Submitted by Bezotcovschina in discussion

So, here:, I see:

  1. Identity Politics
  • critiquing identity politics insofar as it preserves victimization-enabled identities & social roles (i.e. affirming rather than negating gender, class, etc.) & inflicts guilt-induced paralysis, amongst others

  • critiquing single-issue campaigns or orientations

and, honestly, I don't understand, what it means. I would like to hear some examples of what fit and what doesn't for both of points.



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An_Old_Big_Tree wrote

Sure, I can give this a little shot before I start work. To start, there's an essay that gets recommended pretty often on this topic, I don't think it's great because it's overly basic in the way that it engages these questions and in so doing leaves room for shitty people to have bad politics in relation to identities. It's called Against Identity Politics: Spectres, Joylessness, and the contours of ressentiment. There's also been some discussion about it on the site if you wanna search around, but I think much of it has been deleted over time.

preserves victimization-enabled identities

When you see 'preservation' or 'conservation' of values in relation to victimisation, what is being talked about is the Nietzschean idea of resentment. There was a 101 write up about that here, some time ago.

This side of the resentment paradigm applies to the oppressed portion of a social hierarchy.

inflicts guilt-induced paralysis

This side of it applies to the oppressor portion. For example, white people allowing guilt about their positionality/privilege to prevent them from acting, to cause them to not move unless authorised by PoC.
This is obviously complicated because most white people have terrible politics, but for me, if you are alive, there are almost definitely things you can do to destroy oppression, regardless of your positionality, without waiting for permission. Doing it right is the problem.

critiquing single-issue campaigns or orientations

This is a problem with people who focus on just one axis of oppression, instead of all of them. In short, they invariably do a bad job with at least the others, reproducing this shit world as a result. This is bound up in 'identity politics' insofar as certain identities are being considered of primary importance, rather than the destruction of all, as fully as possible, always.

(i.e. affirming rather than negating gender, class, etc.)

The central question of 'identity politics' is how (if at all possible) do we utilise the identity categories that we have to destroy those categories, in a way that does not simply reproduce them.

If, for example, we are queer, and we start giving that positive content - so that queerness means having coloured hair, having certain types of sex, whatever. Say we build a whole counter-culture that gives content to 'queerness'. Although we've broken away from the norms of cishetness, we haven't broken away from the root cause, which is the processes of building normative structures that define us ahead of time. There will always be people suffering on the margins of normative structures, and so the anarchist's task is to destroy that way of being entirely.

It's round about here that I'd start talking about how there are specific ways of relating to norms that are anarchistic, and others that are not. (I typed the word 'transcendent' into the search, and there's this write up [linked in the first link of this comment also], and this write up that will help, if anybody wants to look further into this topic).

These are both Nietzsche and Stirner-derived positions. My favourite version of which comes from Deleuze, and my preferred recent take on resentment comes from Mbembe in Critique of Black Reason, linked in w/decolonial.

Happy to elaborate on things more if anybody asks, gotta stop now though because this took too long!


Bezotcovschina OP wrote

Thanks! Yes, my initial confusion was caused by a feeling that these points could be bent to justify shitty politics. So I needed more feedback to be sure I get it "right". I will certainly look at the links you have posted for more information.


celebratedrecluse wrote (edited )

  1. someone who argues for greater representation of marginalized people within fundamentally oppressive structures would be critiqued by a post leftist under this description of post left politics. The idea of these identities as fixed, universal, and/or totalizing is seen as reductive and restricting of possibilities for action that can destabilize the social reproduction of the oppressive forces which create these identities.

  2. People who are basing their political action around their social role or status are bound by that status to a constrained field of options for action. Post left analysis might argue that these constrained options in fact end up reifying the existence of power differentials rather than effectively challenging them.

For example, if you are always thinking of yourself as a victim or a perpetrator within broad systems of power, or perhaps both, you end up feeling like you have no ability to act "legitimately" except as a part of a social group which is produced by oppression, and you do less to challenge that oppression's root causes since you're preoccupied with making sure you are perceived as legitimate (which requires you to be oppressed).


Bezotcovschina OP wrote

Thank you. So, did I get it right, that this is an application of post-left critique of dogma to dogmatic thinking about identities?


celebratedrecluse wrote

Yes, that is part of it. The thing is, even leftists are starting to critique identity politics at this point, because only a lib would really take seriously someone like US Kamala Harris as someone who could be trusted to push back on racialized mass incarceration. Post-left critiques are still going further with it, because they identify all forms of group identity as possible venues and terrains for this type of unhelpful identity politics.

This doesn't mean that one should disregard identity, whether it's class or race or gender or sexuality or ability, etc etc, but it does assert that to reduce matters simply to group membership is reductive and at times quite reactionary. Which I would find to be true, there are trans people where I live for example that work openly with the far-right, but i am still obviously concerned for my and my community's well being as trans people.



-Identity Politics are always based on flattening out experience, making the critique of society abstract rather than lived.

-Identity Politics promote cross-class alliances, thus offering those with more power (and thus an interest in the proliferation of class society) to silence the most marginalized within these alliances.

-Identity Politics are rooted in the ideology of victimization, and thus celebrate and comes to enforce norms surrounding what activity people are allowed or able to participate in. This plays out by reinforcing certain mythologies about struggle (i.e. “only cis-white-men participate in black blocs or “oppressed people are incapable of certain strategies of revolt”).

-Identity Politics are always based on the fallacy of coherent communities. Some French people once said that “there are greater ethical differences within communities than between them.” That is to say that those trapped within certain “communities” or identity confines often have less in common with one another than they do with those who they are purported to be opposed to. This fallacy thrives on abstraction of experience rather than analysis of lived experience itself. A queer in prison has more in common with their straight cellmate than with some scumbag gay senator, and yet the mythology of the “queer community” serves to suffocate enemies of society and subjugate them to their self-appointed representatives.

-Identity Politics are fundamentally reformist and seek to find a more favorable relationship between different subject positions rather than to abolish the structures that produce those positions from the beginning. Identity politicians oppose “classism” while being content to leave class society intact. Any resistance to society must foreground the destruction of the subjectifying processes that reproduce society daily, and must destroy the institutions and practices that racialize and engender bodies within the social order.

-Identity Politics are deployed by, inherently refer to, always valorize and are in and of themselves the State.


Bezotcovschina OP wrote

One thing I still can't wrap my brain around is how it's practicaly different from, in particular, "liberal colorblindness"?


An_Old_Big_Tree wrote (edited )

Liberal 'colourblindness' is (as far as I know) the position that race does not matter, or that we should not talk about it because doing so reinforces race.

identity politics as critiqued here is whenever someone's positionality overdefines for them the way that they can engage in a space, ahead of time, and with little consideration for context.

It's surprisingly hard to explain without examples at hand. Did you read the dragonowl piece?


Bezotcovschina OP wrote

I've started reading it. Very busy weekend - but I hope to finish it tomorrow. So far it's really good!


MHC wrote

Post-left means right! And right-wing I am not into.