25 April 2009

Individualism and Class Action

Was going to reply to this in the current thread but decided to post as a new thread.

We are all individuals and at the same time members of larger society.

I have an identity as a mum (not a grandmother yet but still hoping!), but as a mother who is working class (in the Marxist not the British class system sense) I depended on government to provide the education I needed for my child.

As an elderly person I depend on government that will address the issue of pensioner poverty both now and in the future (it is going to get worse unless something is done).

As a patient with heart failure on a lot of medication I depend on a government to continue to supply my medication free (It would cost me £60 pm and I couldn’t afford that).

In this context I am viewing government as the means by which essential services can be provided for all especially those who cannot afford to pay for them privately. Thus redistrubting wealth from rich to poor.

I need to be able to influence the government, Now there are individuals who can do that by they have the wealth power and influence most of us don’t have. Most of us cannot influence the government as individuals they just don’t listen. The people without wealth, power and influence are generally described as working class.

So we need to combine with other working class people to obtain the strength that can come with collective action.

This does not actually prevent individuality, its not necessary for me to martial the whole working class for every issue. If its pensions I can call up the national Pensioners Convention, as a worker I could call on the support of my union, on NHS matters The Patients Association can organise. In each of these cases the active participation of individuals strengthens the organisation. But this not ‘identity politics’ as this is generally understood.

To quote the old Labour Movement motto ‘Unity is Strength’. It what gave us free state education, the NHS and the Open University state pensions as we know them and unemployment insurance.

But we need a voice in Parliament. We used to have it, it was called the Labour Party. In the 70’s and 80’s, identity politics namely fighting sexism and racism, instead of forming an important part of united working class politics they actually replaced it.

This has resulted in great advances for mainly middle class women and blacks leaving all the working class (women, blacks, Asians and white working class men) with no voice in the party.

AS a result the traditional Labour constituency has been lost. For the first time independent Labour candidates have in some cases beaten the official Labour candidate.

This is the identity politics that I am talking about. It is this agenda that created Nulabour and it is this agenda that the Guardian supports and I maintain, defends it with modding policy on Cif.


  1. brilliant for putting up an article annetan... I've only ever voted once in my life (it was for labour but long before nulabour)and I certainly have no intention of doing it again as long as the political class continues to be such a bunch of self-serving bastards not to be trusted on any score whatsoever...

  2. Hi Annetan42,

    Kind of yes but no? Class is but one variable. Lots of internationalism prior to WW1 but not a lot of trans nationalsolidarity.

    Placing class (and any other abstract interest) overall allows one to disregard the particular, collectivise those kulaks.

    And, speaking personally, I'm hardly working class (I don't work and have a warped view of utility, self blah) so where's that leave me?

    But I've said before the individual is n ot a given, it's an acheivement needing effort to maintain.

    Happy to discuss :)


  3. Pen
    From a Marxist viewpoint (which is what I mean by working class) If you your source of income is from the state as benefits of pension or from wages/salary you are working class what the old Labour Party clause 4 called the 'Workers by Hand and by Brain'.

    If your income comes from investing personal wealth then you aint!

    There is an, in my view, essential dialectic between the individual and society. We certainly need to develop ourselves to the max both for our own personal satisfaction and to better serve the society of which we are members. If everybody does that we all benefit.

    Humans are social creatures but we are not hive bees, in a healthy society individuals interact with society at large on the basis of equality. It is the very fact there is no equality that makes this problematic.

    Even in simple societies the individual members rely on the work of others and they rely on you. In advanced industrial society its even more true. Our problem is lack of democratic control.

  4. Annetan,

    I agree economic rels are important (very) and I'm familiar with all of that. My dad is still a member of the Labour party tho' he sees more merit in my jaundiced view nowadays.

    I worked in the public sector, academic, not the choice if wealth dominated. I don't have investments, a portfolio, I'm not a rentier or somesuch.

    But iterest is not so simple and requires an entity to derive from. Even in the ind self is not unitary, the present self is always greedy re the future ones (aborts them even before they're born).

    Competition and cooperation are a dynamic (or dialectic if you like), too much of one and nothing happens, too little and all is consumed and gone. Society is not other or seperate from its constituents. Equality is uniformity is stasis, reality is lumpy.


  5. Good topic and article, anne. It should provoke an interesting debate. The sheer enormity of the issue seems somewhat daunting to me, though. It will be interesting to see how a completely non-censored discussion on this developes organically here. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm all thought out for today, so a bit of meaningless entertainment and perhaps the odd vaguely humorous one-liner is the best I could do. It deserves a bit more than that, so I'll hang fire till tomorrow.

  6. We should all be equally entitled to respect and decent minimum standard of living. The maximum should be set as well. No extremes of wealth and poverty. This causes stability and both extremes actually dehumanise - the wealthy are often quite unpleasant people as few can resist the corrupting influence of the power it brings. There maybe some who can.

    But poverty can be corrupting too.

  7. Badiou says that it is better to do nothing than make visible what the Empire already knows is existent. In other words, Badiou believes that by participating (being active, engaging, 'getting involved) in the meaningless pap of contemporary politics, one actually helps paint over the the meaningless of it all.

    A truly radical act would be to disengage. What would be worse for liberalist capitalism than the people's reluctance to participate in the lie that covers over its cracks?

    The identity politics annetan talks about are part of the painting over. It's yet more meaningless niche material for people to 'get involved in' and feel as if they are changing something, doing something. In that sense identity politics differs little from other political activism in our environment. It is still participating in the myth that surrounds us.

    Real activism is being passive and disengaging.

    By the way, I'm not entirely sure whether I agree with this entirely or even remotely (actually I most definitely agree with it remotely, but it's not necessarily a central tenet to my own beliefs), but it's always worth thinking about.

