• StreetlightX
    4.1k
    We can use the Marxist base/superstructure distinction if you want something relatively neutral. In any case the point is to explode the distinction: violence is just one kind of social action among others, one kind of exercise of power among others, that can come into play when the circumstances enable it. It's all base, if you will. There's no two level game here.

    The point is to 'flatten' power: or at least understand the emergence of power relations immanently and historically, and not subject to some transhistorical rule which would posit any one kind of relation - whether it be some fantasy of a state of nature a la Hobbes or a state of Eden a la Un - as primary.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Reducing the analysis to race (which is usually what is focused on by identitarians) discounts at least the economic or class distinction, and so the analysis is grossly wanting.rlclauer

    While I appreciate the gist of this, I'm not sure the right answer is to replace identity politics with, well, more identity politics, even if the 'identity' in question is class based rather than racial or sexual. To argue against identity politics needs to be more than just settling on the 'right' identity, or simply aiming to expand the notion of identity so that, if only it took into account X, Y and Z, it would finally come to a 'correct' understanding of identity. The point is articulate an alternative to identity politics altogether, not come to a better understanding of what constitutes identity.

    Identity politics writ large is no different to identity politics writ small.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    This strikes me as at odds with your expression that violence is impotence, that power brings about circumstances where people do as you will and violence is the band-aid upon a failure of power.

    I'd say that even if we flatten power that different interations of power can develop relationships with one another. So violence can develop a relationship to, say, identity -- and has done so historically. There are conditions of violence -- one of which, if it be political violence, is organized activity. It is merely a kind of organized activity. And so violence is a symbiote to this larger body -- closely, even physically related, enmeshed in our social lives, but would not exist without our social lives, without surplus energy to fuel a new kind of organism.

    So it's not so much a base/superstructure type of description, but rather a description of different instances of power and the relationships they can or do develop.
  • unenlightened
    3.9k
    a state of Eden a la UnStreetlightX

    I would like to point out that I have not posited any such state; I made a distinction.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    his strikes me as at odds with your expression that violence is impotence, that power brings about circumstances where people do as you will and violence is the band-aid upon a failure of power.Moliere

    But why? One can distinguish between different grades or qualities of power (high quality, low quality) as it were, without enshrining one mode of (exercise of) power as primary or base. And I still resist any dichotomizing between some independent entity called a 'social life' and power which is supposed to work upon it from without: our social lives are defined in part, by the relationships of power among which they are established. Power and social life are internally related concepts, and I don't think the very idea of a social life can be made intelligible without at the same time understanding the relations of power which define it. Power is not some kind of secondary epiphenomenon that appears one day and accosts some innocent social life that would be all peaches and cooperation without it. If you exist in a society at all, you exist in and as relations of power.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    I had attempted to portray class as not part of identity politics, as identitarians would interpret it. I understand that properly you can say class is part of identity, but modern identitarians typically castigate class discussions as missing the point, although I do appreciate your overall sentiment. Go into a left space and tell them they need to emphasize class over identity politics, and you will learn very quickly what I am describing.

    In theories of white privilege, to provide a more academic example, all classes of white people are said to benefit from white privilege. Therefore, class becomes, non-consequential to the identity.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    But why?StreetlightX

    Well, if power is flat, then violence is just another instance of power, one of many expressions of our social world. I haven't posited that power acts upon or is outside of a social world. I've targeted violence as having a relationship to other forms of this flattened power -- a power where violence is not a necessary correlate or property.

