Over at An und fur Sich, Marika Rose has an interesting post up on some of the difficulties with the left’s criticism of identity politics. He writes: Sometimes critiques of identity politics are just the boring Marxist assertion that class comes first and everything else is a distraction (usually combined with some degree of contempt […]
And herein lies the problem with liberalism. Liberalism too often remains at the level of the symbolic alone, at the level of beliefs and policies, ignoring the material dimension in which people dwell. We could say that it suffers from abstraction. And here we need not look far for the reason behind this abstraction. Liberalism entertains the fantasy of a harmony between capitalism and cultural politics, which compels it to discern all struggles of the oppressed and unequal purely at the level of abstract rights and equality, ignoring the way in which inequality and oppression are built into the very fabric of the material world itself at the level of infrastructures, technologies, labor, and destruction of the natural environment in capitalism’s unquenchable pursuit of capital. It’s fantasy is that cultural inequality can be addressed purely at the level of the symbolic without hindering capitalism’s pursuit of capital in any way. By contrast, the radical politics that Rose alludes to sees all of these struggles as symptoms of the overarching horizon of life under capitalism in the anthropocene. Absolute emancipation cannot simply be symbolic, it can’t merely be a matter of recognizing and tolerating others, it can’t merely be a matter of possessing abstract rights. Absolute emancipation must also be material emancipation and the opportunity to live in an embodied world that is not toxic.