    Before we act, before we do something, we should think. And this is really what I think is important: As is so often the case, something happens (a catastrophe, a crisis in politics etc) and people demand immediate action. What immediate action does, however, is simply paint over the cracks of a myth and of a systemic that exercises systemic violence.

    What, however, about violence? Violence has so wholly been subsumed by our liberal democracies that it no longer holds any real power in terms of 'change'. Violence is the great other on which liberal democracies build their superior position. Once violence (direct violence that is, individual visible violence) enters the equation, liberal democracies discard that as utterly out of the question. It is thus dealt with in advance (which is why violent revolutionary acts are extremely unlikely to catch on in liberal democracies). [Of course this is nonsense, but part of the necessary myth that violence only manifests itself as individual (visible) thus ignoring the systemic violence exercised by liberal democracies].

    So, this I suppose is where Badiou's point stands up. The one thing that would indeed challenge the corrupt nature of power is to disengage. That's one thing that cannot be dealt with in advance.

  8. PS The irony is of course that, by posting the above, I myself have become the idiot in Badiou's dictum.

  9. Variance in outcomes is certainly important and there is support that as var increases so does the degree / level of competition but I'm not sure about trying to bound it at the top, it just won't work.

    How one aggregates interest is open, there's more than one way. 1st past post / PR is an obvious example, same ind inptu diff output as diff aggregation rule.

    Sure one should always include no action asan actiom option (decision theory)so i too have soe symp[athy with badiou. But I don't see power as per se 'corrupt'; it's effectivity.

    Politics is emergent from the social.


  10. Certainly agree about thinking before acting. It also important to act and not merely re-act. I confess that as I have never really studied philosophy (except Marxism) or Sociology - most of which I confess makes little sense to me.

    Without some sort of understanding of the forces at work in society any action becomes at best pointless and at worst dangerous. For me Marx gives me that understanding.

    For example unless you have an explanation for the lack of action by world capitalism re climate change. Anyone with any sort of regard for the environment would simply act pointlessly - it might make them feel better but would achieve nothing.

    Ultimately such things only become possible if a critical mass of people stand up and fight for it. Sitting down in front of bulldozers to stop a rnway from being built won't work.

    With enough people to will something politically it happens - much as the NHS happened after 1945 - we could afford it even less then than now but we had the political will and it happened.

    As a humble Biologist what attracts me to Marxism is its simplicity a lot of sociology and philosophy is very complex. In science that usually means that there is something wrong with the theory.

    Like most simple souls I am suspicious of what I can't understand I suppose. I do know however that Marxism can be a very powerful tool for undestanding not just society but nature.

    Really must go to bed! G'night all!

  11. Annetan,

    but biology is just as relevant.

    Marx is all v 19th century.

    Sure GEC / global warming is an issue of collective action, it's a large scale social dilemma (n=6billion+) with high uncertainty and (rel) long time horizons. Tis why we are fucked.

    Too little too late: Human responses to GEC. Duh.


  12. Who would be a taxi driver?
    Been at a mate’s 38th birthday party. Some bright souls there, but their voices were strangled the ghonnoreah of self gratification corporate life can still bring. Got two taxis home recently, both PhDs. They’re just applying themselves.
    Yemen. Afghani.


    Fucking embarassing.

  13. put up a vid for you on the other thread bitteweed

  14. Surely the point is that the working class is in effect 'disengaged' from power even from power over their own lives.

    To be passive seems to me be defeated, The system is not going to crumble just because we don't challenege it surely?


    Throughout history people have fought injustice and decreased the level of control over society by elites. We may not have much power but we can still organise to improve our position.

    Marx is 19th Century?

    Sure - so was Darwin.

    Marxism can and does develop its not stattic in a way its simply a tool for analysing events in order to respond to them better. Just as Darwin has developed as our knowlege especially about genetics DNA etc. Lots both didn't/ couldn't know.

    Disengaging, if I understand you right just leave powerful elites to grow in power and become more corrupt increasing injustice.

    If I see an injustice (eg the scandal of domicilary care for the elderly) are you saying that we should do nothing about it? Or are you saying that we should think carefully before you act?

    I'm afraid the former sounds daft to me - even amoral. The latter however is essential for success.

    It seems self evident to me that classes exist. The wealth of this planet is not shared equally this is wrong and needs to be righted. It is a situation that needs to change and it wont change by itself.

  15. What precisely do you mean by 'engage'? It seems to me that the cracks in the present system have become all to visible. The capitalist system (when it has no controls (a situation that I maintain has always been the case in the third world) will create enormous problems and oh boy hasn't it!

    People are asking questions, some its true will just go out and get angry others just say 'we're fucked'.

    Now its true there is no reason why we should survive. But for all its faults I have a certain affection for ol' H sapiens sapiens we are pretty amazing - matter becoming conscious of itsself is awe-inspiring.

    We are are currently making a mess of things and what we need is practical solutions or if you like a cure for the disease.

    Humans innovate we like solving problems so lets go and solve the greatest one of all how to share this planet without wrecking it and without blowing each other up.

    The really worrying thing is that the people with all the power don't appear to see the need.

    And you are saying we mustn't do anything about it? Just lie down and die?

    I say we bloody well have to. We have to use our brains as well as our emotions though, and we have to get rid of the power structures that are stopping us.

    Collective intelligence is a lot more powerful than individual intelligence.

    But I am still not sure what you mean by 'engage' for example do you mean don't collaborate? Or just do nothing because it won't work?

    If its the latter then I'm sorry but thats just defeatist and very dangerous.

