A house built on sand? A critical examination of the concept of ‘identity’ within contemporary ‘identity politics’, from a sociological perspective.

Adrian Holme is a teacher, writer and artist. He is an Associate Lecturer on the MA Art and Science, Central Saint Martins, and his cross-disciplinary background encompasses biology, fine art and information science. He is also a Lecturer on the BA Hons. Illustration course at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL, where he coordinates and delivers a humanities / critical theory element. His art practice extends across drawing, installation and performance, and he also works as a commercial copy writer and editor. In ‘A house built on sand?’ he draws upon sociological theory to critically examine the concept of identity represented in contemporary ‘identity politics’.

Abstract

The concept of ‘identity’ as represented in contemporary ‘identity politics’ and the politics of identity is examined critically, drawing in particular upon the writings of Zygmunt Bauman as well as Adorno and Horkheimer, Richard Sennett and Martin Pawley. While acknowledging benefits and legitimacy of an identity approach, the pitfalls include a difficulty of forging solidarity between disparate groups that can leave the greatest concentrations of power unchallenged and unaccountable. Sociological reasons for greater recourse to the politics of identity are advanced. Bauman’s ‘anti-essentialist’ position is itself open to criticism.

Keywords: Politics, Sociology, Social Science, Identity, Subjectivity, Identity Politics, Essentialism, Anti-Essentialism, Zygmunt Bauman, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Richard Sennett, Martin Pawley, CLR James, Paul Gilroy, Critical Theory, Commodification, Consumerism, Consumer Capitalism, Communities, Race, Fascism, Alt Right.

 

In the sphere of the social sciences, and in the world of individual experience, blind observation and empty concepts are grouped together rigidly and without mediation. In the age of three hundred key words, the ability to make the effort required by judgement disappears, and the distinction between truth and falsehood is removed.

(Adorno and Horkheimer 1997: p.202. First published 1944)[i]

 

‘Identity politics’ is a controversial term. In The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought Steve Fuller defines it as follows:

An orientation to social theory and political practice that emerged in response to the declining ability of democratic nation-states to represent adequately the interests of large segments of their constituencies. It is organized around categories not officially recognized in political discourse, but which contradict the universalistic pretensions of the state’s purview.

(Fuller 1999: p.413)[ii]

In Fuller’s definition, race and gender are recognized as ‘the main organizing principles’, but also included is religious fundamentalism. The article describes all these categories as ‘social constructions’ and introduces the debate between those who regard the categories as ‘essential’ (constituting some really existing essence), or ‘statements of resistance to the status quo’. These positions may be described as essentialist[iii] and anti-essentialist, a distinction to which we shall return. Fuller’s definition is interesting in that, at the outset, it associates ‘identity politics’ with a ‘declining ability’ of contemporary democratic politics to adequately represent people. The contested nature of ‘identity politics’ is shown by writer Reni Eddo-Lodge in her bestselling book ‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race’, who refers to ‘identity politics’ as ‘a term now used by the powerful to describe the resistance of the structurally disadvantaged’[iv].

Recent years have seen the eruption of influential global movements focusing on specific issues and based around the politics of identity. One example is #MeToo which, at its foundation in 2006, aimed to ‘help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from low wealth communities, find pathways to healing’[v]. Another movement, Black Lives Matter, campaigns against killings of black people by the state and vigilantes in the US and worldwide[vi]. Rights for LGBT[vii] people have been advanced in many countries, with the adoption of same sex marriage in some 28 countries[viii], and campaigns on rights for transgender people have come increasingly to the fore[ix]. Issues of ethnicity and culture are central to contemporary ‘decolonization’ campaigns in the West and elsewhere[x].

Meanwhile the far right, or ‘alt right’ are resurgent, in the US, Europe and elsewhere in the world, demonstrated above all by the election of a right-wing populist political outsider, Donald Trump, as President of the United States for the Republican Party[xi]. Such movements are often associated with what might be described as another kind of identity politics of the right, featuring notions of racial and cultural purity and superiority, e.g. ‘white supremacy’, or championing of aggressive masculinity. A marked polarisation has thus occurred between movements of ‘left’ and ‘right’ that appears to be based around identity, more than an appeal to values that might be ‘universal’ or at least widely shared, such as ‘fairness’, ‘equality’, ‘justice’.

