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+6 votes
I identify with almost every aspect of post leftist anarchism, but I am really wary of the post left take on identity politics. In regards to identity politics I don't think that all people who share an identifier have the same experiences or can be assumed to hold the same stance on certain things, but I feel that things like race, class, queerness, disability, and etc are related to very important lived experiences and oppression that shouldn't be ignored?? I don't believe that social justice is an attempt to silence unpopular opinions from white dudes or whatever. Not quite sure if I'm making sense. Are there any folks that are involved with social justice and are also post leftists that might be able to offer some advice or clarification or alternatives??
Good question. This is very important given how widespread identity politics are, and how complex these issues can be.
"... but I feel that things like race, class, queerness, disability, and etc are related to very important lived experiences and oppression that shouldn't be ignored??"

therein lies one of the, uh, misinterpretations (giving a HUGE benefit of the doubt) by identity politicians of the perspectives of most post-left @'s i know (myself included). the fact that some folks do not buy into the specific prescribed (by said politicos) responses to these oppressions is twisted - it seems to me often disingenuously - into the claim that those folks don't acknowledge or want to fight against those oppressions.

i agree with flip's answer below, and i want to pull out something dot said in a comment to it, which i think is spot on:

"the question isn't whether racism, etc *exist* (to deny that would be insane), but rather whose will do we follow in reacting to it?  "

in addition, i will add that the "oppression pyramid" (aka, "MY oppression is really, REALLY the root of all oppression [and therefore the most important one]") is a very popular game with identity politicians, and that is one game that most post-left @s i know refuse to play.
I think the danger of identity politics , like all ideology,is it requires lifeless concepts/categories and most often these tend toward the binary. For example, victim/perpetrator. There's no doubt that horrible things happen to people by people, but it's so easy to be a victim and  live  a life of what Nietzsche termed 'ressentiment.' The blame game continues and the psychology of victimization becomes further embedded hindering a joyous, rebellious life.

Meanwhile, the 'white guilt' syndrome circulates mostly among college-educated, upper-crust whites whose only interaction with persons of color (I hate that phrase!) are those who've been able to attain the same economic class, or when these liberal whites can swoop down from on high in the form of an 'aid' organization like the Peace Corp or some NGO.

Often the liberals' class bigotry gets the best of them though in two ways: 1. they very often live in economically segregated neighborhood/towns and 2. they very often lay the blame of 'racism' at the doors of 'lower class' whites usually accompanied with vitriolic epithets like 'redneck' and 'hick.'

This gives the lie to the notion of 'white privilige' being some monolithic antagonism between whites and 'persons of color' since it's obvious that not all whites are 'privileged' in the same manner. It may be the case it's easier for me to  walk down the street without police harassment due to my skin color, but the rub is, my street most often hasn't been the racially segregated street of so many self-proclaimed progressives.

Personally, I think Landstreicher's "Against the Logic of Submission" is one of the best post-left writings I've come across that deals with identity politics.
Great discussion here all around.
the only issue i have with identity politics is the guilt mongering. I don't have an issue with anyone trying to get government benefits, even corporations really, it's the logical thing to do. However, leftists don't often consider the non-monetary aspects of what they do
sick link amor fati!
thanks to recent comments this reappeared towards the top of stuff today. I echo that this is really fucking important. I think I inherently disagree with some of how the op seems to imply pl@'s relate to identity, but I am also not so new as to have not encountered asshats who use the language of anti-politics to excuse their own fucked up behavior around privilege/oppression as it relates to actual lived lives.
i guess i should have seen this coming with my nasty sarcasm....

lets just say the rug is coming out from under my feet and i don't really know what to do
i hope you find some clarity, rick...or at least that you find a way to navigate the muck. maybe expressing it here among people who can relate to the pain will help.
thanks, i just wish i knew when i was pissing people off on here and not, or i wish that i could stop worrying so much about what other people thought of me
you haven't ever pissed me off...and i understand your sentiment about worrying what other people think of you. i used to worry more about that myself than i do today, but it still does matter to me at times, depending on the people and situation. i know very few people who don't seem to care at all what others think of them.

edited to add: i also would like you to know that many of your comments and answers here have helped me to think about things more deeply, or from a different angle i hadn't considered. and some of your frustrations and experiences you've shared about living against hierarchy resonate with me...i hope you continue.
it would be nice if there was an anarchist forum set up to talk about surviving and the emotional qualities of living in our society, for me it seems like i simultaneously always want to contradict and argue with people but i also worry about giving the interpretation that im judging people, because i hate it when people try to paint my motives a certain way or not wanting to fulfill obligations
rs666: your perspective, and particularly the issues it raises for you living in this shithole world, are both extremely understandable and not at all uncommon, imo.

