“Identity politics” is everywhere, polarizing discourse from the campaign trail to the classroom and amplifying antagonisms in the media, both online and off. But the compulsively referenced phrase bears little resemblance to the concept as first introduced by the radical Black feminist Combahee River Collective. While the Collective articulated a political viewpoint grounded in their own position as Black lesbians with the explicit aim of building solidarity across lines of difference, identity politics is now frequently weaponized as a means of closing ranks around ever-narrower conceptions of group interests.
But the trouble, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò deftly argues, is not with identity politics itself. Through a substantive engagement with the global Black radical tradition and a critical understanding of racial capitalism, Táíwò identifies the process by which a radical concept can be stripped of its political substance and liberatory potential by becoming the victim of elite capture—deployed by political, social, and economic elites in the service of their own interests.
Táíwò’s crucial intervention both elucidates this complex process and helps us move beyond a binary of “class” vs. “race.” By rejecting elitist identity politics in favor of a constructive politics of radical solidarity, he advances the possibility of organizing across our differences in the urgent struggle for a better world.
“I was waiting for this book without realizing I was waiting for this book.”
—Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition
“Olúfémi O. Táíwò is a thinker on fire. He not only calls out empire for shrouding its bloodied hands in the cloth of magical thinking but calls on all of us to do the same. Elite capture, after all, is about turning oppression and its cure into a (neo)liberal commodity exchange where identities become capitalism’s latest currency rather than the grounds for revolutionary transformation. The lesson is clear: only when we think for ourselves and act with each other, together in deep, dynamic, and difficult solidarity, can we begin to remake the world.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
“Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s book is worth sitting with and absorbing. While critically examining what happens when elites hijack our critiques and terminologies for their own interests, Elite Capture acutely reminds us that building power globally means we think and build outside of our internal confines. That is when we have the greatest possibility at worldmaking.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist
“Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò offers an indispensable and urgent set of analyses, interventions, and alternatives to "identity politics," "centering," and much more. The book offers a sober assessment of the state of our racial politics and a powerful path on how to build the world that we deserve.”
—Derecka Purnell, author of Becoming Abolitionists
“With global breadth, clarity and precision, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò dissects the causes and consequences of elite capture and charts an alternative constructive politics for our time. The result is an erudite yet accessible book that draws widely on the rich traditions of black and anticolonial political thought.”
—Adom Getachew, author of Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination
“Among the churn of books on ‘wokeness’ and ‘political correctness,’ philosopher Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò’s Elite Capture clearly stands out. With calm, clarity, erudition, and authority, Táíwò walks the reader through the morass, deftly explicating the distinction between substantive and worthy critique and weaponized backlash. Understanding the culture wars is essential to US politics right now, and no one has done it better than Táíwò in this book.”
—Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works
“Olúfẹḿi O. Táíwò is one of the great social theorists of our generation. Elite Capture is a brilliant, devastating book. Táíwò deploys his characteristic blend of philosophical rigor, sociological insight, and political clarity to reset the debate on identity politics. Táíwò shows how the structure of racial capitalism, not misguided activism, is today’s prime threat to egalitarian, anti-racist politics. And Táíwò’s suggested path forward, a constructive and materialist politics at the radical edge of the possible, is exactly what we need to escape these desperate times. Anyone concerned with dismantling inequalities, and building a better world, needs to read this book.”
—Daniel Aldana Cohen, co-author of A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal
“Táíwò's book is an insightful and fascinating look at how it is that elites capture and subvert efforts to better society. Anyone who wants to understand and improve upon the activist movements shaking our world needs to read this book.”
—Liam Kofi Bright, assistant professor at the London School of Economics
“This book, building on one of the most lucid, powerful, and important essays I can recall reading in recent years, is, in a word, brilliant. Read it—and read it twice. Every sentence contains multitudes.”
—Daniel Denvir, host, The Dig
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Join Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò and Robin D.G. Kelley for a conversation about the politics of solidarity in the fight against racial capitalism.
Other books of interest
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle
How We Get FreeEdited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
A People's Guide to Capitalismby Hadas Thier