In the face of this marked polarisation the reaction on the contemporary ‘left’ has sometimes been less than inspiring. Angela Nagle[xii], Asad Haider[xiii] and Mark Fisher[xiv], have observed that debate on the contemporary ‘left’ has often been characterised by dogmatism, vitriol, intolerance, along with a refusal to engage with ideological opponents on the right (and sometimes with differing views on the left). Journalist Angela Nagle in her book Kill all normies[xv] (2017), has shown how alt right activists have been able to portray themselves as defenders of free speech and liberty – the traditional aspirational ground of ‘the left’, (at least the non-Marxist left[xvi]). Nagle is scathing:

There is no question but that the embarrassing and toxic online politics represented by this version of the left, which has been so destructive and inhumane, has made the left a laughing stock for a whole new generation.

(Nagle 2017: p.117)[xvii]

Political movements on particular issues are not new, and Asad Haider in his book Mistaken identity[xviii], traces what has come to be called ‘identity politics’ back to the cultural political movements of the 1970s, and in particular the Combahee River Collective (CHC), a group of black lesbian militants. It is interesting though that the CHC saw their work explicitly as part of a wider struggle as committed socialists:

We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses. Material resources must be equally distributed among those who create these resources. We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation.

(The Combahee River Collective, quoted in Haider 2018: p.7)[xix]

Thus the first flowering of ‘identity politics’ was not only consistent with the politics of the wider socialist left, but, indeed an adjunct to it. By organising around particular issues, struggles could be linked in common cause to achieve more equal and just distribution of resources and power. Since the 1970s however, there appears to have been a de-linking of such an ‘identity based’ approach from a wider search for solidarity and the challenging of power structures that themselves have become increasingly global and transnational. At the same time inequalities of wealth on a global scale have continued to grow relentlessly[xx].

It is tempting in a straightforward way to ascribe the ascendency of identity based politics to a failure of the established left (or indeed the whole political ‘establishment’) in the ‘liberal democracies’ to reflect the interest of all of its citizens (as Fuller notes[xxi]). Radical movements focused around ‘single issues’ are of course nothing new (Anti-Slavery, Chartism, Suffragettes to name but a few from the history of Britain) and to an extent may be considered the norm. But the movement away from class (or even an antipathy to class based politics) and a seeming lack of emphasis on values that may be claimed as ‘universal’ perhaps demands further explanation.

It is not the purpose of this paper to dwell on specific contemporary debates, but instead to attempt a deeper contextualisation and understanding of what is at work, and in particular an interrogation of the concept of ‘identity’ – what after all is this ‘identity’ that an ‘individual’ may somehow possess? It is also an attempt to step back from, and think beyond, the current situation, in which ‘identities’, rather than being drawn together in a ‘rainbow coalition’[xxii] may clash with one another. It is a quest that might take us into the realms of philosophy, and cultural studies, but here we look particularly to the insight afforded by history and sociology, especially the works of Zygmunt Bauman, Theodor Adorno and Richard Sennett.

Language and identity

There are three related words that have a curious and somewhat paradoxical history: identity, individual, person. Let us look more closely at the word and the concept of ‘identity’. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary[xxiii] the word is from a Latin root idem meaning the same, probably with entitas, or entity, and may be associated with identidem, meaning repeatedly. Of the five meanings listed in the dictionary, two in particular stand out – the first meaning of ‘The quality or condition of being the same’, and the second, from 1638, meaning ‘Individuality, personality’.

There is an interesting apparent paradox in ‘identity’ meaning ‘sameness’, and yet also ‘individuality’ which today we associate with difference from others. This seeming paradox is also to be found in the word ‘individual’ – which originally meant ‘indivisible’, but with the arrival of modernity and Enlightenment, has come to be associated with ‘individualism’, with ‘the individual’ and with uniqueness[xxiv].

A further paradox is also apparent in the allied term ‘personality’, derived from persona, meaning a mask, which then became used for the acting of a part, and finally meaning a human being[xxv]. To what can we attribute the curious shifts in these three words? We may relate these shifts in the concepts of an ‘individual’, an ‘identity’, or a ‘person’ (terms we nowadays generally take as stable and reliable) to the development of the very idea of the individual person, from the European Renaissance with the associated rise of capitalism, onward to the present day. Raymond Williams[xxvi] comments on the development of ‘personality’ which could in the 17th century still equate to ‘humanity’:

What matters, in personality, is the development from a general to a specific or unique quality… It was in C18 [the 18th century] that the individualizing reference became quite clear. Johnson defined personality as ‘the existence or individuality of any one’, and there were several uses for distinct personal identity.

