Race and Class in the Age of Trump

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* Book: Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump. Verso, 2018

URL = https://www.versobooks.com/books/2716-mistaken-identity


"Whether class or race is the more important factor in modern politics is a question right at the heart of recent history’s most contentious debates. Among groups who should readily find common ground, there is little agreement. To escape this deadlock, Asad Haider turns to the rich legacies of the black freedom struggle. Drawing on the words and deeds of black revolutionary theorists, he argues that identity politics is not synonymous with anti-racism, but instead amounts to the neutralization of its movements. It marks a retreat from the crucial passage of identity to solidarity, and from individual recognition to the collective struggle against an oppressive social structure.

Weaving together autobiographical reflection, historical analysis, theoretical exegesis, and protest reportage, Mistaken Identity is a passionate call for a new practice of politics beyond colorblind chauvinism and “the ideology of race.”


Ben Tarnoff:

This is "a book about “identity politics”, a phrase that, like “political correctness”, is extremely slippery, but which generally means an emphasis on issues of racial, gender and sexual identity.

Identity politics finds critics everywhere. Throw a rock at a rack of newspapers and you’ll probably hit an editorial condemning it. Conservatives such as Republican House speaker Paul Ryan blame it for polarisation, while liberals like the Columbia University historian Mark Lilla hold it responsible for Donald Trump’s victory, applying the baroque logic that letting people use their preferred gender pronouns is why Democrats struggle to be seen as the party of working people.

Haider is also a critic of identity politics, but with a crucial difference: he knows the history of the term and is working from within the tradition that produced it.


"Drawing on Wendy Brown’s idea of “wounded attachments”, Haider contends that identity politics causes people to become invested in their marginalisation as a source of identity, and to continuously enact that identity as a form of politics. This approach can extract occasional concessions from the system but cannot build the power necessary to transform it.

Building that power will require forging a “new insurgent universality”, Haider believes. This doesn’t mean pretending that everyone is the same. It doesn’t mean elevating one identity – that of the white male worker, say – above all others. Rather, the universality that Haider wants is built from below. It is “created and recreated in the act of insurgency”, as people come together to combat the common enemy lurking behind their particular oppressions. Freedom for ourselves – whoever “we” are – is inseparable from freedom for everyone. If emancipation is always self-emancipation, self-emancipation is always a collective endeavour.

Collective self-emancipation doesn’t require abandoning one’s identity – if that were even possible – but linking it with those of others in widening circles of solidarity. " https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/31/mistaken-identity-by-asad-haider-review