An Old and New Approaches of the Meaning of ‘The Politics of Identity’ and Its Place in the Political Discourse

PoliticalThe Politics of Identity is a new and modern phenomenon but with old roots. Many western scientists as Stanley Aronowitz, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Bronwyn Carlson, etc. have been trying to learn and explain this product of civil society.

Today, in the 21th century, an interest to a such difficult topic has greatly increased due to civil wars, terrorism and immigrations.

Many American Political Journals have even more than one topic about this issue of the Politics of Identity in the one edition. There are great examples of Russian articles, written by professors of the universities and other scientists inside this society. Though, this phenomenon isn’t so popular nowadays in political sphere because of its modern interpretation and other difficulties, such as polysemy of the word ‘identity’, and, as a result, explanation is vague.

The strong argument of its actuality is the fact that in our world, where everything changes so fast, there are a lot of examples of identity’s politics, which are always trying to hide themselves in such countries as Germany, France, Canada, the US, etc., especially because of the reason of era of immigrations. The 21th century world doesn’t want to have close connections with ‘single-nation’, ‘single-race’ and ‘single-culture’, which the Politics of Identity eventually provides and gives.

But, to tell the truth, the Politics of Identity is the only way to stay together despite the number of diversities at the Era of Information. The essential problem of its explanation is the meaning of the word ‘identity’ in the national context. The political discourse usually explains and provides it 165 according to E. Smith’s theory of the national identity. His theory divides into two approaches: Western and Oriental.

The first one is based on diversity and different cultures but in one common country. This kind of civil national identity deals with spatial or territorial representation, it has idea of patria, a homeland, a set of laws and institutions with a single political will. It requires at least several regulatory institutions that will express common political feelings and goals.

In this case it shows the unions of individual colonies, provinces and city powers whose federal institutions and laws have both to defend local and provincial freedoms, and to express a common will and common political feelings. An Oriental, in opposite to Western model, can be called the ‘ethnic’ concept of a ‘identity’. Its decisive feature is the emphasis on the community of origin and native culture.

While the Western concept declares that an individual must belong to a one certain nation, but can choose which one to join, non-Western, or ethnic, the concept doesn’t imply such a width of views. If a person stays in his community, or emigrate to another, he will always inevitably and organically remain a member of the community in which he was born, and for a lifetime to bear his seal. In short, a nation is primarily a community of people united by common origin [Anthony D. Smith. National identity. – 1993 – pp. 10-27].

Therefore, each country, which choose the Politics of Identity as a domestic, selects one of this two methods and develop this policy in a certain direction. These two opposite approaches are raised without connections with politics, but with cultural identity. To sum up, the Identity’s Politics can be shown in the way of creating some nation, which will represent the country with some cultures and common feelings of one strong and inseparable society. Let it be the classical, an old understanding of the Politics of Identity.

Moreover, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us that ‘the laden phrase ‘identity’s politics’ has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups’. [The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. – Identity Politics. – 2016 – p.1.].

It can be understandable if we take a look at such evident example as the Muslims in France or in Germany, or lesbians and gays in the African and post-Soviet Union countries. The pressure of the society in their lives are so strong that their discontent developed into a feeling of complete injustice, so they try to affirm or restore ways of understanding their identity, which challenges the dominant repressive characteristics for the purpose of greater self-determination in political way.

Thus, the Identity’s Politics is based on combining the requirements for the meaning of a politically rich experience for different people. Another modern meaning of this phrase is that Identity’s Politics is the politics in which people unite and mobilize their forces in order to define their experiences, their political problems, and their goals in terms of the good identity-groups. [C.R. Hayward, R. Watson. Identity and Political Theory. – Washington University Journal of Law & Policy. – v.33. – 2010 – pp.6 – 7].

It’s obvious, that these two-modern interpretations of the Political of identity have the same main idea – to help to tackle the problem which minorities have and be the part of the country without hiding their identity. Furthermore, it’s true that modern methods of understanding are 166 based on the tolerance. For more than three centuries, the standard liberal answer to questions of identity and difference was toleration. To tolerate is – ‘to allow to exist or to be done or practiced without authoritative interference or molestation’. [Oxford English Dictionary]

Liberal philosophers from John Locke to J.S. Mill to John Rawls made the case that political communities should tolerate (some set, or some range of) minority actions and beliefs.

States should delineate clearly a bounded political sphere, by this view, and should refrain from interfering in social practices outside that sphere – practices that include, typically, religious practices, and more generally those shaped by controversial moral and social systems of belief and value. Toleration, by the liberal view, protects the rights of individuals and promotes peaceful coexistence across identarian divides. Crowing it all, we already see that there are two meaning of this phenomenon: an old and a new one.

Doing the research and analyzing a number of articles, it can be said that the modern understanding has its obvious background and reasons, and the classical meaning has its pressure of the national identity. Towards the close of the twentieth century, however, political theorizing about the politics of identity and difference, took an important turn, as some thinkers began to grapple with claims advanced by nationalists, by feminists, and by participants in the so-called – ‘new social movements’, which obviously deals with the intolerance and disrespect.

To sum up, the ‘new’ Politics of Identity can be created by mixing two approaches in one modern direction for people to help them live with some national’s boarders of the country, but without any misunderstanding at all.

Author Y. Savdeieva

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