  16. Decided to Google Badiou and found this
    http://www.cinestatic.com/infinitethought/2008/10/badiou-on-financial-crisis.aspHe appears to have more time for Marx than you gave him credit for BUT in referring to the reborn communist movement he says.

    "It will not entertain any kind of organic relationship with existing parties and the institutional system that keeps them alive."Depends on what you mean by organic relationship really. In a sense you can be in an existing party and not of it you can constantlyremind people of the contradictions inherent in the 'institutional system' posing the question 'can it deliver?' to which the answer of course is 'no'. Ths issue here is you cannot do this alone.


    It begins level with the real though practical alliance between... the newly-arrived proletarians from Africa and elsewhere and the intellectuals...That is precisely the identity politics I was taking about he completely ignores the indigenous French working class! I would pose the unity between the 'newly-arrived proletarians' and the indigenous working class he is falling into a divide and rule trap there and as a result is precisely engaging with the 'institutional system'.

    The rest of the article I can find little to quarrel with - especially the rescuing of communist ideas from the polution of Stalin Mao et al. His analysis of the present crisis is exactly what I would say (and have said on Cif!) and I like his use of film/film watcher analogy - describes alienation very well.

    But I have severe reservations about his strategy.

  17. Hi Annetan, I didn't say I definitely agree or disagree with him. It just strikes me as an interesting view on political activism; namely that it is part of the process of upholding the status quo rather than challenging it.

    It's a bit like Chomsky's assessment of the 9/11 truth movement. Nothing could be more convenient to the US government than people chasing 'the truth', as this also means that attention is diverted away from real causes.

    Similarly, Badiou challenges the tokenism of engaging or participating in precisely the vacuousness, which we/one seek to attack. As I say, annetan, I neither strongly agree nor disagree with this.

    By the way, Badiou's 'capitalist parliamentarianism' has - to my mind - strong echoes with Ralph Miliband's capitalist democracy. But yes, in gerenal, of course he is strongly influenced by Marx.

    I think what is meant by 'engage' is participating in the processes that maintain the status quo. I picked up Zizek this morning and noted that he refers to a book (which I haven't read) by Jose Saramago (Seeing) in which 70% the citizens of an unnamed city mark their election cards blank; the process is repeated, and this time 83% do this. The upshot seems to be that the state municipality reacts violently, because this is the only course of action that challenges anything.

  18. What happens after the state reacts violently? (will depend on level of organisation amongst citizens - although if that number returned spoilt papers that should high I would imagine!)

  19. I haven't read the novel, annetan, but from what I gather the state (or municipality) starts picking a small number of people off the street to interrogate and instil a 'regime of terror'.

    The point Badiou (and Saramago) is making is that political activism as conceived of today may indeed be futile, since the mechanisms in place for such activism have been wholly subsumed by the neoliberal apparatus that dictates what is acceptable and what not, which is why individual violence is in fact ok, precisely because it has become so utterly unacceptable. In other words, it still falls within the parameters of our narrowly confined political system. Badiou (and Saramago) opines that the real challenge would be to refuse to play that game.

    Like I said, I neither strongly agree nor disagree with this (I believe it has some merit), but it's a very interesting way of understanding political activism (i.e. hollowed out by neoliberalism, thus the act of engaging in something meaningless is actually not meaningless but an endorsement of the status quo).

  20. On participation - it sort of depends doesn't it - if we want to survive we have to engage to some extent.

    I don't think you ignore the system altogether - in fact we can learn from Nulabour here they joined the party and subverted it from within. That could work both ways. I imagine it would be more successful in the other direction! In my local party there are many people hanging on 'until we lose the election' the feeling is we could get back to our roots then- start rebuilding.

    There would be more to it than just getting MP's into parliament (which is by way of being a 'transitional demand' as Trotsky would have said).

    It has to pose the question can this system deliver? as I said above. (It can't of course!) But as lenin said 'an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory'

  21. Hi

    Bitterweed, yeah I find it funny how many of such (cabbies, service industry staff) tunr out to be maasively over qualified incomers. Sometimes seems they'rte all got degrees and blah in this and that.

    Annetan, hmmmm. Yeah darwin is 19C and yeah I broadly accept 'evol theory' btu darwin is not the be all and end all nor is he some final authority.

    It's a bit like your assertion that classes exist. In what way? The working class is not a unitary actor, ok claim 'false consciousness' but the 'upper'class is not a unitary actor either. So if they exist it is onloy as a category (class as set as category) and not as entity.

    The 'working class' is also historically contingent, why be sentimental about it?

    Re Lenin quote. Experience is common to all isn't it, so? Doesn't really help.

    I'll quote K Lewin (Austrian /Us soc psych) 'there's nothing so practical as a good theory'.

    But for sure it's both - praxis.

    My basic state description is 'I do stuff and go blah' Action / representation stream.

    Interaction mingles and merges. Reality is unitary, how can one 'disengage'?

  22. re Darwin - did not say he was a final authority

    No experience is not common to all e.g my life experience different to yours in many respects. However the experience of being working class i.e. having to earn a living as opposed to living on the proceeds of investments or on huge banker salaries is common to an awful lot of people.

    Also the experience of watching the banks fail through greed and then getting bail-outs is making a lot of people question the system who didn't before.

    I really don't know where your position gets you honestly its defeatist and appears to work against co-operation not sure its a healthy world view tbh. Very isolationist.

  23. Annetan, I didn't say your experience was common to all but that experience is. You're left in a solipcistic isolation not me.

    Having to earn a living? What's that? I just live (what's that?), re Olching's post, it's very hard to avoid being part of it all?

    Position? I don't have one, what's the cartesian coordinates?

    Annetan, I do sympathise (with all careless of class, blah de blah).