(Williams 1988: p.233)[xxvii]

Similarly, Don Byrd[xxviii] refers to

‘The category of the person for whom the symbols of external power and the sense of individual responsibility merge, the fully modern person, that engineer of force, self-creating and world creating, who appeared with capitalism and the Reformation…’.

(Byrd 1988: p.209)[xxix]

The term ‘identity’, as used in ‘identity politics’ has come to mean individuality and uniqueness. But it also retains its connection to ‘sameness’. As Richard Sennett[xxx] observes:

‘…identity is a useful but abused word. In the sense Erik Erikson gave it, an identity is the meeting point between who a person wants to be and what the world allows him to be. Neither circumstance nor desire alone, it is one’s place in a landscape formed by the intersection of circumstance and desire.’

(Sennett 1986: p. 107)[xxxi]

In this view, contemporary identity is a kind of matching, or ‘sameness’ of desire and what the world allows. A slightly different formulation by Stephen Frosh[xxxii] relates that ‘Recent research and psychological theory has stressed that a person’s “identity” is in fact something multiple and potentially fluid, constructed through experience and linguistically coded… an individual may find it difficult to describe the sources and nature of his various identities.’ Again there is a sense that ‘identity’ is a kind of matching of certain properties of an individual to categories, whether they be supposedly natural or ‘essential’[xxxiii] or somehow socially constructed, and perhaps ‘self-chosen’. If a person’s ‘identity’ is a matching against certain categories, this raises questions about how those categories arise, from what they might derive validity, and again, whether they might be somehow ‘essential’ or social constructs. Nagle[xxxiv] relates that in 2014 Facebook was offering over 50 gender options, while on Tumblr some hundreds are now available for self-description.

The question of ‘choice’ is an interesting one. For example, in selecting terms from Tumblr to describe gender, is the person finding an appropriate word or category to refer to (perhaps previously undescribed or at least undeclared) ‘essential’ aspects of themselves, or are they engaging in a creative act of ‘self-definition’, expressing an absolute freedom to be whoever, whatever they wish to be? A further perplexing question also lurks beneath this: just what is this ‘self’ that is engaging in this process of describing its identity?

Such a problem is also thrown into sharper relief by the often incendiary issue of ‘race’. After all, how can one deny that we have a ‘racial’ identity that must in some way be essential, over which we have no choice? This argument is seductive and deeply rooted in Western culture (at least). But despite the efforts of many scientists, such as Ernst Haeckel in the Anthropogeny[xxxv], to put separate human ‘races’ upon an objective basis, it is clear that human races are not objective scientific categories[xxxvi]. While human genetic diversity is evident, the categories of race do not hold objectively. It is not that people are ‘all the same’ any more than individuals in any other category, but it is a question of how the categories themselves have arisen, and the scepticism they may merit – Asad Haider[xxxvii], drawing upon a large literature, summarises well the invention of the ‘white race’ in North America, in a context of the establishment and enforcement of enslavement of Africans.

Language and categories are not neutral and may be highly political. In The black Jacobins, his history of the victorious slave revolt of San Domingo against French colonists in the late Eighteenth Century, CLR James[xxxviii] records the frantic efforts of pre-revolutionary authorities to devise categories, to keep up with the relentless intermixing of African and European that so terrified the ‘white’ colonial authorities and inspired their ‘ferocious hatred and fear’:

They divided the offspring of white and black and intermediate into 128 divisions. The true Mulatto was the child of the pure black and the pure white. The child of the white and the Mulatto woman was a quarteron with ninety-six parts white and thirty-two parts black. but the quarteron could be produce by the white and the marabou in the proportion of 88 to 40, or by the white and the sacatra, in the proportion of 72 to 56 and so on all through the 128 varieties. But the sang-mêlé with 127 white parts and one black part was still a man of colour.

