This paper explores the complexity of race as a category of social differentiation in global discourse. It argues that despite important developments in both the social and natural sciences – in fields such as sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and genetics – embodied and reified notions of race continue to dominate languages of description in many social and cultural settings, in the world of political struggle and most paradoxically in the academy. The concern that animates the paper is the intensity of attachment to the idea of race. Despite the fact that race as an idea has been shown not to be true, it is seen by many as an almost indispensible part of their identity and, consequently, of the vocabularies and the frameworks of description and analysis of the politics of their everyday worlds. How this naturalisation of an idea happens and is reproduced in daily life is examined in the paper. It takes the concept of social constructionism, one of the central conceptual innovations in post-positivist social theory, and shows how it has been neutralised.