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Political Sociology Presentation

The concept of identity is prominent in political sociology. Discuss this issue of

identity and its importance to the study of politics in the Caribbean.
According to Fearon (1999), an identity refers simply to a social category, a
set of persons marked by a label and distinguished by rules deciding membership
and (alleged) characteristic features or attributes, it gives a sense of personal
location, the stable core to your location. Identity is about belonging about what
you have in common with some people and what makes you different from others.
It is also about your relationships your intricate involvement with others and in the
modern world these have become more confusing ad difficult. Political Sociology is
the interaction between political system including the state and the rest of society
or more correctly the larger social society (doesnt have to be limited by the
state). We can understand political sociology as a sociology of power at all levels,
from the structuring of world systems to the decisions that individual voters make
at polls. This essay will briefly discuss the issue of identity, identity politics and its
importance to the study of politics in the Caribbean.
The concept of identity is prominent in political sociology generally and
social movements research more specifically, including such concepts as collective
identity, group identity, activist identity, ethnic [racial or national] identity
and identity politics. In comparative politics, identity plays a central role in
work on nationalism and ethnic conflict (Horowitz 1985; Smith 1991; Deng 1995;
Laitin 1999). In international relations, the idea of state identity is at the heart
of constructivist critiques of realism and analyses of state sovereignty (Wendt
1992; Wendt 1999; Katzenstein 1996; Lapid and Kratochwil 1996; Biersteker and
Weber 1996) In political theory, questions of identity make numerous arguments

on gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity and culture in relation to liberalism and

its alternatives (Young 1990; Connolly 1991; Kymlicka 1995; Miller 1995; Taylor
Identity politics' was initially defined by and for the new social movements
that came to public consciousness from the late 1960s: the black movement,
feminism, lesbian and gay liberation and so on.
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When members of a specific subgroup unite in order to affect political or social

change, the result is often called identity politics.
Identity politics is centered on the idea that activism involves groups' turning
inward and stressing separatism, strong collective identities, and political goals
focused on psychological and personal self-esteem. Jeffrey Escofier, writing about
the gay movement, defines identity politics in the following fashion:

The politics of identity is a kind of cultural politics. It relies on the

development of a culture that is able to create new and affirmative conceptions of
the self, to articulate collective identities, and to forge a sense of group loyalty.
Identity politics - very much like nationalism - requires the development of rigid
definitions of the boundaries between those who have particular collective
identities and those who do not."
Issues of identity are now on the centre of modern politics. For example
when we mourn for the girls in Nigeria that have been kidnapped or express
solidarity with Black South Africans or run (or sing or joke) for the world, we are
striving to realize our identities as members of the global village, as citizens of the

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The more the nation state withdraws from its citizens, the greater grows the need
to find alternative sources of identity. Trapped between the increased articulation of
diverse, often conflicting identities and the need to act on a global scene, the traditional
democratic institutionsthe civil societyare being voided of meaning and legitimacy: they
lose their identity. The power of the political democracy, ironically at the moment when it
reaches almost global acceptance, seems to be inevitably waning. Castells puts much hope
in social movements to develop new forms of identity and democracy which could break the
connection between the nationthe entity of identificationand the statethe entity of
decision makingtwo concepts which have merged only in the modern age.
((2004). The Power of Identity, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. II. (2nd
Edition). Blackwell Publishing: Cambridge, UK.) Retrieved

There are those who see identity politics in a less positive light, however. By focusing so
much energy on a specific political agenda, practitioners may appear to be just as closed
minded or exclusionary as those they claim are oppressing or marginalizing their group.
The idea that an outsider could not possibly understand the problems or needs of a
specific group could create more problems in the political arena. (
Other groups such as legal Hispanic immigrants or Native Americans were also empowered
through identity politics. The idea was for marginalized or oppressed groups to be
recognizedfor their differences, not in spite of them. By identifying himself or herself as
an African-American or a homosexual or a feminist, a person could focus all of his or her
energies on a specific political cause. This singularity of purpose appears to be the most
positive aspect of this phenomenon.

There are clear differences in strategy between Marxism and the theory of identity politics,
which will be examined below. It is first necessary, however, to make clear which facts are not
in dispute. Both theories are in agreement that all oppression is based on genuine inequality.
Men and women are not treated as equals in society. Whites and African Americans are not
treated at all equally. Oppression is not a matter of perception, but of concrete, material


Identity politics is important for specific groups to have their say in a
while identity politics have gained traction in both anarchist/radical scenes and society more generally,
the very idea of identity politics is a problem. Identity politics, as a political force, seeks inclusion into the
ruling classes, rather than acting as a revolutionary force for the destruction of class society. However,
this does not mean we should dismiss identity or identity-based organizing and action. The institutions
that create and enforce class society (capital, work, the state, police) rely on identities in their strategy of
control, by attacking some identities and not others, or by pitting various identities at odds to compete for
access to the privilege of acceptance by the dominant classes. In their use of repression based on
identities, those in power also create affinity among the dominated.