(James 2001: p.51)[xxxix]

In Eighteenth century San Domingo, the terminology was expanded as an instrument of control and ruthless oppression. In Twenty-first Century online culture, the ramifying of categories appears as a reflection of individual freedom and personal choice.

The paradoxical nature of choice around identity was highlighted by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who, citing Orlando Patterson, points out that the act of choosing does not feel as though it is a real choice at all: ‘while people are called upon to choose between competitive identity reference groups their choice is predicated on the strongly held belief that the chooser has absolutely no choice but to choose the specific group to which he or she “belongs”[xl]. What might appear as a social construct to the sociologist is more likely to be perceived as an essential truth to the individual involved.

Bauman goes further, comparing choice of identities, unflatteringly, to shopping:

Given the intrinsic volatility and unfixity of all or most identities, it is the ability to ‘shop around’ in the supermarket of identities, the degree of genuine or putative consumer freedom to select one’s identity and to hold to it as long as desired, that becomes the royal road to the fulfilment of identity fantasies.

(Bauman 2017a: p.83)[xli]

The comparison with shopping is not frivolous, but significant, since Bauman believed that ‘the universal dependency on shopping is the sine qua non of all individual freedom; above all, of the freedom to be different, to ‘have identity’[xlii].

Rights and freedoms

Zygmunt Bauman points to important shifts in the notions of ‘rights’, and parallel shifts in the notion of freedom in contemporary life. ‘The notion of ‘human rights’ promoted today as a replacement for the idea of territorially determined rights (and, in practice, territorially limited rights) or, so to speak, the ‘rights of belonging’, is after all, in the last analysis, the right to difference’[xliii]. The new focus therefore becomes ‘the right of individuals to stay different and to pick and choose at will their own models of happiness and fitting life-style’[xliv]. Similarly, in the foreword to Liquid Modernity, Bauman discusses a shift in freedom from that oriented towards the producer, ‘freedom from’ (e.g. want, hunger, ignorance) to a consumer-oriented ‘freedom to’ (e.g. freedom to be different, to be individual)[xlv].

There is of course a benefit to this shift – a potential liberation, from hierarchies, from being ordered around. There are ‘No more great leaders [except in North Korea] to tell you what to do and to release you from responsibility for the consequences of your doings’[xlvi]. Freedom. But it comes at price. You have a new job, as an individual, to negotiate the definition of your ‘self’ and work out, in a state of perpetual becoming, your relationships and your own take on the world.

The other impact is that a shift away from ‘freedom from’ saddled with its restrictive hierarchies, also heralds a shift away from collective action. The burden of existence, once shouldered to some degree collectively must now be shouldered individually. And woe betide unfortunates who fall by the wayside – they have only themselves to blame for their poor choices. Hello to ‘human rights’ and goodbye to a collective notion of the ‘just society’[xlvii]. As Bauman put it:

The new interpretations of the notion of basic human rights lays the foundations, at the very least, for mutual tolerance; it categorically does not, however, go so far as to lay the foundations for mutual solidarity.

(Bauman 2011: p.37)[xlviii]

Community and solidarity

Our Community Foundations support local projects on a range of issues, such as poverty alleviation; emergency crisis response; and youth engagement. For example, nationally we have provided communities with a huge amount of support in the aftermath of last year’s floods.

The network of accredited Community Foundations gives grants totalling over £98.3 million annually. This makes us one of the UK’s largest grant-giving organisations. But the need is growing and so must we.

(UK Community Foundations 2019)[xlix]  https://www.ukcommunityfoundations.org/about-us )

There is much talk about communities today. Yet despite the, no doubt good, work of the UK Community Foundations, dispersing its £98.3 million annually, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights reporting on the UK, the world’s fifth largest economy, noted that:

14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%. For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.

(OHCR.org 2018)[l]

For all the talk of communities, and a UK cabinet place for a Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, a fifth of the population live in poverty, and one in two children are poor.

Sociologists such as Bauman[li] and Richard Sennett in The fall of public man[lii], have pointed to the contradictions inherent in the notion of communities. Bauman quotes historian Eric Hobsbawm: ‘Never was the word “community” used more indiscriminately and emptily than in the decades when communities in sociological sense became hard to find in real life’[liii].

To say ‘It is nice to be part of a community’ is an oblique testimony of not being a part, or being unlikely to remain a part for long unless individual muscles are flexed and individual brains stretched.

