Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ross Wolfe defines identitarianism

Today I went looking for definitions of identitarianism. Though Walter Benn Michaels seems to have been the first to use it in its most modern sense, and he and Adolph Reed Jr. have both used it to make brilliant observations about capitalism in general and neoliberalism in particular, the best definition may be this:

Ross Wolfe in On the term “identitarian”:
Now we come to the critique of “identitarian” ideology specifically under neoliberal capitalism, picking up on Reed and Michaels’ intuition. “Identitarian” ideology here occurs wherever apparent heterogeneity masks underlying homogeneity. When individuals assert the uniqueness of their various identities, and recite all the various experiences and factors that make them different from the dominant narrative or “hegemonic order” of society, they neglect to consider the way that capital operates by making that which is seemingly incommensurable commensurable. Far from being inherently radical or occupying a marginalized vantage within society not fully captured by the logic of capital, these various identities are regarded by capital as so many niche markets through which groups or individuals can semi-consciously cultivate the illusion of being different than everybody else. This is not to say that racism, sexism, homophobia, and so on are not problems; they are. But they are bound together by a social dynamic that runs deeper than the facile notion of “intersectionality”: namely, the totality of capitalist social relations, in which these phenomena coexist and interrelate. These different “identities” do not provide a true basis for transcending capitalism, nor are they properly outside of capitalism; they are generated, layered, and recombined within the neoliberal configuration of capital.
ETA: "wherever apparent heterogeneity masks underlying homogeneity" ought to go into an essay I would like to write but probably never will, "The ideology of the black bourgeoisie".