• StreetlightX
    4.2k
    I was under the impression that the “identity” in “identity politics” pertained to people who shared a common, mostly biological characteristic such as skin-color, gender, orientation etc.NOS4A2

    Alot of people are under that impression. But the logic is exactly the same, and it's simply arbitrary to think identity stops at biology.

    This is one of the reasons I explicitly tried to outline some other models of politics in the OP. People simply don't really have a very good grasp of what politics can involve other than claims underwritten by identity, and even those who say things like 'avoid identity politics at all costs' list nothing but identity politics as an alternative!
  • csalisbury
    2k
    I understand that the OP is not meant to offer any particular, positive suggestions. It's supposed to be a conceptual clearing, freeing a space to focus on other aspects of politics.

    I understand that, but - that is the leftist gesture since at least Negri & Hardt (now 20 years old.) Reconceptualization.

    The invocation of Wittgenstein (via Guess) . "What is politics? Well, look!"

    This is the final conceptual twist. It says focus on what's in front of you instead of finding an essence. This itself can be essentialized. So that it becomes a gesture. But to avoid that, and actually focus on what's in front of you, requires, as you say, tactics.

    Because it's hard to look, right? I'm so far from the levers of distribution I don't know where to begin. And feeling that far from it, it's also hard for me to understand what participation is, or could be, for me. Everything is gauzy and multiform and I don't even know what you do to get to close to power.

    I think probably most people feel this way. Definitely on here. I mean let's be honest. Free-think all you want on forums, we're not the most politically potent group of people. This is probably also true in (most of ) academia, to an extent. At least the humanities, I mean. Science is different. Some theoretical physicists might get a pass, but, through institutional pressures, you - hypothetical and didactic avatar/aspect of the manyheaded corporate flow - can goose a biologist to p-hack and cherry-pick to satisfy your darkest desires. Movies are so dumb they're right here. The bullied remain susceptible to bullying, rare willful feynmans nonwithstanding. At a fundamental level, everyone goes home at night and assumes the utilities are working. You can be objective when it doesn't matter to power. When it does, it gets really messy.

    So what are the tactics? To understand power, I think, requires that you go beyond concepts. It can only be understood experientially. Exactly because power is always the guessian thing. When you get close to actual distribution and participation things get reallll affective, to the point where you have to let 'affect' fade from your mind. (e.g, people love the 'the wire' because it simulates, or models, a flow they can remain distant from, yet feel in control of, having seen it modeled. the 'encounter' becomes high-level entertainment. This is the 'vox' model.)

    What haunts me (& what I think should haunt everybody) is submitting in order to be allowed a well-air-conditioned room, where we conceptually 'world-build' a new, ideal order - or second-order world-build the conceptual contours of how to think of first order ideals.

    If you're going for the actual source of distribution and participation, you have to go underground. If you're doing it publically in published papers, well, what's actually happening, from the distributionist/particpatory lens?

    If we need an emblem of where we are now its, as I've said before, columbia grads ranciering themselves into meaninglessness at Zucotti.

    If we really mean the guess thing (invitation) lets post about how to actually affect distribution, specifically. But of course we can't really do that on here, so what is this?

    Its identity. and not even politics.

    As @Snakes Alive said, all of this bottoms out somewhere at someone with a gun. That may only be one aspect (the same thing can be seen in many different lenses, with multiple linchpins) but the gun is a big one. Maybe not the master-knot, but at least one major part of it. And you can almost sense the invisible presence of the gun, mediated by however many concentric, distancing, circles of political impotence, in what we say on here. For us, it seems to come down to saying what won't get us in hotwater. We can say what we want about distribution so long as it doesn't fuck with Nestle. It's easy not to think about that when we're posting in innocuous places nestle doesn't care about. I don't know what sustains you economically but I sense you won't bite the hand that feeds (this is a provocation & invitation to prove me wrong thru [examples].) And what else is there politically real besides that biting?

    There's a legitimate way out here and its to focus on philosophy or literary criticism. Or gardening, or religion, or meditation. But focusing on the political, as a theorist, is fraught, and has to be sustained with extra-scholastic efforts, otherwise it's just building models in a designated model-space, safe and away.

