Normally this sort of thing wouldn’t even be worth linking to, but given the current political battles on the left, I will make an exception. I am as big a believer in the need for socialism as anyone. The working classes should be united against economic exploitation and the class warfare from the plutocrats in the New Gilded Age. However, arguments that the left need to stop paying attention to identity politics in order to fight the class war only adds to the oppression of everyone who is not a white male.
Ultimately, though, the left should seek to move beyond identity politics for the simple reason that it is compatible with neo-liberal economics. Identity politics can co-exist with the corporate boss who makes more money in a week than his cleaner takes home in a year – as long as the chances of being the boss are assigned proportionally among different ethnic groups, sexualities and genders. Individual winners and losers remain as remote from each other as ever; they are simply sorted in direct proportion to their numbers in society. The ultimate aim of identity politics is to ‘tune up’ the elite rather than to abolish it.
By emphasising difference over commonality, identity politics also makes it harder for the left to establish a mass politics based around shared economic interests. By seeking constantly to divide people up into smaller and smaller groups, identity politics forestalls the creation of a sense of unity around issues of economic justice. And because it is obsessed with difference, the divisions are potentially endless.
An assumption that white men invariably occupy an economically privileged position seems to be another unfortunate assumption among those pushing for greater diversity in the professions. Most equality drives today explicitly exclude class. White males are certainly over-represented in many of the most prestigious professions in both Britain and the United States. But this is an over-representation of a very particular class of white male. White men from the working class are not – by a long stretch – ubiquitous in the elite. In fact, they encounter economic hurdles at least as difficult to surmount as the barriers of gender and racial equality faced by their contemporaries.
You may be shocked to know the writer of this article is a white male.
Yes, it’s true that corporations can indeed support gay marriage without hurting their bottom lines. Doing so is still contributing to the reduction of injustice in the world. That’s a fundamentally good thing.
And don’t even get me started on the incorrect use of “neoliberal,” which sadly on the left just means “capitalism” or “rich people” or “things I don’t like” instead of its actual meaning.
These sorts of white male arguments should be shunned and ridiculed, even as we should also fight for economic justice.