Anxiety over race, ethnicity, culture, and identity erupts at the core of the American experience in separate books by Jason Richards and Josh Toth. Richards and Toth proceed in dramatically different ways in their studies of this American crisis of being and meaning. Richards focuses tightly on the relationship of race, ethnicity, and culture with American identity while Toth incorporates those issues within a broader philosophical examination of the American psyche. Both succeed in writing works of scholarly and critical significance. Toth examines the dilemma of being American through a brilliant, unceasing barrage of names, terms, themes, and ideas in contemporary continental philosophy. His book becomes a dazzling display of how contemporary philosophical thought can help us analyze American identity.

Richards keeps it simple. His writing and analysis are readily accessible and transparent. Compared to Toth’s onslaught of terminology and ideas, Richards...

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