Mistaken Identity by Asad Haider review – the best criticism of identity politics
I found this review of the book by Asad Haider satisfying — despite the title of the book, and the title of the review, I don’t think he just criticises identity politics. Haider defends a strand of it and criticises another and makes the distinction quite clear.
Haider traverses a tricky area. OTOH he can be critical of corporate feminism or indigenous capitalism. On the other hand he avoids two traps: One would be to go (or be seen to go) all sexist and racist. The other would be to fall into offensive class dogma, and say that all will be well in these areas of identity after the working class revolution.
Even in the summary in the review what is constructive and what is not, comes through clearly:
This is the original demand of identity politics, and it’s one that Haider embraces: for a revolutionary practice rooted in people’s identities as racialised, sexed, gendered and classed individuals who face interlocking systems of oppression. These systems have to be fought together, by organising people of different identities in what Haider calls “a project of universal emancipation” devoted to dismantling all of the structures that make them unfree, including and especially capitalism itself.
But if anticapitalist revolution is where identity politics began, it has since become something quite different, and is now invoked by certain liberals and leftists to serve distinctly non-revolutionary ends, Haider argues. It involves members of marginalised groups demanding inclusion, recognition, or restitution from above – a seat at the table. These demands are made in response to very real injuries endured by those groups. But their method, he says, ends up strengthening the structures that produced those injuries in the first place.
I’m intrigued that Asad Haider is a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness. I listened to him in a podcast and he is indeed knowledgeable in this area. See my blog post.
I look forward to what else he has written.