It has been suggested that we need a thread specifically to discuss identity politics. In order for it to have a fighting chance of not collapsing into chaos as people talk past each other, I thought the OP needed a brief exposition of some of the basic issues as I see them. No doubt others will want to similarly outline what they see as the basics. This is not intended as exhaustive, and I have written elsewhere on the boards about my views. It is, however, intended as a starting point for discussion. In today’s ‘radical’ politics there is an assumption, sometimes stated, sometimes unstated, but either way underpinning much of the thinking one comes across, that identity and politics are a continuum. We can see this continuum as analogous to spacetime. We’ll call it identitypolitics. In this model, identity is politics and politics is identity. The one is but an aspect of the other. In this model, it is assumed that certain people will necessarily be drawn to ‘radicalism’ because of their identity, and that certain others will tend towards ‘reactionary politics’ because of theirs. This is essentialism. Furthermore, because of the pervasiveness of this model, it is now the widespread common sense that the only way to respect the struggles of marginalised people is through this model. In this now dominant common sense, identitypolitics is just a synonym for anti-racism, for feminism, for opposition to homophobia and transphobia and so on. Just as top down Multiculturalism is seen by so many as just a synonym for respecting diversity and inclusivity. And so, if one criticises identitypolitics, one is seen by many as opposing anti-racism, as opposing feminism, and so on, because identitypolitics has become seen as the only way of doing those things. In this thread I hope we can discuss yes whether identitypolitics is the only way of doing these things, and whether, in fact, it really does those things, but more importantly whether there are other, better, ways of doing them. And here we will hit another issue these debates often hit. There is a category error that invariably comes up. It is often assumed by identitypolitics practitioners that critics are arguing that “class is more important than race (or gender, or sexuality, or whatever)”. This is a misrepresentation that comes about because people have become so used to seeing identity as the basis for politics that they can only see competing identities, nothing else. If I say I am interested in class analysis, I am not putting forward some identitarian conception of class; I am talking about understanding social structures that prevent us from achieving social justice; social structures that prevent us, ultimately, from achieving self-government. I am not setting up “working class” (or, worse still, “white working class”) as an identity. “Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex”. (Marx and Engels, the Communist Manifesto). This is not saying that class is an identity and “more important” than “age or sex”; it is saying that capitalism has resulted in social structures that place us - all identities together - in a particular economic relationship. Age and sex (and we would now add race and sexuality and gender identity and so on) are a different thing to that economic relationship. Arguing which is “more important” is like arguing whether apples are more important than gravity. It’s not a discussion even worth having. It’s not a discussion any reasonable person is having. It is important to reiterate here that I’m not suggesting that class structure is a thing and identities aren’t; I’m suggesting they’re different things. Different sorts of things. Nor am I saying that identity is unimportant: identity is an essential part of what it is to be human. We cannot be without it. Nor am I saying the struggles I referred to above (the sight against bigotry and racism, against sexism and misogyny, against homophobia and transphobia, and so on) are unimportant. Far from it. Those struggles are vital, those causes are just, and they must be supported not diminished. And it should be pointed out that there is nothing that I gain from class struggle that doesn’t apply to everyone. The question I want to ask is the best way of going about fighting those oppressions, and whether identitypolitics is helpful or counterproductive. So how did we come to a point where identitypolitics has replaced structural analysis? This blogpost offers a worthwhile perspective: “Roots of this can be found in neoliberalism and its agenda of dissolving society into individuals and commodities. Of course, neoliberalism does not dissolve classes within production or the division of labour, but it dissolves the political potential of the working class through the individualisation of class. Which is why the left of today, in its inability to cope with the complete destruction of its historical counterpart through the 20th century, has decided to turn towards ideology and strategies of the far right, with its emphasis on the individual, its identity, ethnic romanticism and defence of culture and has replaced the class with it. The class interest of the working class is not what drives the left politics of today as the working class is viewed mainly as one of the ‘underdog’ identities.” (Tzadik) “American Thought”: from theoretical barbarism to intellectual decadence So, for me, despite its origins in decent endeavour, identitypolitics is not now of the left. It is not socialist (even in the broadest sense). It is not an opposition to structures of oppression, because it doesn’t tackle those structures. But, further than that, it belongs alongside other reactionary and biological determinist viewpoints, because it uses biology to divide us, it apportions responsibility according to biology and identity, and in using the ideas of the reactionary right, ends up only serving the purposes of the ruling class. There are other points and arguments that I could have covered but have decided to leave for the forthcoming discussion.