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The Racist Fantasy

What stands out about racism is its ability to withstand efforts to legislate or educate it away. In The Racist Fantasy, Todd McGowan argues that its persistence is due to a massive unconscious investment in a fundamental racist fantasy. As long as this fantasy continues to underlie contemporary society, McGowan claims, racism will remain with us, no matter how strenuously we struggle to eliminate it.


The racist fantasy, a fantasy in which the racial other is a figure who blocks the enjoyment of the racist, is a shared social structure. No one individual invented it, and no one individual is responsible for its perpetuation. While no one is guilty for the emergence of the racist fantasy, people are nonetheless responsible for keeping it alive and thus responsible for fighting against it.


The Racist Fantasy examines how this fantasy provides the psychic basis for the racism that appears so conspicuously throughout modern history. The racist fantasy informs everything from lynching and police shootings to Hollywood blockbusters and musical tastes. This fantasy takes root under capitalism as a way of explaining the failures and disappointments that result from the relationship to the commodity. The struggle against racism involves dislodging the fantasy structure and to change the capitalist relations that require it. This is the project of this book.

The Racist Fantasy

  • Todd McGowan

    The Racist Fantasy lays out the fundamental fantasy structure that underlies a racist psyche as it develops in capitalist modernity.

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  • Book Details

    Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic
    Publication Date: 03-11-2022
    Format: Hardback
    256 pages
  • About the Author

    Todd McGowan is Professor of English at the University of Vermont, USA. He is the author of 15 books, including Universality and Identity Politics (2020), Emancipation After Hegel (2019), and Capitalism and Desire (2016). He is the series editor of Film Theory in Practice (Bloomsbury), and co-series editor (with Slavoj Žižek and Adrian Johnston) of Diaeresis (Northwestern University Press). He is also the host of the podcast Why Theory (with Ryan Engley).

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