    Or: who's a good exemplar of 21st leftist who has broke this mould?
  • javra
    859


    I'm not too far removed from the sentiment of your reply. In fairness, I was addressing that aspect of the OP where it's offered that all politics deals with some form of identity. As @NOS4A2 commented since, though, "identity politics" typically connotes in most, or at least many, cases a biological commonality - rather than a more philosophical meaning of identity. This in parallel to how "power" typically connotes a capacity to do with some other(s) as one pleases - rather than the more formal meaning of "ability to do or accomplish", something ubiquitous to most all living beings most of the time.

    Still, approaching things from a more philosophical perspective of identity (this being the only way I can make sense of the statement that all politics concern identity):

    The whole question of what you call 'association' is 'backward' looking, at it were. Its anchor is in the past. I 'am' this history or body that has made me (past tense), who I am; and given this, how do I proceed? That's how I understand identity politics in the most broad sense. But politics doesn't have to be about 'association'; that a community wants better roads, or better school curriculums, is largely not a matter of 'associating' oneself with anything at all.StreetlightX

    I did mention tendencies of intention, which are always about goals toward which one proceeds. By 'association' I, in part, meant to address affinity toward other. Things such as empathy, compassion for, and sympathy. Some guy looses in politics. If I feel bad because of this, a part of me (my identity) holds an affinity toward the guy (his identity - including the intentions he has), and I will hold the belief that our identities in some measure overlap. If I don't feel bad about his loss, I in no way associate, or maybe better said, relate, to him, nor his present goals in life, and likely not to the life history that his past goals would have produced. Don't know. Maybe we interpret human identity too differently, this from a philosophical pov.

    But yes, some build their personal sense of identity around conserving those aspects of the past they deem to have been of greater benefit for them and their ilk. Others build it around goals toward which they seek to progress. As per your example, such as that of living in a better community of people (a personality type which I happen to associate with, btw). Nevertheless, these two senses of identity, imo, are not always neatly separated from each other. Conservatives do seek to proceed so as actualize their goals. Progressives will learn history and maintain their roots, such as by not forgetting about people such as Martin Luther King, for one example.

    Eh, maybe I'm rambling. If there's anything in this post worth furthering, do let me know.
  • javra
    859
    There's a legitimate way out here and its to focus on philosophy or literary criticism. Or gardening, or religion, or meditation. But focusing on the political, as a theorist, is fraught, and has to be sustained with extra-scholastic efforts, otherwise it's just building models in a designated model-space, safe and away.csalisbury

    First, I agree with the sense of political powerlessness. Secondly, darn it but stifling talk about how things could improve is the biggest means of creating hopelessness in people. Not knowing what ideals to aspire toward is like being a chicken running around without a head that nevertheless wants to get somewhere meaningful. And there's no way to find and then agree upon these ideals if individuals don't talk to each other about them. The more people start talking about politics in big picture terms, the more empowered they become by comparison to not so talking about politics. And in light of things such as global warming, I'd welcome more big picture political talk.

    Or: who's a good exemplar of 21st leftist who has broke this mould?csalisbury

    Chomsky, Banksy, Amy Goodman, and if you like professional comedians, Bill Hicks. I've got a few others on my mind, but why wouldn't any of these suffice? (Or was the mold-breaking you referred to that of not engaging in extra-scholastic efforts while still effecting change?)
  • ssu
    1.6k
    The belief that all politics is Identity politics is a toxic pill for democracy and for a Republic to function, yet an extremely popular belief, which is gaining ground.

    It's main target is to attack the underlying idea of citizenship, that we as citizens ought collectively through our representatives decide on the political agenda and decisions that the state takes. That we could do this as citizens and could have more ideas than just fighting for more power and spoils to 'our tribe' is directly attacked and tried to be refuted by the supporters of identity politics. Identity politics refutes the idea of people being individual citizens and tries to put us in a mold based on our race, gender, sexuality or wealth or whatever is deemed to be our 'identity'.

    And American believe it and other countries too are inflicted with this as well. The easiest way is simply not to listen to others as individuals, but simply insist that they are talking as (add race), (add sexual preference), (add priviledge status) and so whatever they would be saying is just identity politics done consciously or unconsciously.