    Violence would not be impotent, from a theoretical standpoint. It would just be another form of power - unless there was some relationship to a different, potent form a power that spells out its impotence.
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    It's not even parody. Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason :

    "In southern Italy, the agricultural day labourers, the semi-employed bracciante, eat only once a day or even, sometimes, once every two days. In this situation, hunger ceases to exist as need (or rather, it appears only if it suddenly becomes impossible for the labourers to get their single meal every one or two days). It is not that hunger has ceased to exist, but that it has become interiorised, or structured, as a chronic disease."
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Violence would not be impotent, from a theoretical standpoint. It would just be another form of power - unless there was some relationship to a different, potent form a power that spells out its impotence.Moliere

    But that's just the argument: it's precisely because we can identify violence as one form of (the exercise of) power among others that we can understand it to express an impotency - to need to resort to violence is to have been unable to arrange or engage the situation in a way that would have rendered it unnecessary. It is to have been unable to set up relations of power in which a mere word or a turn of the finger would have produced the same result. Brought to the extreme, one might even indeed be able to divorce power from violence, but only to the extent to which the exercise of violence means nothing other than the abdication of power. This is the move someone like Hannah Arendt, makes, say:

    "Rule by sheer violence comes into play where power is being lost; it is precisely the shrinking power of the Russian government, internally and externally, that became manifest in its "solution" of the Czechoslovak problem just as it was the shrinking power of European imperialism that became manifest in the alternative between decolonization and massacre. To substitute violence for power can bring victory, but the price is very high; for it is not only paid by the vanquished, it is also paid by the victor in terms of his own power. ... Politically speaking, the point is that loss of power becomes a temptation to substitute violence for power and that violence itself results in impotence. Where violence is no longer backed and restrained by power, the well-known reversal in reckoning with means and ends has taken place. The means, the means of destruction, now determine the end with the consequence that the end will be the destruction of all power." (Arendt, On Violence - published in 1969, to put her examples of Russia and Europe in context).*

    I don't think much here would be lost if, instead of affecting a disjunction between power and violence - as Arendt does - one simply calls violence a low-grade exercise of power, one so poor in quality that it has exactly the effects of undermining the establishment of more secure, higher-grade regimes of power. In either case the point is the same: violence attests to an impotency.

    *Arendt would make another addition to my list of those who quite easily acknowledge the link between violence and lack of control, or power. That this is so widely understood by anyone with any understanding of either, only makes me laugh at the some of the hysterics let loose in this thread over the idea.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    Right! And so we have a distinction between high-grade and low-grade exercises of power. Now, could these different grades of power have relationships between one another, do you think -- or no?

    I would say "yes" -- in which case we could say that low-grades can depend upon high-grades, and high-grades can also come to depend upon low-grades (Why is it the police officer can resolve conflicts with a talk? Because they have the authority to wield violence in the name of the state).

    And if that be the case then we could say that a symbiotic relationship could form between grades of power in particular, historical cases -- and a description would depend on the historical facts as well as the interpretation of the historian.


    To bring this around to the beginning -- if we can form relationships between instances of power, then it becomes even easier to understand the formulation that all politics are identity politics -- the relationship gives us a sort of interpretive rule between instances of power (violence : race : identity : distribution).
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    And if that be the case then we could say that a symbiotic relationship could form between grades of power in particular, historical cases -- and a description would depend on the historical facts as well as the interpretation of the historian.Moliere

    Ah Ok. Yes. So long as such 'symbiosis' is understood in historical, 'evolutionary' terms - as coming into being as the result of the interplay of historical contingency and necessity, then I think the idea that different types of power can and do establish relationships among themselves is undeniable. Hell, the idea of a 'separation of powers' in a democratic state relies, despite its name, on this interplay of various kinds of powers. But I'm not sure I understand this move:

    To bring this around to the beginning -- if we can form relationships between instances of power, then it becomes even easier to understand the formulation that all politics are identity politics -- the relationship gives us a sort of interpretive rule between instances of power (violence : race : identity : distribution).Moliere

    Could you unpack it?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Ahh, I just finished reading Patchen Markell's Bound By Recognition, which is bloody fantastic in it's own right, but it's closing remarks are super pertinent to alot of the discussion here:

    "In theories of recognition ... the function of identity is to ground action. People give accounts of who they are both so that they can get clear about how to act, and because others, in their responses to these accounts, should (if all goes well) treat them with the respect or esteem they deserve, and which they need, if they are to be secure in their self-understandings, and if they are to be able to act in accordance with their identities without interference. ... The point of the recognition and of the identity that is its object is to decide a course of action. That is who he is, so this is what she must do. Identity is a rule.

