« 40 | Main | Crichton, environmentalism, fascism »

March 21, 2006


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Jodi, hasn't this been done already?


Seriously, it might be helpful to enumerate the differences between what you're proposing and the contractarians' surrender of natural right.


Actually, I don't think the model is Hobbes here but Rousseau. (I make the comparison explicit in the not yet release Zizek book.) Why? because Rousseau's social compact involves relinquishing everything--there is no part of me that is not under the state is a notion that is opened up once we acknowledge the fantasy of a state of exception that sustains universal law. But, Rousseau can't get here because he posits a bounded state.

And, this starts to suggest the differences. First, in the version I'm suggesting/playing with, there is no person/self/subject posited as a beginning point. So, there is not a person whom the state is supposed to serve. Instead, the state (or government, I need to make this more precise as I think through it) is the form of collectivity that makes selves possible (so, combine at this point Rousseau with Aristotle). Differently put, there is nothing to surrender when one begins with the subject as lack.

Next difference (which I started discussing), logic of non-all (Lacanian feminine formula of sexuation) rather than that of universe and exception. This is important for eliminating the positing of a specific national terrain/body.

josef k.

Jodi - would it accurate to suggest that the state you have in mind is more akin to the (ontological) state of things, than the state so considered as a political unit?


I should answer yes (for reasons of theoretical consistency). Unfortunately, at this point I want to answer no because I think the notion of state/governance is important as a means for organizing solidarity. So, I don't think an unmediated or immediate solidarity (ala Agamben's community of language)is sensical. And, I've started to wonder whether an alternative can be conceptualized in this direction (it could well fail, but I'm thinking about it and wanted to start making a few steps in this direction).


Reading your posts on solidarity, I've often wondered if you've looked at the sociological 'classics', in which solidarity figures as a central concept -- say, Durkheim, Mauss or Tonnies?


I did way back in the day (when working on dissertation and first book, conveniently titled Solidarity of Strangers) but not recently.

Amish Lovelock

Pedestrian crossings - an example of structural yielding/giving up one's claim to be able to drive just wherever you might want to.

Adam Kotsko


The form of this world is passing away.


So, I don't think an unmediated or immediate solidarity (ala Agamben's community of language)is sensical.

I honestly have no idea what you mean by this.

Adam Kotsko


Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.


hi Jodi,

I don't agree with your account of ruptures of the left. I find this story much more compelling: people uncounted or counted in a subordinate position within the left got together and upset those counts, which in turn undermined (or, was the act of undermining) the organizations and worldviews connected of the left, which in many respects deserved what they got. (And at the same time the bosses have also been on the offensive.)

Your "self-destitution" picture seems in tension with your impulse as in the argument about the 'Lacan Hos' thing - that strikes me as a fine case for saying "don't sweat it comrade" and "wait till after the revolution," which is the only way I can figure out to understand what you seem to be putting forward.

I also think there's a tremendous tension here, between the idea of an act of destituting, of giving up, and a claim that "there is no person/self/subject posited as a beginning point". One can't give up the self without starting from the self, even if one wanted to give up the self (which I don't understand why one would want to do so). This is part of why I hear "wait, wait comrade" in this, it sounds like a call for self-sacrifice on the subject's part rather than a perspective whereby there's really no subject.

Best wishes,


Oh sure, I repent.


Right after God, I will.


"Rousseau's social compact involves relinquishing everything."

Does not Hobbes's?

"Rousseau can't get here because he posits a bounded state."

But also fantasizes its potential universality, or its tendency towards the universal.

(Laclau too, and all other state theorists, while we're at it.)

"In the version I'm suggesting/playing with, there is no person/self/subject posited as a beginning point."

Again, is there in the contractarian tradition? Or does not, rather, the subject strictu sensu come into existence only with the state...

"The state [. . .] is the form of collectivity that makes selves possible"

...as indeed you suggest.