    I did say I don't do politics haha only posty science. :)

    Annetan, you should read some GH Mead Mind self and society.

  24. Oh just a couple points.

    'Credit crisis' led to people q'ing system. Not much, mostly just griping and same old same old. People are greedy buggers in the main.

    Sure I'm privilieged, most people alive or dead have had 'less', sure it's true of most postsers tho' ain't it?

  25. No great philosophical insight here, just a little story about participation/activism.

    Rosie Barnes was selected as SDP candidate for Greenwich in December 1986. On Christmas Eve 1986, the Labour MP for the constituency (Guy Barnett) died, thereby precipitating a by-election. The local Labour Party selected a left-wing candidate, and the Greenwich by-election held in February 1987 saw a deluge of canvassers, including many members of the Liberal Party, come from near and far to help her win the seat. She won (helped out by Conservative voters) and Labour had lost a seat.

    General Election four months later, June 1987: the Labour candidate for the neighbouring Deptford constituency (where I lived) was Joan Ruddock and she was taking over a seat with a Labour vote of nearly 50% and a 6,000 majority (John Silkin's seat). I had a lot of friends in the Labour party in Deptford so I did some voluntary work with them. When the general election was coming up, it made sense to some of us to divert party workers and volunteers from the Deptford safe seat, (which Ruddock eventually won with an 11,000 majority), to Greenwich to help the Labour candidate there instead. We could have walked 200 yds from the Labour office over Creek Bridge to the next constituency. But no - the party said that you could only work within your own constituency. Although in Greenwich, Labour needed help to regain a lost seat, and we had manpower to spare, we couldn't provide assistance in another constituency. Rules, innit?

    Result - Barnes held her seat by only 2,000 votes (down from a 7,000 majority) and only lost it (back to Labour) five years later when the LibDem party wouldn't support her. A little help from us in Deptford in the first place, and who knows?

    Anyway, that kind of killed my enthusiam a bit and there was a certain loss of faith too. But, there you go, getting involved and participating turned out to be just another version of getting told what to do.

  26. Hi all

    Finally go (a little bit) of time and an internet connection at the same time! Hope you're all well.


    I don't pretend to know much about politics, but I think I'm with annetan on this one, I think sometimes pen you have to concede that you can't "prove" or nail down anything, so you have to start working with what you've got (modelling) anetan's model seems as good as any...........

  27. Hi Scherfig, yeah not that I'm against canvassing etc. It's largely diff colours of shit. (And, hey, I was a sarf east lunnener.

    7ral points.

    Re modding CiF etc, kinda same issue 'hypocrisy'? We all are, self deception really helps self righteousness.

    Re engagement Annetan how can you say I am not engaging when what is this?

    I enjoy posting, I get private value from it, but also cost. What's the point? (You all know the cliches etc of these discourses).

    To push the envelope I have to gear up, to comunicate gear down.

    I used to be paid to do this, perform, lecture, do stuff, go blah. It's only momentum that maintains me, I'm just the echo of a lost fight.

  28. Hi Dot, try and elaborate? I'm not sure what Annetan's 'model' is beyond generic Marxist.

    What is a species? Darwinian imposition on coninuum? Stat gene frequency in pops? Set of discrete ind orgs? Same for class.

    And I'm a bit confused what I'm trying to 'prove'.

    Games theory provides a better model for this Dot, come on hawks and doves, reiterated PDs.

  29. Oh and what about 'consciosness' in marxist theory? Shit guys, it's not philosophy (well a bit of p of mind stuff) its cognitive science, computational theory, reps blah, neurophys.

    Get real (try and avoid it haha)

  30. Hi pen,

    Ok, "what is a species?" something I understand! (In as much as anyone understands anything!)

    Ok for some (most/all?) things it's not as easy to define as you'd think, "separate" branch tips in space, but all the branches are connected to the tree at some point in evolutionary history, for some those connections to each other are so close the tips aren't distinct.

    BUT in order to understand, not just go around in an endless "there is no perfect definition of a species" loop we have to choose a definition:

    "a group whose members can inter-breed to produce fertile offspring" is the most common definition, if flawed. (what about asexual species!?!)

    Sometimes I honestly can't see how we can move forward with, for example, conserving a species/habitat/ecosystem etc. unless we have these definitions to work with (e.g. "flag ship species", not always the right approach, but can be).

    Bringing it back on topic, I can see that defining "working class" as people who work, not invest for their living, could be a useful definition, with merit, for use in politics, hence my defence of annetan.

  31. Sorry, that's me above, sorted a live account!


  32. Blimey, Dot, you don't half like yer birds, eh?

  33. PhD in bird behaviour, I've heard all the jokes.................

  34. Thanks Charadrius Complexity is a bugger to deal with isn't it?

    After all life is a constantly evolving complex system. Some simplification is necessary in any attempt to understand it. Bit like a trend graph - not 100% obviously and sometimes they don't work at all (as anyone hoping to use their house as a pension will tell you).

    But history teaches us that capitalism is prone to the boom/slump cycle - even capitalist economists mostly agree with that. Yet people bought into Brown's 'no more boom and bust' Surely he must have known he was wrong?

    But complex systems need to be studied and it seems to me that if you overview history patterns do emerge and it is the struggle between classes with mutually opposing interests.

    This first became really visible under Cromwell's commonwealth where the levellers represented political bourgeois democracy which eventually succeeded in producing Universal suffrage.

    But the diggers represented something different a movement that represented the economically disenfranchised - Those with effectively no property.

    This is a work still in progress, societies change gradually until equilibrium is lost and revolution results. We are I think reaching such a point of instability.