    Because we surely cannot think about anybody else than of our kind that share our 'identity'.
  • frank
    3.4k
    Why does Guess require that you be a heavy hitter before being able to assess the system?

    I want to say that having power is partly a matter of recognizing the power you have. Democracy could be seen as a set of rituals that call attention to one's power whereas a tyranny is a set of rituals that denies power to the people. It's about what people are telling themselves maybe more than what's actually happening.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    But of course we can't really do that on here, so what is this?csalisbury

    A relay. A differential gear. A catalytic molecule. Plug it in, see what happens. Maybe nothing. Maybe something, somewhere. The rest is blackmail.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    My dear friend always said that politics begins the moment you have people together, because whenever people come together there are power relations between them. However. . .

    The tricky word here is "power". If power be the fundamental unit of identity, then as your OP suggests this would make sense of why someone might claim that all politics is identity politics -- because power makes up identity.

    If power is a system of ownership, as your distributive model would have it, then insofar that we believe ownership and identity are different then we might have some leverage to say that there is at least a difference in emphasis, even if identity is always involved.

    But "power" is one of those words that is easily reified and not easily defined -- kind of like freedom, or a host of other concepts that are so simple they become hard to describe or speak of.

    We might even go so far as to say that "power" has different forms -- distributive power, identity power, decision-making power, bodily power. . .

    And then one thing I'd like to posit is there is a difference between coercive power, and power tout court -- power is not a dirty word, because there are more forms of power than hierarchical and violent flows or foundations. Power flows from the barrel of a gun, said a man wise in the ways of doing politics, but not all power does -- hence why things like petitions, demands, marches, and strikes can work to effect change.

    ((that being said, I do believe that coercive power is part of doing politics, but there's still a meaningful distinction to be made))
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    We might even go so far as to say that "power" has different forms -- distributive power, identity power, decision-making power, bodily power. . .

    And then one thing I'd like to posit is there is a difference between coercive power, and power tout court -- power is not a dirty word, because there are more forms of power than hierarchical and violent flows or foundations. Power flows from the barrel of a gun, said a man wise in the ways of doing politics, but not all power does -- hence why things like petitions, demands, marches, and strikes can work to effect change.
    Moliere

    I totally agree with the above. The irony of those 'realists' who like to say that power flows from the barrel of a gun (tout court) is the total impotency of that idea when it comes to accounting for most of anything that has happened on the planet, ever. They are not worth taking seriously. And as anyone who has even a minimal acquaintance with humans knows, expressions of violence are more often than not expressions of a lack of power, or at least a deep fragility in what power there is. There are few bigger fantasists of reality than 'realists' about power.

    And you're right too that power is not a dirty word: power simply 'is': that we live in a world with others at all implicates us into relations of power, and the point is to cultivate healthy relationships of power, rather than diseased ones. Those who think we can do without power effectively want a community of dead bodies.

    The one thing I'd add to your list is constitutive power: power not merely to coerce or manipulate but actively create and bring into being. As Foucault showed a long time ago, this is perhaps one of the most dominant forms of power operative today. Power is multi-pronged and multivalent, and any understanding of the world needs to match that richness.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    I'm not too far removed from the sentiment of your reply. In fairness, I was addressing that aspect of the OP where it's offered that all politics deals with some form of identity. As NOS4A2 commented since, though, "identity politics" typically connotes in most, or at least many, cases a biological commonality - rather than a more philosophical meaning of identity.javra

    Yeah, although I think this is a confusion, and a particularly dangerous one at that. There's a difference between "I advocate X because I am Y", and "I advocate X because of problems A, B, and C, that affect Ys". That there are issues that disproportionally affect, say Indigenous Australians, or First Nations people, and to engage in political action to address those issues is not identity politics.

    It's all too often the case that those who complain about identity politics do so in order to disqualify any politics of race, gender or class, to which is usually opposed some mythical "good of all", or the "community" or "nation" or some such. Such efforts generally amount to nothing more than a kind of 'shut up and know your place' reaction, and are utterly toxic.