"Differently put, there is nothing to surrender when one begins with the subject as lack."

Well, then you do have a(n ideology of the) subject. Just one defined by lack. Which is precisely how Hobbes et. al. fantasy the subaltern who has yet to contract with and in the state. For whom, as we know, the prime image is an indigenous person from the Americas, noble or otherwise.


I might be in a fug, but didn't you just say that Rousseau was at best a model for Corsica?

Though, I'm not entirely sure what that meant, exactly, the Corsica bit - but, Rousseau, yuk. http://www.metamute.org/en/Under-the-Beach-the-Barbed-Wire


Kenneth Rufo

"Laclau too, and all other state theorists...fantasizes [the state's] potential universality."

Thoerist pot, critical kettle.

Besides, universality isn't a uniformly appreciated term, something made clear in the debate that takes place in Contingency Hegemony Universality, on exactly this subject, so I'm not sure what the specific rejoinder objection is here. Then again, Jon, I'm still trying to figure out your basic gripes with and general definitions of hegemony, which I'm sure are related to any gripes/definition relating to universality, so it's possible I'm confused because I'm lacking some integral critical backdrop.

Kenneth Rufo

Jodi and Nate, another possibility is what Nancy calls "compearance" - the consitutive co-appearing of subject and world through making sense, where sense is coterminous to/with existence (in the sense of ek-sistence), and thus our responsibility to and for sense is infinite and could be talked out through the language of solidarity. In this manner, there is both lack (as a product of making sense, and therefore not originary) and subjectal production, without either acquiring a genetic or ontological privilege.


Rousseau vs. Hobbes--side with the Brit. there: the subject does not exist as such (unless say wolves are subjects) until the state is agreed upon and covenants are enforced, and nobility is a gloss..as is the naive rousseauian freedom

and Lord H. early on realized that a few pints of ale has a necessary connection to the "subject" that inhales it--Marx too has a Hobbesian side; most postmods or Xtians haven't quite made it to that level of external materialism


"Thoerist pot, critical kettle."

Ken, not sure I get the point there.

To clarify my own: the notion of an infinitely expandable state is precisely Laclau and Mouffe's in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Hegemony, they believe, is always open to the possibility of articulating new equivalences--though of course that universality is a tendency, and will never be fulfilled.


like most postmod theory the above political speculations rest on an idealist rather than materialist basis, regardless of the psychoanalyic or marxist suggestions. For most of the new school of leftists, bare-bone materialism--either of Hobbesian or Marxist or biological varieties --is anathema; the Cartesian or perhaps Heideggerian "subject" has been brought back and replaced his more vull-garr English 'cuz. So one doesn't then need to discuss say the distribution of resources, of food, of employment, housing, transportation, etc.: one speaks instead about the the "subject", apart from any specific economic context, as if her need for say an orgasm had the same status of the needs of 1000s of skilled workers or technologists.

Kenneth Rufo

Jon, alright, I at least comprehend the argument about universality, even if I still don't understand the locus of the objection.

That being said, I think your read is wrong. First, the discussion of autonomous zones near the end of L&M's Hegemony is a rejoinder to an ever expansive state, and regardless the middle third of the book is a rupture to any claim that the state is homologous to hegemony. Second, certainly in none of Mouffe's work since then (Return of the Political, Radical Democracy, her edited Carl Schmitt book), does she think either the political or the state as universal, and as you are no doubt aware, in Emancipations and Populist Reason, Laclau makes explicit that the strength of the chain of equivalence is inversely correlated to its length (i.e. more links in the chain means less tensile strength between the links).

And Phred, where's that definition of philosophy? This will be the third time I've asked, and I suspect, the third time you've dodged a basic definitional question, despite complaining about our tendencies to eschew definitions in favor of mysticisms.

Oh, and Phred, you know you're the one who keeps bringing up Heidegger in these threads. Fetish or symptom? You decide.