    Evolution of life also shows gradual change and revolutions (saltations). As society is part of life its not surprising that the same happens.

  35. annetan

    "Complexity is a bugger to deal with isn't it?"

    I'm an ecologist, tell me about it!

    (BTW I'm Charadrius, messing around with names with my Google account)

    "Some simplification is necessary in any attempt to understand it."

    Exactly: modelling, when it stops working we adjust the model, sometimes I think pen wants to throw the model out altogether!

    Thanks for the contribution to my political education!

  36. Hi again.

    The 'model' or modelling? Nature is miserly with process but profligate with structure.

    The q 'what isa species' is rhetorical,its not that there is a right answer. Everything is connected (its all one man).

    Is a species agroup or a category?

    Post paradim gotta be unfamiliar, cutting edge not a great place to be.

    It's like being the oldest person, you know your numbers goping to be up.

    Ah to be an engineer of human souls.

  37. Hey pen (assume that's you!)

    I'm really struggling (but trying) to understand how your arguments give us anything to work with: so far you seem to be pulling apart our arguments without building your own.

    Help me understand:

    What do you suggest we do? (if modelling doesn't work)

  38. Hi Dot (you're still dot to me) sure.

    Where have I said I'm anti modelling? A model is just a case yeah? you use them to explore (eg sensitivity anaklysis in d theory / analyses) btu if sensitivity to initial conditions is present (and it is in the phenomena we're on abpout) then ??????

    I don't see examples of models and modeling being demonstrated here. Marxism isn't an exercise in modelling tho' no doubt could inform the algorithm / process from which a model/s derive.

    Marxism is also a case of a class of materialist theories dating prior to 20/21st century science esp physics. Its well dated.

    In this context (ind / social rels) Annetan is putting forward an v individulistic self that already accepts a person defined thru' economic activity rels. It's like building a spaceship outa bricks and twigs (used tyes and a battery when I was young, at least they had a link to transport and travel but still didn't get lift off).


  39. Hey pen, Charadrius morinellus is Dotterel/Dot, stick it in a search engine and see what you get! (scherfig got it....)

    Anyhoo, I think our definitions of "model" are different: I would argue that Marxism is a model, defining someone through economic activity rels is a model.

    "Marxism isn't an exercise in modelling tho' no doubt could inform the algorithm / process from which a model/s derive."

    But then maybe I have a broader/cruder definition of model.....

    You're right though: you've never said you're anti modelling, just an impression I've got. your last post makes me think you're trying to refine the models, but normally all I get is you trying to pull them apart.........

    (a comment on my impression, not a criticism)

  40. Sorry pen, got to go, not sure when I'll be back, may drop in tomorrow.

  41. A rose by any other name Dot, I assumed it was the linnean for the same set of instances as it were. Am I wrong? But the particular may imply / evoke other meanings.

    You (guys) make me laugh tho' (I guess in a good way).

    There is no answer, there are answers.

    E = MC squared an equation, evol/ nat selection is an algorithm; how'd ya handle being?

    See ya

  42. To me identity politics is merely a system of defining one's interests by one's membership of a set. There is a set "white", a set "black", etc. The function of anti-racism, et cetera, to me should simply be of removing systemic tendencies which necessitate defining one's interests based on the membership of sets. (So, the anti-racist would want to remove any material differences between the sets "white" and "black" which mean someone who identifies with one set has particular interests associated with that set only.)

    Race is the interesting one for me, because I don't belong in any set. So all this talk of ethnic identities absolutely flummoxes me. It also highlights to me that the sets themselves are not based in anything real, but are basically illusory. (e.g. I could be placed in the set "black" but not "white", even though no empirical fact necessarily justifies such classification.

    Anyway, I'm coming to view class in the same way, although I suppose it differs from other sets in that you could argue there is genuine empirical cause for demarking these sets. But as an individual I don't feel that I "belong" to any particular class.

    I guess I've heard a lot of opposition to that, because it really sounds like that kind of "getting rid of racism by pretending race doesn't matter" but it isn't, I guess it includes affirmative action and stuff but that's really a case of defining your interests by the membership of a set anyway. So I guess a better way of going about it would be analysing the origin of these kind of identity sets and working to destroy the system of the sets themselves - destroying racism by destroying race, destroying class privilege by destroying class itself (rather than by attempting to engineer "equality of opportunity")... I don't know. I'm not a professor, obviously. I also get the feeling I've missed the point, a little bit.

  43. Annetan, thanks for these interesting thoughts. I'm pretty sympathetic to what you say. It was a good thing to try to extend the range of 'Old Labour' concerns from those of class-based trade unionism to encompass sexism and racism (not least because on the basis of traditional marxist ideas fragmenting male from female workers and white from black workers is a classic divide and rule tactic and some [many?] trade union activists were actually complicit in that. But you are right that something went badly wrong when these concerns were not simply added to but supplanted traditional class based-activism.

    My take on that is that it was part and parcel of the ideological re-alignment of Labour to 'New Labour' which I take to mean the embrace, by Labour, of what they considered to be the new consensus of neo-liberalism, or Thatcherism (or whatever we want to call it). That meant dropping any notion of the pursuit of working-class interests (and I agree with Anon that that is a slippery and difficult notion, both theoretically and practically) but in order to retain in particular the metropolitan part of the Labour vote, and no doubt as a way, psycholoigcally, of new labourites making sense of themselves, they retained the commitment to race/gender equality. And what's more they articulated that in a particular way, namely in a liberal form compatible with the 'business case' for equality (discrimination reduces the talent pool for business) and by being distinctly unthreatening was in that way all of a piece with the 'prawn cocktail offensive' of the early 1990s. One consequence of this has been actually to re-inscribe divide-and-rule by separating in a new way the interests of the white, male working class and women, black people and so on. And although I no longer buy into the notion of a unitary and homogenous set of working-class interests, I do still think that there is a 'negative' version of that which is to say that the wholesale promotion of things which are NOT in the interests, however heterogenous these may be, of anyone who is not directly or indirectly part of fairly easy to define elites.