(Bauman 2017a: p.170)[liv]

Richard Sennett (1986) argued that a decline in wider class solidarity and a growth in localism, is connected to a growing emphasis upon the personal in relations between people in public:

‘…Class politics are weakened as class itself, especially among the new [technical] classes forming in the present century, is made to seem so much the expression of innate personal abilities. Localism and local autonomy are becoming wide-spread political creeds, as though the experience of power relations will have more human meaning the more intimate the scale – even though the actual structures of power grow ever more into an international system. Community becomes a weapon against society, whose great vice is now seen to be its impersonality.

(Sennett 1986: pp.338-9)[lv]

One of many ironies in this field is that community is emphasized at the moment at which in the most ‘developed’ world at least, it is disappearing. Something similar might be said of ‘culture’. Is the destruction of community an unfortunate event or do ‘we’ – the citizens of consumer capitalist society really mind? As architect Martin Pawley said, in The private future: causes and consequences of community collapse in the West (1973):

We’ are a society of private citizens, given over to private goals and private pleasures. We are self-absorbed and we prefer it. Do not judge us by our community rhetoric, look at us instead. To us community means obligation, surveillance, aggravation.

(Pawley 1973: p.49)[lvi]

Although Bauman may be criticized as an ‘anti-essentialist’ who gives insufficient weight to ‘essential’ properties in identity, he did not reject communities per se, and acknowledged Alaine Touraine’s distinction between ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘multicommunitarianism’ in which ‘loyalty to a community is guaranteed by the “irrefutable fact of belonging to a community of origin”‘[lvii].

The fragility of identity. The personal is painful…

There are uncomfortable complexities and contradictions in the discussion of identity. Why would there not be? It feels personal. It is personal. Like ‘style’, a perceived slight on our identity may feel as though it cuts to the core of our being. But uncovering the contradictions may be useful in understanding where, who, and what we are. It may also potentially help rescue politics and restore a capacity for conscious and collective agency. Bauman’s questioning of the very stuff of ‘identity’ in the context of our Liquid Modernity[lviii] highlights painful fears that may haunt us; an underlying insecurity that might in turn help explain the very assertiveness and vitriol of many contemporary exchanges in popular and social media (as described by Nagle[lix]; and Fisher[lx]).

‘That work of art which we want to mould out of the friable stuff of life is called ‘identity’. Whenever we speak of identity, there is at the back of our minds a faint image of harmony, logic, consistency: all those things which the flow of our experience seems – to our perpetual despair – so grossly and abominably to lack. The search for identity is the ongoing struggle to arrest or slow down the flow, to solidify the fluid, to give form to the formless. …Yet far from slowing the flow, let alone stopping it, identities are more like the spots of crust hardening time and again on the top of volcanic lava which melt and dissolve again before they have time to cool and set. So there is the need for another trial, and another – and they can be attempted only by clinging desperately to things solid and tangible and thus promising duration, whether or not they fit or belong together and whether or not they give ground for expecting that they will stay together once put together…’

(Bauman 2017a: pp.82-3)[lxi]

And, according to Adorno and Horkheimer[lxii] writing in 1947 (Elements of antisemitism), a further spectre lurks beneath all of this. The very ‘individual’, on the one hand celebrated at the very heart of consumer capitalism, is on the other hand reduced and undermined. For in an age of mass production ‘The individual has become an obstacle to production’. In an age of the department store the individual has suffered the same fate as the ‘old specialized shops’.

The risks of competition led to the more productive centralized form of retail trade represented by department stores. The individual – the psychological corner shop – suffers the same fate. He arose as a dynamic cell of economic activity. Emancipated from tutelage at earlier stages of economic development, he was interested only in himself: as a proletarian, by hiring his services through the labor market, and through continual adaptation to new technological conditions; and, as an entrepreneur, through tireless attempts to approximate to the ideal type homo economicus. …in the era of great business enterprises and world wars the mediation of the social process through innumerable monads proves retrograde. …The individual no longer has to decide what he himself has to do in a painful inner dialectic of conscience, self-preservation and drives. Decisions for men as active workers are taken by the hierarchy …and in the private sphere by the system of mass culture which takes over the last inward impulses of individuals who are forced to consume what is offered to them.

