The politics of liberation have been transmogrified into a politics of identity. This is not the easiest thing to explain, hence why everyone uses “identity politics” to burn an effigy of what they are criticizing.
In fact, “identity politics” — when it is not self-identification by label collecting idealist snowflakes — is closely related to nationalism. Consequently, criticism of “identity politics” has similarities to criticism of nationalism: a sweeping narrative that puts people into discretely marked boxes, thereby masking social contradictions among these people, and allowing for the development of hierarchies.
Examples of hierarchies would be privileging the identity of “woman” above and before all others, thereby neglecting the multifaceted experience of women of color, disabled women, working class women, and lesbian and bisexual women. Yet the other side of this is the creation of hierarchies based on how many identities you can amass, commodifying identity into a coinage for authority, or if you don’t have those identities, using those “most oppressed” people as a way to have the final say. The latter example is popular in feminism these days, trying to name as many oppressions as you can (and even inventing them, in the case of trans) as often as you can in conversation as a way to both gain status and browbeat other feminists. Obviously, it has nothing to do with freedom and more to do with ascending the social ladder.
When those working for liberation of women, people of color, working class, homosexuals, or the disabled, decry what is termed “identity politics”, they usually do so because of the following:
- Competition for status to be on the top of the heap.
- Name-calling and other forms of bullying as a way to censure and hit the eject button on the revolutionaries you don’t like
- Actual Commodification: Copyrighting your books, putting paywalls on information
- The idealization of groups in need of liberation as saintly or superior to the oppressing group
- The devaluation of groups in need of liberation as completely helpless and childlike
- The “career activist”
- Pandering to those in power, making organization-wide compromises in order to curry their favor
- Attempts to become part of the Establishment in order to reform it
- Your struggle is objectively more important than any other and everyone must get behind it
- Authoritarian cultic thought policing of those you disagree with, active censure of those not toeing the line or saying the “right” things
- Ignoring what the liberationist has said in favor of what you only think they have said
- The annoying college-educated know-it-all who corrects your every word, or who acts as the de facto moral leader to chastise our sorry uneducated asses
- Subordinating or deferring to any leader in the matters of our own oppression
- Subordinating, deferring (or forcing ourselves into a box) to a spook or stereotyped/universalized notion of our sex, race, and class oppression
Let me put on my tinfoil hat.
None of these things make any sense in struggles for liberation.
It is possible that “identity politics”, which comes from so-called “queer” politics, which comes from the universities which are part of the academic-military industrial complex (because they often work on military research), even in the field of lingustics, by which academic feminism (and most departments, even) has been influenced… We have seen how universities are increasingly no longer for the unwashed masses, but instead for the elite. A systematic expulsion of the working class, of women, of lesbians, of people of color, has been in the works, through inflated requirements for qualification, soaring tuition fees, military insinuating themselves deep into university pockets, rapes going unpunished, career promises going unfufilled, and…yes, identity politickers with their call-out culture making political involvement a living hell.
It used to be the case, as far as I know, that in high school you would have been prepared to work in the factories or go to the military as intended; recruiters showing up at high school made sense. But the military is showing up everywhere there are young people, and they are being welcomed with open arms and open wallets.
Young people with their well-to-do bourgie parents are not so affected by this shit and thus less likely to care, not to mention they have been raised to think themselves superior to everyone else. They are ready to be inculcated with this third wave, postmodern, imperialist tripe which is all a shadow of what the 60s education used to be. That didn’t last long.
Well, I can only extrapolate so much, but it seems like everywhere we turn, universities were behind the weakening of the left, especially its antiauthoritarian currents. It is hard to say if that is because they are liberal institutions, or if liberalism is itself just politically convenient. So much of our political thought has come from universities, even indirectly if we have never been to one. They are intellectual authorities, teaching the young people so their parents can get on with working 40 hours (or more) a week. They are the ones advising standards for the grade schools, they are the ones selecting what materials students should study. With the power to decide what young people should and shouldn’t think, it only makes sense that the revolutionary fervor of young people be misdirected into hopelessness, burnout, and irrelevance — wouldn’t that be the perfect COINTELPRO scheme? Universities have taken the place the Church once had, with as much pomposity. It is not a place of new ideas, but an institution of social conformity that absorbs the new ideas of ordinary people, and sells them back to us in twisted form, and mocks our lack of time to think: “Aren’t I smart and aren’t you so stupid you little sheeple?”
The competition for status, profit motive, censorship, careerism, arcane arguments (as though grappling for a chance to say something that hasn’t already been said before, which is a bluff), pandering, reformism, and hell, that whole list up there…seems to sum up academia just as much as it sums up anything else. These are all things which universities showcase when we peel away the field of study. Have you ever wondered why universities are sites of such intense competiton? It is because they are where capitalism meets ideology.
We all need to turn off the TV, quit reading these trashy feminist websites, quit listening to know-it-alls, and read skeptically, because if we are only passive recipients then we will start to see division among our people. It is easy to get lost in the intellect, and while it is important to stay educated it is also important to live in the present and trust your intutions. Because the foundations of the elite will crumble — as will queer theory (lesbian erasure), as will identity politics, as will scientific racism, as will all the other half-truths out there — when we stop imagining ourselves as subordinate to professors, teachers, and researchers, and it will stop when we understand that their ideas have the same basis as ours, they just have more time and resources at hand to develop them.