    One thing which has always struck we is that whilst 'the left' (to speak broadly) has always agonized over issues of e.g. whether there are 'real interests' or whether there is 'false consciousness' and so on, 'the right' (to be similarly broad brush) has just pushed on regardless of such debates.

    On the question of engagement/disengagement, I find that difficult but my sense is that there is no such thing as disengagement. The very act of 'not' doing something (including voting) is to contribute, if only infintesimally, to the world-as-it-is. And if that is the case, the choice is not between engagement and disengagement but only between different forms of engagement.

  44. Just a quick point.

    Group interest is problematic in this way. Short hand is selfish gene but see Hamilton and Trivers.

    More recent approaches such as Sober and Wilson 1990 unto others: The evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior take on group level selection.

    Politics is sectarian.


  45. The point is that any group of people who face problems created by the system and who have no individual power have practical problems to solve that best solved by collective action. Any set of theories that do not help to solve these problems do not attract me. They do not reflect my reality.

    Marxist theory does at base do that, it explains the situation in a simple non esoteric way. I can understand it, much of modern sociology I really don't understand - it makes no sense.It all too often comes over to me (and this is perception) as a lot of hard to understand ideas that make the person sound clever but they are not communicating anything to me. To me they seem to create more problems than they solve.

    The problems we face need solutions. People are suffering. In some parts of the world that suffering is beyond our experience. Its too important Marxist theory is based on reality the sort of reality that says if I kick you it hurts. In my head there is a model of that reality created by my brain from the messages my sense organs send to it. It is the only possible reality anyone can have. It may be slighhtly different from everybody elses but people with similar experiences (and all humans have something in common or communication would not be possible) can develp an understanding of each other - it may be imperfect but thats not a reason to give up.

  46. Annetan, should I get snarky? Trying to be clever, I'm sure some said that about Marx.

    Games theory is all about collective action. You want to bring in more psych, whatevs. I can't see it a winning strategy for you.

    Reality sure what is it? Sounds liek another thread.

    I was just trying to help, suit yourself.

  47. Politics is sectarian...too true

    ..and the aim and purpose of legitimate political action is to end sectarianism. This will be achieved when: "the proletariat abolishes itself as a proletariat, abolishes all class distinction and class antagonism, abolishes also the State as a State"

    That boy Friedrich was on top of his shit, eh?

    Get rid of 'identity' and 'communities' and we might get our proletariat back..

  48. If there is hope, it is in the proles? Pints of wallop for them and a Victory gin for the party?

  49. HI annetan,

    I prob respond in depth tomorrow, but in short - yes, I agree, good post.

    There certainly is a place of identity politics as a sidekick to economic/class justice, but no more than a sidekick. For the last few decades it has been more than the sidekick, its been the whole fucking thing, thats probably why it got to such ridiculous, laughable proportions.

    Just like the enlightenment put the church back in its box, the same needs to be done with divisive identity politics - it has a role, but there's a time and a place. The more tortured, absurd sociobabble i hear from the identity brigade, the more it seems this sort of unprovable, faith based 'thinking' has in fact replaced the Church for a number of our most cherished fuckwits. There is a certain comfort in beliefs that cant be either disproved or proved, and they are generally the preserve of the chimperati.

  50. Pen no I'm not but if what you say is clever youre not communicating with this lesser mortal - not meaning to be snarky but I genuinely don't understand where you are coming from - a fault in me not you I'm sure.

    Marx was clever but I can understand him, I can understand Einstein too and Darwin - all very clever guys.

  51. Jay 'chimperati' love it!

    But unfair on our dear cousin Pan troglodytes!

  52. In other words its chimpist! ;-)

  53. I am confused at the idea that I expect you to know 'where I am coming from'. I don't. I am v well aware that neither you nor any other is located in the same n dimensional place as that which, for convention and convenience, I will refer to as 'myself'.

    You mistake your apparent concensus for validity.

    Claiming that you understand Marx, Darwin and Einstein Annetan?

    But sure what would I know?

    You might as well go on a bout political correctness, identity politics is just a stupid slogan, you'r epretty clueless about what is identity etc.

    On the childbirth thread you say it is up to the mum that is so bourgious isn't it. Incoherent and inconsistant.

    Whatevs :)

  54. I actually said 'up to the mother and her midwife'.

    Thats not bourgeois is about peopl's rights to control their lives and have informed consent.

    Why is that bourgeois?

  55. Also pen, I'm sorry I really am trying to understand you and I don't.

    Threads are about communicating and you are not communicating with me because I don't understand. This is possibly a fault in me not necessarily you at all.

    Perhaps you don't want/need to communicate with me (which is fine)in which case I'll stop the conversation because the misunderstandings that are occuring are not congenial.

    I understand Marx Darwin and Einstein better than I understand you, I don't claim to know everything!

  56. Its bourgious because you are setting an individuals interests over that of an abstract class. Love is bourgious too.

    Get real Annetan, you're just spouting ideaology.

    (And I taugt /researched midwifery d making and practice, amongst so many things)

    You go on about collective action, the aggregate of ind rational self ineterst may be collective disaster.

    Your model of the ind is wrong (but shared).

  57. Inividual v collective are not mutually exclusive- its not either or is both.

    Collective action is often needed to establish rights of individuals.

    Its being exclusively individualistic or exclusively collective that is disastrous.