    Moreover, a 'nation' or 'community' is, as I said, nothing if not just another identity, this time simply scaled up. Nationalism is the original identity politics. What matters is the 'logic' of identity politics, which does not discriminate by scale. The alternative is a 'problem'-based politics, a politics which addresses the problems and conditions which are faced in a life, one based not on 'who' you are, but on what enables (or disables) one to be who one is, or wants to be.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    To quote Corey Robin, from whom I draw inspiration:

    "Everyone in politics tries to sidestep the critical role and need for argument, the need to craft a coalition and mobilize around a set of ideas and interests. Rather than build a case, people appeal to a condition. Identitarianism is not peculiar to a politics of race or gender or sexuality, not at all. The original identitarianism is nationalism or religion. There are terrible identitarianisms of class. (That's why I cringe every time someone depicts the working class as a brawny factory worker. Or of Joe Biden as somehow a "fighter for the working class." Or the notion that the working class is automatically something.)

    All of these identitarianisms sidestep, as I say, the need for moral and political argument, the need to craft coalitions of interest and ideology that are not immediately apparent or present but that have to be created. I'm not against a politics based on conflict, on arraying one group against another. I'm against building those conflicts on spurious appeals to "you're one of us." Even if that "us" is an oppressed group. Kafka said, "What do I have in common with Jews? I don't even have anything in common with myself." All of us are divided in multiple ways, first and foremost within ourselves. That's what politics at its best does: to craft a commonality out of that preexisting division. Identitiarians begin with the most spurious identity of all--the undivided self--and build from there."
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    And as anyone who has even a minimal acquaintance with humans knows, expressions of violence are more often than not expressions of a lack of power, or at least a deep fragility in what power there is.StreetlightX

    ...What?
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    What's not to get? Violence flairs at the edge of control, in conditions of instability and fragility. The powerful control with a flick of the wrist, not with a tantrum of violence.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    I don't know. I feel Moorean puzzlement at a lot of what you say, since it seems so strange or false that I start wondering, "what is he talking about?" or "why would someone say that?"

    Your explanation here doesn't really help me. Lots and lots of violence is done with control – in fact those in control often commit violence, every day, because they know they will get away with it.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    Those in control often commit violence, every day, because they know they will get away with it.Snakes Alive

    Sure, but this speaks precisely to the thinness of that control. Those 'in control' would not need to commit violence, insofar as they are in control. I dunno what to tell you other than that this is fairly widely agreed upon by most who study the anthropology of violence (see the work of Michel Wieviorka, if you're interested). Your Moorean puzzlement is not much more than an Inca looking at an iPhone.

    To be fair to you, the equation of violence with power is a fairly common one, it just has the distinct disadvantage of being objectively wrong.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    Those 'in control' would not need to commit violence, insofar as they are in control. I dunno what to tell you other than that this is fairly widely agreed upon by most who study the anthropology of violenceStreetlightX

    Who says this?
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    Read the comment again.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    OK, I did. I don't know what you're pointing me to.

    Edit: Nvm, I see now. Did you edit that? I totally didn't see it, twice.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k


    (see the work of Michel Wieviorka, if you're interested).StreetlightX

    John T. Sidel, Olivier Roy, Muhammed Hafez, and Fawaz Gerges would be other sources of interest.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    OK, great. So let me ask you another question.

    Who do you think commits the most violence in the world?

    Would you describe those organizations or people as powerful, or not?
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    I dunno. I can only speak for what I've studied. And in any case, the question is misconceived. It ought to be: in situations in which violence is exercised, does the agent of violence exhibit a high degree of control over it? (or something similar). And my answer would be, in the abstract, no. Otherwise they wouldn't have to resort to violence.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    This is a strange way of reasoning. Surely those who can get away with violence, because they are in control, are therefore in the best position to carry it out?

    Do you see violence, as you suggested earlier, only on the model of a 'tantrum?' That implies a lack of control, but not all violence takes the form of a tantrum.

