The beginning of the end for identity politics?

Lopez, Daniel
Date Written:  2017-05-22
Publisher:  Red Flag
Year Published:  2017
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20964

While the millennial left’s preoccupation with identity has not disappeared, the moralistic fire has grown dimmer.



While the millennial left's preoccupation with identity has not disappeared, the moralistic fire has grown dimmer.

This moralising culture was built on what Brubaker called "epistemological insiderism". That is the view that only the bearer of an identity is entitled to speak about that identity. To question this was considered tantamount to silencing oppressed voices and erasing history. So, too, micro-aggressions and misuse of language were identified with actual violence.

In a self-righteous race to the bottom, transgressions were called out in the increasingly toxic echo chambers of social media. We were told to check our privilege. Then, it was argued that checking privilege was privileged; so-called allies were indulging themselves with "performative wokeness". Thus, moral worth was determined not by one's actions, but by one's nature: privilege became an inescapable original sin.

This reification of identity led to infinite particularism: after all, there are as many combinations of identity as there are individuals who bear them. It became de rigueur also to check the privilege of one’s age, level of ability, mental health and even one's knowledge, appearance or cultural background. Intersectionality tried and failed to provide a universal framework within which to explain oppression. Rather, it became a catalogue.

At the same time, trigger warnings and cultural appropriation became a battleground. Hurt feelings or distress were taken as unassailable arguments. To disagree was to "gaslight" the victim.

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