Kenneth Rufo

Jon: Perhaps I should ask: Is it your opinion that the possibility of X is necessarily the implicit actuality of X (where X is the expansion of a state to the point of universality)? That might be where we diverge, independent of any question of an "accurate" reading of L&M.



In the social compact essay, Rousseau says that what he is proposing would only work in Corsica (which to me is a sign to read the work philosophically rather than politically).


With Hobbes, you don't give up your right to self-preservation to the sovereign. On Rousseau's universality, its universality is premised on a constitutive exception. Laclau's notion of universality is quite different: his is the gap in the particular.
Contracy theory begins with free and equal persons living in a state of nature. Hobbes' has its freedom and equality, its basic egotism as a pre-political attribute. Rousseau's has its self-regard and compassion for others. Locke's has families and property, for crying out loud.

Yes, I am working with a notion of the subject (if you want to call it an ideology, ok, but I'm not sure what that means in this context)--one that comes out of Lacanian psychoanalysis. And, this is not the same notion as in contract theory--as I point out above.

Nate--on giving up and destitution; a lot depends here on whether one is arguing about building a theory or within the theory or to people one wants to convince about the theory. And, it is likely that I wasn't clear on this. So, part of my thought was to start with solidarity (collective responsibility) and with that as the premise to explore what it would mean for politics, persons, etc. I think that is a good place to start because I think that problems on the left have arisen when theorists have started elsewhere, with identities, say.

The level of persuading people that subjective destitution is a good idea would be a different kind of argument, one that explains ideological interpellation, the fundamental lack in the subject, the promise and lure of jouissance, etc. Those arguments would let people see that there is no need to hold onto what they experience as a substantial or core subjectivity.


JD: With Hobbes, you don't give up your right to self-preservation to the sovereign.


"This submission of the wills of all those men to the will of one man or one council, is then made, when each of them obligeth himself by contract to everyone of the rest, **not to resist the will of that man or council, to which he hat submitted himself**; that is, that he refuse him not the use of his wealth and strength against any others whatsoever; for he is supposed still to retain a right of defending himself against violence: and this is called union. But we understand **that to be the will of the council**, which is the will of the major part of those men of whom the council consists". To be found in Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government and Society (Chapter 5, Paragraph 7).


There are better ways into wherever you want to go, surely Jodi, than Rousseau. There is Rousseau's constitutive exception of the figure of the foreigner (as I noted), and his compassion for the other tends to unfold as ethnic (if not strictly racial) apartheid, with everyone in 'their place'.


Hobbes, however ontologically correct (i.e biological materialism) does demand a submission of individual wills to the sovereign, so what he does with his ontology may be suspect (the same might be said of Marx). But the correct response to all social contract hypostatizing then may be Fritz (as in Nietzsche) who realized that the real models for political development were to be found not in Rousseau or the English empricists but like Japanese war lords, the arabs, viking, crusaders etc. But in some sense Hobbes (if not Plato) may have realized this too--there is never any consensual process of establishing some universal contract, there is Die Raubtier


Yes, I agree there are better ways. That's why I use Zizek and his version of subjective destitution. I introduced Rousseau in response to a question regarding Hobbes.

josef k.

The question that I have here is: how do you propose to distinguish between the state-as-such and a given, particular state constitution.

[It seems to me that Hegel had this problem in the Philosophy of Right]


Fair question. At this point, I'm just wondering if I can conceive of a structured form of solidarity as a state. So it would be an exercise in perhaps utopian imagining, utopianism, or ideal constitutionalism, a normative notion. This, then, would be something like the state in its notion/notion of the state.


