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Columbia University

This is social criticism at its best. Glenn Loury provides an original and highly persuasive account of how the American racial hierarchy is sustained and reproduced over time. And he then demands that we begin the deep structural reforms that will be necessary to stop its continued reproduction.—Michael Walzer, Professor of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton

This is a brilliant book. With an original conceptual framework, Glenn Loury breaks new ground in the study of racial inequality in the United States. His insightful analysis of why ‘racial stigma’ is a more important concept than ‘racial discrimination’ in explaining African American disadvantages and in determining the kinds of reforms needed to address them is bound to generate an important debate among scholars in the field.—William Julius Wilson