Identity Politics

Is it not an inherent contradiction to critique the prevalence of ‘identity politics’ and then espouse an opinion about, say, immigration? or free speech? or trade? or foreign policy?

What is politics itself without an ‘other’ and their point-of-view? And what is an ‘other’ without a self? And what is a self without a conceptualization of an identity?

Whose political identity is served, strengthened, and privileged by the act of criticizing other people for bringing their identities into politics?

How exactly do you practice your politics without an identity?

Is not the very concept of ‘one person, one vote’ an identity-anchored strategy for political order?

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3 Replies to “Identity Politics”

  1. I think you’re onto something here that our political views and actions are obviously related to how we see ourselves, but I don’t think that’s identity politics. I think there is rightly a more derogatory use of the term identity politics referring to groups of political actors that take on single ‘identity issues’ without situating that struggle in a broader context that highlights connections that cut across identity groups and into an overall critique of the existing socio political order. For example, a feminist who continually fights for equal pay for women but who does not see the larger issue of inequality perpetuated by capitalist relations of production. This person will celebrate the victory of equal pay while perpetuating an equally oppressive system for much larger groups of society, including themselves. It is these types of identity politics that divide the oppressed from forming solidarity and creating truly just and equal structures. Capitalism can accommodate identity politics of almost any stripe… It can’t accommodate a demand for a just and equitable economic system.

  2. Mike, I personally haven’t met any “political actors that take on single ‘identity issues’ without situating that struggle in a broader context that highlights connections that cut across identity groups”. I certainly meet a lot of people who focus their energy on a particular form of oppression, but that doesn’t mean they lack a theoretical understanding of intersectionality, it means you can’t fight all things as one person. The identity politics use you are highlighting is largely a strawman argument in my experience, and disparages and divides the left.

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