hi Jodi,
Thanks for clarifying. Since I don't think I've said this, I'm all for accountability and certain forms of giving oneself up (this goes on all over the place - a part of me may not want to pick a friend up at the airport, say, or do the work required for a meeting I said I'd put together). So insofar as those kinds of problems are what you're addressing, I'm very sympathetic. But, I think there's a leap (which you admitted you have to still fill out, I recognize this is blog posts not articles!) from state as in 'situation' or state of affairs and state as in the political state, ie, government.
This state-state relationship sounds more like a metonymy than anything else. The ontological state could just as well be called 'condition' or 'being', which would make the link look a lot more tenuous. There's also a question of how it could be that the political state is constitutive of identities.
Last thing - I think the call to give up identities is really problematic at least in some circumstances. I mean - the Black Panthers, the Lesbian Avengers, these folks need to give up their identies? I assume this theoretical anti-identity thing is linked to a politics other than identity politics, right? In either case, when does the giving up happen, immediately? And whose identies, all? Including those of people on the receiving end of some ugly power arrangements wherein the (re)formation of identities is/was a moment attacking those power arrangements? That is to say, some people may have sound political reasons to hold onto what they experience as a substantial or core subjectivity, and others may want to in a way that is not needed but necessarily problematic.
Best wishes,


regardless of the hip psychoanalytic verbiage, this is cartesian, anti-material, anti-contextual, anti-economic........a subject can desire all sorts of things....but she NEEDS food and water

food. production/processing/ethics/division of labor.


Ken, I'm not sure this is a suitable site for this discussion, but it'd be good to continue it at some point.

Ever since Politics and Ideology, Laclau's generally been pretty silent on the state. But for an later (perhaps transitional) formulation, see "Teorías marxistas del estado: Debates y perspectivas." Estado y política en América Latina. Ed. Norbert Lechner. Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno, 1981. 25-59. Here he praises the notion of a Gramscian "total state." And as you know, my review of On Populist Reason argues that here the state very firmly returns.

No, I don't think I'm confusing tendency with actuality. But I understand tendency as implying potential, even if that potential is never fulfilled. And it's precisely that expansiveness that Laclau and Mouffe claim as the virtue of hegemony. Admittedly they also claim as an equal virtue the fact that this potential will never be fulfilled. But then *that's precisely what keeps the potential alive*.


Nate--I'm trying to think of state as in political organization, not being. Regarding identity politics: those moments have passed. In my view, the key matter at this point is the economy, not having even the possibility of attacking Capital foreclosed in advance by beginning from already essentialized, fragmented, and ultimately fantasized identities. As you know, there is a massive literature on this. My first book, Solidarity of Strangers, was a tiny drop in the water here. I think the most important theoretical point regarding identity politics involves the impossibility of identity (and hence the ultimately repressive/exclusionary dimension of any politics rooted in identity--a problem that was huge in feminist politics for decades): identities can and will always be multiply divided and fragmented, no identity is whole or complete and the demand that it be so produces new exclusions and repressions. This was part of what made Laclau and Mouffe so valuable in the 80s--they recognized this impossibility and so emphasized the articulation of struggles such that claims for identity would be linked together rather than asserted as essential.

Craig--I don't get your quote--it includes: "for he is supposed still to retain a right of defending himself against violence" Also, same point of not being able to give up right to self preservation appears in Leviathan.

josef k.

"a subject can desire all sorts of things....but she NEEDS food and water"

Strictly speaking, not true. A human individual as bios, of course, needs this, but the notion "subject" implies a surplus/excess to this.


Thank you, josef k. I wasn't going to bother and you made the point patiently and precisely.

chairman wow

You haven't disproven anything, but you've indicated your idealist and/or phenomenological basis. if you hold the subject can or does exist apart from the matter which sustains it and determines it, then you're a theist or cartesian, neo or retro, and not a materialist or marxist; and for the orthodox view see the Holy Family, German Ideology, or Intro. to Capital, etc.: (or Darwin or Freud for that matter). Moreover, a transcendental subject may be disproved ( I realize verificaton not so hip around here) rather effectively by a few shots of vodka, or 1000mgs of THorazine for that matter.


hi Jodi,
We may be talking past each other. As you know, I'm all about attacking the economy and think it's the most important thing. I'm just not convinced that identity has to be a distraction from that. I mean, if one says "the chief problem we need to address is the economy," which'd be hard for anyone with sense to argue with given the continued attack on the working class, does it matter if people get behind the banner because of identity or because of nonidentity? I may just be missing the boat here, though, as I've not read a lot of the folks you read.
On the other thing, I know you're interested in the political state not the ontological state of things. I'm not convinced that there's the link between political state and identity that you posit.

