States of Mind views "identity politics" as a serious threat to democratic values and processes - every bit as dangerous as populism. It doesn't matter what that "identity" is - Christian, Jew, Muslim, LGBT, Black, Asian, White, Ethnic, Nationalist, Feminist ... or whatever. It's all ultimately destructive of social cohesion and leads to a "silo" mentality, divisiveness, a misplaced sense of "exceptionalism" and an unbridled self-interest that fractures the inclusivity and pluralism of the centre. One group sees another succeeding in exerting pressure on the system to further its own agenda and decides that they want some of that too. Soon we're in a mad competitive scramble for the allocation of rights and privileges that rightly belong to all. The logical conclusion is something we are starting to see already where identities are becoming more and more radicalised in order to get attention. In any relationship, where desire begins to break down, people naturally become more demanding of each other - and that's where we are. And some are more than capable of producing extremist and violent extremist wings. It's also wastefully comparative and a competitive treadmill with no rest for any (would be) short-term winners.
The real problem is this: identity politics don't lead anywhere. They are essentially negative, confrontational and competitive and are often driven by the propaganda of victimhood and media wars ..... and it's only a matter of time before all this creates an equal and opposite reaction from some other "in-group." Much of it is also hysterical and vain and doomed to tumble into "the narcissism of small differences". This phenomenon is what happens to splinter and fracture in-group identities.... wonderfully satirised by Monty Python's Life of Brian where the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea see each other as the real enemy - despite the Roman occupation. It also explains why some people who want to belong to a group-cause they believe in, often end up becoming fundamentalists whilst others become pragmatists. And often they then turn against each other as the number-one enemy of their cause. The greatest enemies of most people are those who are most like them.... but not quite. We often see this with terrorist groups too: ISIS v al Qaeda: IRA v INLA, UVF v UDA; PLO v Hamas, Sunni v Shia, Protestant v Catholic etc. And politically, the list goes on forever.... just think for a second of Marxism, Leninism, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism.... not to mention the thousands of intra-religious splits and sects. The ultimate consequence of identity politics is an infinite regress back to the "purity" of the individual. So forget it.
States of Mind believes we need a strong ideological and cohesive democratic centre based on the core democratic values of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. Those engaged in identity politics may well claim to be pursing "equality" for its "in-group" - but it's often at the expense of fraternity. And without fraternity we have nothing. Living in a silo of splendid isolation is simply not possible: we need to work together to ensure that identity politics becomes a thing of the past. It's too easy to fall into line with it: it's also quite easily triggered by some of the worst characteristics of human social psychology - so we need to be vigilant. A huge problem we face is the use of technology and social media information bubbles that atomise our existence, helping to keep us separate from each other and focusing on our differences rather than our shared goals and desires.
An excellent article - written by Sheri Berman - appeared in The Guardian (connection below). The Guardian article states: "In a fascinating study, Karen Stenner shows in The Authoritarian Dynamic that while some individuals have “predispositions” towards intolerance, these predispositions require an external stimulus to be transformed into actions. Or, as another scholar puts it: “It’s as though some people have a button on their foreheads, and when the button is pushed, they suddenly become intensely focused on defending their in-group … But when they perceive no such threat, their behavior is not unusually intolerant. So the key is to understand what pushes that button.”
What pushes that button, Stenner and others find, is group-based threats. In experiments researchers easily shift individuals from indifference, even modest tolerance, to aggressive defenses of their own group by exposing them to such threats. Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson, for example, found that simply making white Americans aware that they would soon be a minority increased their propensity to favor their own group and become wary of those outside it."
And how is this more useful to the divisive politics of the right?? Near the end the article, it states..."As long, therefore, as politics is a fight between clearly bounded identity groups, appeals and threats to group identity will benefit Republicans (right wing) more than Democrats (liberal left) which is presumably why Steve Bannon infamously remarked that he couldn’t “get enough” of the left’s “race-identity politics”. “The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em ... I want them to talk about race and identity … every day.”
It finishes with this question and suggestion: "Is our ultimate goal ensuring the compatibility of diversity and democracy? Then promoting the overlapping interests and identifications that enable citizens to become more comfortable with difference and thus more tolerant and trusting, is absolutely necessary."
In the end, all identity politics rests of the psychology of the narcissism of small differences. Just say "No"!