    So suppose you're going to beat your slaves or your kids. That's a form of violence, right? And it comes about precisely because of the control you have over the slave or child (and control over the violence).
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    So suppose you're going to beat your slaves or your kids. That's a form of violence, right? And it comes about precisely because of the control you have over the slave or child.Snakes Alive

    But this is strange reasoning. When I ask the kids to fetch a cup of tea, that I don't have to resort to violence (because they love me, because it's out of respect, because I reminded them how I took them to the park the other day) says far more about how I am in control of them than if I had to resort to violence. Even the very threat of violence would be nothing less than a sign of an incredibly unstable, fractured household. We quite straightforwardly associate violence with a loss of control ('he lost his cool and threw a punch'). That you find this strange is... strange.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    When I ask the kids to fetch a cup of tea, that I don't have to resort to violence (because they love me, because it's out of respect, because I reminded them how I took them to the park the other day) says far more about how I am in control of them than if I had to resort to violence.StreetlightX

    Presumably, if they do it voluntarily, you aren't in control of them.

    If I have a kid or a slave that I can beat whenever I want, then I am in control of them and the violence. The threat of violence is further often what cements this control, and is an artifact of it.
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    Speak about Moorean puzzlement! "If they do what you want, you're not in control; if they don't, you are". Hmm.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    Just because someone does what you want doesn't mean you're in control of them.

    And people that you beat up often do what you want, involuntarily – so you are in control of them.

    How is this difficult?
  • StreetlightX
    4.2k
    The only way to lend coherence to what you say is to understand control as cohesion. But that would be narrow to the point of vacuousness, if not - as above, straight contradiction.
  • fdrake
    2.6k
    Presumably, if they do it voluntarily, you aren't in control of them.Snakes Alive

    Do people actually experience the choices they make like this? Honestly most of the time whenever I choose something my hand is tipped or forced by circumstance. Whether that's at work in how I choose to approach the problems I've got to solve (you can't choose how you have to work the coffee machine), in my personal life in how I deal with conflict, provide support and share in joy, my choices are carried along by circumstance and necessity. They're formed in an interplay of my capacities, responsibilities, and the broader social contexts they are embedded in.

    A lot of socialisation is learning what to do, and what you can do, voluntarily. Where is this choice outside of action and circumstance? Why would it ever occur? Nowhere, no reason.

    But 'no reason' is part of the point, right? No sufficient reason or cause, responsibility for choices made in that case. Sufficient reason or cause, responsibility diminished or annihilated. The nowhere is just as important. Such choices occurring nowhere and never means that the account of choice and freedom is more to do with context severed imagination, a fan fiction of the soul with the one true pairing of humanity and absolute freedom, but there aren't absolutes here. Not in this fucking muck.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    A lot of your posts are like this – they just invert some platitude (like in the thread claiming that only what we are not in control of is what we're responsible for), and then feign bewilderment or call people stupid when people ask what you're talking about.

    It may be that we are just talking at cross purposes, but in any case I don't think the interaction is going to be helpful. I'm not sure what's so hard about understanding that (i) "control" does not mean "people do what you want" (they can do what you want accidentally, or voluntarily, or even against your wishes), and (ii) violence is so utterly obviously linked with control that I find talking about denials of the point tedious.
  • Snakes Alive
    385
    Do people actually experience the choices they make like this?fdrake

    Like what? When my hand is "not tipped by force or circumstance?" Sure.

    Whether that's at work in how I choose to approach the problems I've got to solve (you can't choose how you have to work the coffee machine), in my personal life in how I deal with conflict, provide support and share in joy, my choices are carried along by circumstance and necessity.fdrake

    That sounds...really awful. If you really live that way, there might be something wrong.

    The nowhere is just as important. Such choices occurring nowhere and never means that the account of choice and freedom is more to do with context severed imagination, a fan fiction of the soul with the one true pairing of humanity and absolute freedom, but there aren't absolutes here. Not in this fucking muck.fdrake

    If this is true about your own life, that's really sad. But I don't think there's much metaphysical baggage to be gotten from it. It would be nice if you lived in circumstances such that, at least once in a while, you did things without being forced to. Never to do anything in that way, to the extent that you start seeing ordinary freedoms as "fan fictions" and doubting whether you have a "soul," etc. sounds really crushing. Many people might live in such physical or psychological circumstances, but it's not all of them, and if you do, it might be better to think about escaping them rather than metaphysicalizing them.
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