Identity Politics

The recurring themes throughout the readings for this class always prove to be fascinating. In this case, focusing on the theme of “all is not what it appears”. Identity is a term and concept that I am familiar with. It seems straightforward enough, it is “you”; who you are, what your name is, what makes you “you”. However, the book brings in some new ways to think about “identity”. It is not always simply a name. Sometimes it refers more to who you identify with. You can have a common identity with those who are like-minded people. Liberals can identify with other liberals. Atheists can identify with other atheists, and so on. This idea of group identity helps us to understand the relationship between identity and politics.

Politics can almost always be linked back to a conflict or an issue. Policies are put into place to prohibit something, or define something. A group’s identity can be a source of conflict-or promote efforts to cause social changes. Conflict or efforts for change result in political solutions. This helps to understand the idea of identity politics.

When considering identity politics, it is easy to view the group that multiple people identify with to be one single entity. The people have the same mindsets, and same concerns; they also want the same changes. The changes that they want to happen will benefit only those who identity with the group. This is easy to see with the example of the feminist movement, or the example the book gives about disabled people’s organizations. The group works under one identity to make a specific change to social processes.

The book talks about Karl Marx’s idea of people making history, but not under conditions of their own choosing; however, the idea of identity politics and social movements brings to light another idea. With the birth of these social movements, it gives people the opportunity to make history and choose conditions. Social movements thrive on the idea of using identity politics to change the way society currently functions. There are many strong identities alive today in these social groups, and in individual people; the existence of these identities within social movements are what make and shape our society.

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