(Adorno and Horkheimer 1997: p.203)[lxiii]

Adorno[lxiv] comments further on the sacrifice of the individual resulting from standardized production, which, with great irony has to proclaim individuality ever more ‘in proportion to the liquidation of the individual’.

‘The sacrifice of individuality which accommodates itself to the regularity of the successful, the doing of what everybody does, follows from the basic fact that in broad areas the same thing is offered to everybody by the standardized production of consumption goods. But the commercial necessity of connecting this identity to the manipulation of taste and the official culture’s pretence of individualism which necessarily increases in proportion to the liquidation of the individual. …The identical character of the goods which everyone must buy hides itself behind the rigour of the universally compulsory style. The fiction of the relation between supply and demand survives in the fictitiously individual nuances.

(Adorno 2004: p.40)[lxv] 

Where do we go from here?

The sociological critique of identity presented above, citing the likes of Bauman, Adorno and Horkheimer, Sennett and Pawley, is not actually a rejection of the positive side of political and social movements such as feminism, or of rights of oppressed minorities, whether racial, sexual or other. It is not a rejection of the notion of a community. Nor is it a rejection of difference. In fact at the heart of both Adorno’s and Bauman’s thinking, is a valuing of particularity and a recognition and valuing of otherness. Bauman quotes, approvingly, George Gadamer: ‘To live with the Other, live as the Other’s Other, is the fundamental human task.’[lxvi] In many ways these sociologists are on the same ‘side’ of the argument as those who base their politics upon ‘identity’.

But the value of the sociological critique is to place the contemporary debates in a deeper context. And to see the pitfalls that can accompany the politics of identity – the collapse of solidarity (the desire for which was instrumental to the flowering of identity politics in the 1970s), the downplaying or antipathy to the politics based around class. The failure in short of contemporary politics to address a range of key issues facing people globally. Bauman put it thus:

We feel rather than know (and many of us refuse to acknowledge) that power (that is, the ability to do things) has been separated from politics (that is, the ability to decide which things need to be done and given priority), and so in addition to our confusion about ‘what to do’ we are now in the dark about ‘who is going to do it’. The sole agencies of collective purposive action bequeathed to us by our parents and grandparents, confined as they are to the boundaries of the nation-states, are clearly inadequate, considering the global reach of our problems, and of their sources and consequences…

(Bauman 2017a: p.viii)[lxvii]

The sociological critique of conceptions of individuality, community and identity from the likes of Bauman, Adorno and Horkheimer, Sennett and Pawley came from what one might call the political ‘left’ of a previous generation. It can be taken as a critique of modernity itself, though not from a neo-Romantic or fascist position. It does not look back nostalgically to a golden age. It is a critique that applies equally to the manner in which ‘socialism’ has been applied, with its own version of consumerism, mass production and economic growth. And, I have argued, it can be applied to a range of concepts underpinning what may, contentiously, be called ‘identity politics’. This is important because it is necessary to be able to look critically and in a balanced way at these new political forms in the hope that wider issues which transcend particular communities, may also be addressed – not merely global inequality of resources but also the environmental despoliation resulting from a globally integrated economic system that reaches every corner of our planet.

The sociological arguments presented here may be criticised in many ways. The authors cited are from a particular European culture which does not necessarily reflect the whole planet. Furthermore in building solidarity an appeal may be made to common values associated with the European Enlightenment – values that, as Paul Gilroy[lxviii] has pointed out, are not neutral but marked by cultural and racial particularism. The ‘anti-essentialism’ of Bauman’s position may be usefully further contextualised and critiqued by Gilroy’s ‘anti-anti-essentialism’.

Nevertheless, our world is characterised by a rapidly integrating global economy in which ‘place’ and particularity of culture matter less and less. It is this commonality of our experience of consumer capitalism, whether in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australasia, or the Americas, with its ‘psychomorphic’ effects[lxix], that justifies a certain generalising across geographies and cultures.

But, one of the key challenges of our situation is that our grappling (or not) with political questions involves the very subjectivity that, the sociologists tell us, is formed and shaped within the conditions producing those very questions – which we can perhaps summarise in the word ‘modernity’ – and the particular form of modernity taken by highly integrated transnational consumer capitalism. If we cannot somehow think beyond our modernity we may not be able to address, or perhaps even care about, the more undesirable consequences of that modernity.

………………..

