Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America, and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.
“As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.”
In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson explores an unseen phenomenon: America today and throughout our history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Beyond race, class, or other factors, it is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson examines eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—Wilkerson shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; reveals the surprising health costs, in depression and life expectancy of caste, and the effects on our culture and politics within this hierarchy. Finally, Wilkerson points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive hierarchies of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity.
Helen Manders manages the translation rights for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
A memorable, provocative book that exposes an American history in which few can take pride.
In this powerful and extraordinarily timely social history, Pulitzer winner Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns) investigates the origins, evolution, and inner workings of America’s “shape-shifting, unspoken” caste system... This enthralling exposé deserves a wide and impassioned readership.
Haunting yet strangely consoling, in a world defined by its divides, Caste connects. It reveals the 'unseen skeleton' imbedded in heinous acts of power but, in evocative prose that is full of poise, reminds us what's possible when people come together. I closed the book feeling enlightened and energised, ready to roll up my sleeves and get on with the good work.
Vital, brilliant and necessary.
...destined to become a classic, and is urgent, essential reading for all.