    But consider some of the other things an account of identity might do for someone, or might be expected to provoke in others. You might give an account of the identity of a loved one in order to come to terms with his loss, as in a eulogy, or in other acts of mourning. You might give an account of your own identity in order to clarify to yourself and to others (your view of) the nature and stakes of our shared situation, without necessarily expecting that this story will simply be accepted as the whole truth of the matter, or that—even if it were—it could serve as anything more than a preamble to the activity of political deliberation and judgment.

    You might tell someone else who you are—loudly, perhaps—with the hope that by getting in his face you can complicate his own self-understanding, making it more difficult for him to go on living a certain kind of privilege unconsciously, but without expecting or even hoping to be locked in some sort of circle of mutual affirmation as a result. You might tell the world who you take yourself to be by publishing a manifesto, hoping that your story will draw an as yet unknown cast of others to join you in a political movement (whose specific aims you have not yet determined), and fully expecting that the resulting encounters will alter your sense of your own identity."

    And:

    "In the face of ... resiliently undemocratic distribution(s) of political power, I suspect, we increasingly seek solace in an interpretation of the principle of democratic legitimacy that focuses on recognition rather than action: cultivating identification with the state may help to secure at least de facto democratic legitimation by enabling us to recognize these remote and alien institutions as ours (and vice versa)—while still doing little to render them more accountable to us. In other words, the experience of identification comes to supplant the experience of action as the ground of whatever sense of connection many people now have with the states that claim them."
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    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.javra

    I don't mean to stifle talk about how things could improve. What I'm trying to stifle is a threat I see lurking in the OP. That threat is a move from identity-based concept-webs to distribution-and- participation-based concept-webs. It's not the loss of identity-centric politics that worries me but the carrying over of the same conceptual doubling of the world. A stately and magisterial double, with the spice of paradox to enliven things.

    The insinuation is that this conceptual spirit is meant to keep change and consequence at bay, and will continue to do so, but under the banner of the thing it evades.

    The reason is obvious : mastering a certain way of talking is a way of belonging, which is privileging identity, which is, (see @StreetlightX's post above mine) a barrier to action.

    Everything in the OP signals belonging to a certain stratum of discourse. I see it as belonging to the realm of recognition and identity.

    "In other words, the experience of identification comes to supplant the experience of action as the ground of whatever sense of connection many people now have with the states that claim them."
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    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?)javra

    Chomsky is an exemplary air-conditioned modeler. Banksy is an aesthete, and made shrewd use of an anti-corporate aesthetic that gibed with the radiohead-era zeitgeist. Now he does gallery shows and stunts at Sothebys. I don't know Amy Goodman and will look her up.
  • Moliere
    1.7k
    Could you unpack it?StreetlightX

    Sure.

    Let's take distributive power. We can divide the world up into income brackets, say, and look at what these people care about or what their life spans are or how many of them are in jail or some such. But then we can also do the same with identity -- and even, on the basis of said identity, point to distribution as a mechanism for discriminating against certain identities.

    So we have two ways of looking at a groups and their power, but depending on the emphasis we could look at Race : Distribution, or Distribution : Race -- the one could serve a bolstering point for the other, just depending on the directionality of our function between the two sets. (to make this a little more formalistic)

    If that be the case then depending on the historian -- or in the case you cited, an activist -- they can look at the exact same historical facts, but come away with a different story -- one in which those who have less must deal with x, or in the other case where those with this identity have to deal with x.

