Peoples' movements and protests




Enough with identity politics



Any suggestion for improvals can be mailed to the author


By Jan Wiklund



Standing around Stockholm Pride on a scorching Saturday made me more convinced than ever that identity politics has reached the end of the road.

Not because there is no structural discrimination. Discrimination – or favoritism – is the easiest way to guarantee the loyalty of the beneficiaries. According to Charles Tilly, it is more or less a coincidence which "characteristics" are to be discriminated against, the important thing is the division into in-groups and out-groups, where subordinate people in the in-group must in any case be made to feel flattered by not to belong to the outgroup. And discrimination is thus a completely natural consequence of hierarchical decision-making processes.

Which suggests that it may not be so effective in the long run to fight between different "identities" about who should be defined out and who should be defined in. Especially as the cake you fight over gets smaller year by year.

If not yet perhaps in Sweden, then in any case in most of the world, if Thomas Piketty is to be believed.

There are at least two risks with that. One can be seen in countries where the cake has decreased particularly drastically, and different "identities" (eg Serbs and Croats) have gone at each other with bombs and grenades. The other, more immediately imminent, is that we leave the size of the pie aside and let it continue to shrink.

The increasing inequality can only be countered with a policy that mobilizes majorities. While the natural extension of identity politics is fragmentation into smaller and smaller minorities, each of which must have its own justice.

It is certainly true that the partly successful majoritarian mobilizations of the 20th century have all been sustained by powerful identities – labor movements, peasant movements, anti-colonial movements. But they have been successful because the identity that has dominated the movement has been able to see beyond its immediate needs and formulate policies that have benefited a majority, by attacking the hierarchies at large. Much like today's successful Ecuadorian Indian movement that accepts everyone but the upper class as Indian.

So what we would like to see is that within all the different identities the focus is shifted to the increasing inequality in general, which of course must also affect them themselves eventually, in such a way that the fight for the donuts intensifies. More focus on creating more donuts, more focus on the jobs, and on the investments needed for the jobs not to disappear.

As the environmental movement has already been forced to do.

Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: