It’s about airing your grievances

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Robert Greene sees modern identity politics as self-defeating:

Traditionally, the favorite tactic of people in power, who want to maintain power, is Divide and Conquer — to find some way to keep the public divided so that there’s never a large enough group of people to challenge them. And so, when you go into identity politics and you identify what’s right or wrong to the narrow group that you belong to — assuming that it is narrow — you’re kind of playing into the hands of those who are in power because the only way to overcome an entrenched power system is through numbers, through unity, through finding some cause or way of uniting people.

It’s been the story throughout history of any kind of successful insurgency movement. Trying to overcome an entrenched power structure — you need numbers. You need something that will rally the vast majority of people. We sort of see that a little bit now with the kind of riots that are going on in France now — what they call the yellow vest movement — where it’s got a really broad base of support. It’s kind of a very weird mix of the Right and the Left. I’m not saying that it’s a justified cause or that it’s great, just that, if you really are after power, that’s what you need to do.

But a lot of identity politics isn’t really about power, it isn’t about wanting to change the system. It’s about airing grievances, feeling wronged and wanting sympathy and to sort of play the role of the victim. Because if you really were thinking about power — if you’re really thinking about, let’s say you want to win this election, you want to get rid of Trump, identifying Trump as probably the most negative factor that any of us have seen in our lifetime in politics — the only way forward is unity — finding some way to grab the working class people, to unite the disaffected white workers in the Midwest with African-Americans in the south, or whatever, and finding what brings them together and creating a broad-based movement.

So, simply on the level of strategy and practicality, identity politics is extremely impractical. It’s narrowing your base of support to something too small to ever topple the power structure. So then to me it’s not really about practical matters. It’s about airing your grievances.


  1. Graham says:

    I have no idea where Robert Greene fell on the political spectrum but I was struck by his using this critique of identity politics- it was the conservative one for decades and typically resulted in enormous, vitriolic progressive backlash in favour of ethnic studies, ethnic identity, rejection of common citizenship, etc.

    Nowadays “identity politics” is a catchphrase used by progressives to unironically attack what they believe Trump to be doing. It is therefore bad. What they did and are still doing is not to be called by the horrid name, apparently, though they once used it with pride.

    Apart from that, I think he missed something. Progressives actually have built a future majority on identity politics. They just figured out how to forge a coalition by selecting a common foe, and redefining everything to minimize it. Shrink the former definition of “white” to a reducing core, and make sure to get “white” women on side by emphasizing gender and sexuality issues, although not neglecting to take those same women to the intellectial woodshed if they fail to be sufficiently “intersectional”.

    This coalition will eventually win.

    Sorry- I’ve been seeing a LOT of ads for a cheesy new comedy show called “The Other Two”, about celebrity siblings. The ad features a clueless young woman saying everyone on Twitter calls her a “classic white feminist”, not realizing this is a mortal insult in progressive politics. True story.

  2. Slovenian Guest says:

    It’s called biological leninism.

  3. lucklucky says:

    I disagree, those identity politics – i prefer to call it social supremacist politics – is everything about power even if it is a local power. Or power over peers in first place.

    “But a lot of identity politics isn’t really about power, it isn’t about wanting to change the system. It’s about airing grievances, feeling wronged and wanting sympathy and to sort of play the role of the victim.”

    It is not only paying the role of the victim , it is playing the role of purportedly defender of the supposed or constructed or created or real victim.

  4. Peter Whitaker says:

    Airing grievances is necessary, because our enemies want to write in the history books that our extinction occured democratically with the consent of the governed. It’s too late to escape extinction. The only thing we still have control over is how our extinction will be remembered.

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