Racism, Sexism, Power and Ideology argues that there is nothing "obvious" or "natural" about our ideas of sex and race. The books looks at the evolution of these ideas, with Colette Guillaumin contending that the slow crystallization of ideas on human "races" over the last few centuries can be grasped through the study of signs and their systems. However, she argues that race and sex are in no way purely abstract or symbolic phenomena, but rather the hard facts of society. To be a man or a woman, black or white is a matter of social reality. To be a member of a particular race or sex does not bring with it the same opportunities, the same rights or the same constraints. Colette Guillaumin examines how these constraints operate and shape our life experiences.
From a more theoretical standpoint the text tackles the particular links between the daily materiality of social relationships and mental conventions. Relationships of sex and race follow an ancient history of physical rightof the one over the other. The fact that slavery and patriarchy are defined by direct physical rights which is not without its consequences: those who are factually objects in social relationships are so equally in thought and reality.