    WE are not bees we need a balance between them.

    I'm not an idealist I am a materialist.

  58. Annetan (we are ob crossing wires :))

    Look Annetan I do appreciate the issue re communication (duh).

    I was a lecturer (and sure there are plenty of crap ones) and a good one. How should I attribute the cause of confusion / misunderstanding etc? Me, the 'student', the message /theory, an interaction?

    I didn't spend my time sneering at the students for being stupid, but I wasn't impressed by those occasional ones who knew it all already or expected it to be a democratic process. I'm sure a bunch of kids would all agree about all sorts of obvious truth.

  59. Look Annetan you are just using terms 'ind' ' collective' without really examining them. It is you who seperate the ind and coll pre-theoretically.

    Again I suggest you look at GH Mead Mind self and society. He is a early 20C social philosopher.

    Invoking material / ideal is no help. What is matter Annetan? Shall we start with quantum chromodynamics, string theory, branes? Do you see the problemn? Why get at me I am trying to help.

    I am giving you a grand unified totalising theory of everything (for nothing and anon), cut me some slack jeeze.

  60. We are not in a lecture hall here and actually students should be able to disagree with their teachers if they are wrong, teachers job to show them the error.

    But sometimes people just disagree - there are probably loads of different opinions on everything. I don't say you are wrong i say we disagree - there is a difference.

    My opinions are drawn both from study and from life experience - collected a lot of that in nearly 67 years.

    Perhaps we should just agree to differ?

    I don't know it all and neither do you, no-one does.

  61. See annetan? It becomes a pissing context and I just don't care.

    We all have experience in common qua experience.

    So what.

  62. pen agreeing to differ means the same as 'so what' its just a nicer way of saying it.

  63. Now now, lets have no bickering.

    Regarding the actual meaning of 'identity', in the sense it is being used here i think everyone (bar possibly Pen) has a fixed, and more importantly shared, notion of the term in the way it is being used here. So correct or not, we are all engaging with the term in the same way (bar maybe pen), isnt that the point of language, to communicate ideas?

    "Identity" is a complex issue and i dont think anyone can lay good claim to having a unique understanding of it, it is in large part down to opinion. Because a sociology book says identity is a, b and c, it doesnt mean that it necessarily is, anymore than it is the d, e and f which annetan says it is.

    On Cif and in here the focus is generally on a tangible and communal discourse which everyone can understand and relate to, as oppose to the often abstract nature of academic discourse.

  64. Oh give over guys. You can all talk about 'god' if you like so what?

    Agreeing to differ is just a cop out, lets pretend we are all right? Just waffle. Have you got yoour own special gravity too?

    Sure most communication is phatic, got fuck all to do with 'truth' 'validity'. Mostly it's about being part of the group, idneity stuff, whatever.

    And, by the by, I'm not a sociologist duh.

    The earth still moves so go ahead put me under house arrest.

  65. Also Jay it does rather depend on which schoo; of sociologists you follow Lots of difference of opinion there and most of it is very 'fuzzy'.

    As identity is of course its not static its in a state of constant change I was a girl became a woman then a mother will possibly be a grandmother and will definitely one day be dead.

    But I hope that my identity has developed in other ways than that, one of which is having a certain understanding of the world and a belief that people should have more freedom both politically and economically. I want to see an end to starvation and gross over consumption. i see Marxism as a way of working out how to achieve it. But its a long process and we don't know precisely how it will end or even how we will get there.

    But we have to try I can't ignore the 'prisoners of want' as the internationale has it.

    I'm rambling - must feed the cat and have rest tired after shopping! :-o\\

  66. Its not really a case of everyone being right, pen, i am trying to distinguish between "identity" in the academic sense and identity in the "identity politics" sense, which in common discourse simply means the pursuit of equality for every various subgroup of society, be they one legged clerics or lesbians from the Sudan.

    In this sense, the political sense, "identity" has a reasonably fixed meaning, and if we can accept that meaning for the sake of this particular debate - identity politics vs economic justice as a defining focus for the left, then i dont think thats really the end of the world, even if there is another whole debate about what "identity" is in the academic sense.

  67. Jay substitute 'gravity' ' electricity' trying to understand in an academic sense? You do like the old internet?

    Get real, I'm not an acaedmic and care nought for it (slightly untrue i loved it) it's ontology.

    I'm not getting m,uch 'theory' just 'fine sentiments'

    You do know the paving scheme on the road to damnation?

    Very anti-intellectual flavor to the comments.

    I'm trying to be patient. Wild humans gah.


  68. This comment has been removed by the author.

  69. Pen, identity isnt the same as gravity or electricity though, it isnt an observable physical science, it isnt science at all in fact - it is social theory. Gravity and electricity are not dependent on humans, identities are.

    I dont think the comments are anti intellectual, and actually i think a lot of 'social theory' is in itself anti intellectual because a lot of its pure pretentious gibberish, as proved on a few occasions when people have sent in intentional gibberish and its been lapped up by the theorists.

    If you'll bear with me, here is quite a lengthy Chomsky extract which i think makes the point superbly. He is talking mainly about geopolitical theory but the same applies very much to social theory (not that a Chomsky quote makes something right, he just expresses the issue very well): in fact i try and post it as new article thing, its quite long, but its one of my favourite extracts and quite pertinent to the debate i think.

  70. Ah Jay.

    It's tricky (lol). As soon as I start to try and explain / enact you guys get all antsy and start telling me 'who do I think I am' 'you think you know evrything' blah. V tedious.

    Course you all agree (with PollyT too she likes upper lower class God I'd never use such terms, so disrespectful; upper class my arse atleast have the decency to call them the exploitative greedy bastard class) oh except me (and whose obviousely so far out there in terms of 'social' etc theory / practice?). Duh.