as ba@ says, it is difficult not to care at all about what others think. it is also often impossible to *know* what others are thinking about you, regardless of whatever clues we might receive. i myself find that i don't really give a shit, except when it comes to people i really care about. but i find that it is more important for me to simply do the best job i can of expressing my viewpoint (in any given context), and then let people think what they will. if they are interested/interesting/critical enough, it will no doubt lead to more discussion, enabling further clarity (hopefully). so i guess my objective is clarity, rather than (not) being perceived as judgmental or wing-nutty or whatever.

i often find that as folks discover and explore more radical perspectives whjch resonate with them, there is a period of finding their own being/comfort/confidence with what those changes in them mean, related to the world at large. too often (in my experience) that results in a period of outspoken and almost dogmatic expression of the new ideas, which can surely come across as judgmental, unrealistic, immature, whatever. i interpret that as something related to insecurity, and if one really finds that these ideas resonate deeply and become an integral part of oneself, that insecurity fades away and the ideas (whatever parts of them) become a part of the dynamic whole which is that individual. of course, some people just have a condescending way of communicating, which may have nothing at all to do with any of this. :-)  but that does not sound like you, from what little i can glean.

some friends and myself have considered setting up a secure discussion forum, possibly invitation only (surely fully password protected and not open to the public). i will let you know if that ever comes to fruition.
Well said, funky@.

can really see myself reflected in that third para.
funky@, I offer a second of cb's sentiments.

i had a bit of a cathartic experience a few months ago which allowed me to come into something i hadn't engage with before, at least in the magnitude it hit me then, and this experience was- there are extremely subtle social techniques of silencing those of us who feel at all traumatized or angsty by the fucked up ways of relating most people accept as 'normal.' these shared and accepted techniques are an insidious way people gang up on someone vulnerable in some way, with normalized bodily cues, tones and pitches in speech, etc.

all too often it's in the guise of so-called positive thinking (rs666's really good question on this subject:, but it also manifests itself in a sort of eye-rolling condescension which, to me, smacks of a spineless way of dealing with a new and/or threatening perspective. it places the 'impoliteness' on you; the impoliteness labeled as and chalked up to, dogma, the unrealistic, immaturity, etc.

just as those hawking the wares of positivity, the blame of any social discomfort is placed squarely on the one who's 'acting out;' again, the rolling eyes, the glances, the "ooookayyy' muttered with raised eyebrows. it seems to me this behavior, and our submission to it, sanctions a remnant of that old christian soul and sin concept: if you got a problem it's your problem. the world is fine and normal. you are fucked up.

i guess i'm simply adding a qualitative addendum to your thoughts, a reminder, as much for myself as anyone else, because it's so easy to fall into this pattern, this fucked up pattern of relation, one of the very fucked up patterns adding to our angst to begin with! differentiating between what others hold as impolite and the discomfort in fitting into our new perspectival britches is rarely an easy feat.
yeah i hate that bullshit, it's like if your not willing to play the game then stfu. Americans pretend they are sexually frisky people but they are in reality really repressed, Wolfi Landstriecher wrote an article called "on sexual poverty" that was really good that i wanted to retype and send to the anarchist library but i just dont have enough time

Just to clarify, what exactly was "cathartic" for you? Realizing this?
i might say that this catharsis was a culmination of events within my life, newer and older; also events outside my life, historical events prior to my birth, the way my parents were brought up, the world they were brought up in, for instance; cultural shit, if you will.

a few nights previous there was a gathering at our place. an old friend asked me if i was ever happy, simply because i was bringing some shit up about things people take for granted in the region i live; like going snowboarding/skiing at resorts which use pharmaceutical-laden piss-water ('reclaimed' as they call it) to make snow, fuck up the forest as well as just being spectacular pieces of ugliness. *they* asked me if i skied, answered in the negative they asked me why. i told 'em. they didn't like it and off on the 'positive thinking' crap they went...of course all the while making it my problem. it's that old testament scapegoating combined with what's supposedly 'the good news' ('positive thinking') of the new. it's a common tack for moralists (in this case, liberals) to take: compassion...but only a distance; understanding...only at a distance; etc.

there were other factors; a book i was reading a the time, work shit, and so on. there was no single 'cause' of this catharsis. but i became acutely aware of some insidious ways we've grown accustom to silencing one another and alienating ourselves from the potential of a deep life and relations. it was at once liberating and painful, though no less joyful.
funky@, i'd like to make it a third nodding of the head regarding your reply to rs666. it really hit home for me.