    At least that's what I had in mind. There are cases where it is more obvious to apply a certain interpretive lens than another interpretive lens, but then we can always -- through the relation between instances of power, or as I'm putting it here through our interpretations of historical facts and the relationships that can be established between these interpretations -- describe a historical situation in one set of terms or another: identity, decision-making, distribution, etc.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    One of the failings of the OP was to not provide an account of identity politics itself, which I think has caused some confusion. The way I mean the term might be understood as 'label politics': the idea that, on account of one's identity falling under a certain label, one either ought to act in some manner, or be acted toward in some manner.

    Two examples. The first from an ad I saw, just this morning, for a bank. The ad was just a picture of young girls playing rugby, all smiles, with the words 'moving forward together' or some such. Here the idea is something like: 'look, we support women doing things not traditionally associated with women, look how progressive we are'. As if the mere imagery itself was progressive in itself. I'm probably being unfair to the bank, who probably helps sponsor the girls rugby league, so is going in some way to put their money where their labels are, as it were. Still, the point comes across I hope. It's the effort of identification that is meant to do the political work here.

    Second example. This from someone else, who was - rightly - complaining about a bunch of liberals who could not comprehend why gays might support Trump. The liberal logic (of identity politics) was something like: they're gay, so how could they support Trump? The idea, once again, was that the label itself ought to have borne the work of politics alone. As if the mere fact of 'being gay' ought to proscribe a certain way of acting, or of being acted upon.

    The important point to make though, is that none of this means that either woman nor gays do not have political claims specific to them. It only means that they must be articulated in terms of addressing concrete problems and specific injustices faced by each. To agrue against identity politics is not to deny that there exists, or ought to exist, a 'politics of women', or a 'politics of homosexuality'. It turns instead on how those politics are practised. If this distinction is not kept under firm eye, any critique of identity politics can morph into a critique or denial that, say, women or gays have any specific political standing at all. 'Identity politics' is not just any kind of politics that has something to do with identity; it is a very specific use of identity.

    @fdrake, this is a reply to your PM as well.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    It's not the loss of identity-centric politics that worries me but the carrying over of the same conceptual doubling of the world. A stately and magisterial double, with the spice of paradox to enliven things.csalisbury

    What wouldn't you say this about, short of "I burned down my local bank yesterday"?
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    What wouldn't you say this about, short of "I burned down my local bank yesterday"?StreetlightX

    I wouldn't say this about an ontologist or metaphysician or someone doing a dissertation on Wittgenstein. Or a dissertation on Rawls. I understand being hemmed in.

    A political theory that has pretensions to changing things - I don't know. I don't feel wrong saying 'I'd know it when I see it." That's how it's always worked.

    I don't particularly like Nick Land, or accelerationism, or any of that - but its very viscerally obvious to me why younger people cleave to that sort of thing. The alternatives are limp.

    [ i burned down my local bank yesterday ] is [absurd thing] which yeah i agree - with the caveat 'short of [impossible, absurd thing]' has always been the charge levelled against all sorts of people contributing to certain events, events presumably important to the thinkers you mention, which would be cited in a heartbeat, in a different context

    'local banks'

    For the moment, I am content to live the weird life I'm living and see everything change faster that I can understand. I am content to carve out a space and wait. I'm not happy, and I don't like it, but it's what I can do now. What I am not content to do is carve out that space and pretend that it's something politically meaningful. It isn't. It gives me a gut-reaction nausea. I am open to a political leader. I'm not open to old politics in drag.

    No one needs to burn down a local bank, they just have to direct people in a way that is somehow actually politically meaningful.Chalk my responses up to the hysterics of someone who thought a certain kind of political talking would eventuate in some meaningful deliverance, and the subsequent realization that it constitutively cannot.


    Sure, I'm saying this and that, what do you want me to [BURN DOWN A BANK]?