    When I was in A'dam last summer I was in a clothes shop with my daughter. She was shopping so I was reading. The rather delightful young woman assistant was intrigued and when we, eventually, came to paying chatted to me for about twenty mins. About what I was reading (Bohmian physics) Descartes (he died just around the corner) happening places in europe and quite what was I.

    Do you know the Third Policeman? The needle with such a fine sharp point? I said I was that point. I think she believed me. Hahaha.

    Of course I know Chomsky (not actualy met him) both his cog psych and his soc theory show the same flaws.

    Monolithic single answers that unlock it all.

    It takes work on a student's part to understand, don't I just know it.

  71. Pen you seem to be getting very worked up by all this. This isnt an attack on you at all, i'm just explaining my views on identity in the identity politics sense in the context of the Left and its focus.

    "As soon as I start to try and explain / enact you guys get all antsy and start telling me 'who do I think I am' 'you think you know evrything' blah. V tedious."

    I havent said anything of the sort, nor has Annetan to my knowledge.

    My point is that we could discuss identity itself and the various weird and wonderful theories that surround it but it is a different debate, it isnt really relevant here because Annetan's article was about identity politics versus economic justice, and the politics of identity is a fairly recognisable thing which most people have an agreed understanding on. There is a difference between identity politics and identity.

  72. pen,

    "As soon as I start to try and explain / enact you guys get all antsy and start telling me 'who do I think I am' 'you think you know evrything' blah. V tedious."

    So is that your explanation? "appearing" to get worked up?

  73. Dialectics...Chomsky... discourse...spot the (disaffected) CiFers! I have probably got different views from most of you here, (more socially conservative and pro-mainline Christianity and Judaism, possibly), although I have some sympathy with Old Labour and the 50p tax-rate era LibDems (because I detest fat cats, especially those whose fantastic wealth comes from complex financial mechanisms rather than producing goods or services that mean something).

    More to the point, I also object to the multiplicity of "identity politics", because some identities become "more equal than others", and therefore deepen the fragmentation in society as a whole.

    And yes, as noted on another thread, MaM is probably a fascist (although this word is so massively overused it means nothing), and anyone who talks straightforwardly of "race replacement" should be banned from CiF forthwith.

  74. "More to the point, I also object to the multiplicity of "identity politics", because some identities become "more equal than others", and therefore deepen the fragmentation in society as a whole."


  75. Yes i also agree with that.

    Agree about MAM too although wouldn't ban him (don't believe in banning - I believe people like that condemn themselves.

  76. I'll repost this from the other thread as it's relevant to discussion of the class system. A small example of how things work in our "classless" society.

    I'm afraid I've lost the tiny amount of symapathy I had for young Meltzer. Here's a couple of his comments from BTL:
    "Is this guys' dad famous?....
    Fraid not. No famous family, no contacts at The Guardian. Just got lucky."

    "Here is how I got this column: I edited and co-wrote a satirical newspaper at university."

    This from the Oxford Union website:
    "Tom Meltzer is a former editor of The Oxymoron and former director of the Oxford Revue. He has written for BBC Radio 4 and Private Eye, and now
    writes regularly for The Guardian. He is also a successful stand-up comedian."

    I must read Polly's article about class privilege and the "bold equality push" again. She mentions "deep-dyed cultural prejudice and entrenched social disadvantage". She talks of "a more frank recognition of what a class-stratified nation this is." She is concerned about " equal opportunity for every child".

    Well, Tom just "got lucky", and he's Polly's colleague now. An Oxford graduate working for the Guardian and getting a front page Cif piece at age 21. Who'd a thunk it? It's all about merit, as so many astute commenters who defended Tom put it. Small-minded people venting envy and spitting bile against a decent young chap.

    Fuck the working class, they bore me. Let's get a whizzkid to write an article and have a laugh about where the unwashed have to live (wine shops, job centres and the smell of fried chicken). I'm sure the proles will see the funny side.

    The Guardian editors must be so proud.

  77. Yeah thats about it really sums it up perfectly.

    One of my father's jobs as a senior tecnical liason officer for the paper making firm he worked for was interviewing potential graduate trainees.

    he interviewed this chap from one of the major public schools and explaine that in his training he would have to work for a while on the shop floor and would he be comfortable with that.

    He replied he was used to dealing with 'the lower orders'!

    He said to me 'That put me in my place didn't it' (he was a miner's son!

    The guy didn't get the job.

    To be fair I think people like Polly genuinely want to help 'the poor' but they jaust can't help being patronising!


  78. Toynbee's a shameless groupie for the NewLab scum, i have lost pretty much any respect for her.

  79. But thats the point Jay she wants to help the poor not help them to stop being poor. At base its a Tory attitude.

    Charity can be a power relationship that keeps the poor in their place.

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day give him a fishing rod and you feed him for life.

  80. Be careful saying that on the boards, Annetan, Polly is guarded lke the Queen's jewels...

  81. Hello Annetan42, good article, important points. I quickly scrolled down which was rude of me, though I'll read the comments at leisure.

    Just want to say that for most of my life I have had no home to place my vote as I gained that right during the Thatcher years that followed the disintegration and re-invention of both Labour and the Liberals.

    So I have had no choice, I felt other than to vote Green. That has changed recently.

    Now I have no where to place my vote as Labour have applied so much genetic engineering and mutated out of all recognition that it is no wonder they are now on life support but in their quest to rule they have severely distorted democracy in this country.

    I'll read the rest of the comments and see how far this idea has progressed but as in regard to your premise and for the reasons I have stated above you have my support.