AF, i can relate to your experience(s) as well. i plan to keep your observations in mind when the 'positive thinking'/"why can't you just go along with...?" mantras get thrown at me next time. i want to develop a peaceful, yet direct way to approach it...because many times that kind of thing happens with family, and it feels like i relive the same experience...not really wanting to rock the boat while simultaneously feeling ready to blow...i want a different way of reacting that can hopefully deepen the dialogue.
i try to avoid mantras like that in general, because if im unhappy about something those mantras just make me really pissed off. As insidious as it sounds, when i engage in conversations with people i generally try to control the content of discussion for practical reason,  im only willing to get into small talk to a certain extent....

ive used anarchist critique to make conversations a lot more practical, and i generally try to shut down and negate dumb generalizations people make about men, women, children, teenages, ect., because they are always self-serving narratives. But when i say "shut down and negate" i don't mean yelling at them, i mean forcing people to question whether the stupid things they said was actually true, questioning their assumptions in a way they can't argue with it. It's really tricky and i've been practicing this now for a few years
good stuff, rs666.

i agree it takes a lot of practice (and probably a sense of playfulness and patience) to interrupt thought patterns like that. i plan to keep working on it. thanks for a bit of inspiration.
as i've chewed on this a bit more, i would say the catharsis wasn't so much the realization that people silence one another in such subtle ways, but both the release of some, and the potential of releasing more and deeper, (unwittingly) internalized effects of that silencing and the expectations upon which such silencing is grounded.
the inspiration runs both ways, and my ultimate goal is to create those same feelings of inspiration that i felt in reading anarchist writings for other people, im glad that this is a forum where "post-leftism" and stirnerist ideas are dominant

with a lot of effort, anarchism will become a very beautiful revolutionary underground

1 Answer

+6 votes
This is something I've had trouble with myself. Here are a couple of things I've thought about in recent times:

Identity politics is forever stuck in a loop of acknowledgement. In the 60s you can see that a big issue was to get white people to ACKNOWLEDGE that this thing called 'white privilege' exists. Identity politics now does not attempt to go further than that, but still 'grows' in its own dimension. For example, with the uprising in Ferguson you see social justice warriors on tumblr whining about 'white anarchists fetishizing riots.' Rather than look at uprisings as potential to fight against these terrible systems of oppression that you mention, the ideological tool that is identity politics just gives them a difficult-to-argue, intellectually lazy means to express their liberal politics. Since the internet is so big, this never has to end. There will ALWAYS be 'fucked up' people to feel self-righteous against.

The 'post-left' people I encounter still try to be aware of the way society privileges them, don't get me wrong. But to focus on it and fetishize it ultimately implies that one doesn't want to get rid of the shitty oppressive system, one just wants everyone to acknowledge that it exists.

Also: you may be critical of the 'one big identity' phenomenon, which is good. But identity politics yields to that type of thinking all the time. The "Ally" phenomenon is a good example of that. Realizing that one is privileged and therefore can't possibly understand anything about the experiences of one not privileged, said people work to be their 'allies:' meaning to support the cause uncritically.

This one, to me, is more insidious and intentionally terrible. Resistance and opposition always has a dominant narrative, usually institutionalized by an opposing party, non-profits, or NGO's. If one is to be an 'ally' to 'women' for example, one is basically uncritically adopting whatever popular narrative exists in those circles. If, in this case there are women who disagree with these institutionalized narratives, they are considered 'not feminists' or something like that. Rather than try to be 'ally' to a totally diverse range of perspectives (some of which are totally enemies to each other), it makes sense to work with people who you feel some kind of affinity with. Identity politics, I feel, inherently leads to this kind of thinking. One has to think hard about it to break free from it.
by (4.0k points)
yea, absolutely what flip said.
the question isn't whether racism, etc *exist* (to deny that would be insane), but rather whose will do we follow in reacting to it?
in this article i tried to point out that CWS, while a valiant effort in formalizing consciousness raising for white people around racism, also formalized a white guilt approach, one in which the attendees were encouraged NOT to trust themselves. i find this approach deeply flawed and inherently christian (harsher words i cannot say! ;) ).
(CWS is not so present anymore, but in the bay area at least its impact continues...)

as i have said in different ways many times in the past, to me the tragedy/farce of the question is that the options are to accept the identity politicians, or to ignore racism/sexism/etc.
surely we can come up with something better than either of those non-starters?!?
Is The Catalyst Project related to CSW, or rather did it branch off it?

Which ajoda was that in (great article by the way dot! I read it years ago)?
yes, the CP (lol) was started by CWS members who were a) taking over the CWS project from the lone woman who had been running it up til then (and who started it), and b) broaden the reach of the project (which was directly antithetical to the vision of the founder, who said in my hearing that bringing other issues -- like feminism -- into a discussion about racism was a distraction and an example of avoiding the harsh truth of racism. (which of course, could be true! but is pretty brutal as a blanket statement.)
re ajoda: thanks! i don't remember which issue. around 58?
dot- i like how you broke that up into small paragraphs, making sure that each CWS organizer couldn't argue with it