It's strange here - it feels like we get up and trade sides of the table mid-argument, because you seem to say 1. identity relies on the state, 2. ditch identity 3. keep the state (in some sense),
whereas I disagree on 1, am agnostic at best on 2, and disagree on 2. I don't know what to make of any of this.

All of this aside, I'm in complete agreement with your earlier remark on Agamben and immediate solidarity/community. To my mind any meaningful bonds are ones that must be built (including the bond of class). I can't tell, though, if the theoretical goal here is a different non-built (or always-already/previously built) bond or a theory of bond building. I apologize if this is a wrongheaded question, like I said, I haven't read most of the stuff that are points of reference for you.
all the best,


Isn't state a representation of class relations (I know this is old school, but give me a break)? Specifically the dominant class structuring the state?

So rather than posit a state, does it make more sense to discuss what the class relationships look like?

Is that what you mean by solidarity, Jodi? That it is a definition of a set of relations that define our position against capital?

In that sense, maybe it isn't a utopian exercise. But it certainly isn't easy - I don't know if we can posit a set of class relations without capital - we are so used to it can we see outside it? And with the elimination of the failed attempts to move forward - where do we find those practical (while certainly limited and flawed) examples to draw from.

I think there is an urgency to what Jodi is proposing here.

I don't know that there is a decent current theory of the proleteriat that is coherent now - if you don't like that term than a conscious class that self-organizes it's interest against capital. What should it look like? Or why should it even come into being?

Is solidarity a final state or a means to another state?

With regard to identity - I don't think that dismissing identity helps - I think accelerating the movement through identity politics to get to the inevitable failure of that political mode is more valuable - more identity politics, not less. Lets get it over with.

Enough rambling for tonight - still like the 2nd book cover artwork.


Jason, the subject is not transcendental or existent in any typical or strong sense; it's a lack in the structure.

Nate, one way to think about political struggles in the US since, say, the 1960s is to recognize that many did not agree that the economy was the primary terrain--hence the civil rights struggle, the women's movement, and LGBT struggles.

There are different links that I am suggesting between political identity and the state. First, there are identities asserted as if they were outside the state and that the state must recognize them. Say, women's identities. Second, there is the recognition that there are not, in fact, women outside the state (birth certificates produce gendered beings; sex changes have to be legally registered). These two moves are not compatible and represent two modes of dealing with relations between identity and the state. My claim is that today, the first move ends up complicit with neoliberal rhetoric about diminishing the state, which means diminishing secular arrangements for collective responsibility.

PE Bird, on identity--it seems to me that what I am saying is compatible with the transition involved in 'enough with identity, already'--the arguments critical of identity politics are more than a decade old; the most persuasive ones come from out of identity politics (this was what my first book does).

I think your point on the state and class is right and demonstrates the heart of the failure of my exercise thus far. Ultimately, despite reading psychoanalysis and marxism and accepting the constitutive nature of antagonism, I find myself longing for a notion of solidarity that would somehow escape this irrevocable gap--so, the idea of a state was supposed to try to go there. And, you hit exactly on the problem. So, what would it mean to think a solidarity that doesn't deny antagonism?

Is it possible to say that the state as a vehicle for class rule isn't oppressive because it eliminates the conditions of oppression? or, that it redistributes collective benefits so as to prevent them from becoming unequal and oppressive? would this kind of state fit with the kind of solidarity I'm trying to think about?