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Rainbowpush.org (2019) Rainbowpush. <Website> Available at https://rainbowpush.org/ (Accessed 15 April 2019)

Robertson, Teresa and Atkins, Philip (2018) “Essential vs. Accidental Properties”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <Online article> Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2018/entries/essential-accidental/ (Accessed 6 April 2019)

Sennett, Richard (1986) The fall of public man. London: Penguin

Swain, Harriet (2019) Students want their curriculums decolonised. Are universities listening? The Guardian. 30 January. <Online article> Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/30/students-want-their-curriculums-decolonised-are-universities-listening (Accessed 12 April 2019)

UK Community Foundations (2019). About us. UK Community Foundations <Online article> Available at https://www.ukcommunityfoundations.org/about-us

Wikipedia (2019a) 2016 United States presidential election. <Online article>. Wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_presidential_election (Accessed 13 April 2019)

Wikipedia (2019b) Dictatorship of the proletariat. <Online article>. Wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship_of_the_proletariat (Accessed 2 April, 2019)

Wikipedia (2019c) LBGT. <Online article>. Wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT (Accessed 12 April 2019)

Wikipedia (2019d) Same sex marriage. <Online article>. Wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage (Accessed 12 April 2019)

Williams, Raymond (1988). Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana

……………….

Notes:

[i] Adorno, Theodor W. and Horkheimer, Max (1997) Dialectic of Enlightenment. London: Verso

[ii] Fuller, Steve (2000) Identity. In: Alan Bullock and Stephen Trombley (Eds.) The new Fontana dictionary of modern thought. London: Harper Collins. pp. 413-4

[iii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

[iv] Eddo-Lodge, Reni (2018) Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race. London: Bloomsbury. p.215

[v] MeTooMovement (2019) About. Available online at: https://metoomvmt.org/about/ (Accessed 15 April 2019)

[vi][vi] Black Lives Matter (2019). About. <Online article>. Available at https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/ (Accessed 12 April 2019)

[vii] LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender. Wikipedia (2019c) LBGT. <Online article>. Wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT (Accessed 12 April 2019)

[viii] Wikipedia (2019d) Same sex marriage. <Online article>. Wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage (Accessed 12 April 2019)

[ix] The Independent (2019). Transgender rights. The Independent. <Newspaper archive, online> Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/topic/transgender-rights (Accessed 15 April 2019)

[x] Swain, Harriet (2019) Students want their curriculums decolonised. Are universities listening? The Guardian. 30 January. <Online article> Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/30/students-want-their-curriculums-decolonised-are-universities-listening (Accessed 12 April 2019)

[xi] Though the Democratic Party secured more of the popular vote in the 2016 US Presidential Election, (Wikipedia 2019a)

[xii] Nagle, Angela (2017) Kill all normies : Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Winchester UK: Zero Books

[xiii] Haider, Asad (2018) Mistaken identity: race and class in the age of Trump. London: Verso

[xiv] Fisher, Mark (2013) Exiting the vampire castle. <Online article> Opendemocracy UK. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/exiting-vampire-castle/ (Accessed 10 April 2019)

[xv] Nagle, Angela (2017) Kill all normies : Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Winchester UK: Zero Books

[xvi] Marx and his later followers made no secret of their aim of establishing a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ (Marx quoted in Wikipedia 2019)

[xvii] Nagle, Angela (2017) Kill all normies : Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Winchester UK: Zero Books

[xviii] Haider, Asad (2018) Mistaken identity: race and class in the age of Trump. London: Verso

[xix] Haider, Asad (2018) Mistaken identity: race and class in the age of Trump. London: Verso

[xx] Alvaredo, Facundo; Chancel, Luca; Piketty, Thomas et al. (2018). World inequality report (executive summary). World Inequality Lab <Online article> Available at: https://wir2018.wid.world/files/download/wir2018-summary-english.pdf (Accessed 13 April, 2019)

[xxi] Fuller, Steve (2000) Identity. In: Alan Bullock and Stephen Trombley (Eds.) The new Fontana dictionary of modern thought. London: Harper Collins. pp. 413-4

[xxii] Rainbowpush.org (2019) Rainbowpush. <Website> Available at https://rainbowpush.org/ (Accessed 15 April 2019)

[xxiii] Identity (1984) The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Third Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press

[xxiv] Williams, Raymond (1988). Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana. p.161

[xxv] Williams, Raymond (1988). Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana

[xxvi] Williams, Raymond (1988). Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana

[xxvii] Williams, Raymond (1988). Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana, p.233

[xxviii] Byrd, Don (1994) The poetics of the common knowledge. New York: State Univ. New York Press.

