Towards a critical theory of whiteness

Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (2):203-222 (2007)
Authors
David S. Owen
University of Louisville
Abstract
In this article I argue that a critical theory of whiteness is necessary, though not sufficient, to the formulation of an adequate explanatory account of the mechanisms of racial oppression in the modern world. In order to explain how whiteness underwrites systems of racial oppression and how it is reproduced, the central functional properties of whiteness are identified. I propose that understanding whiteness as a structuring property of racialized social systems best explains these functional properties. Given the variety of conceptions of whiteness in the literature, the several uses of the term are analysed and it is shown that there is a unifying concept underlying these various senses of whiteness. Lastly, some of the implications of this account of whiteness for anti-racist engagement are considered. Key Words: critical theory • Anthony Giddens • Jürgen Habermas • race • racial contract • racism • social structure • white supremacy • whiteness.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453707074139
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