    I don't know dude, you're the radical. Maybe start a micropress? But maybe the truth of it is that youre gentrifying something. If not, then, no, don't burn down a bank, but what is the fruit of this Guess revelation if not just an essentialization of non-essentialization. Shit or get off the pot.
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    Let's try this: I'm thirty years old, I live in Maine, I work in a call center. Talk to me. Distribution, participation. What do you have to say?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Do I have pretentions? Am I pretending? Am I being 'genuine'? Are these relevant questions? These seem like your hangups.

    I'm not trying to talk to you, not here, not like this.
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    I'm not trying to talk to you.StreetlightX

    You're not trying to talk to anyone. That's the problem.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    If you say so.
  • csalisbury
    1.9k
    Read my post back over. I don't care if you're authentic. You're draping something else over me. Identity can only see identity.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Let's take distributive power. We can divide the world up into income brackets, say, and look at what these people care about or what their life spans are or how many of them are in jail or some such. But then we can also do the same with identity -- and even, on the basis of said identity, point to distribution as a mechanism for discriminating against certain identities.Moliere

    This isn't what I understand as identity politics though. At least not the kind that everyone's talking about these days. See my post above for the specifics, but I'm talking about identity politics as a positive strategy of political redress or engagement. That people are discriminated against on the basis of identity is age-old and a fact of political life. So injudicious discrimination of distribution, even if on the basis of identity, isn't 'identity politics', or at least, it's the same name for a very different phenomenon that I'm not attempting to address. It still falls within the distributive paradigm of politics.
  • javra
    837
    Chomsky is an exemplary air-conditioned modeler. Banksy is an aesthete, and made shrewd use of an anti-corporate aesthetic that gibed with the radiohead-era zeitgeist. Now he does gallery shows and stunts at Sothebys. I don't know Amy Goodman and will look her up.csalisbury

    Yes, still, every drop in the bucket counts, is my concise view. I get most worried when no body talks about anything – outside of pounding their fist on tables in support of duckspoken stances or else cheering for such individuals to succeed.

    Amy Goodman is the leading figure of Democracy Now, a publicly supported, non-corporatized, left-leaning news organization. On occasion they go overboard (by my tastes) but generally speaking, whats not to admire about news organizations that aren’t governed by corporate cash. The Intercept also comes to mind as an investigative news organization of the same ilk.

    Thanks for clarifying your stance in relation to political talk, btw.
  • frank
    3.1k
    The important point to make though, is that none of this means that either woman nor gays do not have political claims specific to them. It only means that they must be articulated in terms of addressing concrete problems and specific injustices faced by each.StreetlightX

    Gathering together is often the first step toward making a problem known and providing a base for action. In the US, black churches played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. That was true identity politics. Was it successful? We now know that a specific Cold War problem was the greatest factor in bringing about change. But to this day, people think that gathering and marching is supposed to bring pressure.

    Talking about this is apt to be immediately labelled as fascist, when it's just an attempt to peal away the emotion and look at it mechanically.

    I'm guessing that every community has its own story surrounding identity. So mechanics will vary?
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    In the US, black churches played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. That was true identity politics.frank

    No it was not, not in the slightest. It's in the name: civil rights. The stakes of the civil rights movement were quite clearly not that black people were owed political redress because they were black, but because they did not have equal civil rights. There was a politics of recognition at work here, but this was not a matter of a recognition of an identity, but of - what else - equal rights.
  • frank
    3.1k
    No it was not, not in the slightest. It's in the name: civil rights.StreetlightX

    Civil rights has been the aim of most identity politics.
  • StreetlightX
    4.1k
    Hardly. The bright-light topics of identity politics - cultural appropriation, representation in media and history, political correctness and so on - have almost never been about civil rights. And besides, the disjunction between the two is almost analytic: if one is arguing for an expanded regime of rights for inclusion, then that's not identity politics because the grounds for that inclusion is equality and not specificity of identity. One is hard pressed to think of any two more diametrically opposed political discourses.

    If you're looking for a historical antecedent to identity politics, you'll find in good old nationalism.
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