[xxix] Byrd, Don (1994) The poetics of the common knowledge. New York: State Univ. New York Press. p.209

[xxx] Sennett, Richard (1986) The fall of public man. London: Penguin

[xxxi] Sennett, Richard (1986) The fall of public man. London: Penguin. p.107

[xxxii] Frosh, Stephen (2000) Identity. In: Alan Bullock and Stephen Trombley (Eds.) The new Fontana dictionary of modern thought. London: Harper Collins. p. 413

[xxxiii] In philosophy, an ‘essential’ (as opposed to ‘accidental’) property may be defined as ‘a property that an object must have’ (Robertson and Atkins 2018), and ‘essentialism’ can be defined as ‘the doctrine that (at least some) objects have independently of how they are referred to (at least some) essential properties’ (Mathes 2018).

[xxxiv] Nagle, Angela (2017) Kill all normies : Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Winchester UK: Zero Books

[xxxv] Haeckel, Ernst (1877) Anthropogenie oder Entwickelungsgeschichte des Menschen. Leipzig: W. Engelmann Available online at: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/22345 (Accessed 15 April 2019)

[xxxvi] AAPA, American Association of Physical Anthropologists (1996) AAPA statement on biological aspects of race. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 101, pp. 569-570. Available online at http://physanth.org/about/position-statements/biological-aspects-race/ (Accessed 15 April 2019)

[xxxvii] Haider, Asad (2018) Mistaken identity: race and class in the age of Trump. London: Verso

[xxxviii] James, C.L.R. (2001) The black Jacobins. London: Penguin

[xxxix] James, C.L.R. (2001) The black Jacobins. London: Penguin. p.51

[xl] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.171

[xli] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.83

[xlii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.83

[xliii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2011) Culture in a liquid modern world. Cambridge UK: Polity Press. p.37

[xliv] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, p.29

[xlv] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

[xlvi] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.30

[xlvii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

[xlviii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2011) Culture in a liquid modern world. Cambridge UK: Polity Press. p.37

[xlix] UK Community Foundations (2019). About us. UK Community Foundations <Online article> Available at https://www.ukcommunityfoundations.org/about-us

[l] OHCR.org (2018) Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. <Online article>. London: OHCR. Available at https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/EOM_GB_16Nov2018.pdf (Accessed 9 April 2019)

[li] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

[lii] Sennett, Richard (1986) The fall of public man. London: Penguin

[liii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.171

[liv] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.170

[lv] Sennett, Richard (1986) The fall of public man. London: Penguin. p.338-9

[lvi] Pawley, Martin (1973) The private future: causes and consequences of community collapse in the West. London: Thames and Hudson. p.49

[lvii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2011) Culture in a liquid modern world. Cambridge UK: Polity Press. p.47

[lviii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

[lix] Nagle, Angela (2017) Kill all normies : Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Winchester UK: Zero Books

[lx] Fisher, Mark (2013) Exiting the vampire castle. <Online article> Opendemocracy UK. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/exiting-vampire-castle/ (Accessed 10 April 2019)

[lxi] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. pp.82-3

[lxii] Adorno, Theodor W. and Horkheimer, Max (1997) Dialectic of Enlightenment. London: Verso

[lxiii] Adorno, Theodor W. and Horkheimer, Max (1997) Dialectic of Enlightenment. London: Verso. p.203

[lxiv] Adorno, Theodor W. (2004) The culture industry: selected essays on mass culture. London: Routledge

[lxv] Adorno, Theodor W. (2004) The culture industry: selected essays on mass culture. London: Routledge. p.40

[lxvi] Bauman, Zygmunt (2011) Culture in a liquid modern world. Cambridge UK: Polity Press. p.84

[lxvii] Bauman, Zygmunt (2017a) Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. p.viii

[lxviii] Gilroy, Paul (1999) The black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness. London: Verso

[lxix] Pawley, Martin (1973) The private future: causes and consequences of community collapse in the West. London: Thames and Hudson

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