This is one of those “mention advisedly” book summaries because there is something in this book for everyone to be unhappy about:
People on the identity left will not like the observation that some of the most strident voices in their faction are performing something that manages to look like self-abrogation while preserving their economic privilege and social status. People on the socialist left will be resistant to any attempt to reclaim or redeem identity politics and standpoint epistemology. Jacobin has already published an uneasy review arguing, more or less, that identity politics have always been an elite preoccupation. It is also a pretty circumlocutious piece of writing that reminds me how much “political writing” is a vehicle for assorted cultural battles.
Táíwò tries to thread the needle between these two camps and I welcome the effort.
It’s a thin book that mostly serves to flesh out an earlier essay you can still find online. You can try the essay out and decide whether you want a bit more of the same thesis in the book.
Whether it’s the book or the essay, I recommend Táíwò’s writing. Between him, the Fields sister’s Racecraft, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Fear of Falling, Catherine Liu’s The Virtue Hoarders, and Thomas Frank’s Listen, Liberal!, I’ve spent the last year or so reading a lot of streams that could serve as tributaries to a river of left populism. These streams all exist in uneasy relationship to each other, sometimes making the contradictions of the several left tendencies uncomfortably obvious but all of them offering a piece of the puzzle.
Elite Capture by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò 📚