Also, nothing is final. So, we can say state 3.1 or something.

Kenneth Rufo

"Isn't state a representation of class relations (I know this is old school, but give me a break)? Specifically the dominant class structuring the state?"

Well, it depends. If the question is, as I think the subsequent content of your comment implies, that the state might be _merely_ a representation of class relations, I would say no, absolutely not, and arguing as such will be unfortunate because it will get your precisely nowhere. Not accounting for the juridical force of the legal apparatus that undergirds the state, as well as the system of international relations that provide the justification for its military posture, isn't going to let your critique of class relations get very far. Class relations may constitute many things, but the act of constitution is not also the act of perfection, nor a closure, it is a precondition for sedimentation, which is to say, it may channel the river, but it doesn't control the manner in which the riverbed is subsequently reshaped and deposited.

If the question is rather about the state as _also_ a representation of class relations, then the answer is, of course, yes, but then agains, everything is possibly a representation of class relations, so that's not necessarily a question with a lot of probative value.

I think there's a serious danger of mystifying and reifying the very conceptual apparatus that you're concerned is already reified, which is the relation betwee the base and the superstructure (in other words, we can leave the question of the validity of class relations alone, and instead think about how that issue is embedded within a larger framework of socio-economic explanation). On this point, I think Benjamin is useful, in a number of places, but particularly is famous Art essay. And also, Baudrillard's For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, which is essential and on point regarding this possibility and the problems posed by the critical methods that attend it, especially when we begin to think, even indirectly, in the language of ideology.


I would say that the state isn't a representation of anything. Rather, it is a production and arrangement of things. What it produces will generally exceed the intentions and imaginations of those writing the laws and rules through which it produces; its arrangements will just as often be jumbled. And, I would think that an ideal theory would acknowledge these matters, but not have to remain trapped in them.


I have to run to work, but I have some quick thoughts.

I don't intend a reification of the state as a direct reflection of class relations. But certainly class relationships are reflected in state apparatus (laws, bureaucractic processes, the use of violence, etc.).

In fact the state is the one of the mechanisms that class is revealed (represented is the wrong word), the others being the family, workplace, and the media/culture.

While the state appears somewhat fluid - when push comes to shove you understand what it "represents" (I mean as an agent of). There are fissures and small opportunities and they need to be taken advantage of, but the state does not reveal its character so to speak until it must.

Jodi, I don't have a big problem with class antagonism - I think it's necessary - the problem is how it is hidden and reformulated to avoid being seen for what it is.

Maybe the "utopian" state has more transparency as to what antagonisms do exist and has an ethics to be more honest (or at least open) about group interests.

Here is where I find identity politics useful - the personal nature of identity requires an "honesty" (I know that you can throw Oprah as a perversion of this here) that actors then require of the traditional state. The state (at least this one) cannot authentically respond to this, so a new fissure arises.

chairman wow

The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. And indeed this is an historical act, a fundamental condition of all history, which today, as thousands of years ago, must daily and hourly be fulfilled merely in order to sustain human life. (Marx, german-ideology)

That insistence on the satisfaction of needs may be a trifle vulgar for people accustomed to psychoanalysis or phenomenology, but it is a fact which seems to often get lost once the class and state discussion begins; the economic and materialist presumptions of Marx (and of other 19th century socialists) are quickly replaced by the Hegelizing when the political chat commences. The subject --or perhaps better, "consciousness"--has no relation except to nature, to material goods, other individuals. One might assert a sort of undetermined identity to some degree (which is as Marx grants apart from mere animality), but that ID is part of, or a function of a biological organism, and regardless if a person thinks he has more important needs to fulfill than food or work or housing, whatever, he is still eating, living in his villa and so on.

