Caste Book Cover

Caste

The Origins of Our Discontents
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In this bestseller, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Isabel Wilkerson, presents a portrait of the inconspicuous caste system prevalent in the American society. She explores in detail the eight pillars that support the caste system across civilizations, including divine will, bloodline, stigma and more. Highly insightful, Wilkerson’s book is an eye-opening story of history, and a re-examination of what lies underneath ordinary lives of Americans today.

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Lesson 1. Introduction.

The thrust of Wilkerson’s argument is that a caste system exists in American society as well. When the systemic inequalities in American society are compared with the caste system in India and Nazi Germany, the similarities are many. 

Wilkerson argues that caste lines in the US are drawn on the basis of race or skin colour. For centuries, white people have benefitted from their dominant caste, at the cost of the degradation of Black people. 

With gradual positive change over the past few decades, the situation of people of colour has improved. However, with the elevation in the status of Black people, some sections of the white community have started feeling threatened. Trump’s election as the President in 2016 can be understood in the context of this anxiety of losing one’s privilege.

In light of the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, it becomes all the more important to understand why the inequalities still exist. Wilkerson’s book is a step in that direction.  

Lesson 2. Caste system is prevalent in American society.

Fifty years have passed since the civil rights movement. Yet structural inequalities between white people and people of colour, in the US, are more than apparent even now. Much lesser income, frequent acts of police brutality are some problems among others, that continue to plague Black people even now. 

How does one make sense of this discrimination, that has been embedded into the very structure of America? Wilkerson proposes the caste system as an appropriate lens through which this systematic hierarchy can be explained.

Caste is not a term used in the context of racism in the US. The word might remind you of India, where the caste system has existed for thousands of years. But it is prevalent in the US as well. This is not Wilkerson’s original argument. It has been put forth by other anthropologists and scholars as well.

The caste system is a system of social stratification, in which people are placed in slots in the social hierarchy. Members of the upper caste enjoy immense privilege. Those belonging to lower castes are subjected to oppression. 

The caste system is in force in America as well. It began with the enslavement of African people. In fact, the white supremacists of the South took inspiration from the caste system in India.

They believed that the white race was superior to all other races. In order to preserve the purity of their bloodline, they segregated Blacks and the whites. Legislations were passed to ensure Blacks remained subordinate. 

It is very difficult

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About the author

Isabel Wilkerson Image

Isabel Wilkerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. She has appeared on national programs ...

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Chapter List
  • Lesson 1. Introduction.
  • Lesson 2. Caste system is prevalent in American society.
  • Lesson 3. Considering caste, along with race, helps explain the depth of America’s discontent.
  • Lesson 4. The caste system is resistant to change.
  • Lesson 5. The foundational pillars of the caste system.
  • Lesson 6. The next three pillars of the caste system.
  • Lesson 8. Group narcissism is a reason behind the growing ‘threat’ of a changing society.
  • Lesson 9. What the US can learn from Germany.
  • Lesson 10. How can we work towards dismantling the caste system?
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FAQs

In the summary of Caste book, there are 9 key lessons. These lessons include:

  1. Lesson 1. Introduction.
  2. Lesson 2. Caste system is prevalent in American society.
  3. Lesson 3. Considering caste, along with race, helps explain the depth of America’s discontent.
  4. Lesson 4. The caste system is resistant to change.
  5. Lesson 5. The foundational pillars of the caste system.
  6. Lesson 6. The next three pillars of the caste system.
  7. Lesson 8. Group narcissism is a reason behind the growing ‘threat’ of a changing society.
  8. Lesson 9. What the US can learn from Germany.
  9. Lesson 10. How can we work towards dismantling the caste system?

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson was published in .

Once you've completed Caste book, We suggest reading out Kamala Harris as a great follow-up read.

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