Out of Many III: Politics Is Identity and Always Was, Research Time, 09/12/2016

Continued from previous . . . The talk of the liberal internet in the shadow of Trump’s election victory is that it was all the fault of identity politics. SJW culture and its obnoxious tone of anti-racism drove all their potential allies away.

Bernie Sanders himself, the patron saint of America’s lost causes of social democracy, has said it’s time for his country’s progressive political movements to move beyond identity politics.

All through the campaign year, Bernie Sanders was continually depicted
in the media as tone-deaf on racism issues, and as constantly
downplaying its importance relative to the white working class. But
the popular misinterpretation of his identity politics remarks is just a
lazy hot take that picks up the same, boring thread of critique.
Mark Lilla wrote a now-famous op/ed piece in the times arguing that the focus on justice for discriminated minorities distracts from the economic struggles of white Americans. If we focus on the argument, so it goes, working to correct racial inequality alienates poor whites, and that economic dignity for all must be a progressive’s only priority.

It’s an incredibly poor argument, though that doesn’t prevent the chattering classes from believing it. Or at least repeating the argument so much that it becomes a horrible common sense belief.

The perfect rejoinder to this argument was Sanders himself, in the full body of his essay and speech. As well as this piece from the New York Times, that a fair economy and an end to personal, cultural, and institutional racism is the ultimate goal of justice.

A deeply fair society where everyone in the full diversity of humanity is our sibling and friend. That would be a wonderful society.

Yet we can’t get the intelligentsia of our chattering classes to admit this. Mark Lilla argues that we should leave the fight against racism and sexism behind in the name of healing our rift with reactionary whites. Jordan Peterson argues that racism and sexism are barely even real enough to bother talking about.

I even came across an argument that racial and gender justice advocacy only advances according to a kind of status hierarchy of the most radical extremism. Progressive activist Germaine Greer wasn’t vilified because a wider LBGTQ community no longer tolerates the hostility to trans people that she’s always expressed.

Essays like that one I linked on the "status hierarchy" of SJW
extremism feel like longer versions of juvenile, sarcastic memes
like this one. Their critique just as meaningful.
No, it’s much more sensible to say that you make more ridiculous and bizarre demands as a pissing contest of gender liberty extremism. “I know 72 gender pronouns and you only know 37 – you fucking fascist!”

There is a strong, powerful, and complex tradition of philosophy that can defend the call for actual justice in the world from this contempt. It’s the tradition of radical democracy – the political philosophy that conceives of human nature as the drive to grow more and more complex. And it wants social institutions to encourage that explosion of diversity.

Names to read are those I’ve been looking through lately – Antonio Negri, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Rancière. Their work since the 1980s has built a concept of human nature that embraces our entire species’ incredible variety, and opposes the injustices of oligarchy and poverty, as well as race and gender oppression along all vectors.

Writing before the 21st century’s resurgence of nationalism, they first opposed the conservative liberal consensus on the nature of truth and reason. The Enlightenment conception of reason that’s become our mainstream is the reason of a perfectly consistent universality.

There is one and only one truth, it is coherent and real, you speak the truth when your words correspond to what is true. This concept of human nature says there is one perfect model of human existence, and conformity to this model approaches perfection.

Although their focus on philosophy of science, the arts, and humanities
traditions themselves tends to nudge them out of what's recognized as
the community of political philosophers, Gilles Deleuze and Félix
Guattari have central roles in the radical democracy tradition. They
built the ontology underlying the politics and ethics.
The first cracks in that idea was around when Frantz Fanon wrote that such a perfect model looked pretty white, male, and European. But it doesn’t end there.

Humanity is a difference engine. We’ve survived the catastrophes we have not because we form hostile tribes and conform to community moralities. That’s how writers like Mencius Moldbug and Nick Land think humanity survives crises. But that’s how humanity kills each other.

Humanity is an inherently creative species. We adapt our cultures to new circumstances and new ways of life so that we can constantly experiment and figure out new ways to live when our world changes out from under us. Our changeability is what makes us such good migrants. Why almost anywhere in the world can be a human habitat.

Our adaptiveness and creativity means that diversity – the most fundamental freedom of democracy, the freedom to be and become whatever you desire – is the core of human strength.

The best identity politics is the politics that embraces and protects that incredible power to become. . . . Actually, it will be continued

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