Marx is suggesting that the flight away from the organism and its needs, from economic materialism, is characteristic of ideology, and specifically of the German idealists; and this is connected to the ideas on the division of labor, which I think he is always questioning/undermining, but sort of avoiding any quasi-utilitarian points, except maybe by implication: and the division of labor issue remains fundamental to how any sort of state is founded and operated--that is to say, its' not really dealt with--there are plenty of grounds for say making everyone, even Ivy League academics, work a harvest or in a machine shop or bridge building ,or, ....coding java.........


PE Bird--I would say that there is absolutely nothing personal about identity at all; that identity politics today is used in hideous right wing ways; that identity politics has given us the culture of victims rights motivating death penalty cases; that the politics of identity it, today, depoliticizing to the extreme.


Jodi - I have to disagree on identity - I agree that it is a dangerous and easily exploitable political form - but precisely due to its personal nature.

In addition to your examples, identity politics includes gay and gender politics, ethnic struggles, disabled rights - feminism is the epitome of identity politics.

Maybe I'm confusing identity politics with some other form - I see the category as that which defines fundamental power relations in terms of what the individual cannot control - your gender, your race, your physical attributes, etc.

Whereas traditional class politics is based on starting from the position of one's economic relationship to property ownership (a simplification to be sure).


Actually, the first historical act is the re-production of needs - sexuality - the production of the means of production. Once that objective fact arose in human consciousness - history started.


I'm not sure how much of the academic literature you are familiar with on identity politics, and I don't want to be condescending or pedantic. I also don't want to misread your point.

Can we agree that identity is politicized in different ways and that these ways can serve different ends? This would let us acknowledge how Bush used feminism to justify bombing Afghanistan and why he populates his staged speeches with faces of different colors.

Can we also agree that identity is not fixed or unchangeable? Ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability--all of these are open and culturally and politically determined. They are not fixed at all; hence, what we see as identities are momentary sedimentations of previous struggles.

For example, to argue against marriage as the primary form for arranging private lives does not require an argument from identity.
To argue against racialism discrimination also does not require an argument from identity--in fact, arguments from identity here (while having had some successes on the ground) often end up backfiring.


2nd paragraph - absolutely agree.

3rd paragraph - I guess it depends - in many cases the individuals that make up an identity group do not have a choice - one's gender for example. The definition of what that identity means is clearly not fixed.

But there are a number of identity categories (psychological, emotional) that are not fixed - and I take your point.

I also need to clarify/shift my previous comment about feminism being the epitome of identity politics - that is incorrect. I mean so say that the radical nature of feminism has been turned into/transformed/redefined into "identity politcs" - indeed it's not feminism but this altered definition of what feminism means - which I take as your point on Bush.

I still believe the power of identity politics is its personal nature - my experience is more on the ground than in the books - those that push the hardest and drive the issues forward are those that personify the identity of the group.

I fully agree that identity politics are easily manipulated and transformed into something that backfires - precisely due to its personal nature - members find it challenging to transcend personal circumstances into a larger force - which was kind of the point I tried to make re: solidarity.

Not trying to hijack the thread - I would like to get back to the earlier discussion on state and solidarity.


I don't see this as a hijacking at all but absolutely crucial.

I would distinguish between what might motivate an individual person to engage politically from identity politics. I think of identity politics as basing political claims in identity. One could also see that an experience might lead a person into politics and that then the person could universalize, politicize, etc this experience so that it is not a matter of identity.

Let's think about choice: is there anything important about our lives that we actually choose? In other words, is the matter of choice or its lack the central issue for politicization or contestation? I don't think so.


I think you raise a crucial point - how is that this universalization process has been stymied?

Of course - as the saying goes - all politics are personal, or at least it starts out that way. The nature of identity politics places constraints on universalization.

So there is a gap - a choice to make between the identity community or a larger political space. Maybe one stance is to not choose, but to stand in the gap - neither fully embracing nor rejecting either side. I don't how comfortable I am with that.

I think your point on choice is different - is it that our life decisions or even that the concept of choice has relevance for politcal struggle?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo